Richard Smith Global Microsoft Alliance Director @ IR
Dave Bottomley Senior Solutions Engineer @ IR
Jason Schwendinger Global Head of IT @ IR
Richard: Hello everybody, and thank you for joining us on the second in a three-part webinar series on the journey to Teams. The aim of this series is to assist organizations that are deploying or considering deploying Microsoft Teams by telling them a story of one organization's journey to adopting Teams in their own environment. And that organization is—of course, us—here at IR.
Richard: Today, in part two, we're going to take you through these four different areas, really looking at the Readiness Phase of that Journey to Teams. And we're going to take into consideration for the planning of your journey from a business perspective: looking at defining the scope of coexistence and interrupt, and then we'll look at readiness across both technical point of view and also from a user readiness perspective.
Richard: To take us on that journey. I'm delighted to welcome back David Bottomley, Senior Solutions Engineer here at IR. Those of you that have joined us on a number of sort of previous webinars will be familiar with, with Dave. And I believe this is the first time that we're able to welcome Jason Schwendinger, who is Head of Information Systems and Technology, and is responsible for leading our efforts to move into the cloud and to Teams.
Richard: So a quick bit of housekeeping before we get started. We're scheduled for about 45 minutes today. As always, the slides are available down here on the as a clickable link.
Dave: The whole premise around this specific webinar was to bring Jason and have a Q&A about the whole project; the impetus of getting us to teams, some of the details that we're going through today, and we felt that would be interesting to our audience.
One thing I'm going to ask you to keep in mind as we go through the material is that IR is a relatively small-sized organization. So you can imagine, all the items that we mention today could be more difficult for medium size or larger size customers. So just try to reveal all the things that we have to go through in terms of the consideration.
And of course, we're trying to stay parallel to the Microsoft methodology of stepping through Planning, Preparedness, Assessment, Deployment and Operation. So we're going to ask Jason a couple of general questions, and in his own words, he can give us his responses. The first one here, Jason, is why the decision to move on-premises Skype and then Skype to Microsoft Teams?
Jason: That's a good question. I think we all have heard from Microsoft that they're looking to retire Skype for Business and have been pushing Teams. Certainly, if you've been to Enterprise Connect, you got that message loud and clear.
But just within our organization, we know that maintaining and managing Skype on-prem deployment for a global organization with a small Information Systems team can be challenging in the least to keep up with. Microsoft comes out with about 25 to 35 CUs on an annual basis, it seems just fixing problems with the environment.
And as part of our global strategy, we want to reduce our on-prem footprint where it makes sense and leverage more of those cloud services. Lastly, I'd say, we want to improve our global collaboration. We want to get beyond the basics of calls, chats, and meetings, be able to leverage more of the collaboration features that we find in Teams and channels. So that's going to help us get along that journey.
Dave: Thank you, one of the things I really want to bring across is the true pace that we're able to move at. I think we probably have some aspirations, but then those realities, could provide us a little insight on that.
Jason: Yeah, in working with our Microsoft team, we were—I wouldn't say led to believe—but we were taken down this path that it was a pretty straightforward process of making that switch from Skype on-prem to Teams.
So initially, we had a plan of around 6 to 12 months for that journey. And what we found is that there's a couple of areas that are going to slow us down. We've got user adoption, and we also have some technical challenges along the way.
So now it's looking more like 12 to 18 months, just looking internally where we're at. We are at about 70% user adoption of Teams today—that's active users in teams. So while that might be good, if somebody is 30% of our people here are not using it on a regular basis.
And I myself don't really think that Teams is all that intuitive. I think it does require some investment. There has to be some training and some education for the users to really unlock the power and understand how to use it on a daily basis. So, for us on the user adoption side of the equation, we invested in a global training program and we rolled that out. We identified a couple of short videos where they could go get the basic tips and tricks, how to use Teams and how to leverage it.
Jason: Then we kind of looked at the team to say, well, let's start leveraging with a team. We picked our developers in Sydney and we had them working with it and throughout a period of a couple of months found that it was likely capable of replacing Slack. And over time, we ended up transitioning from Slack to Teams for our dev environment.
