Skype for Business has defined business collaboration for thousands of organizations for over a decade. The platform has existed in its current form since 2015, but its roots date all the way back to Lync, which launched in 2010. Digital collaboration has changed dramatically since Skype for Business came onto the scene, so users of the platform may be disappointed to learn that its days are numbered.

Microsoft announced in 2019 that it will retire Skype for Business on July 31, 2021. Despite its retirement, it remains clear that Microsoft 365 will continue to define the future of the modern workplace with Microsoft Teams. Organizations who rely on Skype for Business should think intentionally about how to make an effective transition to Microsoft Teams before the end of July 2021.

The Decision to Retire Skype for Business

The rapid rise of Microsoft Teams drove Microsoft’s decision to retire Skype for Business. Microsoft Teams launched in 2017, and had over 13 million daily active users when Microsoft announced its decision to retire Skype for Business in July 2019. This figure nearly quadrupled to 44 million during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to grow rapidly, with Microsoft Teams having 115 million daily active users as of October 2020.

With this unprecedented growth, Microsoft Teams is rapidly improving and adapting to the changing needs of its large user base. The decision to retire Skype for Business enables Microsoft to dedicate all its energy to one platform, allowing Microsoft Teams to continue evolving as an ideal centralized collaboration experience to pair with Microsoft 365.

Digital transformation leaders have empowered their organizations to manage these transitions in the past, and the shift to Microsoft Teams will be no different. Many organizations will miss what Skype for Business offered over the past decade. Good technology evolves with the changing needs of users, and Microsoft Teams has captured the changes necessary to succeed in the modern, collaborative workplace.

For all the challenges that come with Microsoft’s decision to retire Skype for Business, there are multiple opportunities to leverage Microsoft Teams to help rethink your organization’s approach to collaboration.

Choosing Microsoft Teams

The landscape of digital collaboration has changed substantially since organizations started using Lync and Skype for Business. There are a lot of platforms your organization can choose to replace Skype for Business, but Microsoft Teams provides the optimal digital collaboration experience to pair with Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Teams builds upon Skype for Business’s foundation as a chat and video calling tool, realizing its full potential through its integration with the entire Microsoft 365 platform. For example, the platform seamlessly links with the Office 365 suite, making it easy to collaborate on a file within Teams, open it within SharePoint, and access it independently within each platform.  

The evolution from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams comes as natural progress, as the modern workplace focuses on a culture of collaboration and efficiency. Microsoft’s decision to retire Skype for Business lines up with its history of adapting collaborative platforms to match the needs of the workplace and users within it.

Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams have grown in tandem with each other, and your organization can reap the benefits of this growth as you transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. These are just a handful of reasons to consider in making the move from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, and making the transition is the perfect way to modernize your organization’s collaboration experience.

Advantages to Microsoft Teams

Your organization has many different collaboration tools it can choose to replace Skype for Business. Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business seem like different platforms on the surface, but Teams provides layers of features that meet the demands of how modern organizations collaborate.

There are platforms that specialize in different aspects of digital collaboration, but Microsoft Teams puts all your communication types under one roof. Microsoft Teams can keep all kinds of collaboration on one platform, including audio/video calling, chat, conference calls, video meetings, and more, a deep collaboration arsenal for your organization to have in one tool. Instead of fragmenting your communication across multiple platforms, Microsoft Teams can keep all your conversation and collaboration in one place.

Microsoft Teams provides an unrivaled communication hub that integrates across Microsoft 365 and the different ways your team interacts. Your organization can integrate your Outlook emails, Office suite, SharePoint, Power Platform applications, and more within Microsoft Teams. This results in collaboration that transcends platforms, allowing your team to focus on your shared goals instead of getting bogged down in questions of which platform to use.

These integrations extend beyond Microsoft 365, as Microsoft Teams has a deep library of third-party plug-ins that can link the platform with many of the other valuable tools that your organization needs to succeed.

One of the most valuable reasons to switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams is how easy it is to upgrade. Microsoft has many resources available to support organizations that are transitioning between the two platforms, including best practices documents, planning workshops, and the Advisor for Teams. Microsoft and its partners like Total Solutions can leverage their expertise in both platforms to translate the benefits of Skype for Business seamlessly to Microsoft Teams.

Making the Leap to Microsoft Teams

Your organization may need time to process the switch from Skype from Business to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft says that approaching any transition between the two platforms should dig deeper than their technical differences.

“Upgrading from Skype to Business to Teams…represents a transformation in how users communicate and collaborate, and change is not always easy,” Microsoft says. “The ideal upgrade approach should address the technical aspects of your upgrade as well as encourage user acceptance and adoption of Teams.”

Organizations around the world have learned to take advantage of Skype for Business, but Microsoft Teams adds multiple layers of new functionality to the platform. These changes can make it difficult for accustomed users to make the leap.

