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Microsoft Suggests Teams Can Now Serve as a Skype for Business Replacement

Microsoft on Friday proclaimed that the Microsoft Teams client is now a "complete meeting and calling solution," and is a suitable substitute for the Skype for Business Online client.

The proclamation appears to be based on new capabilities added to Teams in "recent weeks." On the messaging side, Microsoft added unified presence, federated chat, contacts and translation capabilities to Teams.

The meetings capability in Teams now supports up to 250 participants. Microsoft added a federated meetings capability for conducting conferencing sessions across multiple organizations. The meetings lobby feature, used for screening dial-in callers, was added. Meetings sessions can now be recorded in Teams.

Calling additions to Teams now include the Call Queues feature, which distributes incoming phone calls based on rules. Another addition is Auto Attendant, a voice-driven information menu system that substitutes for human operators. Other calling features supported are call forwarding to a group, out-of-office, consultative transfer and do-not-disturb breakthrough. Teams also gained Direct Routing support back in June, which lets organizations use their existing local phone service provider for phone calls using Teams.

Microsoft also indicated that Skype Room Systems and Surface Hub devices currently support Teams.

Features Gap?
Apparently, most of these improvements arrived in the second quarter of this year, according to Microsoft's "Capabilities Roadmap" document (PDF). There are still some "Enterprise Voice" capabilities yet to come in the fourth quarter per the roadmap. Enterprise Voice is actually a Skype for Business Server capability, but Microsoft plans to bring it to Teams.

In addition to Microsoft's roadmap document description, various apps made by "third parties" describe the feature differences between Teams and Skype for Business. These apps, like the one created by Luca Vitali, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), show that there's still a lack of feature parity between Teams and Skype for Business clients, despite Microsoft's announcement describing Teams as a complete meeting and calling solution.

Update 8/27: In response to a question about missing features, a Microsoft spokesperson offered the following statement:

We know there may be some features customers use in Skype for Business Online that are not in Teams and we are listening feedback as an important part of shaping the ongoing roadmap.

Existing video-teleconferencing systems are expected to add support for Teams later this year, based on offerings from Microsoft's partners, such as BlueJeans Network, Pexip and Polycom, Microsoft's announcement indicated. Microsoft had earlier described its support expectations for Teams by its equipment and solution partners back in June.

Microsoft also had suggested earlier that certified Skype for Business phone devices would work with Teams.

Migration Support
Microsoft's announcement seemed to suggest that Microsoft will provide direct support for organizations moving to the Teams client, or at least some form of planning support. Currently, it's possible to run the two applications side by side, but Microsoft has indicated that it sees Teams as the future for client communications as part of its "intelligent communications" makeover.

Organizations supposedly can move to Teams when they are ready. The announcement suggested that Microsoft will be providing some sort of support to that end:

Not every organization has dedicated IT resources to manage their transition to Teams. In order to assist these customers, we will begin offering them Microsoft-driven automated upgrades to Teams. We will communicate directly with customers regarding their upgrade options through email and in the Office 365 Message Center.

Update 8/27: Microsoft is actually just saying here that it will schedule upgrades to Teams. Here's a further elaboration by the spokesperson:

Customers will be notified of their upgrade options via Office 365 Message Center and email to the IT administrator. Customers that are offered an automated upgrade will be assigned a date on which their tenant is scheduled to be upgraded to Microsoft Teams. Once scheduled, the automated upgrade will move the entire tenant to Teams on the scheduled date. At that point, Teams will become the default client for chat, voice, video and meetings in Office 365 for all users in the tenant.

Further details weren't provided, but a Microsoft document on Teams upgrades described a couple of migration options. There's an "Upgrade Basic" plan for smaller organizations that will move them to Teams right away. There's also a more phased "Upgrade Pro" migration plan for organizations that have more complex infrastructure scenarios. Possibly these two plans are what Microsoft's announcement is alluding to when it described "Microsoft-driven automated upgrades to Teams."

Update 8/27: The Upgrade Basic and Upgrade Pro migration plans are just guidance for organizations that want to perform the upgrades to Teams themselves, according to the spokesperson.

There are also mentions of the Upgrade Basic and Upgrade Pro plans in this Microsoft FAQ document, although it similarly lacks explanatory detail about how it will get carried out.

Microsoft also claims to provide Teams migration support in a "self-serve guidance" portal and through tools in the Teams and Skype for Business Admin Center, which Microsoft had started rolling out to Office 365 subscribers in March. Back then, the new admin center was described as lacking support for managing some Teams and Skype for Business features, so IT pros were expected to fall back to using the Office 365 Admin Center portal if the capability wasn't supported.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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