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It’s Time to Familiarize Yourself With Microsoft Teams

Step Into My WayBack Time Machine

Do you remember when you returned to the office after lunch or an appointment and the receptionist would hand you a stack of “missed call” and “message notes” on small pieces of paper? A lot of you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about because of your age, but we middle-aged people could tell you some real horror stories.

One of my first jobs was in sales at a local company, and I had a lot of customers. For that reason I was one of the lucky ones who had my name on a piece of plastic with little walls separating my section from four others. So, I didn’t have to wait for the receptionist to find my notes she’d taken while I was away, I’d just grab the small forms from my slot and head upstairs.

Unfortunately, the receptionist had terrible hand writing. A lot of that was because she was answering the phone constantly and, thus, her writing was rushed. Virtually every time I picked up my missed calls and messages I had to call back down to her so she could translate the scribble on my forms. Sometimes this would take several minutes as she had to put me on hold to answer several calls while we were deciphering the notes.

Add to that frustrating, time-killing scenario that sometimes the return phone numbers had an incorrect digit, a name was terribly misunderstood, sometimes one of my notes was placed into the wrong slot and vice-versa, and one might understand why some days I simply dreaded returning to the office and the ensuing circus of confusion it would cause.

I thought we’d reached the pinnacle of technology when we were furnished pagers capable of having a message typed to them from the office. I’d finally escaped the paper nightmare and could go to a pay phone (if you know what that is) and return urgent messages, or just wait until I returned to my office.

Not long after that came voice mail. Very soon we were furnished cell phones. Then came computer workstations and instant messaging. What, I’d always ask myself, could be coming next? In a decade we’d gone from scribbled notes to email (which has, unfortunately, grown into a time-drain monster that also gives cyber criminals an easy way into a company network) and my world had become so much more manageable and productive.

Today, we’re seeing tremendous advancements in artificial intelligence that actually learns and improves the more it’s used. These AI advancements are part of the reason Microsoft is making a big change that some will hate and others will love; just like every time they change anything.

Microsoft is Going All in With Microsoft Teams

Microsoft recently announced it will eventually replace the Skype for Business Online client with the Microsoft Teams client. The company plans to add the voice-over-IP capabilities of Skype for Business Online to enable phone calls, as well as meetings capabilities. The overall vision is for Teams to become a more refined “intelligent communications” solution compared to Skype for Business. Microsoft noted the move was spurred by the progress Teams has made in the six months since it’s release with over 125,000 organizations worldwide now using Teams.

According to Microsoft, advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are leading to technologies beyond traditional unified communications, identifying this next technology as intelligent communications. That technology will be able to maintain the full context of meetings, with no language, visual, or hearing barriers. After a meeting, it can send a meeting summary with action items.

The Teams client also includes the ability to create a speed-dial list of contacts or an alphabetical list of contacts, along with a call history. Voicemail will be pulled from Exchange because Microsoft Teams has an enterprise voice feature that makes it a single application to do all of a person’s calling and collaboration.

To achieve this vision, Skype will become the backend cloud infrastructure powering Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is taking the capabilities in Skype for Business and combining it with Teams for one client experience.

Meetings can be scheduled via Outlook, if wanted, and they can be joined using any mobile device. Microsoft also wants to create a mechanism to capture all of the content in a meeting event, so Microsoft Teams is getting an “access recording” feature. The recording will appear in the particular Teams conversational channel. The content of the meeting gets stored in the cloud and is automatically closed captioned. Users also get access to a full transcription of the meeting. They can search for a keyword and then jump to a part of video where that word was uttered. The idea is that users can catch up on meetings if they missed them.

Common Questions From Organizations Answered

The move from the Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams typically elicits three questions from organizations.

  1. People want to know how the switch will affect Skype for Business Server.
  2. They want to know if Microsoft Teams is ready for use by their company.
  3. Lastly, they want to hear how Microsoft will help with the transition.

Microsoft states it’s just as committed to the next Skype for Business Server as the organizations currently using Skype for Business Server products. The next Skype for Business Server product is targeted for “Q4 of next calendar year.”  Microsoft also plans to refresh the Skype for Business client at that time. Microsoft expects some organizations will want Definitive Trusted Advisor Guideto house their voice communications on their own premises, so they will continue supporting the server product.

The company claims that Microsoft Teams is ready for use now by organizations. It’s built from the ground up on Office 365 and supports mobile access with conditional access security and mobile application management. It delivers persistent chat and has a retention policy for communications, including e-discovery and audit capabilities. Events are journaled and logged from across SharePoint, Exchange, OneDrive and others.

IT administrators will be getting a new Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business Admin Center portal for management purposes. It is going to have tools such as Call Analytics and Call Diagnostics.

Microsoft says organizations can run Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business side by side, adding that it’s “a great way to roll out Teams in your organization.” Organizations can have some users on Microsoft Teams and some users on Skype for Business. IT pros have control over when Microsoft Teams gets rolled out, and there’s no lengthy migration or weekend downtime necessary.

Businesses using Skype for Business will have a much easier time getting used to Microsoft Teams, because, on the surface, they aren’t a whole lot different. If your company has never used Skype, however, Microsoft has built into Teams a T-Bot for training users. They can ask it how to chat, for example. The company says the T-Bot gets smarter over time due to its artificial intelligence.

You know, I actually feel older after writing this blog post. But, I also feel a heck-of-a-lot more productive, waste a lot less time, and I don’t miss those little forms with rushed scribbling on them either.

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