At Ignite 2017, it was officially announced that Skype for Business Online is being replaced by Microsoft Teams. This change in strategy raises a number of questions. In talks with Microsoft staff, we looked for answers and explanations. We were particularly interested in the impact on customers who currently deploy a Skype for Business Enterprise Voice environment or are planning such an installation.
Let’s start with the following question: Does Skype for Business still have a future? Microsoft has communicated that it will transfer the functionality of Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams, simplifying the work of teams, as well as collaboration with customers and partners. Specifically, functions such as AI, Microsoft Graph, LinkedIn are intended to improve the way users work when it comes to chats, meetings, and telephony.
Another hot topic is the following: Why are Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams being merged? The aim is for users to work exclusively with one client (Microsoft Teams Client) and be able to use the Skype for Business functions. In Microsoft Teams, all relevant information (conversations, contacts, etc.) are combined in a single client application, and the modern cloud infrastructure ensures high scalability. In addition to e‑mails and chats, the information involved includes voice and video calls, meeting documents, and presentations. In other words, Microsoft Teams brings together, in one place, all communications generated by collaboration within in-house teams as well as with customers and partner enterprises.
Customers who already use Skype for Business Enterprise Voice or are planning to replace a conventional PBX want to know: Will Skype for Business Server on prem continue to be developed? Microsoft has announced that the next version of Skype for Business Server on prem is in development. Its release is planned for the end of Q2 2018. This will enable customers to leverage the full range of Skype for Business functionality and operate the servers at their own data center or purchase a corresponding managed service. It is also interesting that a further version of the local server is scheduled for 2019/2020. This will include enhancements from errors from the Skype for Business product but will not deliver Teams functions.
Does it still make sense for customers to set up a Skype for Business on prem installation, or should they wait until Microsoft Teams includes the Skype for Business functions? In the midterm, it will be possible to replace a conventional PBX only on the basis of a locally installed server infrastructure. However, to gather initial practical experience with Microsoft Teams, Microsoft recommends testing Microsoft Teams in a pilot alongside or in conjunction with a live local Skype for Business infrastructure.
How can customers find out when Skype for Business Online functions will be available in Microsoft Teams? Microsoft provides this information periodically in roadmap form. An initial roadmap was published at Ignite in September 2017. A current version, dated November 2017, can be found on the Web at https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Microsoft-Teams-Blog/What-s-new-in-Microsoft-Teams-November-update/ba-p/132962.
To prepare for and plan the migration to Microsoft Teams, customers want to know: When will Skype for Business customers be able to/have to switch to Microsoft Teams? The timing of a migration depends directly on the requirements of the particular company. The Microsoft Teams roadmap is intended to ensure the required functions are available, and a suitable time for migration can be determined.
Luware customers currently work exclusively with the Skype for Business clients. Will the Skype for Business clients continue to be supported going forward? The existing Skype for Business Clients will continue to be supported until further notice so as to ensure access to the local servers. Migrating to a platform entails additional costs. This poses the following question: Do the user devices have to be replaced when companies change over to Microsoft Teams? According to Microsoft, investments in USB and IP user devices are protected. From today’s perspective, it is not necessary to buy new hardware. The following question is rather less important but interesting nevertheless: Will the Skype for Business brand disappear? Skype for Business remains the product name for the local server products.
Microsoft will certainly continue to work on evolving the Skype for Business on prem platform, on which all Luware solutions (LUCS, TeamManager, etc.) are built. This applies to client and server products and means that the basis of the Luware applications remains available.
The Microsoft Lifecycle Policy comprises consistent and plannable specifications on the availability of support throughout the life cycle of the products. The information can be called up at any time on the Microsoft website. This also applies to the current version of Skype for Business Server on prem, which was released on September 22, 2015. According to the Lifecycle Policy, extended support ends on October 14, 2025. We can assume that the Skype for Business Server releases planned for 2018 and 2019/2020 will be supported by Microsoft through to 2028 and 2029/2030 respectively.
But the change by Microsoft also offers unprecedented opportunities. Just imagine the kind of insight that the integration of LinkedIn and Microsoft Office 365 can provide for customer service departments when customers first contact a company.
As described, the Skype for Business functions will be integrated into Microsoft Teams. Luware will use the time to evolve its solutions for Skype for Business and, in close collaboration with the development team in Redmond, port the entire Luware portfolio to Microsoft Teams.
Luware will do everything it can to ensure the Luware Microsoft Teams portfolio is ready when the interfaces to Microsoft Teams are generally available.