Unprecedented competition, a difficult trading environment, and a global shortage of skilled workers mean that effective collaboration has become vital for businesses today. Successful organisations are making collaboration part of their DNA.
Microsoft are at the forefront of this collaboration evolution, spearheading new ways of working with their Teams solution. While instant messaging, file sharing and video calling are more commonly associated with MS Teams, an important but less recognised integration is voice communication. However, with the phasing out of Skype For Business and ISDN switch off, now is the time to be considering the role of voice in this new world.
We have sourced opinions from a telecoms solutions provider, a distributor and an ICT specialist who are leading the way with Teams.
V12, a telecoms solutions provider, is one of the first companies in the UK to launch a fully compliant Direct Routing solution. The service comes with per-user pricing and fully inclusive UK minutes.
Charles Rickett, Managing Director at V12 Telecom sees Microsoft Teams a major disrupter in the telecoms market that will blur the lines between traditional IT and telecoms resellers. He also sees it as a great opportunity to revisit the voice conversation with customers.
Rickett says, ‘High-quality voice is an important part of a business solution. MS Teams has a voice app for internal Teams users. However, it is not meant for broader business communications where you could be calling mobiles, making international calls or if you have a call centre setup. This is where an integrated PSTN solution comes in. It must make sense to utilise a service that allows you to communicate with the widest possible audience, not just within your own organisation.’
Rickett has observed that so far there has only been a modest take up of PSTN voice within Microsoft Teams deployments. He believes that this presents a great opportunity for the channel. Rickett says, ‘The value of integrating PSTN voice into Teams hasn’t really been addressed. This is a great opportunity for voice resellers and IT specialists to deliver a highly beneficial service to their customers and prospects that will increase revenues and customer satisfaction. It’s a real win-win for everyone.’
Electronic Frontier is a specialist value-added distributor of converged IP solutions and a master distributor of Yealink, the global communications equipment provider. Yealink have worked closely with Microsoft to develop communication equipment that is compatible with MS Teams. The partnership with Yealink has supported Electronic Frontier in being one of the first distributors to market with a set of MS Teams compatible handsets.
General Manager, Conor McCann believes that Teams is a game changer for Microsoft, the end user and the channel. However, his experience from working right across the channel has shown that a large proportion of workers still want to use PSTN with a telephone when they move to IP-based communications.
There is a lot of noise in the sector around a shift from traditional desk phones to other devices such as headsets and soft phones. While V12’s Direct Routing solution can be accessed by desk phone or headset, McCann is not expecting any dramatic shift away from desk phones when it comes to Microsoft Teams. He says, ‘There is not a rush to replace the desk phones with other devices, when it comes to Teams we believe that there will be a significant proportion of the market that will still want a desk phone.’
He goes on to say, ‘The transition to a solution like Teams is more of a cultural change than a technological one. A desk phone provides a valuable point of consistency between the old and the new, protecting people’s productivity as new working practices become established.’
McCann emphasises the importance of high quality voice when it comes to doing business. For MS Teams, this means using Direct Routing to connect to the PSTN, bringing the best call quality into the heart of the Teams working environment. McCann says, ‘Delivering the best quality voice is a specialism. Yealink have invested substantially in the development of their products to ensure excellent audio quality.’
He continues, ‘High quality voice across PSTN is expected in the industry. Now that Direct Routing solutions like V12’s are available to the channel, it is the perfect time to start talking to prospects and customers who are already using Teams about integrating PSTN voice into their deployments.’
MACOM Consulting, a global ICT specialist in the Oil & Gas sector, has seen real benefits in migrating clients to Microsoft Teams. Mark Ashford, Managing Director at MACOM Consulting Ltd, believes that, with the phasing out of Skype for Business and natural adoption of Teams, the time is right for an alternative voice solution and he believes that Direct Routing is ready to do this.
Most of MACOM Consulting’s clients are geographically dispersed, often in remote locations. Having good quality communications is essential for them to operate. Ashford says, ‘We’ve recently migrated a client with operations in East Africa to Teams and it’s working well. The users, for the most part, appreciate the ease of use that the system offers.’
Ashford adds, ‘Microsoft Teams is a great collaboration tool. It provides the ability to bring everything together onto a single platform. There is competition for Microsoft from the likes of Google, but they don’t offer the fully integrated platform, instead relying on separate applications.’
Ashford has witnessed first-hand the growing popularity of Skype over the years. Ashford says, ‘Many people in the Oil & Gas sector are used to using Skype from remote locations, for both welfare and business. As this moved to Skype for Business, the usage increased and the migration to Teams is the logical progression.’
With the increased adoption of Teams, Ashford believes there will be increasing demand for an integrated voice solution. He concludes, ‘It is only in the last 6 to 8 months that there appears to be a stable platform that will allow voice to be added onto MS Teams through Direct Routing. Having a vendor like V12 which we can rely on and work with in developing this as a platform is critical to me.’