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Microsoft has rolled out updates to Teams that improve how users share information and access apps within the service. The Microsoft Teams updates range from embedding content in conversations to handling new app integrations.
Users can now share content from apps integrated with Teams by directly embedding the information into the conversation, rather than by hyperlinking or taking a screenshot. Users can search for specific information in an app, such as Trello or YouTube, and include an interactive card with the information in a chat.
The Microsoft Teams updates also include a personal view of user apps within Teams that allow users to access tasks, issues or requests they have been assigned to. Users can view recently accessed items such as OneNote notebooks or videos from Microsoft Stream. Microsoft also added a new app, called Who, which uses capabilities from Microsoft Office Graph to let users search for people within their organization by name or topic.
Microsoft has also integrated its automated workflow service, Flow, with Teams. The integration allows users to create and manage workflows, review approval requests and launch workflows from within Teams.
Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky said in a blog post that the Microsoft Teams updates are good enhancements, but some features, such as the commands for searching and sharing information, will take some getting used to.
However, the updates could lead to increased user adoption of Teams. “The more integration, the more seamless experience, the more time you spend inside these programs,” he said.
Verizon and Ribbon partner for SBCs as a service
Verizon has introduced session border controllers as a service (SBCs) to help its customers secure their real-time communications.
The offering, a partnership between Verizon and Ribbon Communications, is a fully managed service that can be deployed either stand-alone or service-chained with other virtual network functions hosted by Verizon’s network service data centers. Individual virtual SBC instances are created for each customer; new SBCs can be spun up as needed to meet spikes in demand.
Virtual SBCs offer benefits for organizations by easing capital and operational expenses, allowing licensing-based subscription models and enabling integrated analytics and enterprise orchestration capabilities.
Ribbon, which was created following the October 2017 merger between Genband and Sonus, is the first vendor to offer virtual SBCs through Verizon’s virtual network services platform.
Midmarket, enterprise cloud adoption drives 8×8 revenues
Cloud communications service provider 8×8 Inc. has reported revenue growth driven by demand for cloud services in midmarket and enterprise organizations.
Service revenue reached nearly $72 million, a 20% year-over-year increase. Service revenue for midmarket and enterprise customers represented 59% of total services revenue, according to 8×8’s fiscal third quarter earnings report.
New monthly recurring revenue from midmarket and enterprise customers increased 70% year over year and comprised 65% total bookings in the quarter. Nearly half of new monthly recurring revenue from midmarket and enterprise customers came from organizations purchasing integrated unified-communications-as-a-service and contact-center-as-a-service offerings.
Vik Verma, CEO of 8×8, attributed the spike in revenue to demands by midmarket and enterprise CIOs for integrated enterprise communication services for their employees, customers and partners. He said midmarket and enterprise bookings grew 40% year over year.
Choosing to use Microsoft Project as your team’s dedicated project management app makes sense only when a number of stars align. First, you really must have a certified project manager on board to drive the software. Second,
If you’ve read this far and realized that Microsoft Project isn’t right for your team, I recommend three other options. For small businesses, Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects are the PCMag Editors’ Choices. Both are reasonably priced and very easy to learn to use, even if you’re not a project management master yet. The other tool that earns the Editors’ Choice is LiquidPlanner, a high-end tool that’s ideal for larger teams managing not just projects but also people and other resources.
A Few Caveats
Microsoft Project takes a long time to learn to use and even longer to master. I am writing this review from the point of view of someone who has not mastered it (not even close) but who
Because Microsoft Project is something of a bear, I would recommend complementing my article with user reviews by people who have worked with the tool extensively and can provide different insights into how it holds up in the long term.
Pricing and Plans
There are two ways to buy Microsoft Project. You can add it to an Office 365 subscription or you can buy a standalone version for on-premises deployment. The options get confusing, so let me go through them piece by piece.
Office add-on. When you add Microsoft Project to an Office subscription, you get the cloud-based version of the app. There are three pricing levels for this type of purchase: Project Online Professional, Premium, and Essentials.
