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Why Teams Is the Future of Skype for Business: Page 2 of 2

Continued from Page 1

Combining the features of Skype for Business and Teams provides many benefits; however, integrating Skype for Business Online and Teams requires Microsoft overcome several significant technical challenges. They are:

1.     The Skype for Business and Team technical architectures are different. And both are even more different than the on-premises Skype for Business Server architecture.

Creating a clear and smooth migration path between on-prem Skype for Business and a Skype+Teams combo will be challenging. The more Microsoft emphasizes the value of the cloud, the more it's asked by its faithful to describe a clear path to cloud nirvana.

2.     Extending guest access and federation into a persistent chat workspace is far more challenging than allowing a Skype for Business user to invite a federated or guest user to a Skype Meeting.

The challenge isn't simply to make federation easy, but rather to make it manageable from an enterprise perspective. The Skype for Business federation model does this very well, providing controls at both the organization and individual levels along with the ability to monitor and report on external access.

Simply letting everybody with an email address federate is not an enterprise-class solution. Cisco has suggested that "A user in Company A only needs the email address of the other user to message with them in a Cisco Spark space, or to place a call to them -- that's it." This laissez-faire approach is unlikely to satisfy the needs of most organizations. And letting external users have "every bit of functionality available for internal users," the Cisco Spark approach to federation, doesn't provide the granular access controls many teams or organizations want.

With a persistent workspace, having a manageable, multi-tiered federation model is of critical importance for preventing access to previous discussions to which people added to workspaces shouldn't be privy. Similar problems arise when external individuals added to an email thread inadvertently get access to internal discussion details shared in the thread prior to its broader use for collaboration. This can cause leakage of sensitive information, serious incidents of non-compliance, and even legal issues.

3.     Skype for Business is a highly instrumented product that generates detailed usage and adoption reports -- even if this does apply more to Skype on-premises than it does to Skype for Business Online. In stark contrast, the Office 365 adoption content pack doesn't provide any metrics associated with Teams.

Beyond the technical challenges, Microsoft faces several critical business decisions that will determine adoption of a Skype+Teams mashup:

1.     Moving from Lync to Skype subjected users to an interface change. To what degree and/or how long will Microsoft let organizations continue to use the existing Skype for Business interface and connect to a new Skype+Teams platform?

Microsoft often underestimates the impact that interface changes have on productivity in large organizations. Not everyone lives and breathes technology every day. Most users simply want to get their work done and they dislike changes that impact their productivity, while remaining open to change that will benefit efficiency. Strong "what's in it for me" positioning and communications will be key to driving adoption for any new or changed interface.

2.     What tools will Microsoft provide for migrating existing persistent chat rooms into Teams channels? Will enhanced tools help organizations migrate from on-premises Skype for Business to a new cloud version of Skype+Teams?

A tiny but committed subset of Skype for Business users make use of the persistent chat (p-chat) room functionality. A disproportionate number of p-chat users tend to be in the finance and insurance industries. As such, these users tend to be vocal about any changes to the p-chat functionality.

Microsoft has been steadily improving tools and services designed to assist organizations moving from the premises to online versions of Skype for Business. It will need to extend and update these tools to support migration to a new Skype+Teams platform.

3.     Will any licensing or pricing changes result from the combining of Skype for Business Online and Teams?

Price always is a consideration.

4.     Because I suspect the new Skype+Teams platform will only be available in the cloud, this will position on-premises Skype for Business as a "second-class citizen." To what extent will this requirement to move to the cloud, in order to take advantage of the latest and greatest features, disenfranchise existing Skype for Business on-premises organizations?

Microsoft has previously indicated that 100% of its sales effort and 95% of its software engineering resources are focused on the cloud. With this cloud focus, sooner or later on-premises proponents are going to either embrace a cloud model or look for an alternative platform.

When Teams was introduced, in a bizarre and ill-advised response, Slack took out a full-page ad in the New York Times immediately validating Microsoft's entry into the messaging market. At this time, my colleague Dave Michels opined on six reasons why Slack is the next Netscape. While Dave was wrong then, in the long term he may yet be proven correct.

Done right, a successful Teams plus Skype for Business combination could set a new standard for world-class collaboration.

My team and I help vendors and organizations predict and plan for the future then deliver exceptional results in the present. If you have specific questions please comment below, send me a tweet @kkieller or message me on LinkedIn.