Here are some of my thoughts on Microsoft collaboration for 2017.
Skype for Business in Office 365 Is It
What does this mean? This means a shift in skill set for Skype for Business and UC professionals. Some skills that will become increasingly important and get more focus since nitty gritty tech details are not primary concern for UC pros are ensuring the core network can support real-time traffic, user adoption and integration of Skype for Business into business processes. Back in the day I wrote various guides on how to install Skype for Business (Lync...) for tiny SMB clients as many wanted to do it. This is no longer an issue as Cloud PBX can easily be implemented for even the smallest companies technically in literally 5 minutes. The great thing about Office 365 is that UC pros can focus on more holistic business value of UC instead of file shares & SQL server updates.
Microsoft Teams Is It
Its no secret that Microsoft Teams is a big item for Microsoft and collaboration. Microsoft needed to answer Slack and Teams in my opinion is quite a lot of value right out of the gate as it is in Preview. But it is going to get better and its deep integration into the Microsoft suite of products brings value to the table fast. Things like using a Team as an agent group for your small call center using Cloud PBX Call Queues is a first in the industry. With Teams at the heart of what Microsoft is doing a lot of possibilities are possible with little effort on Microsoft’s part.
From my experience using Teams in house is that it really brings an experience that users can love as well. In many ways Teams is the "Skype for Business Persistent Chat" that is going to really catch on because instead of sitting at the periphery, it sits right on top of everything else Microsoft is doing and does in a very nice experience that is fun to use. In my opinion, don’t ignore Microsoft Teams.
Office 365 Cloud PBX Is It
Microsoft is making a big push to get the toughest parts of Skype for Business working in Office 365. Features like Response Group Service and Exchange UM Auto Attendant are not simple or perfect and Microsoft is putting a lot of effort into rewriting this functionality in a way that is cloud optimized and at the same time correcting some of the weakness of the on premises versions of these features. To avoid confusion Microsoft has given new names to the cloud version of Response Group Service and Exchange UM Auto attendant: Call Queues and Org Auto Attendant respectively. How long will it take Microsoft to get feature parity with Skype for Business Server? It will take some time, and if the Exchange journey to the cloud is any guidance, a few years till feature parity with Skype for Business Server is achieved. Naturally Microsoft is going to complete that top needed functionality like Call Queues & Auto Attendants and work its way to more and more esoteric features. But lest we think Skype for Business Server development will languish in the mean time, take heart: Marina Kolomiets, PM in charge of Call Queues and Org AA, reminded me at Microsoft Ignite 2016 that they are taking care of 2 issues in Skype for Business Server RGS on each update of Skype for Business Server.
Cloud API's Are It
The good news is that Microsoft is creating web based Skype for Business API's to be web optimized. The bad news is that it takes some time.
I get the question quite regularly: What is happening to UCMA? (Server based trusted application server api) Will we need to rewrite our Call Center, Auto Attendant, what-have-you applications to work with Cloud PBX? Will we need to maintain 2 code based for our Skype for Business software? The simple answer is that UCMA code will not automatically port to the new Trusted Application API. But, before your blood pressure goes up remember we are living a new world and their are new options. I suspect that the way forward will often include hybrid scenarios where the on premises Skype for Business users consume services (new applications like call centers) in the cloud. This is great for streamlining the implementation of complicated applications like call centers and I am convinced more and more that IT departments want a BYOD-like experience even for quite complicated applications. The new cloud api's go a long way in bringing us closer to this experience. A great MVP to follow to get everything about Skype for Business Developement in Tom Morgan. Follow him right now: https://twitter.com/tomorgan
2017 is going to be fun. New stuff and adjusting to new realities and fun.