Intelligent Communications was certainly a reoccurring theme at Ignite this year! Skype for Business features are coming to Teams and over time there will be a single client based on Teams. Pretty exciting right! Yes I felt it too…all those Cloud PBX deals you are working to close just pumped the brakes…I am right there with you (even Gartner calls out the confusion when it comes to Teams in the latest MQ for UCaaS. You can see that here https://www.gartner.com/doc/reprints?id=1-4CW55XJ&ct=170907&st=sB ). How many customers asked you about Teams? How many said they heard Microsoft was killing Skype for Business? So is this a problem or an opportunity? I think it’s a great opportunity and we, as partners, must land the right message to keep these deals moving in the right direction.
Teams was really front and center when it came to the Intelligent Communication story and vision. Mark did a great job of talk about Teams in his post and my goal is to really focus on the Enterprise Voice aspects of Teams in this post.
Why is this such a big deal you may be wondering? Microsoft has real momentum in the market today. You can wonder if it’s the fact the solution is beginning to be on par with its competitors or that traditional VoIP vendors like Avaya are facing their own challenges which is forcing customers to explore other options. The slide below is one I often see as Microsoft frames out why Skype for Business. Its hard to argue with the success Skype for Business and Cloud PBX has seen in the past…so why change?
I think its important to understand how the industry, the experts if you will, see the Microsoft solution as it stacks up to others in the UCaaS space. I found the latest Magic Quadrant from Gartner (below) for UCasS and it may shed some light on the matter.
So its immediately apparent that Microsoft is seen as a challenger and not a leader in this space. I was a little surprised by this although if you look at the two largest vendors on the chart as far as productivity applications are concerned, I think its only a matter of time before you see Microsoft make that shift to the leaders quadrant. I also think most of what is in the Leaders quadrant might be considered more like hosting than a large public cloud offering. As this space continues to see investments by Microsoft, its only a matter of time before we see the shake up in the Leaders quadrant.
Change is always difficult and in this industry we live in, where we sell change, we often don’t like it any more than our customers. The irony shouldn’t be lost on any of us there. So why the move to Teams?
It’s a complete pivot from using what has been developed from the LCS days to Skype for Business as we know and love today to one that has been built for the Cloud. The code isn’t just for Cloud, on premise will enjoy the same new code set. One written to run in the Cloud.
What we are getting is new backend infrastructure that is built for the cloud and has the potential to move the user experience forward by leaps and bounds. What I mean by that is it is the opportunity to bring a new place to start your day. So many of us start in Outlook but what are we really looking for when we go there? For me, its what has changed about a particular opportunity, feedback from a client or what are my co-workers or the management team doing. There is an opportunity for me to glean that data from Teams. Yes, Teams could be the hub for what is important to me from a business standpoint. Now does this mean I stop using Outlook? What is that saying about old dogs and new tricks…I doubt it will be this light switch move but it has potential.
As we look at the roadmap below what is clear is we just aren’t on par with what SFBO can offer from a Voice standpoint today but its getting there. As you can tell by the Calling Roadmap for Teams below there is a lot of working being poured into the Teams product and this quarter should see a lot of progress.
I like to look at the opportunity by user types. What I mean by that if, I am an outbound sales rep that works from home and my calling needs are basic telephony services like make a call, receive a call, have voice mail, place calls on hold I will probably be ready to use Teams for calling sometime in late Q4 of CY17 or early in Q1 of CY18. In my case, there should be enough functionality in Teams call to satisfy my needs which look a lot like the example above. If I am a Call Center agent, well that might be a longer wait as we hear from the third party players who deliver the Call Center apps and how they will support Teams. Make no mistake however, if Microsoft is moving to Teams so will they.
The key here for Teams and SFBO is their ability to interoperate together. The fact that Microsoft has built into the experience for users to be moved to Teams in a controlled manner while still working with those users still in SFBO. This will be key for getting a gradual turn to Teams, understanding the user challenges, the level of support and training required in a small sample of users can help to ease the burden for organizations as they make the transition.
What might be a little overlooked feature is the browser support which will no longer require a plug-in. This can be huge as I several customers now who want people to attend meetings and get the rich client experience however they aren’t able to install the client or the plug-in. This will go a long way in helping that scenario.
I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, anytime video comes up in a meeting there seems to always be a pivot to how do I make my existing investments work. I can appreciate having new players join the Polycom solution to help round out the choices on how to get this to work best for the customer.
Our biggest challenge, opportunity, risk here is delivering an unmistakable crisp and clear User Experience message that helps the user to understand what Teams is, why they should use it and how to use it to improve on what they do each and every day. So often we talk about the benefits of a product or solution, convince an organization to invest it and under sell or eliminate the user enablement aspect when there is price pressure. This my friends is a great opportunity to monetize re-occurring revenue by offering training services that occur on a predictable schedule. I would encourage you to investigate this service if you don’t offer it today. The resource that delivers this service might be your biggest asset as they uncover what the various lines of business are trying to do!