The Future of Real-time Communications in Office 365

If you’ve been observing coverage of Office 365 in the media and on Twitter in the last few days, you’ll have noticed that Microsoft appear to be preparing to rename Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX to “Microsoft’s Phone System” and PSTN Calling to “Calling Plan” based on details of a Microsoft Ignite 2017 session to be delivered by super-smart UC industry stalwart Albert Kooiman. Another indication of how the broader messaging may be changing to Real-time Communications can be observed in another session described as “introducing our newly created Networking Portal – an essential piece of Planning and Operating any Real Time Communications environment, whether running Teams, Skype for Business or both”.

A lot of the speculation and commentary around this so far has been mixed, but I personally think this is a great move by Microsoft. Focusing on clear business terms supports Microsoft’s modern workplace solution area, which will deliver the Empower Your Employees digital transformation outcome. In my view, it breaks down like this: Digital transformation -> Empower your Employees –> Modern Workplace –> Real-time Communications.

When Microsoft launched Teams in November 2016, Satya Nadella called Office 365 “the universal toolkit” with Teams providing a chat-based workspace alongside SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business and Office 365 Groups. The features Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business provide (chat, calling, meetings, document sharing, etc) are becoming the real-time communications surfaces of the Office 365 universal toolkit. Office 365 is now a portfolio of complimentary capabilities an employee can utilise depending on who they work with and how they need to work. I believe it’s far clearer for a broad audience with no PBX, UC or technical background to understand these capabilities as part of the Office 365 universal toolkit, rather than trying to work out each disparate product silo.

The future of real-time communications in Office 365 is fuelled by Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams; and each will have their strengths depending on what someone needs to achieve. Whether someone uses one or the other will depend on how they need to communicate and with who e.g. an individual, a defined functional department, a short-term project team, etc.

Oh, and for “near real-time” company-wide communication and large live broadcast events, I think your old mates Yammer and Skype Meeting Broadcast will still be there in the toolkit. 😊

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