As we learn more about it, we took a step back and agreed with the SLT here and IR and what our digital workplace and global collaboration strategy really looked like, and what those timelines are going to be.
Then we went out and communicated that strategy globally. We identified some local and regional champions. And we had those champions start using Teams for their meetings and collaborating on projects, and started giving feedback to us on how that was going.
Eventually, we had our managers asked to start using Teams for their meetings as well, and that really helped to drive the adoption out there. But in the end, I think we'll end up testing Teams only with, again, a small group—the IFTA, for example, some early adopters—before really going to that wider migration.
Dave: So one thing I really wanted to bring out here is the fact that internally, we probably don't have the chops to do everything and so we're probably going to lean on some third parties.
Jason: Yeah, I'd like to say that we can do all things at all times. But you know, given that we are a small team, what we like to do is leverage what made sense if we've got maintenance agreements, leverage those. And we also kind of went beyond that and got some specific help where we thought we needed it.
So for SBC, for example, the SBC is deployed globally, and we knew we needed to update those to a version, I was going to support direct routing of media bypass. So we work with our PR maintenance provider there and they're in the process of upgrading those to what we consider to be a stable version. And we're nearly done with the upgrades across the globe on those.
But we also have engaged a partner to help us with a kind of a Skype for Business health check; to give us some records, we could solve a few heart issues that we had that were lingering, and make sure that our business continuity disaster recovery plans, were going to work as expected. And then we are going beyond that to have them help us with this Skype-to-Teams journey.
Jason: There's a lot of technical detail and a lot of planning that's needed to implement that. We want to make sure that we don't put our users through an experience that's going to disrupt the business. So a number of things like verifying the licensing that's needed to support the functionality, across the different solutions that we're going to have stabilizing Skype. Because we know that in our journey, we're going to need to have some Skype servers, until we fully get to Teams-only mode.
So I'll make sure that the stable environment. We're actually on CU 7 today with Skype, will get the CU 8 to stable around that May-June timeframe we're expecting.
Jason: There's some challenges that we're seeing out there with mobility and the API. So until that stable, we don't want to make that jump. But also to help us with enabling direct routing and configuring that, we need to do some testing on that media bypass and see if that's going to be the best course of action for us or not.
We know that with direct routing data, we can avoid that Cloud Connector. So we don't need those meals, which is helpful, save some costs there some on-prem complexity.
We'll need to review and tune our DOD plans, and then eventually decommission our on-prem Skype environment in components as we make that transition will still leverage on from SBC. But as we go through the phase of this project, we'll decommission the servers that are no longer needed.
Dave: Before I go on to the last question on this slide, we do have a question from the audience: how did you select your collaboration champions?
Jason: It was just kind of sitting down with each of the global leaders, having some conversations about our collaboration strategy. Naturally through those discussions, the champions stood out. These were the folks who had the most questions and were willing to be early adopters; test the environment while having some ideas on how to implement it, and also wanted to engage and interact.
So, I just went to each different region and met with the leaders, and through that process was able to identify about a dozen folks globally who were going to be champions.
I also do probably need to maybe just carry on that previous question just to talk about some of the delays that we're we're seeing and why we couldn't just flip the switch and go to Teams-only right away.
Jason: Aside from user adoption, we had some of those technical challenges. Like I said, we don't need any Skype on-prem servers to support direct routing at the end of the day when we're in Teams-only mode. But until we get all of our users in Teams-only for voice, we’ll still need that Skype infrastructure to support the routing of voice traffic from Skype for Business Online to the PSTN network.
Microsoft’s still not at feature parity between Teams voice and Skype for Business. They've got some platform limitations that have issues with the Auto Attendant when attempting to answer call queue from the Microsoft Teams client.
So we know that on the back end, they've got to migrate our tenant from Voice One to Voice Two and that's probably expected around the May-June time frame, I hope. And at the end of the day, we are looking to decommission all the Skype on-prem servers and leverage direct routing. With teams with RS BCS, it's just going to be a matter of timing when the Teams voice readiness is there. When our testing is complete, we make decisions on how we want this configured when that and user readiness training is up to par.
