What is Microsoft Teams? Overview of Teams Communication Services
Microsoft Teams is steadily evolving as a single hub for teamwork and communication in Office 365.
Microsoft Teams is a natural continuation of Office 365 development
Office 365 Groups can be considered as the first step which, under the bonnet, unified the user management of various Office 365 applications. Microsoft Teams builds on top of these Office 365 Groups management capabilities to efficiently combine existing Office 365 applications through the application and user interface. The role of Teams will continue to grow with expansion possibilities for external services and applications.
Microsoft Teams – Hub of future communication in Office 365
For now Microsoft Teams communication capabilities can be considered as separate to existing Office 365 applications. The communication capabilities provided by Teams are based on Microsoft's next generation communications service platform, and do not benefit from the existing Skype for Business Online service platform.
To explain the future approach, Microsoft announced their ’new vision for intelligent communications in Office 365’ last autumn at Microsoft Ignite, and how Teams will evolve as the primary client for intelligent communication in Office 365 and replace the current Skype for Business client over time.
Microsoft also published ‘FAQ - Journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams’ to explain this intelligent communications vision in more detail and the future of Skype for Business. I would recommend reading the entire article, but please find below a short summary:
- The new Skype communication services cloud infrastructure together with the Teams application enables new enhanced ways to improve communication and end user experiences. With the modern cloud infrastructure, Microsoft will also be able to further develop intelligent communication scenarios. Taking advantage, for example, of AI, Microsoft Graph and Cognitive services, such as speech recognition, transcription and translation services.
- Microsoft's goal is to bring the existing Skype for Business functionality to Teams by the end of this year.
- The Skype for Business Online service and application will remain unchanged alongside Teams. Customers are encouraged to start onboarding Teams in parallel with Skype for Business. A comprehensive transition to Teams communication services can be planned according to your business needs and timing requirements.
- Skype for Business Server on-premise service will continue to be developed and the goal is to launch the new Skype for Business 2019 server version by the end of 2018.
- Teams is available in the Office 365 suites. Capabilities that are premium workloads in Skype for Business in Office 365 today will continue to be premium workloads in Teams. Existing licensing investments made by customers will carry forward to Teams. For example, if a customer has purchased Audio Conferencing standalone or E5 with Skype for Business, Audio Conferencing will be enabled in Teams as it is available today.
Microsoft Teams communication capability roadmap and service onboarding
To help customers on their Teams onboarding planning, Microsoft has published a roadmap deck for bringing feature parity with Skype for Business capabilities. Regarding individual features, up-to-date progress can be best monitored through the official Office 365 Roadmap site.
When discussing a roadmap, it is good to note that these are Microsoft’s current expectations and both the timetable and the features may change. So far, Microsoft's pace has been good though!
Onboarding of Microsoft Teams doesn’t depend on the customer’s Skype for Business usage
It is natural to start using Teams in parallel with Skype for Business for your internal workgroup's chat-based workspace and utilize its rich and unified information sharing capabilities to empower teamwork. We have followed this approach ourselves at Benemen with very positive experience and feedback from our users!
Once team conversations and information sharing happen in Teams workspaces, it becomes natural to start using Teams conferencing for workgroup meetings.
Looking at progress on the roadmap Teams conferencing capabilities have been developed the fastest. Recently, numerous new conferencing capabilities were added to Teams which further helps organizations to promote Teams conferencing usage. These include anonymous join and meeting and calling support on Edge and Chrome web browsers. There is a great 9 tips for meeting with the Microsoft Teams article available for more details on all of these new features!
All the Skype for Business Features to Teams?
Teams currently also includes ad-hoc 1-to-1 and group communication for chat and voice/video calls. Chat conversations are stored conveniently in Teams, so they are easy to go back to and follow. Similarly, if any files are attached to the discussion, they are also available through Teams for viewing and editing. In the background the file is stored in the users OneDrive for Business.
The capabilities are still missing some much-needed features from Skype for Business like contact groups and streamlined usage of external and federated communication scenarios. Also, co-existence with Skype for Business is still being developed, e.g. unified presence and cross-solution communication. It’s good to see these on the Teams roadmap and if everything goes according to Microsoft plans, we should see these improvements during the next couple of months.
All in all, Microsoft has an ambitious goal to bring Skype for Business capabilities to a large extent to Teams by July. This would allow organizations to start more comprehensive analysis on possible transition to Teams communication services during the second half of the year.
Benemen and Microsoft Teams voice services
In Benemen, we are also closely monitoring the progress of the Teams roadmap, especially the Calling Roadmap for Office 365 Phone System.
Benemen provides international and enterprise-wide voice and customer service solutions through our BeneCloud cloud based communication platform, which can be tightly integrated with Skype for Business Online and On-Premise services. So far, a similar integration is not available for Microsoft Teams, and there isn’t any method yet available for integrating 3rd party public telephony connectivity and voice solutions with Microsoft Teams.
However, this is on the Teams roadmap and Microsoft targets itself to enable these integrations around mid-year with the 'Hybrid Connection to Teams' roadmap capability. This will deliver a new simplified integration architecture based on the certified Session Border Controller component and integration interface.
We are committed to providing Benemen integrated Microsoft Teams Phone System services to our customers in the future as the integration capability becomes available from Microsoft. We will naturally continue offering existing Skype for Business integrated voice services and ensure smooth voice transitions to Microsoft Teams in the future.
Please stay tuned for an updated blog post on Microsoft Teams roadmap progress and we can share more details on future Benemen integrated Microsoft Teams Phone System services!