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My take from Microsoft Ignite 2017

October 2, 2017 Uncategorized

By Justin O’Meara

At this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft announced a new term – Intelligent Communications. For years companies like IComm have been working with unified communications products and associated themselves as a Unified Communications Microsoft Gold Partner. With the introduction of Office 365 a few years ago, Microsoft has the data and analytics to understand how people are using its communications products. Office 365 is often combined with off the shelf communications products like WhatsApp, Slack, Messenger, and now Microsoft’s new complete Office 365 Core Communications Client, called ‘Microsoft Teams’. Microsoft Teams is in its infancy but it is a rich tool for persistent communications, meetings (before – during – after), API integration, groups integration and with a client that has been built from the ground up.

Below are some of the key Highlights from Ignite 2017:

  • Microsoft Teams. A cloud only core communications tool, that eventually will be the only application for communications. A roadmap defining future features will be released in October. This will be managed from the Office 365 admin portal where Skype and Teams will be under one administration section.
  • Skype for Business 2019 (or SFB VNext). A new version of Skype for Business will be released in late 2018 to support on-premise customers and hybrid customers into the future. One Microsoft speaker hinted that his belief is that there will be another version after this, indicating Microsoft understands customers’ reluctance to go to full cloud PBX.
  • Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams will support three video inter-op vendors (Polycom, Pexip and Bluejeans).
  • Microsoft has changed Skype Operations Framework to My Advisor which is a tool to help customers create a plan to move to Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. https://myadvisor.fasttrack.microsoft.com/CloudVoice/
  • Device support for Teams. Microsoft has stated that most Skype for Business end points will support Microsoft Teams with no dates as to when.

Also, Microsoft’s recommended approach to an Intelligent Communications journey:

  • Start exploring Teams regardless of current state
  • Start with meetings and IM side by side with Skype for Business; move to voice when features meet your needs
  • If needed, extend the life of your current Skype for Business infrastructure by implementing the new version of Skype for Business
  • Understand and plan for key dependencies
  • Use partners and new assets such as ‘My Advisor’.

My recommendations vary a little from Microsoft, due to Australia currently not having the ability to use calling plans (PSTN calling). After being in discussion groups with customers and some Microsoft MVP’s, there seems to be a little hesitation about the need for two clients (Teams and Skype for Business). It is clear that Skype for Business is not going away anytime soon as there are new features available over the coming months and years. However, it is also clear that the destination will inevitably be Microsoft Teams (it is difficult to say exactly when).

Therefore, my steps would be the following:

  • Start exploring Teams regardless of current state
  • If not already, move your Skype for Business to hybrid
  • Move Skype for Business users to Office 365 and familiarise your business with call analytics and call quality dashboard
  • If needed, extend the life of your current Skype for Business infrastructure by implementing the new version of Skype for Business
  • Once Skype for Business endpoints support Teams meetings, start to use Teams for all meetings (this will require some change management and training)
  • Understand and plan for key dependencies
  • Use partners and new assets such as ‘My Advisor’.

As always with any change, we need to keep change management front of mind, as the message needs to be very clear, and training is essential. Whilst we have this dual state of products we need to keep the end user informed as much as possible.

Justin is a Senior Engineer and Pre-Sales Architect at IComm Australia. With over ten years in Unified Communications he is very interested in all things Skype for Business and Office 365. Follow Justin on Twitter here.



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