Dave: Okay, and we have, you know, let's take one more question, then we'll round out where we're at today. We have subsequent SWOT slides on all these details and Jason's mentioned quite a few things here that we're going to just drill a little deeper in on.
But Jason: How are you handling presence in the interim from on-premise Skype to Teams? Historically, this has been nonexistent, and I can only answer that from a user perspective. I don't know if we've you've discussed, you know, if there's any option to do any kind of tighter integration between the two platforms.
Jason: That's a problem area. They've solved for some of them. But in our specific scenario, we don't really have a solution for today. So I'd like to say that we've solved for that and that users can easily see whether you're in Teams or in Skype for Business, and islands-mode and you're busy, you're on a call—but it's not resolved for us yet. That's something that we're still working on. I’m hopeful that they come up with a solution here in the coming months, but we cannot fall for that yet.
Dave: So, just at a high level, assessing where we're at today, you know, where are we today? I think you've already given some glimpse of our operating today and at what pace we're going to go. But any final summary statements before we move off this slide here?
Jason: You mean, like some of the challenges that we're having, or things that we need to consider along the way?
Dave: Well, I think I think it's fair to say that we still have Skype for Business Online. We're using Microsoft Teams collaboration internally and with external parties. However, what we haven't done is completed the integration.
In other words, you can't ring desk phone or my DID, and have it routed inbound through Teams to my client. So that will not happen until you know, Jason’s team jumps through all these hoops, and they get me re-homed up in Microsoft Teams.
Dave: So just at a high level, I think that's kind of where we're operating now. Just to reemphasize a few points Jason made: we're getting people in the habit of doing that collaboration in Teams now so when we do add, you know, call control in there, it'll just be an incremental add and they'll already be somewhat familiar with the interface in terms of, how do I call in a peer to peer call? How do I add to an existing conference? Functionality like that.
If I summarize part of our user adoption program, it's getting them to use Microsoft Teams in collaborative mode first. So when we do go and re-home those folks, it'll just be somewhat of an incremental add for the call control. Is that a fair statement from an end-user perspective?
Jason: Yeah. We initially had thought it would be pretty straightforward to take users from Skype on-prem to Teams. And what we found in the end, at least where we're at today, is that on CU 7, it's a two-step process to get to Teams, which you have to kind of make that stop over at Skype for Business Online.
I don't really see that as a drawback, that two-step process. We know that in CU 8, it's a one-step process to go from on-prem to Teams. But there's some advantages to going to that Skype online. So the end-user experience, they don't really see any difference, right? Still the Skype client on their mobile or their tablet or desktop. But once we make that flip to Skype online, then we get some of the functionality that we're looking for in Teams and those are integrated much more tightly.
Dave: Yep, absolutely. Okay. I just have a few slides in here that I pulled up on my on the Part One of the three series. So just to refresh everybody, here is how we're basically architected today: you see the two green sites, that's where Skype infrastructure is.
Dave: In the Far East, there's Sydney and Singapore. They basically drive most of their traffic in that region. And then in the upper left, you'll see Denver where we have our infrastructure, and the folks in Denver and Minneapolis and Reston, Virginia, Oxbridge, outside of London, and Dusseldorf—all those folks are home back in Denver.
One of the things so let's say three people in Dusseldorf are on a conference together, you know, we have to backhaul, all that traffic back to the infrastructure. You'll notice too, that we do have SBCs in Europe, one in North America, and one for Singapore and one for Sydney.
So going forward. These are some of the items I think we've identified as in terms of the coexist/interrupt. And Jason, I don't know if you want to just basically just step through these really quick. I think you've already begun to mention some of the interesting facts about it, right?
Jason: Yeah, so if you look at the network side, we're actually looking to refresh our network globally to try to standardize on one provider, both for wired and wireless. We've got a kind of a mixed bag, over the years, deployed globally, so that'll certainly help us to manage that.
Jason: We also know that we need to take another look at our wired and wireless QS policy to make sure that it's not only ready for Skype and Teams, but that we support a number of other voice, video applications, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc. We want to make sure that that's a good experience, both on wired and wireless as well.