Project Online Professional costs $30 per person per month. With this level of service, each person gets to use the Microsoft Project desktop app on up to five computers for project management only, not portfolio management. Even though it’s a desktop app, it still runs in the cloud (i.e., it requires an internet connection to use). Access via web browsers is also included.
Project Online Premium costs $55 per person per month. It offers everything in the Professional account, plus portfolio management tools. It comes with advanced analytics and resource management features that you don’t get in the Professional account.
The third level, Essentials, is not a tier of service so much as a role type you can choose for team members who have fairly limited responsibilities in the app. It costs $7 per person per month. You have to have a Professional or Premium membership first to utilize the Essential option. Essential users can only access Microsoft Project via a web browser or mobile device. They can only update task statuses, work with timesheets, share documents, and communicate with colleagues. They don’t get desktop apps or other functionality.
Standalone on-premises deployment. If you don’t want to use the cloud-hosted version of Microsoft Project, you can host it locally, and there are three options for how to do it.
One is Project Standard, which costs $589.99 charged
The next option is Project Professional for $1,159.99. Each license is good for only one computer. It has everything in Project Standard, plus the ability to collaborate via Skype for Business, resource-management tools, timesheets, and the option to sync with Project Online and Project Server.
Project Server, the last option, is a version of Microsoft Project that enterprises can get with SharePoint 2016. I could go into detail about how to get SharePoint 2016 and the three tiers of enterprise service for Office involved, but I’ll assume that if this option is of interest to you, you already have a support person at Microsoft you can ask for more information.
If we use the $30 or $55 per person per month price for Project Online Professional as our base for comparison, which are the tiers of service I imagine are in your wheelhouse if you’re reading this article, then Microsoft’s prices are on the high end for small to medium businesses.
TeamGantt is a good place to start for comparison. It offers service ranging from a Free account to an Advanced membership that costs $14.95 per person per month. It’s a web-based tool that includes collaboration and is much easier to learn to use than Project.
A comparable plan with Zoho Projects costs a flat rate of $50 per month, regardless of how many people use it. Teamwork Projects offers a similar flat monthly rate ($69 per month for as many team members as you need), as does Proofhub ($150 per month).
If we turn to more high-end tools, LiquidPlanner starts at $599.40 per year for a small business account of up to five people. That price is based on a rate of $9.99 per person per month, but this particular plan is only sold in a five-seat pack. LiquidPlanner’s most popular plan, Professional, is better for medium to large businesses. It works out to be $45 per person per month, with a ten person minimum. Like Microsoft Project, LiquidPlanner takes time to master in part because it offers so many tools for both project management and resources management.
Other project management platforms that are suitable for larger organizations include Clarizen (from $45 per person per month), Celoxis ($25 per person per month; five-person minimum), and Workfront (about $30, depending on setup).
I can’t stress enough the fact that Microsoft Project is meant to be used by experienced, or more precisely trained, project managers. It’s not designed for learning on the fly. It doesn’t come with clear tutorials for getting started. It assumes familiarity with both big concepts and fine details of project management. If you’re thinking you might use this software but you (or the lead person who will be using the app) don’t know what a burndown report is, I would seriously advise you to consider a different tool.
The app itself looks a lot like Excel. It has the same familiar tabbed ribbon interface seen in other Microsoft Office apps. The spreadsheet portion of the app holds all the data related to tasks or resources. To the right of the cells is a Gantt chart reflecting the schedule as you build it.
Microsoft Project supports all the typical things you’d want to do in a project management app. For every task, you can enter a lot of detail, such as a description, notes, start date, task duration, and so forth. Recurring events are supported, as are dependencies, custom fields, and baselines for tracking actual progress versus planned progress.
The bars in the Gantt chart are interactive, so as you adjust them, the information in the cells updates as well. When a task is in progress, you can indicate the percent that it’s done by sliding a smaller line inside its associated spanner bar toward the right.
