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Microsoft is rolling out new features this month that will make it easier for its customers to use Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams simultaneously, as the vendor continues to push Office 365 subscribers to switch to the latter platform. If the vendor sticks to the Microsoft Teams roadmap it released earlier this year, the newer product should have the calling features necessary to boost significant enterprise adoption by the end of 2018.
Internal contacts and groups created in Skype for Business Online can now be imported into Microsoft Teams, a team collaboration platform similar to Cisco Spark and Slack. Microsoft is also aggregating presence between Teams and Skype for Business Online accounts, and it's making chats between the two cloud clients persistent for Teams users.
Microsoft has also introduced a unified administrative control panel within Office 365 for Teams and Skype for Business Online. Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will direct IT managers to the new dashboard, from which they will be able to manage users and settings for both clients.
Microsoft drew the ire of some customers when it announced in September 2017 that Teams would replace Skype for Business Online. The vendor has yet to announce when it will eliminate the cloud version of the service as part of the Microsoft Teams roadmap.
The vendor also sells an on-premises version of Skype for Business, and it will continue to support those customers for at least another five years with the release of a new server in 2019.
Microsoft initially took a hard line when it started the conversation about migrating users from Skype for Business Online to Teams, said Bill Haskins, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, based in Duxbury, Mass. "Their messaging has softened to 'at a pace that makes sense for you,'" he said.
Seamless interoperability between Skype for Business and Teams will encourage more users to experiment with the new platform, Haskins said. Those who do so will quickly realize Teams is "the superior experience," he said. Around 70% of Skype for Business Online enterprise users have at least run a pilot with Teams, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft Teams roadmap includes enhanced calling features in 2018
Except for guest access -- a feature initially promised for June 2017, but only introduced last month -- Microsoft has mostly been on schedule for building out the capabilities of Teams, said Jim Gaynor, a vice president of the consulting group Directions on Microsoft, based in Kirkland, Wash.
"It's important that they continue making their roadmap milestones, and being open and transparent about it, to build trust among the customers they hope to quickly migrate from Skype for Business to Teams," Gaynor said.
But Teams still lacks several telephony features required by large enterprises, Gaynor said.
By mid-2018, Teams will support existing Session Initiation Protocol phones and offer call queues, consultative transfers and organizational auto-attendants, according to the Microsoft Teams roadmap released in February. Additionally, advanced functionalities, such as call parking and location-based routing, should be available by year's end.
Many Microsoft customers are ready to switch from a traditional PBX to a unified communications product, but have chosen to put those plans on hold until Teams is fully built-out, Gaynor said.
"So, they're holding on a bit longer," Gaynor said of those customers. "But it's important that Teams delivers on their roadmap, or these customers may be forced to make a decision before Teams is ready for them."