Now that Microsoft Ignite has come and gone, I have had time to digest some of the news from the week and want to share some thoughts…specifically about Skype and Teams for now. Ignite 2017 overall was the best/most productive Microsoft conference I have attended. The logistics of a conference this size have to be crazy – 30,000 people, 1600+ sessions, vendors, food, celebrations, etc. Kudos to everyone involved.
Prior to arriving in Orlando, many people were aware of rumors that Skype for Business would be evolving into Microsoft Teams and we immediately found that the rumors were true. Looking at the agenda for Ignite, I had already planned to beef up my Teams experience and this couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally, because I am getting ready to go through an architecture review of our existing unified communications design. I would much rather go into the review knowing what lies ahead than to find out 6 months after kicking off a refresh project.
As I made various connections with Microsoft folks, questions about functionality in Skype for Business vNext nearly always ended with a single answer…”Microsoft Teams”. I attended a session that specifically addressed Skype for Business vNext and walked away with the impression that the 2019 release was only an olive branch to give companies time to make the inevitable move to Teams.
For Skype for Business 2019, Microsoft has ditched the Director and Persistent Chat roles and will require a minimum of Windows Server 2016. After preaching the greatness that was supposed to be in-place upgrades from Lync 2013 to Skype for Business, Microsoft is now saying that process did not work well and will not be an option for vNext. I have previously used the in-place upgrade method and it was fairly painless. My thoughts on getting rid of the in-place upgrade are that Microsoft chose this route to push companies to Teams/online now rather than them sticking with on-premises Skype for Business for the short term. It takes a lot more planning and coordination to build out infrastructure for a side by side migration than just doing the upgrade in place.
Companies using Skype for Business, especially on-premises S4B, need to take a hard look at what the future of UC looks like for them. After working with Teams quite a bit recently, I am excited about what it can do for the business. Teams is a game changer for collaboration. The key will be user education and helping them understand when a Team is appropriate and when to use one of the (many) other tools available.