With Microsoft releasing end of life dates for their Skype for Business application, many have been left with questions around what the transition journey looks like. Our Chief Technology Officer, Peter Hobor has collected some of these questions and addresses each of them in this, the first part of our ‘Transition to Teams from Skype’ series of blogs.  Read on to find out more, or, if you prefer, you can watch our Transition from Skype for Business to Teams Q&A Video.

 

Are Microsoft still selling Skype for Business and how long will it be supported?

In 2017, Microsoft officially announced that Skype for Business Online would be replaced by Microsoft Teams. Dates were not announced at that time, but now, we do know the end of life support dates which we can share:

  • The Skype for Business Online official end of life date will be sooner than the on-premises version with an end date of July 2021.
  • The on-premises Skype for Business server 2019 has an end of life date of the 9th January 2024, so after this the support will end.

 

What will happen with those customers who don’t want to transition to Teams which is a cloud-based solution?

For these customers the Skype for Business server is available, they can still use it until end of life, so the latest that they need to migrate is in line with the end of life date for on-prem in January 2024.

 

How have Microsoft positioned Teams against Skype for Business?

Microsoft’s approach with Teams is slightly different, it is positioned as a Team collaboration solution (hence the name ‘Teams’). They are mainly focusing on end to end collaboration, and not just unified communications. Things like file sharing, having the line of business application within Teams, and having conversations on Teams channels are the main features, with unified communications being just one part of the overall application.

 

What is the feature parity of Skype for Business and Teams?

If you are an average unified communication user, all the features that were available with Skype for Business are also readily available in Teams as well. So, you can handle PSTN calls, you can dial out and have conferencing, you can transfer, set out of office messaging, you have voicemails etc. However, because Teams is positioned as a Team collaboration platform, and not just a unified communication platform, we can’t expect to see full feature parity.

It’s worth mentioning one major feature that is missing at the moment, and that’s the programming interfaces (APIs) that are required to create a native integration. We’ll talk about this in more detail in a later section of this Q&A blog. 

 

How long can customers using both Teams and Skype for Business expect to continue to have interoperability?

We don’t see any information against users being able to continue having interoperability between Skype for Business and Teams. From what we can see now, the side by side usage of Teams and Skype for Business will be available until Skype for Business is no longer supported. So those that want to use some of the features of Teams, but still use some of the features of Skype for Business in parallel, can do so. Or, if they have some of their teams migrating and some others still using Skype for Business, they can do so until these solutions are no longer supported. 

 

Are you going to continue to sell and support Contact Expert for Skype for Business?

Contact Expert is Geomant’s call centre solution on Skype for Business. The short answer to this question is a definite yes, we will continue to sell and support Contact Expert as long as the server is supported.

We also have a solution for Skype for Business Online customers which is our cloud-based, hosted Contact Expert solution, so those customers who are on Skype for Business Online can use this version.

 

What’s the difference between Hosted Contact Expert and on-prem Contact Expert?

There is no difference, the same Skype for Business based Contact Expert runs both on-prem and online via our cloud-based solution. Online customers are connected to our hosted solution meaning we manage the voice connectivity but that’s the only difference - feature-wise it is exactly the same.

 

If I invest in Contact Expert for Skype for Business today, is there a migration strategy for when I move to Teams?

The answer is yes, we will not leave our Skype for Business customers behind, we will create a transition program. When customers are ready to migrate, we will talk about what we have today and what our plans are with the Teams-based contact centre solution.

 

Will the pricing model change when we move to Teams?

Teams is a cloud-based solution on a subscription basis, so when we create our offering, we will follow a similar pattern.

Those customers who are on todays Contact Expert for Skype for Business on-prem, will be paying a software maintenance fee, this will be converted to a subscription fee. Overall though, it will be a similar pricing structure to what customers have today.

 

Is Teams generally available?

Yes, Teams is generally available and ready, and has been since March 2017. However, it being a cloud-based solution means that the features don’t all come out at once. We’ve seen that Microsoft regularly update the software and new feature sets come out every second week or month.

 

If Teams is generally available, then why don’t we port all of our customers to Teams right away?

The quick answer to this question is that, unfortunately, if you’re looking for a native integration (like what Contact Expert offers) we can’t do this right away. At the moment, the programming interfaces that are required for providing a native call centre aren’t yet available on Teams. As soon as they are available, (which we believe won’t be too much longer) we will offer a solution.

 

I’ve seen other providers offering a Teams contact centre, how can they do this?

The solutions out there on the market at the moment are not native call centre solutions. While these solutions work with Teams, they are application based which supports the way that Teams positions itself as a hub for collaboration. An agent desktop can be added to Teams as an application, but the technology managing the call centre solution itself would not be inside Teams. If you’re wondering if Geomant can also offer this, we can, and we’ll talk about it in the next section.

 

What options do Geomant offer?

Geomant’s Buzzeasy solution is able to use Teams as the unified communication interface (so the telephony interface), so any customers that want to move to Teams straight away can consider this option. Like other solutions on the market though, the complex call centre handling, is (at the moment) managed outside of Teams.

So what this means from an agent perspective, is that they receive the call in Teams but the call related information will be in the Buzzeasy call centre application; it’s here that they can handle the call, see the contact history, and manage all the normal call centre-related activities.

 

Let’s summarise:

Currently, Geomant Contact Expert provides contact centre functionality for on-premises Skype for Business, or for Skype for Business online. The Skype for Business online version is only supported through our Cloud Hosted offering, while on-premises Skype for Business can be served from both on-premises or hosted Contact Expert - it’s the customer’s choice which way to go.

Geomant continues to support Skype for Business on-premises. Contact Expert 7.0 fully supports the latest Skype for Business server.

Customers that want to move to Teams right away can consider our Buzzeasy technology which provides an agent desktop native to Teams, and works with Teams telephony but is not a native solution.

Meanwhile, Geomant is closely working with Microsoft to be able to enhance Teams with native contact centre functionality, but the APIs required are not yet available. As soon as they are, Geomant will be able to offer a complete end-to-end service, and can support customers as they port their contact centre functionality to Teams from Skype for Business.

Geomant is committed to supporting customers through their transition journey. If you have any questions that were not answered in this blog, please reach out via our contact us form and we’d be happy to assist.

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