Microsoft Teams comes of age with the collaboration tools you’ve always wanted

Cloud, Collaboration, Unified Comms

Microsoft Teams comes of age with the collaboration tools you’ve always wanted

15 March 2018

Frank Bruce
Frank Bruce
Microsoft Consulting Practice Lead, G3 Comms

There’s something very special about Microsoft Teams.

Teams has a great feature set – work stream, content, meetings, – all the collaboration you need tied into the world’s most popular business software. Very impressive, but there’s something more important.

As Microsoft Teams Partner Champs, we’re celebrating Teams’ first birthday. Or is it the twelfth birthday? Back in 2006 we integrated Microsoft OCS into Outlook for a client in the legal sector. OCS became Lync, then Skype for Business, then SfB Online via Office 365, and now that communications stack is heading to Teams.

With Teams, it feels like Microsoft is chasing business demand, not creating demand, and that makes a big difference.

By contrast, many software developers have spent decades creating demand on the back of anticipated needs. Solutions offering potential innovation, rather than requirements, have been pushed into the marketplace, sometimes gambling with quality to shorten all-important time-to-market.

Teams is different because it’s responding to demand from business users who are ahead of the game – users who are already building a collaborative culture and now demanding the tools to make it happen.

Users are taking the lead because collaboration is a social phenomenon, not a technology innovation. It capitalises on the fact that people work better together. Above all, businesses have realised that in an intelligent, collaborative workplace, people are happier, more productive, more creative and ultimately more profitable.

Businesses are calling the tune and technology is responding. This resurrects the age-old debate about technology serving the business, an issue made topical again last year by Tim Cook, Apple CEO: “When technological advancement can go up so exponentially I do think there’s a risk of losing sight of the fact that tech should serve humanity, not the other way around.”

Thankfully, with Teams, it appears the dog is wagging the tail. Microsoft has listened to the market and the result is exceptional. Amongst the many features on offer, the focus on voice best illustrates the determination to get things right. Voice has always been a Microsoft challenge – a barrier to competing with collaboration systems born from voice communications. Now, with new capabilities (and new names) that include Phone System, Audio Conferencing and Calling Plan, Teams is setting out the new playing field with third party systems integrations (connectors), native dashboards with powered business intelligence and access into micro-services from Azure for Bots and AI.

Testament to Microsoft’s engagement with user requirements is the announcement this week that Teams had won the Best of Enterprise Connect 2018 award. Notably the assessment provided by the judges’ highlights ‘depth of thought about user’s experience’ and mentions ‘a significantly expanded level of communications-centric capability to support the roles and tasks needed to succeed as a knowledge worker…’

Of course, with the legacy players, there’s a flip-side to the exciting and vast number of capabilities on offer. Integration, deployment and management aren’t sexy but, ultimately, they dictate the success of the solution and the return on investment. With any multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-device collaboration system, implementation can be complex. Teams is cloud-first, meaning that most of those legacy complexities are simply dealt with by Microsoft operations. However, where we come in is the business enablement of that cloud. Dashboards don’t build themselves (yet).

Our thirty-year heritage in voice communications serves us well in dealing with migration to the new voice capabilities in Teams. On this score, I’m looking forward to seeing the new Direct Routing feature, a capability that helps customers connect SIP trunks from their telco provider via a session border controller into the Teams Phone System.

It’s been an interesting road getting there, but the Microsoft Teams concept, as a hub for teamwork in Office 365, now feels solid and, will deliver the features we’ve been demanding. Happy birthday Microsoft Teams!

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