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Your Next Move with Microsoft Teams: Voice and Video-Calling

Here at Withum, we have many Office 365 clients who have, or are in the process of, adopting Microsoft Teams.

While we almost always focus on what I like to call core collaborative functionality, such as chat, document sharing, and application integration to promote foundational teamwork (i.e. collaboration), the next wave for Teams is using it for your firm’s telecommunications needs. This literally means you can replace your existing phone system with Office 365 and use Microsoft Teams as your primary telecom interface. In fact, this capability is one of the highest priorities identified by our Office 365 clients in 2020.

So why should you consider moving your phone system to Teams? As you might expect, cost savings are usually the biggest driver. By consolidating telecommunications onto Microsoft Teams, there are real opportunities to reduce costs. Lots of customers have physical hardware on-premises to support their existing systems. Moving to Microsoft Cloud voice replaces your existing Private Branch Exchange (PBX) and provides options to connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). While your mileage may vary, customers with on-premises telecom hardware and software are realizing significant cost savings as they move away from these systems (e.g. no more hardware, software, or maintenance costs). Some customers also find using Microsoft or another third-party PSTN provider to be more cost-effective than a traditional phone system provider. If you move away from traditional handsets, you can also save money; instead of giving everyone a phone, your staff can be issued a headset and their computers/mobile devices become their office phone (don’t worry there are Teams phones if you want to keep a few traditional-looking devices around). Besides potential cost savings, why else would you want to consider replacing your phone system with Office 365/Teams?

Simplified IT and Communications Management: By consolidating telephony into Teams, you reduce the complexity of managing separate IT and telecommunications systems. In effect, you are integrating voice into your foundational IT system (Office 365). This simplifies vendor management and the management of core business operations (since your phone is now managed via Teams which you were operating anyway). Users can easily place calls using the Teams desktop and mobile client they have been using for chat, file collaboration and meetings.

For questions or to learn what tools would be right for you, contact a member of Withum’s Digital and Technology Transformation Services Group.

Improved Security: Because you operate your phone system from Office 365, you now wrap all your users into the foundational security provided by Microsoft. All your users, for both the phone and IT systems, are now managed in Office 365. This simplifies user access to core business tools and makes security management easier too. If you are using Microsoft 365, you also have access to advanced, integrated security tools to protect your users, devices, data, and content all from the Microsoft platform. Moreover, when you make a call, you use Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. This ensures both security and quality.

So What Office 365 Plan Do I Need? You will need two things to start using Office 365/Teams as your phone system: Office 365 Phone System (to replace your internal PBX) and a way to connect to the public phone system known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). For PSTN connectivity, you can use Microsoft or other vendors.

In the spirit of sharing, we thought we would also provide some lessons learned and best practices to help you plan a move to Teams Voice.

  1. Conduct a solid cost analysis: Review your existing bills to know how much you are paying for phone service. This includes all the hardware and software you have (on-premises phone infrastructure and handsets including conference rooms). Remember to factor in new hardware costs too…some people may want to keep a traditional handset and others will want head-sets.
  2. Test your network: There are many tools out there to help make sure your network can handle cloud-based calling. The Teams Network Companion helps you do just that. Please check this link to read more.
  3. Create an adoption plan to help accommodate change: Some of your users may not be comfortable without a traditional handset. Regardless, everyone will want to know how to make, receive, and transfer calls; make sure you provide plenty of training options before and after the cut-over.
  4. Build a reasonable implementation plan: This includes factoring in time to move the phone numbers you want to keep. In general, you provide a list of numbers you want to “port” from the old carrier to the new carrier. Don’t be surprised if that process takes longer than you planned; legacy phone carriers don’t always make it easy for you to leave. In our experience, something always happens to make this process drag out.

There are more things to remember, but these four things are a good place to start. Regardless of where you are in your current Teams deployment, we recommend you investigate Teams as your future phone system. You are likely to save time, money, and greatly simplify your IT and communications management going forward. In fact, we have tools and programs available to help determine if adopting Teams Cloud Voice makes sense for you and your firm. We can help figure out the mix of subscription plans and other tools right for you. Reach out to us to learn more today.

Digital Transformation Today

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