Microsoft Teams gets calling to external phone systems functionality

Microsoft is making good on its commitment to enable some advanced telephony capabilities in its Teams group-chat service.

Collaboration software: Time to call BS Collaboration software sounds great in theory, but like the open floor plan in offices there are downsides. The noise can be a bit ridiculous. Tools like Slack--and things like Yammer and a graveyard of other tools--were supposed to end email. Instead, email is still favored by workers to get real work done. Why? Enterprise social networking is too noisy. How many times have we wanted to yell into one of our 100 Slack channels so people will stay on point. It's a chat fest that can hurt productivity. Now it looks like vendors may be getting more of a clue. Atlassian launched software called Stride that has a focus button and tools that can turn conversations into workflows with integrated video and voice meetings on the fly. Perhaps the biggest perk is the focus button. Collaboration needs an offramp and let's face it you can spend more time collaborating instead of getting work done. There needs to be more of this. Whether it's Facebook@Work, which is basically a version of Facebook for the enterprise, Microsoft Teams or some other package collaboration has forgotten about the work and productivity part of the equation. Sometimes you need to duck your head and plow through a few tasks.

Video: Collaboration software: Time to call BS

On Dec. 12, Microsoft began to roll out support for some of the advanced calling capabilities that previously were only in Skype for Business to its Microsoft Teams service.

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Credit: Microsoft

From Microsoft's Tech Community blog post:

"Today we are releasing new calling capabilities in Teams, providing full featured dialing capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support. You can expect this to roll out over the next few hours and should come soon to your tenant."

(Thanks to Directions on Microsoft's Jim Gaynor for the heads up on the addition of these new advanced calling features to Teams.)

To add calling to Teams, administrators need Phone System (the feature previously known as Cloud PBX), which is part of Office 365 and also available as an add-on for other Office 365 plan users. At that point, users can subscribe to a Calling Plan -- what was formerly known as PSTN Calling.

In October, Microsoft officials said that some of these advanced calling capabilities would be coming to Teams starting in the fourth quarter of calendar 2017. Adding support for these Skype for Business features to Teams is key to Microsoft's grand plan to migrate its Skype for Business Online users to Microsoft Teams, its chat-based workspace that is meant to compete with Slack.

While many enterprise-grade calling features aren't coming to Teams until the end of Q2 2018, a few like call parking, group call pickup, location-based routing, and shared-line appearance are not going to be there until Q4 2018. Call support between Teams and Skype Consumer is a Q2 2018 deliverable, officials said earlier this year.

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