The buzz about Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business has slowly but steadily increased since Microsoft first announced the transition in September 2017. Since that announcement, Microsoft has beefed up Teams’ features and functionality, updated and expanded the product’s roadmap, and provided more detail about how the switch will affect organizations and business users.
In March 2018, a year after Teams was launched, Microsoft announced that 200,000 organizations were using the platform, that 3 million teams were created over the previous 12 months, and that nearly 70 percent of Skype for Business enterprise users were using Teams.
Still, despite those user adoption successes, many business leaders are sweating the impending switch. First, Skype and Teams are remarkably different platforms—Skype is mainly a communications tool, while Teams is a collaboration hub. In addition, Teams includes many more features than Skype and represents an entirely new way of working.
What’s a business leader to do?
First, understand that if your organization uses Office 365, you will eventually need to use Teams—it’s not optional. Second, bear in mind that the sooner you get started, the better prepared your people will be when Microsoft ultimately does away with Skype.
For companies that are not quite ready to take on Teams, here are five reasons that may change their minds:
- Customization: Every organization is different, and Teams enables users to customize the platform in a number of ways—including adding third-party apps through tabs, connectors, and bots; and bringing in people from outside the organization by adding them as a guest to a team or channel. In addition, Teams has rich extensibility and open APIs.
- Office 365 Integration: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Power BI and more are all built into Microsoft Teams, which enables users to access the information they need without having to toggle between applications. Teams is also built on Office 365 Groups and the Microsoft Graph, which simplifies moving from one collaboration tool to another, while preserving context and enabling easy sharing with colleagues.
- Automation: In Teams, users or entire teams can interact naturally via chat with bots. These automated programs can respond to questions or provide updates and notifications—for example, bots can provide the best meeting time for all team members, conduct simple polls and surveys without interrupting workflow, deliver regular reports and Google Analytics data, or book flights and hotel reservations.
- Security: Teams is designed to meet the same security and data protection standards as Office 365 and is Office 365 Tier C compliant. The service enforces two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory and encryption of data in transit and at rest.
- Your company will have to switch eventually: Microsoft said it will continue to support the Skype for Business service and client in Office 365, and that there is no end-of-support date at this time. However, the company has also made it clear that its priority is to improve and expand the Teams platform. In addition, since Oct. 1, new Office 365 customers with 500 seats or less have not had access to Skype for Business Online and have been onboarded to Teams.
The decision to implement Teams in your organization is just the beginning of the journey toward a different way of working. The challenges that will follow—boosting user adoption, inspiring innovation, and encouraging mastery of the technology—will require change management, ongoing support and training, and a commitment to providing employees with what they need to succeed in digital business.
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Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.