Is parity achievable in MS Teams and Skype for Business?

  • Posted on October 23, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business

When a business decides to improve upon a technology, do they merely look for a product replacement that offers similarity. Feature parity has been a monumental concern since Microsoft Teams was announced. Skype for Business has become the technology most businesses have adopted for their communications platform. Since the application had been released, several features were only on the roadmap of coming features. However, the goal of business users is not the status quo but to have a more efficient support platform for their daily functions. This is what Microsoft Teams brings rather than a replacement of some existing technology.

In just a year’s run, Microsoft claims to have reached ‘feature parity’ with Skype for Business Online. Not all business users would agree with this statement; however, is feature parity really the goal for the future of intelligent communications? Microsoft Teams is an evolution of a journey that started with an inter-office instant messaging platform. Over the evolution of the product it ventured to replace the PBX, integrate with critical LOB applications, and coalesce into the collaboration hub for the enterprise.

What users are seeking is a platform that is simple to use, efficient on tasks, and gets out of their way to let them get their assignments done more quickly. We’ve heard from end users that features that are difficult to discover or that require complex steps that don’t relate to the task are often left underutilized. Ask yourself “what was the last advanced PBX feature that you used? Do you remember how to access it?” Microsoft Teams is a hub where today’s modern users gather to create and coauthor corporate artifacts. Long gone is the days of a simple IM application that allows users to merely see presence and engage in real time communications.

The Teams hub has ties into the entire corporate productivity suite being used by the business and it allows for rapid engagement with business partners. Many users have become accustomed to Skype for Business and when transitioning to Teams their expectations are already established. In the Microsoft July update, the claim is that most features minus a few Enterprise Voice features are still pending on the roadmap. However, upon close inspection several native features are now referred out to 3rd party solutions (e.g. Whiteboard).

Even features stated as available today, such as Unified Presence may appear to not be working as expected. Some users may claim that their presence is not synced between Skype for Business and Teams.

This is a common delay issue with presence changes not syncing as quickly from Skype for Business to Teams as they would otherwise if presence were to be changed on Teams. It’s these minutia issues that could drastically affect the user experience. So, it becomes the mission of the deployment teams to ensure users expectations are setup properly.

Although, organizations do seek to replace their current technologies it should always be with an eye towards the future. The workforce will soon consist of over 75% millennials, who were born with technology as a social tool and carried into business with certain expectations. The Teams experience is the social platform in the business ecosystem that is most like the consumer grade products with its simplicity of use.

These modern users need to be able to engage quickly on what matters most to their functional requirements. Collaborating on documents and being able to interact with each other with technology empowered awareness. Microsoft Teams offers features in parity with Skype for Business, the standard-bearer for office communications. It’s more than that though! Teams is focused on tasks, collaboration, and productivity in blurring the fissures between distant teams to create opportunities for working succinctly towards common goals.

The Teams experience is further enhanced with programable voice/video, bots, and REST/HTTP API’s that make the integration stories endless. Accenture has recently worked with Continental in creating a chat support bot to assist their user community and ease their transition to a modern workplace. Introduction of new tools is a drastic change for users and often the local support teams cannot engage on the levels necessary for the enterprise. With integrations such as custom support bots and AI the support ability is elevated and this results in higher user satisfaction, engagement.

At Avanade, when we engage with our clients it is with the purpose to transform experiences, culture, and operation with technology. Microsoft Teams offers a new perspective on the collaboration potential between business users. As Microsoft reaches feature parity with Skype for Business—integrating it into the Teams experience—then preparing the business for the change is the critical part of ensuring their success early in the deployment phase. The engagement of users in the process and how they are supported is the bar at which their satisfaction with the evolution into the modern workplace will be measured.

Nathalie du Preez

Good article Sean. I am not a "tech" person, but I have embraced Teams and I love it, it has changed how my team collaborates and saves a ton of time for various reasons, everything is in one place, less emails, better transparency, the benefits are endless. Can't recommend it highly enough - especially when used with planner. 

October 30, 2018

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