In addition to having a Gantt chart view, Microsoft Project offers calendar and diagram views as well. The calendar view is self-explanatory, while the diagram view is similar to the Gantt view, only it contains additional details about the task. If you follow a timeline better when there’s some sense of a narrative behind it, the diagram view could be useful.
As mentioned, the first time you use the app, there isn’t much coaching on how to get started. Some apps provide interactive on-screen tutorials. Others start you out in a sample project.
“To be clear, Project Online is NOT a web-based version of Project Professional. Project Online is an entirely separate service that offers full portfolio and project management tools on the web. It includes Project Web App, and can, depending on your subscription, also include Project Online Desktop Client, which is a subscription version of Project Professional.”
Even after having gone through all the pricing and plan options in detail, those words still make my head spin.
Features and Details
Microsoft Project is powerful when it comes to the more detailed aspects of project management, such as resource management, reports, and timesheets. Powerful doesn’t mean easy or simple, of course.
In Microsoft Project, with the tiers of service that include resource management, you can manage work (which includes both generic people and specific people, as well as other “work” related resources), materials, and costs. You can do a lot with these elements if you have the time and the inclination.
For example, you can add detail to materials resources, such as a unit of measure, and if you want to get really detailed, you can enter costs for materials. What if the costs of a material
With work resources, I mentioned you can track specific people or
Reports are highly customizable, although, like the rest of the app, it takes time to learn how to use them. Some of the more rudimentary features are neat and surprisingly simple to use, however. You can generate a report by navigating to the report section and selecting what data you want to appear in different modules on the page. Using a field selection box on the right, you can make the topmost element the project, and below
All the elements you add to the report are stylized, and they don’t automatically adjust to accommodate one another. For example, if text from one element runs long, it can crash into another. Other minor visual elements often need finessing, too. You can end up wasting a lot of time resizing boxes and nudging elements left and right to make it look decent, which probably isn’t what you’re getting paid to do. That’s a designer’s job, really.
That said, styling the reports in this way has a purpose. Once you finish with all the adjustments, the final product looks ready to export to a presentation directly (in PowerPoint, no doubt), so you can go from generating reports to sharing them without
Within the timesheets section, for those versions of the app that include it, you can have team members fill out weekly time sheets for whatever duration you need, such as weekly or monthly. Team members can report not only time spent on tasks related to projects, but they can also indicate what time of work it was, such as research and development or fulfillment. Another option lets people add time to their time sheets for tasks aren’t specifically related to a project. For example, if Julia drives to meet with a client, the team might want to record that time and bill for it, even though the travel doesn’t appear as a task on a project.
Room for Improvement
I’ve already alluded to the fact that Microsoft Project could offer more assistance in helping people get started with it and learn to use it.
Additionally, Project is weak when it comes to in-app communication. The problem is that Microsoft is a kingdom, and within its
Indeed, traveling around the kingdom annoyed me to no end while I was testing Microsoft Project. A desire to share information might result in the app whisking me away to Outlook. A need to update something about a meeting scheduled
While Microsoft has plenty of its own apps that work with Project, many organizations rely on tools that come from somewhere else, Salesforce being a prime example.
A Powerful Tool Within Its Realm
While powerful and thorough in many respects, Microsoft Project fits only very specific companies. More and more, this is the case with many Microsoft apps. Your team needs to already be invested in Microsoft products for Project to make sense. It also works best for medium to large organizations, but not small ones. Plus, you need a qualified and experienced project manager on the team to be the person driving the app.
If Microsoft Project isn’t an ideal candidate for your project management needs, I suggest small outfits look into Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects, whereas larger organizations managing many more projects and resources take a dive into LiquidPlanner. All three earned the PCMag Editors’ Choice.
Microsoft migrating Skype for Business to Teams, Avaya filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Slack unveiling an enterprise-grade team collaboration platform were some of the headlines that dominated the unified communications and collaboration market this year. These stories reflect the UC trends in a rapidly changing market that is shifting toward cloud and team-based collaboration.
