Microsoft Teams meeting add-in spurs move away from Skype for Business inside Microsoft

Sep 27, 2018   |  

Microsoft employees use Microsoft Teams every day, but most don’t live in it.

Yet.

Company employees have used the collaboration tool to work together on projects, coauthoring, and for having conversations since the product debuted two years ago, but many—because they use Microsoft Outlook to set up their meetings—jump out of it and into Skype for Business when they need to schedule a meeting, have a call, or instant message someone.

That’s all changing.

The company is currently rolling out the Teams meeting add-in to Outlook for all employees and vendors in the company. Once someone gets the add-in, he or she can then start using it to schedule Teams meetings directly in Outlook, which means the meeting will be held in Teams instead of Skype for Business. Meetings already can be scheduled in Teams through the Teams client on desktop, web, and mobile.

The Outlook add-in is expected to be fully deployed at Microsoft by the end of October. So far, it’s been deployed to nearly 80,000 people. “The feedback is phenomenal,” says Pouneh Kaufman, a principal program manager on the End User Services Engineering Team in Microsoft Core Services Engineering (CSEO), the group in charge of the internal Skype to Teams migration. “Our users are telling us they feel more productive scheduling Teams meetings via the Outlook add-in.”

The deployment of the highly sought after add-in is an important milestone in moving the full employee base from Skype for Business to Teams for all communications—calls, instant messaging, and meetings.

“We’re almost there,” Kaufman says. “As soon as we get the Outlook add-in to all our users, we can start the rest of our upgrade to Teams-only mode.”

Kaufman and the team are announcing the rollout of the Outlook add-in and the company’s upcoming plan to convert fully from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams at Microsoft Ignite this week. You can check out all the sessions the team is delivering here.

The big challenge to all of this?

In addition to providing the Outlook plug-in to employees to scheduling meetings, the team is also getting the company’s conference rooms ready for Microsoft Teams. To get there, each room had to be evaluated, including replacing some conference room devices with Skype Room Systems equipment that feature one-touch meeting-join capabilities that integrate with Teams meetings. The team anticipates that conference rooms in Puget Sound will be completely upgraded by mid-October with the rest of the world coming on line by the early end of the calendar year.

“A lot of people don’t realize how big Microsoft is,” Kaufman says. “We have 14,000 conference rooms. Retooling all these rooms takes time but most meeting rooms have been upgraded.”

Microsoft is taking a gradual approach to adoption. “If someone has an existing Skype meeting, we’re not telling anyone to delete it or change it,” Kaufman says. “For any new meetings, we’re asking employees to start using Teams.”

CSEO wants employees and vendors to share what it’s like for them to use the add-in.

“We really want employees to test it,” she says. “Before we upgrade everyone to Teams-only mode, we’re encouraging people to get comfortable with the product. Give us feedback. Help us monitor it and make sure everything is going smoothly before we make the huge switch of upgrading everyone.”

As soon as it gets tested on a large scale, the company will start the shift to Teams from Skype for Business for all internal communications. “We have already upgraded 20,000 users to Teams-only,” she says.

Kaufman says all the feedback and learnings get rolled back into the product, making it better for external customers who are considering a similar move from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. “I speak to customers every week,” she says. “How we’re using Teams across Microsoft is very important to them. We want to get it right inside the company, so they can get the most out of it at their companies.”

And it’s clear that Microsoft is all in on using Teams as its platform for employees and vendors to get their work done collaboratively all in one place.

Minus a few locations around the world where there is voice over internet protocol telephony restrictions, the move to Teams will mostly take place this fall and winter.

“Our goal is to upgrade everyone as quickly as possible to maximize the teamwork experience,” Kaufman says, “You see incredible performance improvements when you move to Teams.”

The move will be executed by organization (as opposed to physical location) to limit disruptions to inner-team collaboration.

Once the upgrade is complete, the company’s focus shifts to improving internal communication and collaboration inside of Teams. That includes using bots to book meetings, to take meeting notes, and to come up with action items for meeting attendees.

“We’re going to the next level with intelligent meetings,” Kaufman says. “Being able to capture data, to get telemetry, and then respond to that is very powerful. We’re going to be able to get better at sharing info, collaborating, and get more of the right, impactful work done.”

As for Microsoft Teams, its role as the place where employees live at work will only grow as more and more of the collaboration tools that employees use at work are built into and work out of the platform.

“The most powerful part of Teams is that it sits on Office 365,” Kaufman says. “That makes it a very powerful hub for Teamwork.”

To learn more about how CSEO thinks about collaboration at Microsoft, take a look at this IT Showcase case study.

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