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Microsoft Announces Intelligent Communications, Folds Skype for Business Online into Teams

Dan Paquette

2 min read

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Monday marked the beginning of Microsoft’s Ignite conference where 30,000 IT professionals descended upon Orlando, FL to learn about Microsoft’s evolving vision and direction for the coming year and beyond. Ignite is a time where many product announcements are made. As one of my focuses at Kraft Kennedy is the Skype Unified Communications platform, I was fortunate to be attending the conference and hear this first-hand yesterday.

Microsoft is going to sunset Skype for Business Online and fold the Unified Communications platform into its newer Teams platform. Along with the shift to Teams, Microsoft is re-branding and expanding the concept of Unified Communications to Intelligent Communications.

In some ways, there is a sharp change in front of us. Teams is a platform that encompasses a broader set of communication modalities than Skype for Business (SfB). It is part Skype, part mail, part Yammer (or social network of your choice for those of us who don’t work for Microsoft and aren’t forced to use Yammer) and part SharePoint all on one pane of glass. The Teams user interface is completely different than what Skype for Business users are used to. Teams requires a re-architecting of personal and business processes that change the focus away from the work-streams of individual users and shifts that focus more on an individual’s contribution to the collective effort of the functional group – the team.

Built in within these changes are additional features that were not possible with SfB Online. Recorded meetings stream with built-in closed captioning. Social elements allow a broader range of communication, including the ability to leverage pictures and video in the same stream as emails and meeting notes. Built-in automated communication endpoints (“chat bots”) demonstrated easy self-service help and gamification of team members (“good job points” that were kept track of).

In other ways, much of the stack is left untouched. Meetings still look and feel like SfB Online meetings, more or less. The “Enterprise Voice” telephone functionality is also largely unchanged from what existed in SfB Online. In fact, the migration from SfB telephony to Teams telephony is a straightforward services migration. They say this can be implemented without downtime, but we have not yet had the ability to test it.

On-premises users are not left behind for now. A new version of Skype for Business Server is expected to drop late 2018 along with a new Skype for Business client.

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