As 2017 comes to a close, take a look back at the top five news stories that reflect the UC trends and topics most important to enterprise decision-makers and IT leaders.
1. Microsoft Teams to replace Skype for Business
Microsoft dominated UC news this year with the announcement that Microsoft Teams would replace Skype for Business Online as its core communications tool within Office 365.
Skype for Business customers will have to re-evaluate their UC strategies, as they might have to overhaul their infrastructure for the migration to Teams. IT leaders also voiced their concerns about the telephony tools in Teams. End users, too, may need additional training to help them adjust to the new interface.
In October, Microsoft released a roadmap that offered customers insight on the Skype for Business features that will be rolled into Teams over the next year, such as audio conferencing, call queues and voicemail.
The Teams migration has led to speculation about how Microsoft might further consolidate overlapping features in its collaboration portfolio, such as possibly replacing Outlook and Yammer with Teams.
2. Avaya files for bankruptcy
Longtime business communications provider Avaya filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, as it faced a $6 billion debt and declining revenue in a market shifting from hardware to software. The UC vendor planned to revamp its portfolio to focus on software, cloud and managed services.
However, the bankruptcy filing left customers wondering what would happen to their UC environment if Avaya did not exit bankruptcy, or if it sold key pieces of its portfolio. With four possible outcomes of the bankruptcy filing, many customers were creating backup plans to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
In November, the bankruptcy court approved Avaya’s plan, and the vendor officially emerged from bankruptcy in December.
Avaya will re-enter a competitive UC market dominated by Microsoft and Cisco. The vendor saw declining revenue, as organizations balked at buying their products amid the bankruptcy. Avaya could be buoyed by its presence in the growing markets of communications platform as a service and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) with its wholly owned subsidiary, Zang.
3. Cisco boosts Spark capabilities
Cisco was a top UC topic this year, with several developments around its cloud-based product, Spark. In January, Cisco announced the Spark Board, an interactive display screen and video conferencing system. The Spark Board can also be used as a whiteboard or presentation screen for a laptop or mobile device. Cisco’s Spark Board aims to compete with Microsoft’s Surface Hub.
In March, Cisco unveiled hybrid video conferencing hardware, the Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus. The hardware is controllable through the Spark Cloud or Cisco on-premises UC equipment.
In May, Cisco announced it was acquiring AI vendor MindMeld for $125 million. Cisco plans to integrate MindMeld technology with Spark for voice-activated personal assistants.
In August, Cisco made security updates to meet requirements for organizations in regulated industries, such as healthcare, government and finance. The updates include content protection for mobile devices, legal-team access to all documents and messages, and on-premises deployment of Spark Key Server for data encryption and decryption.
4. Vendor acquisitions and market consolidation
Vendor consolidation remained a top UC news item in 2017, with several vendors acquiring or merging with other companies.
In May, Genband and Sonus announced the two companies were merging to create a provider that would support communication service providers and enterprises as they transition to cloud-based communications. The combined company rebranded as Ribbon Communications in October.
Mitel made two acquisitions to boost its cloud offerings. In May, the vendor acquired Toshiba’s UC assets, which included small and large customers with a mix of on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployments. In July, Mitel said it was acquiring ShoreTel for $430 million to double its cloud business and support hybrid cloud UC deployments.
In October, Cisco announced it would acquire BroadSoft for $1.9 billion. Cisco has traditionally focused on larger enterprises, while BroadSoft catered to the SMB space. The acquisition lets Cisco offer a cloud communications portfolio that can support organizations of all sizes. However, the acquisition could create conflict with BroadSoft’s partners that compete with Cisco offerings.
In November, CenturyLink completed its $34 billion acquisition of Level 3. The two companies will merge under the CenturyLink brand. The merger has left questions of what will happen to Level 3’s UC partnerships, which include Unify Square and Amazon Chime.
