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Microsoft Teams deployment to reshuffle UC strategies

Microsoft Teams deployment will force enterprises to rethink how they want to restructure their current unified communications strategies. Executive buy-in will be crucial.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The cloud is coming -- whether you want it or not. What's more, Microsoft Teams is coming to replace...

cloud-based Skype for Business -- whether you want it or not. So, what's your migration strategy to successfully corral a Microsoft Teams deployment?

Even as organizations made the shift from Microsoft Lync to Skype for Business over the last year or so, they now face another migration to Microsoft Teams, which aims to become the "hub" for teamwork, communications and collaboration. IT pros and end users could encounter significant hurdles as they migrate to Microsoft Teams.

For example, Microsoft Teams is built on an entirely different platform, with different protocols for call setup and management, according to Irwin Lazar, an industry analyst with Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.  

A Microsoft Teams deployment "is going to require enterprises to go back to the drawing board and look at everything again," Lazar said. Enterprises may need to revisit their strategies around phones, gateways, session border control and voice performance management.

"You name it," Lazar said. "The entire infrastructure may need to change as a result of people migrating to Teams."

Additionally, companies may need to consider how to transition video services and dedicated third-party phones to the new platform as part of a Microsoft Teams deployment. Plus, they'll have to determine if their video interoperability service is supported. And for those firms that are a Skype-for-Business-certified third-party vendor today, what's the certification path to become Teams-certified?

Getting end users up to speed

Questions loom not only for IT pros, but for end users, as well. The successful end-user adoption of Microsoft Teams represents a change in behavior, since it's fundamentally a different way of working, said Karuana Gatimu, principal program manager at Microsoft. Gatimu led a session on Microsoft Teams deployment strategies at Microsoft Ignite, the vendor's customer conference taking place here this week.

For end users, they'll notice Microsoft Teams has a different user interface than Skype for Business. Predominately, Teams is also chat-based, which would replace Skype for Business instant messaging.

In the coming months, Microsoft plans to begin adding additional calling features into Teams -- including inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers, hold, call transfer and voicemail. Microsoft said Teams will replace Skype for Business "over time." 

End users will need some training to get acquainted with new features, Lazar said, such as scheduling meetings and launching voice and video calls. Interoperability challenges could also emerge if one part of an organization is on Teams, while another part of the organization may still be on Skype for Business.

Another Microsoft Teams deployment hurdle could be executive buy-in, Lazar said. Typically, with teams-based workflows, enterprise IT pros need executives to buy into the new tools. If the boss says, "No, I'm not using this. I'm going to continue to email you," then no one on that team will use Teams. 

"I think convincing the executives is going to be one of the biggest challenges," Lazar said.    

Skype brand was an enterprise obstacle

So, why is Microsoft moving Skype for Business into Teams? Microsoft has been facing competition from the wildly popular messaging platform Slack. Cisco, too, rolled out its cloud-based, messaging-centric app, Spark, two years ago. These sort of team-based collaboration apps have challenged traditional UC clients.

Additionally, the Skype branding was a considerable hurdle for some enterprise IT pros, as they thought they might be running some of their confidential, internal communications on the consumer version of Skype.

By folding Skype for Business into Teams, Lazar said Microsoft "took a pretty big step toward clarifying its team-centric collaboration strategy."

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What are some of the issues you will face as you migrate to Microsoft Teams?
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