What is the Microsoft Teams Voice Feature Set?
With the announcement of Skype for Business Online’s EOL date, and Microsoft aggressively pushing Microsoft Teams, it’s clear that Skype for Business On-Premises will be facing a similar fate soon enough. But is Microsoft Teams actually ready to take the place of Skype for Business?
Over the years last eight years, Skype for Business has matured into a robust voice and conferencing platform that millions of businesses (especially large global organizations) rely on for 24x7x365 communications. Is Microsoft Teams voice feature set truly at parity with Skype for Business? Or, does Microsoft Teams still require additional burn-in and maturation time before it’s ready to support all power user scenarios for the enterprise fully?
Microsoft Teams Voice Features
In August 2018, Microsoft shared that Teams had evolved to be a complete meeting and calling solution, claiming to be at feature parity with Skype for Business. This left many users questioning how in only a year Microsoft Teams was able to do everything on Teams that which could otherwise only be accomplished using Skype for Business. So, is Microsoft Teams genuinely ready?
Here’s a look at the key voice features which Microsoft lists as being fully deployed on Microsoft Teams:
- VoIP calls from Teams client to Teams client
- Phone System (formerly known as Cloud PBX) with Microsoft Calling Plans or Direct Routing for PSTN services
- Call answering and initiating (by name and number) with integrated dial pad
- Call holding and retrieving
- Group call pickup
- Shared line appearance
- Call forwarding and simultaneous ringing
- Call history
So What’s Missing?
It’s important to remember that Microsoft is constantly releasing new features and functionality (see below) that won’t require a full server-release life-cycle, but which instead will appear as a simple cloud-based software update. That means that while some features might not yet be generally available, they’re likely in early TAP programs, or at the very least on the roadmap. That said, here are three key “missing” features to watch for:
- Dynamic 911 (this is supposedly coming to Microsoft Teams in Q4 CY 2019) – Dynamic E911 automatically uses the caller’s current location to route to a public safety answering point (PSAP) call center operated by the local government.
- Teams and Skype Consumer Interop (this is supposedly coming to Microsoft Teams in Q1 CY 2020) – This features allows users on the two respective app platforms to communicate using both chat and calling
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What Enterprises Need to Know
Understanding if Microsoft Teams Voice is truly ready for the enterprise is tricky. The reality is, enterprises need to ask if they’re ready for Teams. Microsoft Teams presents a new way to work that is both dynamic and fluid, yet large enterprises struggle with how to embrace this change and lack the agility to change direction on a dime.
Enterprises often have to muddle through legacy requirements and trudge through the long process of updating policies – this can require getting formal approval from different departments for opening the discussion of change, more approval from even more departments on the strategy moving forward, et cetera, et cetera. But the reality is, enterprises need to go through these processes to modernize and remain successful.
Today, it’s important to get to the cloud as quickly as possible from a network configuration perspective. It’s no longer desirable to route everything back to a data center for real-time voice workloads, which is the exact opposite design for Skype for Business and any other on-prem workload. This requires a massive overhaul to connections for internet and WAN and policies related to them. Most of these are governed under long-term contracts, so this requires contract negotiations, changes in connection types, and a lot of engineering work to re-do. This is where enterprises will need to work through the process of modernization to reap any cloud benefits.
Other areas where enterprises struggle? Investment in new platforms, staff training, tooling, automation systems, investments in ancillary technology to make the platform work, etc. Hardware investments in the physical servers and SBCs must also be considered – and much of the hardware may not yet be fully depreciated (i.e., not yet off the books) thus causing additional financial pain prematurely to end of life.
Does Voice Feature Parity Really Matter?
While there are some issues that enterprises will need to tackle, regardless of the pain to keep up with the modern digital workplace, there are other areas where legacy voice-related features may not be required going forward.
- In the past, handsets functioned as intercoms – someone from reception could have the handsets announce that someone had a call on line four if they couldn’t be reached at their desk. Today, instant messaging can easily serve the purpose of letting someone know they have a call.
- In the Skype for Business vs. Microsoft Teams debate, an argument can be made that Microsoft Teams is replacing instant messaging with persistent chat. While this is somewhat semantics, the persistence of chat messages creates possible governance and compliance concerns that could be just one small feature that ties enterprises up.
- Shared line appearance is something that Teams has carried over from Skype for Business, but this process really happens “magically” behind the scenes. Companies that may have this as a legacy requirement can check the box for functionality, though its modernization in Teams may feel different. Does having this functionality mater for customers?
If not, what other legacy functionalities may not be needed? Some people feel that voicemail could be a legacy feature that disappears. While many people would argue that voicemail is critical to their business, the ability for voicemail to text transcriptions and general persistent messaging could serve the same purpose.
If there’s actually a feature that enterprises can’t live without, it’s likely not the only one, and Microsoft is aware of it. And – if Microsoft still doesn’t “nail it” for some very specific legacy requirements, third-party solutions will swoop in to fill the gap and solve the problem.
Unify Square is your go-to partner for any Microsoft Teams migration needs – including all of your voice and collaboration needs. Learn m