5. Cloud-based team collaboration gains momentum
As one of the major UC trends in 2017, the team collaboration hype train rolled through 2017, with new offerings entering the market and new capabilities to boost adoption across organizations. Slack, for instance, released its enterprise offering, Slack Enterprise Grid, which offers regulatory compliance, security and added integration with other business apps.
Slack and Teams unveiled new capabilities to support collaboration with external users. Slack added shared channels that are public and can be set up by an administrator to work with third-party apps. Teams’ guest access lets administrators add to Teams anyone listed in an Active Directory account in Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
Google released Hangouts for business apps, which include chat for team messaging and video and audio conferencing. Google has had an inconsistent track record in the enterprise and is playing catch-up to Microsoft, Cisco and Slack. Amazon also entered the cloud UC market with Chime, a conferencing and collaboration service. While Amazon faces competition from the major UC players, the company could gain market share through the clout and financial prowess of delivering Chime through Amazon Web Services.
Cloud UC continued to be a top UC trend in 2017, as adoption grew among organizations of all sizes. A report from IHS Markit found on-premises UC usage will shrink as organizations consider private cloud, UCaaS and hybrid deployments — a trend expected to continue in 2018.
In September, we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications including plans to evolve Microsoft Teams into the primary client for calling and meetings in Office 365. As part of this, we are bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Microsoft Teams, along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.
Today we are releasing new calling capabilities in Teams, providing full featured dialing capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support. You can expect this to roll out over the next few hours and should come soon to your tenant.
To add calling in Teams for your users, the first thing you need is Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX), which is included with Office 365 E5 and available as an add-on to other Office 365 plans. From there, you can subscribe to a Calling Plan (formerly known as PSTN Calling) for any number of users in your organization.
Together, a Calling Plan and Phone System in Office 365 create a phone system for your organization, giving each user a primary phone number and letting them make and receive phone calls to and from outside of your organization. This solution also allows your organization to shift away from expensive telephony hardware and simplifying by centralizing the management of your phone system.
With the addition of calling, Teams is an even more robust hub for teamwork — the single place for your content, contacts and communications including chat, meetings and calling in a modern, collaboration experience.
Getting started with calling in Teams
To get started with calling in Teams, please review our quick start guide. You can learn more about geographic availability of Calling Plans here. We also invite you to join us live December 18, at 9 AM PDT on Teams On Air to hear guest Marc Pottier, Principal Program Manager discuss and demo calling plans in Microsoft Teams in more detail.
Over the course of debuting Microsoft Teams in Office 365 Education, we’ve been privileged to have educators from across the globe join us in creating technology to foster collaborative classrooms and improve student learning outcomes.
Whether it’s through events like Hack the Classroom, or message boards on the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC), or in conversations over social media with our product team members, we’ve been listening to your feedback and incorporating your ideas and diversity of needs into the Teams experience.
Today, we’re taking time to share the latest updates from that continuous feedback, and we’re eager to share the excitement around how teachers have discovered ways to transform their classrooms and workflows with Teams, the hub for teamwork in Office 365 Education. It’s clear that Teams saves valuable teacher time and fosters a more modern classroom experience, and we see it in conducting virtual PLC meetings with the meet-now feature, and organizing group projects via channels. Take a look at how Teams and OneNote came to the rescue for a teacher on their sick day.
Create an assignment with a OneNote page
Since the start of the 2017 school year, educators have created over 10,000,000 student notebooks using the OneNote Class Notebook app, either stand-alone or as part of Microsoft Teams. The number one piece of feedback we’ve heard is to integrate OneNote even more deeply inside of Teams.
Today, we’re starting to roll out the ability for teachers to create assignments and attach a page from OneNote to distribute and ultimately grade. When creating an assignment, simply select a page from Class Notebook in the file picker, then choose a destination for distributing the assignment page in the student notebooks. We’ve had our private beta customers trying out this capability – here is what Amy Vester, Lead Teacher from Omaha Public Schools has to say:
“Having the Class Notebook in the Assignment feature of Teams is FANTASTIC! This ties Teams together even better for teachers. Having the Class Notebook just a click away is so much more convenient for teachers and their students.”
