Upgrade from Skype For Business to Microsoft Teams: When and How?

For those who haven't heard of Microsoft Teams (Teams) yet, I'll start a brief description first. Teams launched in 2016 and since then it's THE fastest growing platform in Microsoft's history. It's used for collaborating and driving digital transformation within organizations. Globally 329.000 companies are using Teams, 87 of which are Fortune 100 companies. Furthermore, Teams now supports over 44 languages and 54 customers have over 10.000 or more active users. Although Teams has Skype-like functionalities, it has much more features and capabilities. Are you impressed yet? If not, than you will be if you look at all the new functionalities since it has been launched and those that are planned for the future. Want to have a look for yourself? The roadmap can be found over here

Because of the similarity between Skype For Business (SfB) and Teams, organizations have been asking us over the last two years if and when they should upgrade from SfB to Teams. As a big fan of Teams I always answered with a very definitive 'YES, do it now!'. But in my potentially over-excited answer I always mentioned that not all SfB features were available in Teams. Well, this is not the case anymore…

Skype for Business vs. Microsoft Teams

During Microsoft Ignite 2018 Microsoft has announced that Teams is now up to par with SfB when you look at features. All features from SfB are now in Teams. But of course Teams brings you much more than SfB. For example, Teams gives you the possibility to share documents within a (collaboration) group, use channels to group your conversation based on specific topics, connect to other (third party) applications both for ingoing and outgoing data and much much more. To put it in perspective, SfB is an application for communicating and Teams is an application for collaborating. Looking at all the features Teams has to offer it's much more than just another application organizations can use for their communicating. Teams will be the 'Hub' for collaborating with people from inside and outside your organization and when it's combined with Flow, PowerApps and Power BI this application can also be used to digitally transform outdated, costly and time-consuming processes and workflows within the organization. All these applications are readily available within the Office 365 or Microsoft 365 stack, so no extra investments will have to be made. 

For example, there's one case at the biggest airline from the Netherlands where Teams helped employees be more effective and decisive in their day-to-day tasks. Using Teams, Flow and PowerApps a flight attendant was able to make a picture of a broken trolley wheel via the Teams mobile application. The picture was then used to assess the problem automatically and to present the flight attendant with a protocol for fixing the issue. Pretty nice right?

Over the last year Microsoft has been working on making Teams ready from a technical/functional perspective as well as creating materials for clients and partners for the upgrade process, which can be very helpful for planning and upgrading to Teams. It's divided into two categories: Basic and Pro. Furthermore, additional content and assistance can be provided via Microsoft’s FastTrack program.

You can contact Rapid Circle for this, since we are a Premium FastTrack Partner. 


Two great things about integrating Teams

Two very interesting things Microsoft did was to make the co-existence management very easy for IT admins in the newly created Teams Dashboard and improve in-client experiences for both Teams as SfB users. Regarding co-existence management for IT admins, they made it possible to easily upgrade all users to Teams or just a couple and provide in-client notifications to users. It's even possible to revert the upgrade in case the situation request this. So there's no harm in upgrading, if wanted the upgrade can be reversed. 

The other thing Microsoft did was making it clear for users which colleague already has been upgraded to Teams and which colleague hasn't. Both colleagues can still communicate with each other between the two applications, they just get an in-screen message that the other one is using a different platform. (Marked in on the left by the red square and on the right by the yellow bar)

Reducing Employee Effort

The upgrade to Teams will not only help your organization be more productive and future-proof it can also drive cultural change within the organization. Because all applications used for their day-to-day tasks are in one central place 'Hub', and this place is also where they communicate with other collaboration group members, it empowers employees to:

  • Be more effective and decisive in their combined responsibilities

  • Improve in knowledge sharing (inside and outside their own collaboration group)

  • Improve current and future processes

  • Collaborate more intensively across multiple locations

  • Work on mobile devices

In simple, it reduces the Employee Effort for working with digital tools. 

When your organization decides to upgrade to Teams it's crucial to not only do the technical upgrade but to also help your end-users with this transition. As I discussed earlier it can, and believe me it will, bring a cultural change as well. To make sure this change is successful and aligned with organizational goals it's imperative to involve end-users in the beginning of the process in order to gather requirements, specific use scenario's, align on technical limitations and/or prerequisites and to create overview of the knowledge need for end-users. 

So enough introduction and preparation talk, let's talk high level a bit about which steps need to be taken during this upgrade process. 

5 Steps for Upgrading

1. Project Stakeholders

First of all, start with getting all project stakeholders in one room. Yes, i know this isn't the easiest thing to do, especially in larger organizations. You can start by inviting representatives per stakeholder and take it from there. But it is crucial to align all potential parties on the upcoming change. 

2. Project Definition

Start defining the project scope together with the project stakeholders. The rule of thumb here is: Start SMALL and build up from the base iteratively. The primary goal needs to be a 'simple' upgrade. Get employees acquainted with the application and it's numerous possibilities. Once 80% of your employees have adopted Teams successfully you can start adding new functionalities and build custom workflows for outdated processes. 

3. Technical Readiness and User Readiness

As you can see in the overview listed below the technical and user readiness is a parallel exercise. The goal for this phase is to make sure your entire organization is ready for the upgrade. For example, what steps need to be taken to update the current (legacy) Cloud Video Interop hardware in conference rooms? Which new skills and/or knowledge is needed to make use of Teams more effectively. And so on so on. 

4. Deployment and Implementation 

Always start with a Teams-pilot in a small(er) group before upgrading all your employees to Teams. During multiple Teams-pilots we've done at clients, the pilot gave project stakeholders valuable information. Without this information the roll-out to the rest of the organization could have never be as successful as they were. After the pilot is completed you can start by upgrading the rest of the employees in groups/batches/phases, however you want to do it. It's not best-practice to upgrade at once for larger organizations. 

5. Operational Excellence

This phase is the one where it gets really interesting. I previously made some comments about starting small with the upgrade to make sure Teams is adopted by your employees. Only when the adoption rate is at the desired level you can start adding more functionalities and digitalize current workflows or processes. If you start earlier it can have a negative impact on the rate of adoption and overall success of the project. So again, start with the basics.

So when reading all this has made you interested in upgrading to Teams or if you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to contact me at Rapid Circle. We can always set up a conference call via Teams to discuss the specifics.