We're also planning to run some site surveys on our wi-fi. We've deployed it, we thought it would meet the needs of the time, but it's been a few years. And we all know that wireless spectrum is going to change as tenants move in and out of these multi-floor buildings. We need to make sure that what we have planned or had planned in the past is still going to serve the needs and optimize that.
From the end-user side, we're looking at standardizing on Skype for Business and Team-certified headsets, which, today we've got those Skype certified headsets. But we're looking at Teams and there are a lot of folks that are kind of saying that they're, they're certified, while in reality, they're not truly certified there.
Jason: In that final certification from Microsoft, they've done all the things that they think they need to do certified, but they haven't received the stamp of approval.
When I was down at Enterprise Connect and talked with all the providers down there, they were kind of that last phase, and I think in the next couple of months, they should sort that out. So we'll take another look at that and see what we want to do for headsets there going forward.
We're also standardizing our desktops and laptops really trying to reduce the number of different models that we have to support globally. But we're also adding a little bit of complexity, we are introducing maps into the environment for the first time. We got to make sure that you know we can manage that and show the experience on those are going to be just as good for the users.
Dave: I was just going to say we have SBC as an area of consideration. So there was a question back on one of the introduction slides. Did you ever evaluate hosted SBC versus on-prem? I don't know if we went through that evaluation.
Jason: We started with having all of our users home, Skype for Business, on-prem, using enterprise voice for PSTN connectivity and moving towards that hybrid, Skype for Business with on-prem PSTN breakout, you know, like I said, we've got the SBC is deployed globally, we know the cost, we know the reliability, we know how to manage those.
We did do a comparison with Microsoft's plans about a year ago. That didn't really make sense, considering that the cost of switch was a bit too expensive at that time, but we expect those prices are going to come down. And that as they as they have more years of experience and operating that, it might make sense for us to explore the Microsoft plans and regions like Europe, for example, where we've got PRI-connectivity for our SBC of that’s SIP everywhere else, but the provider there is pushing us away from PRI and telling us that they won't even renew a single year contract for PRI they want us to move SIP. That's their direction. And I expect that'll be a lot of providers out there looking to do that.
Jason: But specifically to answer that question, you know, looking at, you know, a service provider who can host the SBC, it's certainly an option. If we didn't have SBC already today, we would certainly be exploring that because I think that's a really good solution out there. Leveraging some service provider that has the SBC, manages, and ties it into your Teams.
It's certainly an option and something we can look at for areas where Microsoft plans do not have our locations covered like Singapore, for example. I expect their plan costs would come down or as we look at the service providers, when it becomes cost-attractive for us to do so we'll investigate that and say, it may make sense to reduce and eliminate RSV season from it. It is a high cost of maintenance for those SBC and samplings going to make sense to take a look at that.
Dave: Okay, great. So this might be a refresher, previous presentation last time last month, this is what's again, just a high-level depiction of what the target architecture should end up being. And to Jason's point he just mentioned, we still have the SBC’s playing the role. And that's going to be the Ingress the egress traffic from for external traffic.
Dave: The point Jason was making here was channel because each region that we have across the globe has very unique cost structures—and probably carrier involvement—we're kind of keep in line with what we have today, the only differences really the routing model. Is that pretty much fair to say?
Jason: Yeah, the overload to, to carry on with what we have four plans for doll plans, what we've already negotiated and operate today for a PSTN breakout. But essentially, you know, enable that direct routing up to Teams.
Dave: In the Microsoft methodology, there's a section for technical readiness. Taken in the context of preparing the environment is what we have on the left to the items we're paying attention to.
On the right, here are some of the solutions that we use and we realize we're not the only way to basically basically assess where we're at in these areas and see if we've made some market improvements in a positive fashion. But these are the solutions. At least, to give us insight as to some of the things we're trying to shore up on the left. Jason, I don't know if you've mentioned some of these, but just to kind of make a few comments on focus here under the network category?
Jason: We touched on a few of those. But I think a couple that we missed were reviewing the routing and the VPN, and they'll certainly have an impact.