Efficient grading support for OneNote pages
This also includes the time-saving ability for teachers to easily pull up OneNote page assignments in the quick grading view of the Assignments app in Teams.
Class Notebook Addin integration with Teams
We’re excited to be updating the OneNote Class Notebook Addin to support Teams integration, answering a top request from User Voice. This allows teachers to create Teams assignments, plus grading, all from within the OneNote Desktop app. Here’s a short training video demonstrating exactly how this works.
In the coming days, we will be rolling out version 126.96.36.199 of the Class Notebook Addin to get this capability, and bring the Teams integration to the OneNote Windows 10 app, OneNote Online, and iPad later in November.
Support for permissions in the Collaboration Space
We recently put out a blog post detailing how teachers can now add permissions to the Collaboration Space for OneNote Class Notebooks created in Teams. This capability was enabled last week.
With today’s announcement, we have started to roll out new assignment creation notifications for our Microsoft Teams education customers. After the update, once the Teacher creates a new assignment, all students in a class will get notified in the activity bell and a rich assignment card will be visible in the conversation stream, presented with due date and a link to the assignment details.
In addition, here are some other exciting cases that comes along with this change:
- Collaboration around assignment: Teachers and students can now easily facilitate contextual and relevant collaboration around the specific assignment in a class.
- Assignments search: Teachers and students can now easily search for assignments with specific key words from the assignment title, helping them save time. Below, you’ll see an example where a student uses “essay” as a keyword that shows up in the search bar for easy navigation.
Student new file submission
Students will now be able to initiate their work using Office apps right in context of the assignment submission flow, helping them save time. This addition will also be helpful for students who might not have access to Office apps at home and would like to get started on their assignments there.
Assignment full screen view
We visited many schools and learned from teachers and students that having a full screen view makes working on assignments more immersive. With this addition, students and teachers will now be able to easily switch into full screen view while working on their assignment, making it more productive and delightful. Below you’ll see is an example of a student expanding to full screen view while working on an assignment.
Coming soon: We will be launching the following features in the next few months, thanks to your feedback
Multiple class distribution
We value any teacher’s productivity and the invaluable time that they would like to spend with their students. This update will allow teachers managing multiple classes to easily distribute assignments at once, as opposed to sending to every single class individually today. Once it is distributed, teachers can always edit or delete the assignment in their respective class teams.
Assignments on iOS and Android
Today, schools using Microsoft Teams for education in the classroom can download mobile applications from the iOS and Android app stores. Students and teachers are using it to collaborate, ask questions in the conversations stream, and access files stored in the class.
In the coming months we will be rolling out assignments to the Teams mobile app, where teachers and students will have easy access on the go. Students will be able to easily scroll through the list of assignments, turn in their work, and get notified on new assignments through their mobile app. To the right you’ll find an example of a student view in which they can easily scroll through their list of assignments within a class.
Assignment List view
We’ve heard a lot of great feedback from various educators on the need for having both list and week view for assignments. In the coming months, students and teachers will get a quick and easy way to scroll through the list of assignments within a class, and a new way to toggle between the week and the list view. We will also add a new “go to today” capability for easy navigation. Below is an example of a student viewing the list of assignments in a class.
Q: How can a teacher delete any message in a class?
A: Once the IT Admin enables “Allow owners to delete all messages,” team owners will be able to delete any message posted by members in any team. The list of IT Admin control can be referenced here.
Q: How can IT Admins disable private chat for students?
A: IT Admins can toggle “Allow users to privately chat” for students to enable or disable private chat in their schools. The specific instructions on how to do this are here.
Q: What is the best IT Admin Support channel?
We hope these Teams updates will continue to inspire how educators like you transform the classroom. As you continue to use Teams at your school, share your feedback, suggestions, and ideas! You can let us know of any functionality issues directly through the in-product feedback button, or you can send us your suggestions and ideas through User Voice – a feedback tool that our product team closely uses when continuing to update Teams. Finally, you can engage online and reach out on Twitter to @MicrosoftTeams, and you can follow @MicrosoftEDU for the latest updates on Microsoft Education.
