During this year's Ignite event, Microsoft announced the merging of Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, what it described as ‘a new vision for intelligent communications’.
“Intelligent communications go beyond traditional unified communications, enabling you to complete tasks more efficiently with minimal context switching, participate in more productive meetings that cover the entire meeting lifecycle, and better manage your everyday communications overload,” said Lori Wright, general manager for Microsoft Teams and Skype product marketing.
Central to this vision was the fact that Skype for Business would be phased out and absorbed into Microsoft Teams. There’s still a way to go until Teams has all the functionality that Microsoft plans for it but last week it took a major step forward as fully-featured calling capabilities were brought into the service.
What calling features have been added to Microsoft Teams?
On Tuesday December 12, a number of calling capabilities and features were brought into Teams. The features introduced include:
- Call history
- Hold / resume
- Speed dial
- Call transfer
- Call forwarding
- Caller ID masking
- Extension dialling
- Multi-call handling
- Simultaneous ringing
- Text telephone (TTY) support
These calling features bring a substantial amount of capabilities previously available as part of the Skype for Business package into Teams. Microsoft says that the addition of these features turns Teams into an “even more robust hub” for teamwork.
Once all the new features are either introduced from scratch or ported from Skype for Business, Teams should represent a ‘one stop shop’ for collaboration, with elements such as content, contacts and communications all brought together into one place.
Getting started and configuring Calling Plans
In order to add calling features to Teams you will first need the new Phone System, which was formerly known as Cloud PBX. This is included in the Office 365 E5 package and can be brought to other Office 365 plans as an add-on. You will also need a Calling Plan subscription (formerly referred to as PSTN Calling). The Phone System and Calling Plan combined produce a complete phone system for the organisation. This can help you centralise the management of your telephone and messaging system, as well as allow you to move away from expensive telephone hardware.
Any amount of users can be added and each will be allocated a primary phone number. They will be able to make and receive calls (both within and outside the organisation) and use all the calling features that were added with this update.
Other features going forward
Microsoft also released a roadmap giving tentative dates for new calling, meetings and messaging features going forward. It said that a number of calling features would be added to Teams by the end of this year and that has now happened.
A number of meetings features were due to be added before 2018, including the likes of Application Sharing, Anonymous Join, Mute Other Participants and Give and Take Control in sharing. It was also announced that the Audio Conferencing feature would be available in over 90 territories. More meetings features will be added before the end of the second quarter next year.
Some messaging features were already present in Teams and new additions were all expected to be completed by the end of Q1 2018. These include Hide/Share/Mute Chat, Contact Groups and Unified Presence.
A number of other call features are also expected to have been added to Teams by the end of next year. Boss and Delegate Support, Call Queues, Consultative & Safe Transfer, Do not Disturb breakthrough, Distinctive Ring and Forward to Group are amongst those expected to be complete by the end of the second quarter of 2018 with Group Call Pickup, Location-Based Routing, Call Park and Shared Line Appearance all expected by the end of the year.