As we look at the network, we know that there are improvements that we need to make, and it's just a matter of prioritizing that work and scheduling it to make sure that we've got an optimized pass.
From the VPN perspective, when you're remote as well, to make sure that we've also optimized that. So, yes, I think we touched on the other ones, Dave, already for the most part.
Dave: One thing I want to point out here is the single vendor for wired and wireless. I think this is just helping you minimize the number of third parties you have to work with to keep things under control.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we've got a mixed bag, and I think most organizations do over time. It's hard to stay with one provider as things change. But it'll certainly simplify things for us, if we can get to that state. Of course, you've got to work within your budget constraints and whatnot, for the funding and for the project. So it'll certainly help if we can get there.
Dave: There's one thing that's not on there here, but it came to mind as you were talking through this. I have worked with a couple of folks who use our Assessor solution, but one of the surprising things we've revealed there is, when you look at a hop diagram and how someone says, let's say, a tenant in the Denver office would find their way into the Microsoft Cloud. By using Assessor, finding some of these routes are surprising.
That's really going to be either the way that our carrier is moving things between two points, or it's the way that Microsoft's load balancer is working.
What surprised me is that other folks are finding routes to the Ingress point and Microsoft that they were not expecting. So I think that's something I think, Jason, you're trying to shore up by working with the direct routing pieces. Is that fair to say?
Jason: Yeah, you got to keep an eye on it. You can't just trust the cloud that everything's handled. You still have to know what's happening. When there's a poor user experience, you still need to be able to spot that identify it and do something about it to the extent that you're capable.
Dave: So, anybody who listened to my previous webinars to try to break the problem set down a server network and end-user or endpoint. Now that we've basically planned on forklifting the server back end piece up to the cloud, we're still trying to manage the scope of whatever we can for network and also our endpoint. So Jason, just a real quick, a few comments for doing user adoption here again.
Jason: Tied to the global learning program that we rolled out, we also found that spending time with Teams one-on-one and walking through how to really leverage Teams, there's a bit to it, right.
Like I said, I don't think Teams is all that intuitive. We actually went beyond the classroom training that we provided and sat down with folks, especially those champions, to help educate them and simplify things for them around the basics of operating.
So when they're having their money meetings with their teams, they really understand how to best use the solution. So we went well beyond the course and made it specific to what we do here. There's a lot of good functionality that we can tie in to make their lives a little bit easier.
Jason: We talked about the devices, the endpoints. And one of the things that we're looking at from a rooms perspective. We've been having a closer look at what we've done globally for our meeting rooms. And what we found is probably not unique, but we've got a varying degree of equipment out there.
Our meetings are a mixed bag of different solutions for voice, video, audio—and some of it's quite old. It might not be certified for Skype, or certainly not certified for Teams.
But we're also looking at that cost to the business of our meeting setup time. We know that on minimum, we're probably five minutes to get a meeting set up to where the audio is working correctly for the remote folks and videos on and that type of thing. But a lot of the meetings take much longer than that. They can take 10 to 12 minutes to set up.
Jason: I was in a meeting with our CEO and the Head of R&D, and it took us 20 minutes to get that up and we had to have an IT person come in and help do that—which really is distracting to the business.
When you're having those audio troubles for the remote folks, our goal is around the room systems is really to be able to have that meeting setup instantaneous, make sure that the audio is going to work correctly the first time, whether you're using that room system, or a laptop.
Jason: We also know that there's a lot of new technology that's out there. There are some new solutions around digital whiteboard collaboration, for example, where they've taken that old whiteboard and put the content camera app at it to be able to digitize so you can collaborate globally. There are also multi-touch collaboration screens out there and then a myriad of other new technology.
What we're looking to do is address that instant on connection, make sure that the audio is going to work, the video is going to work on the first time—no matter what method of connection at least from the key meeting rooms in this next fiscal year for us.
We'll make other improvements down the road. But we can certainly reuse a lot of what we have and get the life expectancy out of those, but also add in other elements to make this a little bit easier.