Many Skype for Business users probably won’t migrate to Microsoft Teams over the next year, because they are concerned about the lack of telephony features in the new chat-based workspace in Office 365, according to one industry expert.
The Microsoft Teams roadmap, released this week, promises a slew of Skype for Business features over the coming months. But Microsoft won’t fully roll out many of the telephony features until late next year.
“The biggest concern is Microsoft won’t deliver a lot of the telephony set until well into 2018,” said Irwin Lazar, a Nemertes Research analyst.
The Microsoft Teams roadmap details several Skype for Business features that will be rolled into Teams to help users prepare for a migration. Enterprise calling features — such as call park, group call pickup, location-based routing and shared-line appearance — are not expected until the fourth quarter of next year.
Additionally, the Microsoft Teams roadmap does not offer any new insights into Microsoft’s collaboration strategy, Lazar said. The roadmap, however, does provide customers with a timeline of when they can expect to see certain telephony features in Teams.
“It provides more clarity and will help companies plan for an eventual transition to Teams,” Lazar said.
Microsoft Teams roadmap: A bumpy ride?
Irwin Lazaranalyst at Nemertes Research
Microsoft announced last month that Teams would replace Skype for Business Online to become the main communications client within Office 365. The announcement left many organizations questioning the migration process and the quality of telephony within Teams.
After Microsoft posted a blog announcing the roadmap, several users commented to share their thoughts. Some users are happy about the change. They lauded the upcoming Microsoft Teams features, the integration between Skype and Teams, and how the roadmap helps organizations plan for the migration and improve adoption.
Other users, however, remain skeptical.
“Honestly I am very disappointed you are moving in this direction, I miss the days of a small simple interface like the old school Communicator,” John Gooding posted in response to Microsoft’s blog. “We tried Slack and Teams, and it was fun for 30 minutes then it turned into a productivity drag.”
Messaging, meetings and more
The Microsoft Teams roadmap focuses on messaging, meetings and calling capabilities within the application. Lazar said the roadmap will help organizations with their user-awareness and adoption programs, and it will help them plan training for users as features become available.
Messaging. As a messaging-centric application, Teams already offers persistent, one-on-one and group chat. Features such as the ability to import contacts from Skype for Business, unified presence and messaging policies are expected to be available by the end of the first quarter of 2018. Microsoft expects to add screen sharing and federation between companies by the end of the second quarter of 2018.
Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar discusses where Microsoft Teams fits in the collaboration market.
Meetings. Teams includes meeting capabilities such as screen sharing and capturing chats in the channel after a meeting. Later this quarter, Microsoft will debut audio conferencing in over 90 countries, meeting support in the Edge and Google Chrome web browsers, and call-quality analytics.
Microsoft will introduce meeting room support with Skype Room Systems, cloud video interoperability with third-party devices and support for the Surface Hub by the end of the second quarter of 2018.
Calling. Later this year, Microsoft plans to introduce voicemail, call forwarding, e911 support, Skype for Business to Teams calling, and IT policies for Teams interoperability. In the second quarter next year, Microsoft will enable customers to use their existing telecom voice line to activate calling services in Office 365. Additional capabilities such as call queues and one-to-one to group call escalation with Teams, Skype for Business and PSTN participants will also be available.
Additional Microsoft Teams features will roll out in the second quarter of 2018, including recording and storing meetings, meeting transcriptions and the ability to search key terms.
In an effort to clear up confusion over its collaboration roadmap, Microsoft will also update the names of its PSTN Calling, PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PBX services. PSTN Calling will be renamed Calling Plan, PSTN Conferencing will be named Audio Conferencing, and Cloud PBX will be called Phone System.
For features yet to be announced in the Microsoft Teams roadmap, Lazar said he’d like to see announcements around customers using on-premises Skype for Business being able to use the cloud-based Teams for telephony.
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