Skype for Business Online Retiring July 2021: What Does This Mean for You?

Skype for Business Online Retiring

On July 30, 2019, Microsoft officially announced that Skype for Business Online will be retired the end of July 2021. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who have been following Microsoft’s collaboration roadmap.

Last year, Microsoft announced that Skype for Business Online would no longer be available for new Office 365 customers (with some exceptions) and current Skype for Business Online users would be automatically migrated to Microsoft Teams over the next few years.

With an official end date in sight for Skype for Business Online, it’s important to start preparing for the change. So, this article will cover you need to know and what this means for your organization.

Skype for Business Retirement plan

  • After July 31, 2021, Skype for Business Online will no longer be accessible.
  • Until this date, there will be no change in the experience of Skype for Business Online and new users can still be added.
  • Starting September 1, 2019 all new Office 365 customers will be onboarded directly to Teams for chat, meetings, and phone functionality.
  • Skype consumer service and Skype for Business Server will be unaffected.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

As a Microsoft Gold Communications Partner specializing in Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams, PEI has received a flood of questions from our customers about what this means for their organizations.

Let’s break it down. If you are already running Teams and do not use Skype for Business, this change won’t affect you at all.

However, for those organizations on Skype for Business Online, this means a pretty large change to how your employees work. It also means there’s some work to do to prepare for this change–or in some cases, enact the change.

Here are some things to consider before, during, and after the upgrade to Microsoft Teams.

Preparing for Skype for Business Online Retirement

Evaluating Functionality Requirements

Teams and Skype for Business Online do not have exact feature parity yet. it is important to take a look at the roadmap for Teams and decide based on the availability of certain, upcoming features when your organization will be able to make the transition.

With the retirement announcement for Skype for Business, Microsoft also announced a list of features to be added to Teams that were requested from Skype for Business Online customers, including

  • Dynamic 911. A feature of Microsoft Teams Phone System, Dynamic E911 automatically uses the caller’s current location to route to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) call center operated by the local government. Dynamic E911 will be delivered in Teams for the United States by the end of this calendar year.
  • Shorter Retention Periods. New retention period options will allow customers to limit channel and chat retention periods to as short as 1 day and ensure that when data is deleted, it is removed from all permanent storage locations in the Teams service. Shorter Retention Periods will be available in Teams by the end of this calendar year.
  • Teams and Skype Consumer Interop. Interop between Teams and Skype Consumer will allow users on the two services to communicate using both chat and calling. Teams and Skype Consumer Interop will be available in Teams in the first quarter of calendar year 2020.
  • Contact Center Integration and Compliance Recording. At Inspire earlier this month, Microsoft announced Teams partnerships with Five9, Genesys, and NICE to enable Contact Center solutions – and with ASC, NICE, and Verint to provide Compliance Recording. We’re also working with other Skype for Business Online certified partners to bring other Contact Center and Compliance Recording solutions to market for Teams.

Of course, even with these additional features, Microsoft Teams might not be the right fit for your business. Contact us to learn about other phone system options.

Determining Organizational Change Readiness

It is extremely important to speak with each department in your organization to assess how they work and how Teams will be integrated into their daily routine.

To realize maximum value from Teams, end-users must actually use it—which means making the transition as non-disruptive as possible. Taking time to understand your users and design the right readiness plan can help accelerate adoption of Teams and facilitate the transition from Skype for Business.

Building a readiness plan includes understanding how readily your users will adapt to the change as well as how you’ll train users to use their new tools effectively.

Deciding When to Make the Change

With Skype for Business Online being officially retired, you will be forced to upgrade to Teams eventually–but you still have two years to get ready for the change if your organization needs more time.

If you are an existing Skype for Business customer, examine your current use of Skype for Business features and whether Microsoft Teams will meet those communications needs given the differences in the platforms. If you determine that moving to Teams immediately is not the best option, it is important to start building out the plan for the move within the next 2 years.

A Microsoft Communication Partner like PEI can help draft out stages and prepare your organization to move before July 2021. If done correctly, not only should the upgrade create minimal disruption in productivity, it should increase productivity with the power of Microsoft Teams.

Skype for Business Hybrid Users

Skype for Business Online will no longer be offered as part of a hybrid solution. Organizations using Skype for Business in this way will need to migrate fully on premises to use Skype for Business Server as their collaboration solution or migrate completely to Teams. Teams can be configured as a hybrid solution for organizations that want to integrate existing on-premises investments.

During the Migration

Training is Essential for Driving Adoption of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams’ interface and functionality is very different from Skype for Business Online. Provide end-user training before and during the upgrade to ensure they’re able to use their new program.

This can be done in multiple different ways. PEI offers the QuickHelp™ Platform, which delivers a personalized approach to online training through self-paced video courses, downloadable quick-start guides, and instructor-led events. User progress is trackable and QuickHelp™ not only covers Microsoft Teams, but the entire Office 365 solution set.

PEI also offers both classroom and webinar-based training on Teams. Teams is an extremely robust tool, and it can be difficult for users to determine where to start and how to work it into their current job functions. Providing documentation and use case examples to departments on how users can best utilize the solution will help drive adoption

Microsoft’s push for adoption of Teams is a focal point in 2020; without training and resources to help users understand the tool, your organization might not realize the full ROI of the solution.

After the Transition

Keep Your Teams Environment Functioning Optimally

Once Teams is live for your organization, it can be a powerful cornerstone for driving productivity through effortless collaboration, time-saving workflows, and integrated applications. Keep this momentum going by ensuring you’re prepared to keep your Teams environment functioning optimally. Is your in-house IT team comfortable supporting Teams? Understanding call quality troubleshooting, permissions configurations, workflows, application control, and all that goes with Teams can be difficult. PEI specializes in supporting Microsoft Teams and Office 365 as a whole.

What’s the Bottom Line for Skype for Business Online Retirement?

Skype for Business Online is retiring and everyone will be moved to Microsoft Teams. Everyone who is on Skype for Business Online needs to prepare for the move—Microsoft is not making exceptions.

Begin the process with an in-depth business analysis of your organization and how Teams will be used by and affect each department.

Whether you’re working with a partner like PEI or conducting the upgrade internally, make sure you’re familiar with the process and how it will affect each piece of your business. Are you rolling it out all at once? In phases? Are you in a hybrid environment? These are all things that need to be considered.

Providing training and other adoption resources to ensure adoption in critical. This is Microsoft’s biggest focus with Teams this year. Due to the complexity if Teams, it’s vital companies give employees the resources they will need to fully utilize Teams!

Lastly, how are you going to support it? If you cannot support Teams internally, consider a Microsoft Partner like PEI for handling the difficulty and keeping tabs on the multiple moving parts. This Microsoft release will give you a great starting point on what needs to be done.

If you are looking to have a deeper conversation with a Microsoft Teams Gold Communications Partner reach out to PEI online or email us info@pei.com.

Adam Lee, PEI

Microsoft Teams Assessment

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