We wrapped up our third and final Enterprise Connect virtual summit on Microsoft Teams this week, and the final session provided a great summary and overview of where many enterprises stand concerning Teams and what we can expect from Teams in the coming six–12 months. The session was a conversation between our Microsoft guru, Kevin Kieller of enableUC, and Charles Van Heusen, solutions architect at ConvergeOne. My overall takeaway: If you deployed Teams, or expanded your Teams deployment, to deal with the pandemic, it’s time to revisit this platform and make sure it’s ready for what’s coming next for your enterprise.
A few key points from Kieller’s and Van Heusen’s discussion:
1. Revisit Your Network Assessment: Chances are, the traffic engineering assumptions on which you built your network pre-COVID won’t be valid even if your enterprise does implement a large-scale return-to-office between now and the end of the year. You’ll likely have more remote workers and a lower density of workers within offices. On the other hand, those offices will be cranking out a lot more video traffic, whether from conference rooms or desktops, than they did pre-pandemic. Van Heusen said that as he engages with clients, “We’re seeing people really having to go back and re-evaluate: Is my network ready?”
(On this score, we’ve got a terrific session planned for Enterprise Connect 2021 in Orlando at the end of September; Joe Schmidt of TechCaliber consultancy will lead a session on Rebuilding the WAN for the Post-Pandemic Office.)
2. Teams Has Been Evolving Quickly: In its furious competition with Zoom, Microsoft has accelerated its product development; as Van Heusen put it, “Microsoft did in six months what it used to take them three years to do.” This applies not just to user-facing features, but to administrative functions like monitoring voice quality. A year ago, Teams had a “gap” in this capability, Van Heusen said, but in September, the vendor launched the ability for partners (like ConvergeOne) to build solutions that can give granular details on metrics for voice quality.
One point to keep in mind: Enterprises can’t just deploy features like voice quality monitoring; they’ve got to have staff that can understand and respond to these systems and have the time to do so, Kieller and Van Heusen agreed.
3. The E3-to-E5 Tipping Point: One decision just about every enterprise has faced regarding Teams has been whether to stick with the basic feature set that comes with Microsoft’s E3 license or upgrade to E5 at almost double the cost. Kieller and Van Heusen agreed that as Teams takes on a bigger role in the enterprise, and as traditional services like legacy audioconferencing and telephony decline, the E5 license starts to make more sense. Van Heusen said the tipping point is typically three add-on services—for example, audioconferencing, Teams Phone System, and Power BI. Kieller described this as “the power of the bundle.”
Of course, you can’t really make a decision like this about Teams without a broader review of your strategy for the legacy equipment or services from which you currently get services like telephony. Moving to Teams Phone System only makes sense if you’re phasing out your legacy telephony; otherwise, you can use Teams Direct Routing to integrate a currently-deployed UCaaS service into the Teams environment.
Teams is certainly going to be a hot topic at Enterprise Connect Orlando the week of Sept. 27. Kieller will be doing his annual “Taming Teams” session, with a complete update; and we’ll once again have our deep-dive comparison between Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom, delivered as always by Brent Kelly of KelCor and Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting. Kelly and Edholm are freshening up their approach for the post-pandemic strategic environment, so I’m excited to see what they’ve got.
You can find the whole program here; we’ll be announcing keynotes and general sessions shortly. I hope you can make it to Orlando for a return to in-person networking and learning!