At Enterprise Connect 2016, Microsoft announced plans to add Skype for Business (SfB) management, reporting, and analytics tools to the Office 365 Admin portal. These tools will enable IT admins to understand Skype for Business usage patterns, analyze call quality and quickly troubleshoot issues. According to Microsoft, the new tools will be available sometime in the second half of the 2016 calendar year and are meant to focus on cloud and hybrid deployments.
Since Enterprise Connect, we’ve been hearing a lot of buzz from our customers about the news. Some question what this means for the Microsoft UC partner ecosystem and for software companies like Unify Square. While our partners on the Microsoft Skype for Business team have been very clear about their strong commitment to the Microsoft UC ecosystem, our customers wonder how these new Microsoft offerings may impact their work with us. We wanted to put the news in context to explain how Microsoft’s new tools will differ from the enterprise software and services we provide.
Here are some key considerations:
- Cloud Momentum: As compelling as the SfB Cloud story from Microsoft is, the reality for most enterprises and global multi-national corporations is that they won’t be ready or interested in moving to a Cloud PBX deployment for at least 3-5 more years. In fact, in a report entitled “SWOT: Microsoft Skype for Business Online, Worldwide” published on January 5, 2016, Gartner estimates that almost all enterprise and global multi-national corporations won’t be ready or interested in moving to any sort of full-scale Skype for Business Online deployment until 2018 or 2019. Also, the upcoming Microsoft Office 365 Admin portal offering is not designed for on-premise environments, where the majority of SfB customers currently reside and where Unify Square PowerSuite solution remains the market leading option today.
- Feature Parity: Even if we just evaluate the analytics offered for Skype for Business Cloud PBX, partner solutions (like PowerSuite) will offer telemetry delving much deeper and broader into areas like monitoring and provisioning. There are key solutions (e.g. Help Desk diagnostics, User Satisfaction surveys, robust provisioning & policy management, service availability monitoring, etc.) provided by the PowerSuite product that are essential for IT admins managing SfB environments, which will not be included in the upcoming Microsoft Admin portal offering.
- Skype for Business Online API’s: Demonstrating its commitment and long-term investment in the UC partner ecosystem, Microsoft is working hard to create a robust set of APIs for Skype for Business partners like Unify Square. The first of these were just announced last week, but there are still more to soon follow. These API’s will allow for visualization of Cloud PBX/Skype for Business Online deployments. For us, these API’s will allow PowerSuite to immediately offer a full on-premise, cloud and hybrid view for enterprise customers and thus provide a much more comprehensive and robust single pane of glass view for customers. This all means that we will be able to evolve our software suite to the needs of our customers once they begin to migrate to the cloud.
So, while Microsoft is aggressively investing in the Cloud for Skype for Business, it will still be some time before enterprises take the full plunge. In fact, hybrid environments will become the norm due to the benefits of both on-premise and cloud. This means Microsoft’s partners, like Unify Square, will remain a key component in any large Skype for Business deployment for years to come.