The increase in Work from Home activity since 2020 left users and organizations wondering, “do information workers need telephony in Teams?” Before we answer the question, let’s look at where this line of thought may come from.
Growth in Teams Phone Activity
Microsoft saw an unprecedented surge of new users adopting Teams in this period. Microsoft now claims 250 million monthly active Teams users and counting. Having back-to-back meetings feels like it has become the norm for many people working from home. The result is a reduced need to call someone outside of Teams, because you can make a Teams to Teams call or just book a meeting.
We are now starting to see more and more people returning to the office. The new normal might be that some users choose to have more home office work, and some choose to work from the office, which means that you no longer know where people are. This is why enabling Teams for telephony comes in handy. The ability to call anyone regardless of where they might be without switching context is key here. Have you ever reached for your phone to get an MFA code, and find yourself minutes later surfing social media or reading other notifications and forgot why you picked up your phone? We can avoid these lapses into aimless activity if people stay in context in Teams and make phone calls from the same platform.
According to Microsoft, nearly 80 million people now use the Teams Phone system monthly. For the most part, this activity covers Teams to Teams calls, and the number of Teams to telephony is probably around a couple of million calls. Microsoft’s view is that it does not matter where people call because they’re all treated as ad-hoc unscheduled calls. Telephony in Teams is just a small part of the entire Teams service but is still an important feature to avoid unnecessary distractions and context switching.
Different types of information workers exist. Some communicate a lot in Teams channels, have meetings, and collaborate on documents. We also see a lot of information workers needing to reach people outside their organizations by calling customers and partners and receiving lots of inbound calls directly or through Call Queues. We need to keep the different scenarios in mind when thinking about the need for telephony in Teams.
Teams and Mobile
The Teams mobile client might be a reason for not needing telephony in Teams because you can keep a chat conversation and channel discussion going which transcends time and place. The Teams mobile platform is well integrated into Teams Phone, and you can even answer Call Queue calls on the Teams iOS or Android clients.
Another advantage of having telephony enabled users combined with the Teams mobile client is that you can make a call to someone without revealing your mobile number. When dialling out from the Teams mobile client you show the PSTN number assigned to your account in Teams. This flexibility is sought after by many users.
Getting People Back to Work
If your organization adapted Teams during the pandemic, you need to plan for users getting back to the office. The worst feedback you can get from your users is “Teams works better and sounds better from home”. When planning for increased office-based Teams usage, you must optimize your network and your connectivity to Microsoft 365 and Teams. Here are some principles you can follow
- Make sure the Teams URLs and IP ranges are whitelisted in proxy servers.
- Make sure the same URLs and IP ranges does not get inspected by firewalls.
- If you have many locations spanning countries and continents, make sure each office has local internet breakout.
- Work with your ISP to make sure that traffic from your network edge goes straight to the Microsoft network edge.
You can read more about networking principles for Teams here.
The question was “Is PSTN connectivity relevant for Teams in 2021?”. Absolutely, but you might find some users who have less need for Teams Phone and Calling. My view is that allowing people to choose whether they use Teams Phone could be the way to do it in 2021.
Talking Teams Voice with Mary-Jo Foley
I recently sat down with Microsoft journalist at ZDNet and Petri’s Community Magnate, Mary Jo Foley to talk about voice services in Teams. The format is that the community asks questions and then Mary Jo discuss these questions with the guests. There were a lot of questions for this topic: we discussed the definition of voice services, the need for telephony in a work from home culture, and what to focus on for success when returning to the office.
For more information about Teams Voice, read the Managing Teams Voice and Devices chapter written by Ståle Hansen in the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook