Expert View: Rob Portwood - 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 1 of 6: Rob Portwood 
Founder and Managing Director, 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 (e.g. SFB to Teams) behind their digital workspace?

I wouldn’t profess this is the biggest challenge as migrations of this sort are very specific to the enterprise, user communities and functionality (initial and planned) but aside from ensuring that the basic supporting infrastructure, networks and PCs or devices are all at a point that will begin to support a migration, then the focus has to be on the evaluation, implementation and support across the entire digital work place.

It’s all too easy to focus on the PC or desktop environment and omit the meeting space experience, workflow, and critically support models going forward.

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

“Program Management 101” in our experience is having clear a “goal” as granular as possible, with very specific milestones that are relevant, phased, timely, individually and grouped all pointing at the goal.

The overall goal and milestones must be supported by a clear set of dependencies relevant to each as the project moves forward, it will be fluid and coarse corrections needed requiring constant review. Hence not losing sight of the goal.

Finally, not overlooking the nature and outcomes required of a support model across the entire service and users experience.

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

I would ask and answer this in a different way. A collaboration service must form an intrinsic part of a digital workplace strategy. The key elements that need to be brought together to deliver a defined user experience as they engage with the service to deliver THEIR business and personal outcomes are, platform or platforms e.g. Skype for Business, Teams, Zoom , Blue Jeans, ICE etc, workplace flow (single experience, access , scheduling, app integration etc), mobile experiences, meeting space (room, huddle, exec or open space), existing legacy equipment, invested and planned AV, under pinned by device and network strategies under constant tactical review, which must all be confirmed as fit for purpose.

It is this combination that will deliver and continue to deliver the functionality as surfaced by users consistent with their needs.

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

This is critical otherwise there is NO justification for undertaking such a migration, setting aside a “forced” migration by the vendor.

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

This will be determined by the size of the organisation and user base. With a multi-regional organization there will always be challenges to migrate users from one platform to another and as a result larger organisations will require a gradual migration.

Smaller organisations can probably get away with a direct migration path as the communication structure will be easier to manage.

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?

The role of vendor is important, more so than limiting it to supporting the technical deployment.

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.