While it’s still a few months away, the end of Skype for Business Online is upon us. We walk you through what you need to consider as you make the transition, from the technical issues to the human element, to make your migration as smooth as possible.
In July 2019 Microsoft announced that on July 31, 2021, they would no longer support Skype for Business Online (SfB). In hindsight, this decision was inevitable as the growth of Teams took the world by storm, and has continued through today and with no sign of slowing down. This has proven especially true since the beginning of the ongoing pandemic.
The pandemic itself just sped up the inevitable move to Microsoft Teams for many of our clients from which we’ve helped guide through a variety of different and unique upgrade scenarios, from very basic and quick transitions to much more complex and drawn-out transitions. I wrote this post to provide some insights and advice to those who are on their own inevitable journey transitioning from SfB to its Teams replacement.
The Technical Approach in Migrating from Skype to Teams
There are many articles you can find that discuss the various approaches to moving to Teams, each providing a wealth of information and advice on many important topics such as which coexistence modes to use (e.g., Islands Mode, Collab + Meetings Mode, Meetings Only Mode, or Teams Only mode) and the various methods and plans to finally get an organization to “Teams Only” in order to completely eliminate its SfB. While this information is extremely important in every upgrade, the various nuances for each organization’s overall plan makes it nearly impossible to provide adequate advice in this post.
Ultimately, getting to the end of the Teams journey results in everyone in the organization is in “Teams Only” mode “with the flick of a switch” in the Teams Admin center (see screenshots below).
Along the journey, companies can have some or all of their users make “rest stops,” meaning they may be in one of several different Teams upgrade modes over time, such as the options available in the Teams Admin center and shown below.
Instead, I will focus on several other issues that many organizations don’t invest enough in or almost completely ignore. Specifically, I’ll cover some of the secondary (but still just as important) technical areas and the “people side” of the changes. Overlooking either, or both, of these almost always results in negative consequences, putting the organization’s operations at risk and significantly increasing the frustration of its end users and business leaders.
Below is a table highlighting the most overlooked technical aspects which I truly believe we need to address for any upgrade. You can look at these as a “checklist” of areas you need to analyze and the mitigations to put in place as needed. These are different depending on the organization’s risk tolerance, IT infrastructure, IT and security policies and applications, current usage of Skype and so on.
Note that this list is a summary of various areas you might overlook, leaving the devil in the details as your organization really begins its Skype to Teams analysis, planning and upgrade journey.
In summary, every organization will face various risks and challenges you’ll need to identify along with corresponding risk mitigation strategies. And due to the large variance in the types of organizations going through the upgrade, your strategy will vary greatly as well.
A Long-Term View of Microsoft Teams
Next, and perhaps most important of all, is that every organization must ensure business leaders understand the significant potential long-term view of exactly how they can use Teams. It’s so much more than merely a Skype replacement. As long as you view Teams as a simplistic replacement for Skype, your organization will never fully realize the significant business value of Teams.
To achieve the tremendous potential of Teams, we need to understand the longer-term roadmap of Teams (and other Microsoft 365 applications) and how we can leverage its feature-rich set of collaboration, communication and automation tools across an organization. In other words, it’s important to understand Teams is more than just a chat and meeting tool. This point brings me to the last and extremely important part of this article, the “people side” of this change.
The People Part of Your Skype to Teams Migration
Many organizations initially look at Teams simply as a replacement for chats, but even in that limited feature capacity, the change can be significant, as we’ve found in almost every Skype to Teams upgrade we’ve helped implement. All of these upgrades require understanding the multiple ways switch impacts the end users, including areas such as:
- All critical interface changes
- How Teams interacts with other systems (such as Exchange)
- How Teams manages meetings differently
- How audio-conferencing works in Teams and how their audio-conferencing numbers change upon upgrading to Teams
- How existing Skype meetings will change and what method you use to make the changes during the upgrade
- What happens with Skype contacts after the upgrade?
- All the different ways to work with Teams (mobile, web, client app)
- What will the experience be for external users accustomed to joining Skype meetings?
- How to use the Skype client if unique business requirements still require it.
Note the above examples only relate to the chat and meetings features. We haven’t even touched on anything related to the other features of Teams you can enable (group collaboration, file storage, co-authoring, integration with hundreds of other applications, Live Events, voice or telephone system, and so on. Compound all of this with new governance procedures and policies, and you have a recipe for significant end user adoption issues.
You can mitigate these challenges using methods and activities that implement Prosci’s ADKAR model for Change Management.
- Provide an Awareness of the Skype to Teams changes and communicating as to why you require the change
- Build a Desire across the organization for the upcoming change
- Educate the users with Knowledge of how to use Microsoft Teams
- Ensure everyone has the Ability to use MS Teams and that you are measuring the adoption of Teams
- And provide Reinforcement after the upgrade occurs.
These methods, activities, and artifacts can include areas such as:
- Comprehensive Organizational Change Management (OCM) plans — These include items such as a communications plan, adoption and training plan, resistance management plan, and any other plans that may be unique to your user base.
- Training – Ensure training is provided to end users in the formats, frequency, and in enough detail for the various audiences.
- Governance Plan and Security Plan – Decisions you make here will impact the features and functionality and, therefore, all of the other plans highlighted above.
- Overall Teams roadmap (which could also require a larger Microsoft 365 roadmap) – This, too, will impact the other plans noted above, especially the communications and training plans.
Hopefully the above has provided you with a unique perspective on Skype – it’s so much more than just figuring out which upgrade modes you should use. Approaching it strictly from that perspective without considering the appropriate amount of planning for the above will certainly cause your Skype to Teams upgrade to be much more painful than is necessary for IT, security, business leaders, and the general end user.