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New telephony controls coming to Microsoft Teams admin center

More controls are coming to the Microsoft Teams admin center, but enterprises will have to wait a bit longer for the large-scale configuration tools they need.

Microsoft will add several telephony controls to the Microsoft Teams admin center in the coming months, a significant move in the vendor's campaign to retire Skype for Business Online by mid-2021.

Admins will be able to build, test and manage custom dial plans through the Teams portal. Additionally, organizations that use Microsoft Calling Plan will be able to create and assign phone numbers and designate emergency addresses for users.

Currently, admins can only perform those tasks in Teams through the legacy admin center for Skype for Business Online. Microsoft has been gradually moving controls to the Teams admin center, with telephony controls among the last to switch over.

Microsoft plans to begin adding the new telephony controls to the Teams admin center in November, according to the vendor's Office 365 Roadmap webpage. The company will also introduce some advanced features it didn't support in Skype for Business Online, a cloud-based app within Office 365.

The update will let admins configure what's known as dynamic emergency calling. The feature -- supported only in the on-premises version of Skype for Business -- automatically detects a user's location when they place a 911 call. It then transmits that information to emergency officials.

The admin center for Skype for Business Online is "fairly rudimentary," said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator. The new console for Teams provides advancements like the ability to sort and filter users and phone numbers.

"All of these little features add up to making a more friendly voice platform for an administrator," Arbuthnot said. "They are getting closer and closer to everything being administered in the Teams admin center."

Microsoft Teams still missing advanced calling controls, features

The superior design of the admin center notwithstanding, Teams still lacks crucial tools for organizations too large to use the management console.

For those enterprises, Teams PowerShell is the go-to tool for auto-configuring settings on a large scale using code-based commands. However, PowerShell cannot do everything that the Teams admin center can do. Microsoft has also yet to release APIs that would allow a third-party consultant to help manage a Fortune 500 company's transition to Teams calling.

"When you're up to hundreds of thousands of seats, you don't really want to be going to an admin center and manually administrating," Arbuthnot said. "The PowerShell and APIs tend to lag a little bit."

A lack of parity between the telephony features of Skype for Business and Teams had been one of the biggest roadblocks preventing organizations from fully transitioning from the old to the new platform.

But at this point, Teams should be suitable for everyone except those with the most complex needs, such as receptionists, Arbuthnot said.

Other features that Microsoft is planning include compliance call recording, virtual desktop infrastructure support and contact center integrations.

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