Microsoft Teams officially made its first run around the sun last month, turning 1 year old since its almost quiet 2017 launch. It has been a bit of a quiet brewing storm because it later turned out that Microsoft officially determined that Teams would be the future of Office 365, and Skype for Business will (eventually) go the way of the dodo bird. (Do people still get that? Let’s go with white rhinoceros then for the sake of the readership.) Back on point, Microsoft hasn’t fully committed to that hard start date just yet, but many in the industry feel the mainstream shift for this will be around the second quarter of 2019. Honestly, it’s time to get ready and for professionals like myself and the readers here at TechGenix, it’s important to get a jump on things.
If you don’t “get” Microsoft Teams just yet, you will. And yes, there’s a bit of a Microsoft messaging issue there. I’m not quite going so far as to say that it’s much trouble, but Microsoft has some ground to cover on communicating what Teams is, why it’s better than Slack, and why they’re doing this. A whole lot of messaging needs to happen, and in fact, I can confirm that I’ve already seen a whole lot of the tangible delivery stuff emerging through the partner channel. So, get ready.
A quick Skype story
Rather than take you through an entire rough tour through the history of the Skype story, we’ll do an ultra-summary version. Once upon a time, Microsoft bought a popular distributed alt-communications platform known as Skype. They incorporated some of its technologies, let the brand sort of flail for some years, and later on, in the era of Office 365, they rebranded their enterprise messaging suite as Skype for Business. Skype for Business would be an entirely different kind of Skype experience. It could be federated, secured, integrated with corporate systems, audited, and tied into Azure, Office 365, and so forth. We’re all caught up now.
When the enterprise demanded more
The term “replacement” doesn’t necessarily thrill the observer with shiny new thoughts. But rest assured, Microsoft Teams is a total product replacement, even on the Skype features. Skype for Business has detractors and proponents, just like any other technology. Here’s where Teams is different. From its foundations, Teams is a long-promised upgrade to the Skype infrastructure. Skype for Business has dozens of what many would call “critical business functions,” a count northward of 70. According to the Teams features roadmap, much more than half (and all the most obvious) have already been delivered. Call quality and mobile experiences are front and center in the theater of what users feel about ecosystems and applications. You can be sure that list will be complete rather quickly, as things like calling plans and licensing start to roll in.
Microsoft Teams: All about efficiency
The Teams application, however, is what truly differentiates it from even Office itself. Think about the number of tools and applications that users share in a modern environment. Users send many documents such as presentations and spreadsheets back and forth. They reference links, SharePoint files, Word documents, and more over and over. Teams changes that by integrating all of these tools into channel-based conversation areas. Collaboration is quicker, information is quicker, productivity is improved, and so forth. Today, if someone on the team misses the genesis of an email chain, they would have to go back, search, and reread all of the relevant emails, open attachments, just to get up to speed. With Teams, all conversation history, with attachments, can be found in the channel.
Once there, you’ll find things like:
- Your calendar
- The team calendar
- Co-editing documents
- SharePoint document collaboration
- Custom applications — like bots
- Office 365 applications
- Instant messaging
- Video messaging
As you can see, Microsoft is poised to change the way groups communicate and that begins with cleaning up the inbox. The aged approach of communicating with chain emails, delivered to a group, with multiple attachments and revisions is clunky and inefficient. It is also prone to error. Teams changes that workflow with its unification strategy by leveraging Office services and groups. By this design, Teams aims to minimize emails, yet it still retains the ability to email the group and thus, the channel.
Finally, the enterprise itself stands to gain tremendously from this productivity tool. Teams is quick to launch. It integrates easily into Office 365 deployments and channels can follow existing groups or they can be deployed easily by select personnel. Further, as part of the Office 365 tenant, the data within is part of the protected ecosystem that falls under discovery, archival, DLP, compliance and other policies.
Easy? Yes. Simple? No. Even with all of this ease of use, there are a remarkable number of things to consider. First, the obvious is user training. Change is usually tricky. People don’t like their systems changed radically and they might be overwhelmed by how powerful Teams really is. So plan accordingly. What we’re seeing in the field is that there are many organizations that are piloting Teams. It’s been out there for a bit now and it is delivering in a number of significant use cases that lead the way.
Migrations are a bit more complicated than just replacing a tool. This is especially true when the tool at the heart of discussion involves something that aims to change the way you engage with others at work, with parties outside of your organization, and on top of that, you plan on walking around with this in your pocket on your smartphone. A proper migration takes a bit of strategy, considering the cloud-ready opportunities that come with detailed analytics, productivity tools, mobile device management, automation, the residency of data, relationships with providers, partners, clients, and suppliers. Basically, if you treat Microsoft Teams only as a substitute chat room and Skype replacement, you’re going to miss a whole lot of opportunity.
Hopefully, you get the idea and you’re ready to give Teams a whirl. I’ll be back to chat more and more about Teams as it delivers productivity and helps transform the way people work.