Microsoft completes its massive upgrade to Microsoft Teams

Mar 19, 2019   |  

Like many of the company’s customers, it was time for Microsoft to move from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

And today, after four months of in-the-trenches work, Microsoft is announcing that its internal migration of 180,000 employees and vendors from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams is complete. The company is now using Teams for all its communications and collaboration needs, including chat, calling, and meetings. A small group of additional employees and vendors will migrate once certain countries unblock cloud-based communication tools like Teams.

“This truly was the fastest upgrade that we’ve ever done with this large number of users,” says Pouneh Kaufman, the lead principal program manager on the End User Services Engineering (EUSE) Team in Microsoft Core Services Engineering (CSEO), the group that led the migration.

Microsoft employees started using Teams as their hub to work and collaborate when the product’s beta version launched in late 2016.

“Moving all communications and collaboration to Teams means Microsoft employees now have one place to go to get work done,” Kaufman says. “Now that the migration is complete for our eligible users, we can really hone in on the next big thing, which is to get more out of having everyone work on one hub for teamwork.”

That means doing things like moving the wide variety of applications employees use every day directly into Teams.

“Integrating our business process applications into Teams reduces the back and forth our employees have to do to get their work done,” Kaufman says. “We’re making it so our employees don’t have to leave Teams to create a PowerPoint deck, collaborate with another engineer on some code, take training, book a campus shuttle, or find out what’s for lunch at their local café.”

Advanced preparation makes for smooth transition

The migration to Teams was remarkedly smooth for many reasons, says Mohammed Anas Shaikh, the senior program manager who led the technical deployment of Teams for CSEO.

“Our service engineers spent a lot of time validating eligibility requirement and scripts,” Shaikh says. “So, when it came time to deploy the actual technical bits behind the migration it was straight forward.”

Beyond that, a lot of work went in to getting everyone ready to make the switch to Teams. The team decided to migrate the company by division—the thinking was that employees are most likely to collaborate with people in their own division, so why not move those folks all at once. The team migrated about 25,000 to 40,000 people in each of six waves, with the final one finishing earlier this month.

Evangelizing readiness and adoption best practices helped get employees ready for the migration, as did a large change management planning effort and lots of in-the-trenches work by many people. The preparations included holding Teams Tuesdays, where the team fanned out across the company to show employees what they could do with Teams, fun individual advocacy events like Launch Day with Xbox and ValenTeams Day, and a steady release of short, snackable how-to videos.

“We prepared readiness materials, got leaders on board, sent out tons of communications, and shared how-to information on every platform we could,” Kaufman says. “We had more than 1,300 champions from teams all across the company as well as EUSE business partners who helped us get people onboard and engaged.”

Shaikh says there were two steps the team had to take before the migration could occur. First, they loaded a Teams add-in into Microsoft Outlook (this meant Teams meetings could be scheduled from all Outlook end points). Second, they built out and implemented a governance plan for helping employees start getting the most out of Teams.

Once the migration occurred, the team realized that some users weren’t aware of how to use all features right away. “Some people thought they had to join Skype for Business meetings using the Skype web app as guests,” Shaikh says. “We showed them that they could use the Skype for Business client to join those meetings.”

Kaufman says that starting to use Teams for meetings has worked very well, explaining that quality of calls has increased using Teams, that surveyed employees are reporting that they are having higher quality meetings, and that they are enjoying the benefit of having all their communications and collaboration persistent into one place that they can come back to later. They also are joining meetings and taking calls remotely, whether it be from home, coffee shops, or the company’s Connector commuter buses.

“Now that we’re all on Teams, we’re fulfilling our vision for having one hub for teamwork,” she says. “It’s going to be great to see all the ways that this helps make us more productive.”

Read about the meeting experience in Microsoft Teams here, learn about the governance behind deploying Teams inside of Microsoft here, check out how Teams kept Microsoft employees connected during a massive snowstorm at company headquarters here, and read about adding a Teams add-in to Microsoft Outlook here.

Check out this CSEO webinar series on collaboration with Microsoft 365, and ask CSEO experts questions about the company’s strategy for modern collaboration and the company’s transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

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