Dave: I just want to add a real quick technical point about what a lot of people don't understand about some of these Room Systems. Jason mentioned one-touch operation is that, for instance, we have a room system in Denver that was certified for Lync 2013. But essentially, it's not evolved enough to be represented as an object in Active Directory. This means it doesn't have its own schedule or its own calendar, which means it's firmly not booked and managed as an object. In order to have that functionality, Jason's basically got to find a replacement for it.
Jason: Just a quick comment on that. It's unfortunate, but we've got some good Polycom units out there that from an audio-video perspective work quite well, but aren't that Teams endpoint. Not being able to be a room device does have its drawbacks. It may work in some scenarios, but for our larger meeting rooms, making sure that experience is seamless and instant will end up replacing some of that and technologies moved along the way.
Dave: A lot of you know I'm a big fan of our advanced reporting. What it does is show me folks who are not Microsoft comfortable. They may have come in from organizations who did not use Microsoft technology.
We have a colleague who, anytime we set up calls, he always dials in with his mobile number. This is the kind of person that we want to identify and do a little bit more one-on-one intensive socialization of Teams. And what we found internally, is that when people started using Teams the voice quality is much higher, it's got a lighter codec, and you're going to have a better experience than what we've had at least on Skype for Business on-premise.
Sometimes, the people who were hesitant to even do anything on Microsoft had a poor experience as a Skype user, and Microsoft Teams is giving them an opportunity to kind of change that attitude. So that's why we spend some time at least in advanced reporting to kind of turn that impression around.
Jason: Yeah, certainly. As I said, we started using Teams in island-mode. So we're doing the voice-video collaboration internally, we've been doing that for quite some time over the last year. While the audio is not always perfect and while we do have issues with joining meetings and Teams, I'd say it's relatively good audio quality.
So when you have an important Skype experience based on the technology behind the scenes, where the call has to route through making that switch over to Teams voice using the Microsoft Cloud backhaul. We found that's been a pretty good experience overall.
Dave: Excellent. You mentioned introducing developers to Teams for replacing Slack. Were you successful in your adoption? Did you have any change management/disruption from a move to Teams versus Slack?
Jason: We were successful at the end of the day. We have replaced Slack and are using Teams. I would say that in every organization, you've got the folks that are going to be early adopters, you've got folks that will come along, and folks that are a bit hesitant to change. We're not unique in that.
We have folks that either aren't Microsoft fans and really like Slack and had pushed back and tried to make a case for Slack. But for us internally, what we found is that we could solve for the challenges we had with Teams.
And really, we were able to make that switch in short order. I think it was a couple of months of testing it out and working through feedback. So yeah, we're fully on Teams now with the dev team and have found ways of making it work.
Dave: So have you looked at Polycom’s RealPresence subscription offering to bridge the equipment to Teams? I think this falls into that bucket of where we're still evaluating—aren't we getting some guidance from third party on the shopping list?
Jason: Again, we're a pretty small organization. And within the IT team, we're quite small as well. So what we've done is we've engaged a global partner that really knows this business. And what we're working through them is to look at and evaluate the solutions that are out there.
Specifically to Polycom RealPresence—we've not evaluated that solution, but we have investigated a few others. The technology is certainly out there and it's capable of doing this. It's just a matter of the cost and the operations’ ongoing investment in that solution. So we've not made a decision, we've not pulled the trigger, we're still in that final evaluation stage of what solutions we're looking at and where we'll end up going. But I would say that Polycom RealPresence for us isn't likely to be one of the end solutions.
Dave: Couple other questions here: When you migrated to Exchange Online? Did you have to purchase additional licenses for room resources where an appliance in the room needs to log into the mailbox?
Jason: You know, that's a good question. We have migrated from Exchange on-prem to Exchange online for the most part. And I want to say it does require a license, but we'll have to go back and take a look at that. Like I mentioned, we haven't invested in those devices yet, so we haven't quite crossed that bridge.
Dave: I have a high-level one here: Why did you replace slack with Teams?
Jason: Again, it was going back to our global collaboration strategy and our kind of digital workplace. Slack’s got a great product. But there's also a cost to the business of having so many tools available. It's just one of those decisions that we had to make as a team of where we want to invest those dollars and how many different tools we wanted to support throughout the environment.
