Byebye Skype, Hello Teams
Almost 2 years ago Microsoft announced the end of life for Skype Business, setting the end of life for Skype for Business online as July 2021 – those that have the server edition will continue to receive patches and updates until October 2025.
2 years is a long time though and the world has changed in terms of what it requires for productivity and collaboration and Microsoft have invested heavily in to Teams – both from a features and a functionality point of view since its introduction in 2017. The Teams platform can do everything the Skype for Business platform could not – largely because Skype for Business was never built for digital collaboration – it was based on the original 2003 Skype platform which prioritised calls and messaging.
When the pandemic hit and Zoom became an overnight sensation, Microsoft had to decide which platform it would focus on to compete with Zoom. The more modern platform and pre-existing integrations with the Microsoft platform meant Teams was the only real choice and it underwent a massive upgrade programme and scaled without too many teething problems. There were some initial bandwidth restrictions and the occasional downtime or laggy call but with an 894% growth from March to June 2020 that was to be expected. Now the 145 million daily active users utilise Teams without any major headaches – I can vouch for this as we use Teams for all of our collaboration.
So how is Teams better than Skype and what functionality does it have that makes it the natural successor for Skype for Business.
Microsoft Teams can be accessed through the Teams App, online using the web app or on your mobile using the mobile app. All 3 versions have virtually the same functionality meaning it is simple to transfer from desktop to mobile to online version depending on where you are. Guest users also don’t have to download an app (as they did with Skype for Business and do with Zoom) as they can use the web version.
Accessibility within the app is also improving, with closed captions, contrast themes, TTY and screen reader options, Microsoft Teams is one of the most accessible collaboration tools.
For international collaboration, messages can be translated from 36 languages right there in the chat.
One on one chats are simple in Microsoft Teams. If the user is within your organisation you just find them in the address book. If they are external to your organisation you just invite them in. Teams allows you to be in different organisational groups also and it’s easy to switch between them meaning you can keep different businesses or different interests separate.
Group or multiple chats are much easier to manage on Teams. You can either set them up as unofficial groups where you start a new chat and invite the members you want in, or official Microsoft 365 groups which come with SharePoint sites, distribution groups and a calendar – putting all the collaboration in one place. When inviting someone else in to the group chat you have the option to allow or deny them access to the previous chat history – handy if you have been talking about someone before inviting them in!
Whilst it is predominantly a business message service and included in Microsoft’s litigation hold, search and discovery and other GDPR data security tools, there is an air of fun with the chats. You can send well censored GIFS, praise and stickers to make chats more fun and engaging – pushing the creativity levels of your teams.
With Teams you are able to see activity on the chats you are having, calls you have missed and reactions to your messages. This is really helpful where you may be a member of a lot of individual teams or groups and don’t have time to check all of the chats for updates. You can also follow and customise your notifications for those particularly important chats.
Teams supports much better quality video calls, particularly in lower bandwidth, where Skype always struggled. As long as you have a 1.2Mbps connection you shouldn’t experience a lag. The video calls is one area where Microsoft have massively improved Teams over the last 12-18 months. With different backgrounds, background blurring and conference backgrounds all being built for those working remotely. You can schedule Teams calls through the Outlook calendar, create individual rooms and breakout rooms and have an attendees list sent after the call.
As well as integrating with the standard Microsoft apps such as Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive and Planner, Teams integrates with over 150 3rd party apps such as Github, YouTube and even Zoom and Cisco Go To Meetings!
With it’s integration in to SharePoint and OneDrive, you have much more control over the documents you share in Teams. Sharing access only means you can revoke it at anytime and don’t have multiple copies of documents flying around – great for version control. With screen sharing and document collaboration, you can all be working on the same document.
Teams allows you to put yourself in Do not Disturb, or read meetings from your calendar to do it automatically. Microsoft Insights can also find you quiet time where you can be your most productive. The different Teams chats help you to focus your attention and not get distracted by other people’s conversations and keyboard shortcuts can save valuable milli-seconds, which all add up over the course of the week! It’s the seamless integration though between the different Microsoft collaboration tools that really improves productivity both individually and amongst teams.
With multi-factor authentication, single sign-on and encryption of data in transit and rest, Teams is a secure platform. It has the same security and compliance controls as the Microsoft 365 Platform and Microsoft have invested in data loss prevention tools.
So, what’s the future for Microsoft Teams? With 145 million users, it is a promising money-maker for Microsoft but unless it keeps evolving with the changing need, there are plenty of upstarts snapping at its heals.
Microsoft appear to be targeting VOIP systems next – with Teams calling allowing call-packages to telephone numbers rather than just email addresses.
Also on the roadmap are lots of mini functionality improvements based on feedback from the mass improvements made over the last 18 months. Once Microsoft have caught their breath with teams, it will be interesting to see what the next major feature improvements will be.
If you are interested in Microsoft Teams and want to see how it can improve the collaboration, productivity, security and compliance of your Teams, schedule a call with our experts who will guide you through the process.