Microsoft Teams is built for the cloud, which may require your organization to take special steps when onboarding users to the platform. While Skype for Business has dedicated online and on-premises solutions, Microsoft Teams requires either a fully cloud environment, or hybrid environment through Exchange. This means that onboarding Teams may require you to sync your Exchange users to Azure Active Directory to host Teams on-premises.

Regardless of the type of environment you plan to host it on, Microsoft Teams is most valuable when it is paired with Exchange and SharePoint Online. Syncing Teams with Exchange ensures full user functionality within Teams and reciprocal functionality with a range of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 services. Along with Exchange, linking Teams with SharePoint Online provides your tenant with robust data storage and other collaborative advantages from pairing the two together.

These specific adjustments to your environment will come alongside a dramatic change in user interface from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. The core functions of chat, video calls, and group meetings are still available on Microsoft Teams, but they take place within a refined platform that is built with Microsoft 365 in mind. It is easier to open and collaborate on Microsoft 365 documents, while Microsoft 365 groups can be linked with different Teams within your environment.

Advisor for Teams

Microsoft’s Advisor for Teams can help your organization effectively onboard users and launch Microsoft Teams across your organization. The tool uses Teams, Forms, and Planner to automate and manage your transition to the platform, making it easy to successfully upgrade and onboard your organization to Microsoft Teams.

This tool conducts a tenant readiness assessment that captures the necessary adjustments to prepare your organization for its transition to Teams. In addition to this technical assessment, the tool conducts a user survey that captures your users’ perspective towards a potential transition to the new platform.

After capturing these technical and user considerations, Advisor for Teams creates a Deployment team within Microsoft Teams to help your team collaborate as you prepare to upgrade. This team has a Planner plan associated with it that captures the steps necessary to successfully transition, making it easy to assign and track the steps necessary to successfully deploy Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams Reference

Advisor for Teams has a specialized Skype for Business upgrade plan that helps prepare your organization’s transition to the on-premises or online versions of Microsoft Teams. Taking advantage of this plan gives your organization access to many additional resources that can help ensure that your onboarding and deployment to Teams is as successful as possible.

The Skype for Business upgrade plan within Advisor for Teams can help your organization overcome some of the knowledge gaps that come with the platform transition. Its combination of technical analysis and individual-led action ensures that your transition to Microsoft Teams meets your organization’s needs.

Managing Microsoft Teams

Transitioning to Microsoft Teams can place a burden on your organization. Effectively managing the new platform comes with a learning curve but can be essential to driving user adoption.

A key to managing Microsoft Teams is ensuring that you have the proper users as administrators of the platform. Global Administrators of your tenant can manage the platform and assign users to one of five different administrative roles within Teams:

  • Teams Service Administrator
  • Teams Communications Administrator
  • Teams Communications Support Engineer
  • Teams Communications Support Specialist
  • Teams Device Administrator

One of the most important tools that a Global Admin or Teams Service Administrator can use to manage the platform is the Microsoft Teams admin center. The admin center provides a simple user interface that displays all the teams in use within your environment. As an admin, you can add, edit, archive, and delete teams using the admin center, making it easy to manage your environment in one place.

Looking to Microsoft Teams consulting experts can add a human layer to your transition beyond your organization’s administrators. Microsoft provides its own support with the platform, and dedicated partners like Total Solutions can combine expertise in Microsoft Teams with in-depth knowledge of your organization and its users that can make it easier to solve any substantial challenges that you face with the platform.

Microsoft’s Claiming Partner of Record program makes it easy to engage a partner like Total Solutions to support your organization with Microsoft Teams. There are three different Microsoft Teams workloads that you can assign to a Claiming Partner of Record: Meetings, Phone System, and Apps/Platform, allowing your organization to engage with experts in these different areas to provide support as needed.

Total Solutions has a team of Microsoft Teams consulting experts who have worked with the platform since its launch. Managing the transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams can be a challenging one and looking to trusted administrators and partners is key towards driving its success.

Microsoft’s decision to retire Skype for Business will play a role in how many organizations manage collaboration moving forward. Retiring Skype for Business will force digital transformation leaders to make multiple decisions about new communications platforms, engaging with Microsoft 365, and more.

Microsoft Teams is the natural fit to replace Skype for Business with the platform being retired in July 2021. Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams were built side-by-side, and organizations relying on Skype for Business will find themselves with an enhanced user experience, robust Microsoft 365 and third-party integrations, as well as a straightforward transition experience.

Partnering with the Right Team

Making the transition to Microsoft Teams requires a meaningful time investment to pay off, but Microsoft provides written resources and the Advisor for Teams to assist in that effort. Tools like the Microsoft Teams admin center can help digital transformation leaders manage the platform, while partner like Total Solutions can provide expertise to help your team make the most of what Teams has to offer.