COMMENT | Microsoft used its Ignite conference in Orlando this week to confirm what many had suspected since some screenshots leaked a few weeks ago: Skype for Business is being folded into Microsoft Teams. What is left to figure out now is how exactly this affects partners.
Partners have come to accept they can no longer rely on the three-year upgrade cycle to adapt to product changes. In fact, Microsoft wants to eventually push updates out to Teams every week. How can partners keep up with this continual update cycle and improvements, additions and changes to functionality?
The first thing partners need to address is how exactly they will approach Microsoft Teams in the first place; specifically, what is the messaging they take to customers?
Some partners have already been driving marketing campaigns to espouse their knowledge and expertise in the product, which is a little surprising given its relative infancy and the fact that IT partners generally adapt to change differently from their customers. This has been evident with some partners focusing on the “chat” aspect of Microsoft Teams. Does a CIO really care about chat?
Since Microsoft Teams entered the frame, many customers have jumped straight in (though others have stayed on the fence). Unlike other Office 365 workloads, many organisations have found Teams to be something they can deploy without necessarily requiring the services of partners.
Skype for Business Online can only boast 32 percent usage across Office 365 customers globally. This begs the question – why does Microsoft Teams appear to be so popular? The reality is that Microsoft Teams presents a different way of working that brings together multiple pieces of the Office 365 toolkit – an app hub if you will.
With this in mind, partners must ask themselves what they can offer customers to drive successful adoption of Microsoft Teams?
- Skype for Business partners can offer expertise around voice integration and associated hardware.
- SharePoint partners can offer expertise around document migration and management.
- The few partners that actually implement Yammer successfully can offer change management and guidance around having different types of conversations.
- Software development partners can offer bots and other extensibility creation.
- And Exchange partners can offer, well, not much with Microsoft Teams.
But that’s not all that Microsoft Teams can do. It can integrate with third-party file storage systems, productivity apps and bots.
The core challenge ahead for partners is that very few – if any – offer services across this the entire suite of capabilities that Microsoft Teams can deliver. While some may be big enough that they can deliver all capabilities and services, these companies are often too big to do it together. Others may offer a couple of capabilities and have preferred partners to do the rest. But implementing Microsoft Teams requires a unified front, not just partnerships.
Partners that are considering talking to customers about Microsoft Teams must be able to talk about everything that Teams can do – in a single conversation. Their staff must be able to work together across all levels of the customer to deliver on the unified vision, otherwise the implementation will fail.
This is probably one of the most complex changes partners will need to make across their sales and delivery models. Selling and implementing cloud services was a challenge in and of itself, which not all partners successfully executed on. But Microsoft Teams is something different – and this is something partners need to think very carefully about before engaging in conversations with customers.
Loryan Strant was the founder and managing director of award-winning Microsoft partner Paradyne and now consults directly with end customers and partners. His website is www.thecloudmouth.com