We knew we were making this push towards moving off Skype and towards Teams, and we thought that'd be a good use case to test it out and found that it would work for us.
Dave: I think it's fair to say, within our environment, many times we would say: oh, that's documented. And we would say, where? And we could come up with numerous sources.
I think we've got a conscious effort to reduce the different places that we warehouse and can reference things. That's been a constant challenge. It's not so easy to find and we have looked at indexing across and that's quite costly. So I think we need to work towards collapsing the amount of possible places where we manage our data.
Jason: We want to make sure that it's an easy-to-use environment for the dev team, and that they have the tools that they need. But we also need to make sure that the field is able to get the information. Source it, search for it, and locate it. Part of our digital workplace plan is to reduce the number of locations where you can find information so you can go through it and update it because some of it does get stale and in need of a refresh.
Dave: Taking two more questions here. What would you consider to be the significant differences between modern Skype admins and Teams admins?
Jason: For us, we're a pretty small organization, and our folks get to be a bit of jack-of-all-trades. So no, we haven't really defined the difference there. From a Teams admin perspective, we find that it's a bit simpler to manage. With Skype, we had to bring in experts to help us with sorting out some of the issues that we were having. It's a bit of a lighter load on Teams from an admin perspective than trying to manage a Skype on-prem deployment.
Dave: I think at the end of the day, you look back on your staff, and you ask: who's my Skype admin? When they've already got a lot of other jobs. And Teams should help alleviate, or at least take some of that responsibility off the plate for you.
One other question here: Have you had any experience with integration to Cisco VCs?
Jason: Like I mentioned before, we're still evaluating that. So no, I don't really have any experience to comment on there.
Dave: So, this is kind of where I review what it is we have to offer in terms of assessing where folks are at today. And this is why I wanted to mention some of these solutions here progresses for UC. It's really our anchor solution for on-premise type monitoring and troubleshooting.
It integrates with Path Insight in the middle and that's really an inventory of all the network gear that Jason is trying to manage in terms of LAN, WAN, out to the carrier. This gives us visibility into layer two-to-three network types and whether we see congestion on specific interfaces or errors.
Dave: As I mentioned on previous calls, sometimes, historically, we've assessed the health of our network in terms of millisecond response, when in actuality, there's more to the story in terms of some of the errors that might be flagging.
Then on the far right, there's the advanced reporting, and that's what's giving me a glimmer of who my bad actors are out in user land. What I'm looking for there is, who's using what endpoints or what devices are they using, and what kind of experience they’re having.
Dave: What I'm on the lookout for are people who are habitually having at least numerically poor experiences and I have a lot of discussions with these people.
Using advanced reporting helps us in that network context; in terms of a scorecard saying, for calls between Sydney and Denver, here's how it's trending. Here's how it's behaving.
Within Sydney, this is what external calls appear to be performing versus internal calls peer-to-peer. This gives us some understanding of how things are working from a LAN-WAN and carrier perspective.
And as I mentioned before, the Assessor is really using void simulation to get an understanding of what voice traffic is going to look like between two points. Whether it be site-to-site or site-to-cloud. In this case, ultimately, Teams, as we also do Skype for Business Online or other third-party clouds.
Dave: But what's important to know is that sometimes, if configured a certain way, peer-to-peer traffic will find the shortest routes between two folks. It's not uncommon. That involves two LAN segments that your organization may be responsible for, and the negotiation with the carrier to get between those two points. That's something you want to keep your eyes on.
I wanted to mention the testing options—that's our ability to generate load. This is not a simulated VoIP, it’s actual calls. We do this in terms of checking availability. But periodically running these real calls to a target number, or maybe driving through an IVF tree making selections, and engaging when we have anomalies along that call path.
Dave: Then also, you know, we can do a stress test. We can generate up to 50,000 simultaneous calls thrown at a specific number. So if we have a big event, and we expect maybe a launch of a new service or Super Bowl Sunday, with the ability to preview how the infrastructure is going to hold up under that kind of stress.
