The end of Skype for Business Online is near
The end of Skype for Business Online is near. By the end of July 2021, the days of skyping colleagues will be a distant memory as new technology takes over. In September 2019, Microsoft discontinued the presence, messaging and video conferencing service for new Office 365 subscriptions. Those already using Skype for Business Online will retain all access, including the ability to add new users, however, all existing Office 365 tenancies will have been migrated to Microsoft Teams when the program concludes at the end of July 2021, and new tenancies won’t have any Skype for Business Online functionality at all.
Why is Skype for Business Online ending?
As mentioned in one of our recent blogs (Microsoft Teams – The Skype for Business Takeover), over the last couple of years, Microsoft has been investing heavily in Microsoft Teams with a view to replacing Skype for Business Online, adding audio/video conferencing and telephony features to the product. Microsoft Teams is just under a couple of years old, but it’s become the fastest growing business product in Microsoft’s history, already used by 87 Fortune 100 companies. Microsoft Teams will therefore act as a central communications channel for businesses.
What does this mean for you?
It’s been on the cards for a while with Microsoft hinting about the fate of Skype for Business Online back in 2017. Whilst the deadline seems far away, there are some things you will want to consider before switching over to Microsoft Teams.
Flipping the switch from Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams is a relatively straightforward process. There are several modes of coexistence that enable you to onboard users in a way that meets the needs and timeframe of your organisation. Introducing pilots, running Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams side-by-side are a few modes that can help with the rollout. But switching to Microsoft Teams simply to replace the presence, chat and meeting capabilities is only half the story. Whilst Microsoft Teams is considered the replacement for Skype for Business Online, the product offers much more functionality. Microsoft Teams is the all-round team collaboration tool that provides an environment where users can share and collaborate using popular Office 365 apps like Office, SharePoint, OneNote and Power BI, whilst also offering the voice and video tools that Skype for Business Online provided.
The architecture of the Microsoft Teams client is designed to be a swiss army knife. It’s not a single-task tool in the same way that Skype for Business was. Microsoft Teams integrates with other Office 365 services and has dependencies on services such as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and importantly, Azure Active Directory. Whether your usage of these services is established or non-existent, Microsoft Teams will have an impact. In some hybrid scenarios, certain functionality won’t be available.
Without appropriate planning, the knock-on effect of introducing Microsoft Teams throughout an organisation will quickly lead to an unorganized mess, causing havoc for administration and data protection, and confusion for end-users.
For more information about governing Microsoft Teams and decision topics, check out our earlier blog – How to govern Microsoft Teams.
In addition to governance, it’s essential to have a change management and user adoption strategy in place that will ensure a smooth transition and the success of Microsoft Teams for your organisation. This shouldn’t be underestimated and is often the difference between a platform that promotes a new culture for more effective teamwork, and an environment that leads to pain and confusion, forcing users to find alternative, non-sanctioned apps.
Microsoft have made significant investment to achieve feature parity between Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams. There is, however, an exception. If you use Skype for Business Online, especially the full enterprise voice and conferencing aspects, there are some points you should be aware of:
- Skype Room Systems have changed to Microsoft Teams Rooms Systems.
- Hardware previously running Skype for Business firmware may not be compatible with Microsoft Teams.
- Integration with third-party audio-conferencing providers will stop working. The obvious path is to migrate to Microsoft Audio Conferencing to ensure a consistent experience and toolset for users.
- Consider Teams Direct Routing providers to consolidate and extend PSTN capabilities. These offer certain benefits to both functionality and cost over the Microsoft Call Plans.
Skype for Business Server
For now, the retirement of Skype for Business is contained to the online service provided through Office 365. Investments in Skype for Business Server 2019 and extended support until 2025 show Microsoft recognise scenarios for some organisations to retain these capabilities on-premises.
The transition is coming, and Microsoft are in control. Keep an eye on the message centre in your Office 365 tenant to keep up to date and ensure you have made all necessary arrangements for governance, security, network optimisation and change awareness across your organisation before the switch happens.
In our experience, Microsoft Teams can add significant value to the way organisations work and evolve, but it’s important to think about and plan your journey to get the best out of it.