Microsoft announced it would phase out Skype for Business and roll the functionality into Teams during its Ignite conference this September. At the time Microsoft indicated it would publish a roadmap outlining how the process of rolling the two together would unfold. This week it published that roadmap, indicating enterprises will be able to make the transition sooner than expected.

The integration will bring Skype for Business's enterprise instant messaging capabilities into the Teams platform, the chat and collaboration app Microsoft debuted in November of last year. Teams will benefit from functionalities such as online meetings for up to 250 people, enterprise-grade security, employee account management and tight integration with Office apps. 

What's Inside Skype for Business With Teams

With the roadmap came the announcement of new capabilities for Teams. The upgrades are aimed at improving collaboration across the enterprise and across enterprise teams. Among the notable improvements are:

Meetings

On top of the existing screen sharing and meeting chats capture, Microsoft will add meeting room support through Skype Room Systems as well as cloud video interoperabilities for third party meeting room devices to connect to Teams meetings.

Calling

Later this quarter, Teams will also offer voicemail. By the end of the second quarter in 2018, the company plans on adding existing telco voice lines into the mix to use calling services inside Office 365.

Intelligent Communications

At the end of the second quarter, on top of the Skype for Business capabilities, users will also have the option to record and store meetings in Teams, and add subscriptions and term searches to the meetings.

Public Switched Telephone Network Rebrand

The new combined product will retire the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) conferencing name in favor of "Audio Conferencing." Skype’s Cloud Private Branch Exchange (PBX) — PBX is the private telephone network used within a company or organization — will be renamed "Phone System."

Simplifying Collaboration

The company announced further enhancements (pdf). So far, the reaction has been positive with many analysts noting the confusion the multiple collaboration tools in Microsoft causes in organizations.

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research said Microsoft needs to simplify its collaboration offers as its existing portfolio is extremely complex with many overlapping areas.

“The evolution of Skype for Business into Microsoft Teams will result in more seamless collaboration experience across group conversations, VOIP calls and video meetings, as well as Office 365 applications such as Planner, OneNote and OneDrive,” he told CMSWire. By rolling the two together, Microsoft removes at least one tool from the mix, making it easier for businesses to communicate and manage information than before. 

The integration will help Teams facilitate and improve collaboration. Chat (one-on-one and group) and bots are one part of the puzzle. Real time communication via call, video chat and conferencing are another. Putting both together will drive synergies for the end-user, Walter Van Uyten, CEO of Belgium-based online workspace provider Awingu said.

Technology consultant and analyst Tom Petrocelli told CMSWire the decision to move Skype for Business into Teams was unsurprising given the overlaps in the collaboration portfolio. Teams, he said, made Skype for Business obsolete.

“By adding the VoIP/telephony and enterprise capabilities to Teams, then Skype for Business becomes pointless. The only question I have is what will they will do for those who needs on-premises communication,” he said.

Analyst and futurist Stowe Boyd believes Teams will eventually subsume any technologies that fall under the Skype brand. However, he also believes the roadmap is uncertain, as Microsoft's agile development thinking "embraces fuzziness." 

"The real question — from an external viewpoint — is whether there will be a similar plan to subsume Yammer into Teams. Why have two work chat technologies, so long as the remaining offering covers the combined use cases? Aside from an emotional connection to Yammer, or existing integrations,” Boyd said.

We can expect similar streamlining of collaboration capabilities and strategies out of Microsoft in the coming six months.