And on the far right, this is our ability to get some of those endpoint details as we would on-premise through Skype for Business Online.
Dave: As soon as Microsoft completes the deployment under the development of the Teams API, that we’ll be able to acquire the same type of elements to have the same visibility into the end point in their experience. The reason I wanted to for one of these questions here is what about compliant voice in-chat recording?
What we do have is something called CRA and it works in conjunction with Verint. We have three levels of compliance: checking one level is making sure all everything that is intended to be recorded is being recorded. And second, if it's meant to be committed to storage. Third, we have another level that says: is it defensible? If we retrieve it, can it be readily used.
Dave: We’ve all probably been in the industry long enough to hear someone say: I'm taking weekly backups. But the moment someone tries to get that back up and do a restore, we find out the backup is bad.
That's the same kind of mitigation we're trying to run with CRA and make sure that if there is any reason to go get a recording, that it is useful and not just blank space.
So we do have something for that. But in terms of integration with Teams at this moment, I don't believe we have anything there. Then there's one other comment to share the link to the videos that we would use on our end user training.
Jason: Yeah, so the training we're talking about here is related to kind of end user education on Teams? We ended up going with LinkedIn learning for our platform and there's a couple of videos in there that has Teams tips and tricks for one hour. And then there's a Microsoft essentials training for Teams—that's a two hour course, roughly.
So those two courses were relatively short in duration, but practice some good information. We just kind of couple that, like I said, with some internal training and that seemed to work quite well.
Dave: I'm trying to round out the presentation here, we're getting to the top of the hour. When we are targeted in Teams we're still going to be interested in the site-to-site traffic. That's where assessor is going to help us.
Dave: Thanks to Jason and we've got a renewed interest in monitoring our environment—specifically the network. And he's got his team really taking much closer look at what's going on network. Of course, once we have the ability to better job of digesting what Teams is telling us about our end users and their behavior, I'll still be on the hunt; trying to win some specific users or groups of users to potentially change their behavior and change their habits. So that's really what I'm looking for.
So Jason's team is going to help us with the network, and we'll have some other folks working to onboard people who don't have experience with Teams, and also will be looking for folks who have some bad habits.
Dave: Just as a recap, this is a build slide as well. The time we built this, we're still under the assumption, as Jason mentioned, that we haven't moved beyond CU 7. For the folks that we retarget from on-premise to Teams, we’ll have to take that stop and Skype for Business Online.
Once again, this is something tended to be a little bit of a takeaway. These are the things that I would encourage everyone to be looking at now. Hopefully, you've gotten the message across this presentation, that even for a small organization, it is taking us much longer than we initially thought—there's a lot to go through and a lot of people to orchestrate.
If you're in an organization any larger than us, I would assume that it may take even more time. So when we do get some of the folks cut over to Skype for Business, Jason's team still has to make good on performance of the LAN and the WAN.
Dave: Then of course, we want to make sure we have good user adoption. Once we're in Teams, we're going to constantly under the operating model, keep our eyes on user behavior and ask ourselves: are we getting the adoption? Or are we still getting people dialing in just because they're uncomfortable or uneducated or not well-armed with devices.
The other thing you probably heard along the way is how the network is not a static thing and it appears to always be evolving. You will need to keep your eyes on on how it's turning out.
Dave: So, one more question here: What do you believe will be the greatest challenge managing a Microsoft Teams environment?
What do you think, Jason? Final words?
Jason: I think user adoption is the longer lead issue that we’ll have. In any organization, you'll have a bit of turnover and new folks will come in with their preferences. So it'll be a continual effort. Technology-wise things will sort themselves out over time, but, you know, we'll have to stay on top of where the users are and make sure that we've got a solution that meets the needs of the business.
Dave: Alright, so much for joining us today.
Richard: Yes, indeed. Thank you both. In the last few seconds, I just wanted to remind the audience that we've got the third of this three-part series coming up on the 30th of May. Feel free to register, we would love to welcome you back to round out this journey.
Feel free to check us out on the IR blog. Again, thanks very much all and we look forward to seeing you on the next go round.