As an analyst in the business video space I am getting a recurring trend of questions from enterprise Skype for Business video customers in the wake of the big Microsoft Teams announcement. Here are some of the more common areas of concern/confusion and what I’ve been hearing from users.
- What’s the deal with Microsoft Teams anyway?
- What makes Teams so great that Microsoft is going to shift its S4B users over to it?
- I’m used to doing video on S4B, will the workflow be different on Teams?
- Will Teams video have all the same features and functions that I want/need/expect?
- Should I be using S4B in the first place? It came with Office 365 and it’s good enough, right?
- MS’s vision of business communications just changed. It may change again. How can I get a consistent video experience if/when they do?
Before answering these questions, let me share the bottom line for current Office 365 users relying on Zoom and its Skype integration for the video aspect of their UC experience. The news is good, as you are in a great position regarding the upcoming Microsoft switch to Teams. Short version of the story, Zoom integrates with Teams much in the way it integrates with similar services such as Slack, allowing users to easily escalate from chat messaging to a Zoom video call. This means Zoom users will not have to change their video workflow or expectations, they simply continue to use Zoom as they always have. In other words, the shift from Skype to Teams could be less disruptive for Microsoft users leveraging Zoom for video, than for those who are using Skype for video. Zoom becomes your “stable video experience” or your “stable video partner” regardless of where Microsoft may take us next.
Let’s address these questions listed above, and then discuss Zoom’s strategy to shelter its customers from any potential disruption. First of all, Microsoft Teams is what I call a persistent team messaging (PTM) solution. There is no agreement in the industry for what we call these solutions, but they follow the workflow popularized by Slack. I have been very hot on PTM for some time now.
What is Microsoft Teams?
At their core, PTM solutions like Microsoft Teams are glorified group instant messaging services. Current generation PTM solutions have many of the same features as traditional UC chat. You can see if someone is online, send them an instant text message, share files, etc. What makes PTM different, is the ability to create topic based, or project based, group chat rooms. This is the core of the PTM experience and these solutions are changing the way working teams around the world communicate and collaborate.
Why is Microsoft shifting to Teams?
I believe that Microsoft is going all in on Teams because they agree with me that PTM workflow is the future of UC and business communications. This is the way working teams today prefer to collaborate. You really must experience the workflow yourself to really understand the power of PTM. As more working teams get introduced to PTM, it is seeing unprecedented growth from SMB to enterprise. If Microsoft goes all on PTM, as they appear to be doing, it is inevitable that a massive number of enterprise workers will be using Teams within the next few years for the reasons I’ve outlined in this article.
What does this mean for current Skype or other video users?
According to Microsoft, Skype for Business is sunsetting, “We are targeting general availability of Skype for Business Server 2019 by the end of 2018 (dates subject to change).” While much of the functionality is moving to Teams (over a timeline extending into Q4 2018), Teams itself is designed for small internal discussions. Therefore, it appears that the Skype functionality will be useful to escalate these small Team discussions from chat to video, but it may not work well for larger meetings, and meetings including external participants.
How will this affect meeting workflow?
In addition to these limitations, the shift to Teams could involve a change in workflow depending upon how you used Skype, and how Microsoft implements video into Teams. These potential workflow changes not only include creating, scheduling, and joining meetings, but could also affect the meeting experience/functionality itself. While I am sure Microsoft will want to make the transition as easy as possible for their customers, there may be some friction and disruption. I can’t assure that current Skype users will have a 100% consistent experience in the future, compared those using Zoom for the video part of their UC experience.
Should you even be using Skype?
With all of this in mind, you may want to ask if Skype is really your video solution of choice in the first place. Perhaps you would be better suited with a video company that really focuses on a consistent, scalable, video experience and integrating that with the upcoming Microsoft Teams. Not that Skype isn’t a quality video service with all the enterprise checkmarks and millions of customers, but the fact is that most users choose it simply because it is included in Office365. It is possible that many users haven’t considered alternatives and might be better served by another video cloud which is better matched to their needs, as long as it ties into their Microsoft environment.
Why not choose a pure video company to ensure a consistent video experience?
Over one million companies have made this comparison and decided that Zoom is the right fit for their organization, for reasons including Zoom’s feature set, pricing, and reliability better matching their individual needs and expectations. As I pointed out last year, and as this recent blog post from Derek Pando explains, there are major feature differences between the Zoom and Skype4B, which could make Zoom your choice. Looking back at these articles in the context of the Teams announcement, the differences seem even more stark. I would update my thoughts to add that at its core, Teams is a messaging/workflow solution with video capability, while Zoom is a full featured enterprise video meeting solution.
This distinction can be seen by how working teams generally use Skype/Teams compared to Zoom. Many enterprises who are standardized on MS Office and Skype, will typically use Skype for impromptu 1:1 video chats with internal employees, and have adopted Zoom for all scheduled meetings, large meetings, and meetings with externals. This puts things in a different perspective, as the question is not “which service to use?” but rather “why not use each service for its correct purpose?” Zoom’s existing interoperability with Skype and Teams removes the only potential barrier slowing down Microsoft users from choosing Zoom for the video part of their UC experience.
My final thought on this subject. One of the amazing things about the PTM phenomena is that workers really get excited about it. PTM isn’t just another office tool, it enables a workflow that makes people more productive and happier at work. Zoom’s often proclaimed raison d’être is to create a culture of happiness among their video users. With that in mind, combining Zoom with Teams seems like a recipe for workplace happiness!
About the Author:
David Maldow is the Founder & CEO of Let’s Do Video and has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. David has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces both at Telepresence Options, where he was managing partner for several years, as well as here at Let’s Do Video. David often speaks at industry events and webinars as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.