It wasn’t necessarily a shock. On July 30th, Microsoft announced that it would retire Skype for Business Online, its landmark, and legacy office communications platform, in 2021. That might be a long lead time for businesses currently using the services to adjust, but it’s still worth digging into what exactly that means, and what comes next.
The Exact Retirement Date
We’ll let James Skay, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft and one of the leads on the Skype accounts, speak for himself:
Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31, 2021, and after that date the service will no longer be accessible. Between now and then, current Skype for Business Online customers will experience no change in service, and they’ll be able to continue to add new users as needed.
That gives us an exact date to look forward to. In fact, it’s two years from today. The most important context here is that with this early announcement, Microsoft seeks to ensure that no business will be caught off guard. We know the advantages of Teams. Now, it’s time to seriously start considering them as the only viable alternative for Office 365 customers.
Understanding the Next Step
Starting September 1 of this year, Microsoft will begin to make teams the default business communication mode for Office 365 users. If you’re not on the platform already, you may never know that Skype existed. Everyone else has another couple of years, and it’s important to note that both Skype Consumer and Skype for business will remain fully functional until that shut-down date.
That means you have time to plan that next step. If just considering Office 265 for your business, wait until at least September 1 to make sure you don’t get caught in an almost immediate migration. For existing 365 customers, it’s a good idea to think through the migration, what needs to be done, and who to partner with.
Moving from Skype to Teams In or Before 2021
Upgrading from Skype to Teams comes with a number of considerations. And yes, it is an upgrade, considering the various benefits of the newer and more modern platform:
- It’s more comprehensive. In addition to audio and video calls, Teams offers document sharing, chat, and more.
- Additional video features such as the playback of recorded content, blurred video backgrounds, and secure image annotations.
- Timekeeping features for both workers (Home) and managers (Shift).
- Increased productivity, as highlighted by a recent Forrester Research whitepaper.
That whitepaper is especially beneficial for companies hesitating to make the move to Teams. It unearths results that can benefit any business, from saving up to 4 hours per week to increase ROI by up to 800%. The company naturally wants to highlight these benefits. That an independent research firm confirms them is a powerful statement.
Moving from Skype to Teams makes the most sense when following a framework provided by Microsoft. That includes:
- Defining and bringing together the stakeholders of both the old and the new system.
- Defining the migration process including and especially focusing on scope and timeline.
- Ensuring technical readiness throughout the organization to ensure a smooth migration.
- Accomplishing the readiness of users before the migration through training and change management.
- Setting up a pilot group that can provide initial feedback and improvement opportunities before rolling out company-wide.
- Embracing Teams as the new system of choice, adopting new features and unearthing new capabilities on an ongoing basis.
Microsoft, for its part, has promised help in allowing organizations to migrate to the new Teams. The exact nature of that help is not yet clear, but we’re sure to learn more as the date gets closer. In the meantime, reliable technology partners who have already managed migrations of this kind are another vital resource.
What About Those Microsoft Skype Features Not Available in Teams?
Microsoft is naturally highlighting the advantages of Teams compared to Skype in order to entice migrations. Still, it’s important to recognize that some Skype features are not currently available in Teams. In his announcement post, Skay promises that a number of these features are being integrated to Skype as we speak, including:
- Dynamic 911, routing the caller’s location to a PSAP by the local government closest to the location. Microsoft expects this Skype feature to be live in Teams by the end of this year.
- Shorter Retention Periods, allowing users to limit themselves to as little as one day. Data deletion will be permanent, increasing security. Like Dynamic 911, this feature should be available in Teams by the end of 2019.
- Teams and Skype Consumer Integration. What was a natural integration in Skype Business should become just as natural through Teams. Chat and calling features between both services will be fused starting in early 2020.
- Contact Center Integration and Compliance Recording, including many Skype for Business Online partners such as Five9, Genesys, and NICE.
Compliance in Microsoft Teams
Compliance is a naturally important consideration for many businesses who have built out their system in Skype and need to migrate that system over to the new service. Fortunately, managing compliance in Teams is easy.
In fact, Teams is built on the same Office 365 services that include international and regional compliance standards across industries. The complexity of the system makes working with an external implementation partner worth the effort. The overall compliance capabilities, though, are both impressive and reassuring for any new business users.
Ready to Migrate to Microsoft Teams?
You don’t have to wait until 2021. Now that we know the end of Skype for Business Online is near, it makes sense to start looking into its natural successor.
The above information is a good starting point to help you understand benefits, potential challenges, and timelines for the migration. Of course, it doesn’t stop there. The migration itself will be a major undertaking that requires strategy, planning, and expertise.
That’s where we come in. Agile IT delivers Microsoft FastTrack Teams Migrations that help businesses move onto this new system and thrive once they arrive. Contact us for more information about our capabilities, and to start the conversation about a potential migration.