With less than 12 months to go until Microsoft retires Skype for Business, we look at the options for migrating your users to the ‘new world’.
The clock is ticking. Microsoft will be ending Skype for Business support on 31st July 2021. To avoid this change impacting your day-to-day business, you must move all your users to Microsoft Teams by then.
With many organisations shifting to remote working in recent months, a great number have been forced to roll out Microsoft Teams to enable users to collaborate and communicate online. For those who were already using Skype for Business Online, enabling Teams didn’t impact the functionality of Skype. Instead, the two services continue to coexist in what’s called ‘islands mode’.
Islands is the default way for Teams and Skype to coexist, and lets users use both apps simultaneously. From Microsoft’s point of view, this is ideal, as Teams can be switched on without an organisation needing to prepare for an immediate cutover.
Avoid choppy waters
However, operating both services in parallel without a clear upgrade strategy however can introduce confusion and frustration for users. That means it’s important that your organisation takes the time to define a strategy.
Here are the main functional areas you need to think about when creating your strategy to migrate from Skype to Teams:
Chat and Collaboration is arguably the most straightforward area to manage. Teams brings a significant increase in capabilities from what Skype for Business offers. Instant messaging (IM) is a core feature of both platforms, but Teams adds group collaboration through Office 365 Groups, Channels and Apps. The technical change to enable collaboration in Teams is straightforward, however it does require appropriate governance for managing things, and user adoption guidance is critical for success.
Meetings may cause the most visible impact. This is mainly down to the fact that, although both services integrate with Exchange and Outlook, a Skype for Business meeting can’t be simply switched over to a Teams meeting by a user.
For regular recurring meetings, this can cause an overhead if some people are primarily using Teams while others are on Skype. Planning the upgrade path from an organisational viewpoint minimises this conflict and improves the experience for users.
Voice is not relevant to every organisation, but if an existing PSTN (land line) configuration for Skype exists, then the future for this needs to be understood so you don’t adversely impact day-to-day business. An example of this is that when ‘Islands’ mode is enabled, the Skype for Business desktop client must be running to allow the phone to ring. It can be very frustrating for users who switch to the Teams client to find that they no longer receive calls, and it’s not obvious why.
Get off Islands
While the default Islands mode is a good short-term compromise, you ought to plan to minimise time spent in this mode. And while there is a default global policy, there is no restriction on introducing multiple policies to support different usage and upgrade strategies across your tenant.
There a several coexistence modes which can be configured through Teams policy which we’ll describe here.
Skype for Business with Teams collaboration retains Skype as the primary service for Voice, Meetings, and IM, but allows Teams to be used for group collaboration. Many organisations currently in Islands mode will be using the services in this capability, but without explicitly setting the coexistence policy.
Skype for Business with Teams collaboration and meetings. This could be regarded as the ‘tipping point’ towards the organisation prioritising Teams over Skype. Skype remains in place for Voice and IM, but Teams is the primary service for Collaboration and Meetings.
Teams Only is where the organisation wants users to only use Teams, completing the upgrade from Skype for Business. Users can still join meetings hosted in Skype for Business but can’t create new meetings. Voice will default to Teams and the Meeting Migration Service (MMS) can migrate any existing Skype meetings to Teams.
As mentioned above, Islands mode and organic adoption may seem to be the best compromise; however, there are downsides to this approach. For example, Islands mode allows ‘laggards’ to continue to use Skype as their primary service until they have no choice when it’s switched off in July 2021, which would compound any adoption issues at that point.
Our recommendation would always be to design, plan and implement the upgrade route for the organisation so that ‘Teams Only’ is in place long before the Skype for Business Online retirement date. This gives confidence that the correct configuration and governance is in place for administrators and minimises the risk to users by enabling a predicable path for adoption.
CompanyNet are one of the UK’s leading Microsoft Teams migration and adoption partners. If your organisation is preparing for the big switchover, we can help. Get in touch with our friendly team to discuss the options and find out how we can help.