#4 Skype for Business Online – The Countdown Begins

By Neil Hobson on

Microsoft made a big announcement this week and I simply could not resist writing about it now. In its blog post here, Microsoft announced that “Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31, 2021.“. There was also a corresponding major update announcement in the Office 365 Message Center, namely post MC186815. An extract of this post is below.

Image: Skype for Business retirement message update

This has been coming for a while. At its Ignite conference in September 2017, Microsoft announced its new vision for ‘intelligent communications’. In this vision, it talked of a future that had:

  • Transformed meetings and calling experiences
  • More productive meetings and better ways to manage the meeting lifecycle
  • Better ways of managing the overload of communications being received continuously

Better ways to manage the meeting lifecycle and less emails in my inbox each morning? Yes please!

Central to this intelligent communications story was Microsoft Teams. The quote from Microsoft in it’s announcement above is that “Teams will evolve as the primary client for intelligent communications in Office 365, replacing the current Skype for Business client over time.“. Part of the journey involved bringing Skype for Business Online capabilities into Teams while at the same time making Teams the hub for teamwork in Office 365.

At that time Microsoft had already been putting many features into Teams to start realising this vision, including the much sought after guest access capability. However, many of the new features at the time were aimed at the communications capabilities of Teams. Other features such as audio conferencing and calling features were on their way.

Over the next year, Microsoft posted regular update announcements on how the roadmap was progressing. This culminated in a blog post announcement in August 2018, that Microsoft had completed its roadmap for bringing Skype for Business Online capabilities into Teams. This was quite an impressive timeframe. Even more impressive when you consider the many other important updates that had been engineered into Teams, such as support for retention policies and an increased number of data residency locations.

And here we are in the summer of 2019 with the announcement from Microsoft that Skype for Business Online will be retired on 31st July 2021. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to start planning that move to Teams. Fortunately, Microsoft has a good story around the migration to Teams and it’s something we here at Silversands have been involved with, in many different customer scenarios. The upgrade framework offered by Microsoft is comprehensive.

One of the great features of the migration is the coexistence modes engineered into the products, and these need to be considered for your migration. In the coexistence mode known as Islands, the users can run both the Skype for Business and Teams clients simultaneously. This means that features and capabilities can overlap, which may confuse some users. To help address this, there are other coexistence modes such as:

  • Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration. This introduces Teams into the environment for collaboration only, meaning chat, calling and meetings continue to occur via the Skype for Business client
  • Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings. Start transforming the meeting experience by moving this feature to Teams in addition to the collaboration feature

The end goal is the coexistence mode known as Teams Only, where Teams is used for all communications and collaboration. To allow both Skype for Business and Teams users to communicate with each other during the migration, Microsoft offers great interoperability features too.

The Teams Only coexistence mode name makes it sound like the Skype for Business client is not required, but there are still scenarios where it may be for a while. For example, what if someone outside your organisation is still using Skype for Business Online and sends you a meeting request? Leave the Skype for Business client deployed and it will be used to join that meeting when the link is clicked.

As a Teams Only user, I do like the screen that the Skype for Business client displays when I launch it directly though. The message is loud and clear: Go to Teams!

Image: Skype for Business Teams popup

There’s so much I could talk about regarding migrating to Teams, but I’d better stop here. There’s lots to do with Skype-to-Teams customer conversations!

And if you can’t wait for next week’s nuggets, contact me using the form below, join one of our regular workshops and webinars or checkout one of our other blogs.

Or if you can’t wait to see me in action, join me for my webinar on Microsoft Information Protection on 7th August.

See you soon for some more nuggets!

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