Expert View: Chris Young - Microsoft Teams and the Digital Workplace Challenge

On the 31st July 2021 Skype for Business Online will be retired, and after that date the service will no longer be available with enterprise users advised to migrate to MS Teams. Videocall recently published a Whitepaper to guide IT and Facilities leaders through planning their organisation's migration strategy.

We asked six of our Videocall experts to share their experience and answer questions on the opportunities, risks and key considerations when planning a large scale migration from Skype to Teams and what impact it is likely to have on an organisation's digital workplace.

Part 3 of 6: Chris Young 
Senior Strategic Accounts Manager, Videocall

Rob Portwood | Simon Shaw | Chris Young | Richard Clayton | Tim Earys | Jimmy Ferreira

What do you think an organisation’s biggest challenge will be when migrating from the platform (eg SFB to Teams) behind their digital workspace?

One of the biggest challenges is ensuring a seamless transition from desktop all the way to the meeting room and understanding the fundamental differences in platform in terms of: Experience, Workflow, Security, Protocols and Interoperability.

Underpinning all these things needs to be an endto-end service and support strategy to support multiple points of potential failure in the journey across all aspects so support is swift and successful.

Network will also be a challenge and must be thought out, planned and understood. “The fatter the pipe” is not necessarily the answer if it is not adequately deployed and expectations set around the known-unknowns, such as public internet, 3rd party connections and network traffic.

What future issue or hidden ‘gotcha’ is most commonly overlooked with a platform migration of this scale?

The assumption that ‘my meeting room or service works with Skype today…therefore it must work with MS Teams’. Not the truth in many cases... understanding the full landscape of technology and likely connection requirements is important to design a service around this and develop a transition to commonality.

Prime example being Poly Group series with RTV… this works native as a Skype system and functions in the Skype ecosystem entirely with the ability to make AV/MCU calls, P2P etc. But when you move to Teams the game changes… Microsoft dictates the call flow must always end in Teams meaning many of the end user journeys would change from approaching the system and making a call.

This also becomes true of the interop service/ platform i.e. I have a Skype SIP address to dial into my VMR so this must work with Teams when Microsoft move me (of course it will, Microsoft forced the change right?). Not the case… Microsoft force the change and now dictate the standardsbased world must ‘come to them’ and not the other way round, hence now needing a Gateway Service to Azure.

What future collaboration service or feature requirements should organisations be considering right now and why?

We can only offer impartial advice as to what customers should or shouldn’t be using as there are so many platforms out there and each has their own merits.

If a customer has multiple platforms in use as many large enterprises do, the most important thing is understanding the service and support model and all user touch points must cater for this.

If a customer standardises on one platform then this is also true and internally all user touch points must cater for this…i.e. optimized room environment, secure, simple to use, network readiness, standard laptop build with all the tools at the ready, interop or gateway service in place and regular comms and training issued so there is an awareness. The main feature requirement is that it ‘should just work’.

How important is it for IT leaders to align their platform migration approach with the wider business workplace strategy?

The wider business workplace strategy can come in many forms such as a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy. This approach may require a VMR, gateway or registered endpoint service to provide a collaboration strategy that caters for all the possible combinations of device and platform users work across.

But more commonly for larger organisations we see a locked down policy, for instance where all users only have the option to use Microsoft Teams at the desktop and all meeting rooms and huddle spaces are Teams only.

There should be a mutual understanding of the wider business strategy to align either of these extremes accordingly, especially with different service owners across a business who may be responsible for very different elements of the solution which all have common touch points be it the platform, desktop, network or meeting room technology.

What factors should be considered when choosing between a gradual or direct upgrade journey?

All aspects must be thought about when deciding if you go ‘phased’ or ‘big bang’:

  • Hardware – Room/Internal personal devices/ External 3rd party
  • Service
  • Supportability today
  • Supportability in future
  • Network Security
  • End Users – internal and external
  • Future plans, including short, medium and long term that effect your digital transformation journey, roadmap, technology and vendors.
  • Business direction of travel – growth, forecasting andacquisitions Financial business model – Capex/Opex, Asset management etc.

In your experience what has/is the role of technology vendors in the evaluation, implementation and support of major platform migration across the digital workplace?

‘Build it and they will come’ is the mentality of a lot of the vendors, often losing sight of customers real world problems and not fully understanding the bigger picture. i.e. Microsoft will only focus on their parts (Teams,

Skype, office apps etc. and ‘lighting up licences’). Poly will just care about headsets (and VC) while Cisco will chuck the kitchen sink and not care about the support.

Vendors are very good at making the technology, it’s the partners role as a trusted advisor to make it work for the customer.

Vendors will always have a direct touch with customers, and it should be their role to articulate what’s available, showcase what they have and work with a partner ecosystem to advise where aspects may fit and then deliver and support... this is the case sometimes but not always.

Excerpt from "Microsoft Teams and the Digital Workplace Challenge" White paper.

This paper will show why it is critical for the Enterprise to have a digital workplace strategy in place and to ensure that employees have a good user experience as they navigate their way around this migration. It will look at the benefits of a seamless, consistent experience whether that is in a physical or virtual workplace.

For the leaders of organisations this presents one of the most significant opportunity for many years to improve how their workers interact and collaborate to foster greater engagement and productivity.