Early on in the pandemic all we were hearing about in the IT world was about collaboration and distributed workforce tools, i.e. Slack, Teams, Zoom, One Drive and Sharefile to name a few. To keep ourselves busy during that uncertain time(March/April 2020) myself and Josh from CIO Solutions took it upon ourselves to learn the Audio Codes Session Border Controller in an effort to connect our ShoreTel system to our Microsoft Teams environment. I wrote a blog article on it(https://www.ciosolutions.com/shoretel-mitel-connect-integration-to-ms-teams-a-partial-migration-using-audiocodes-sbc/) to enshrine this accomplishment.
With that article we have had numerous phone calls from IT Managers and Directors wanting consultation connecting their ShoreTel system to MS Teams. The stories have all been very similar
- Multiple site with between 50 and 500 employees
- Want a single pane of glass to manage modern communications including phones
- Are not ready to throw out ShoreTel and want to get an architecture that allows them to get some champions on teams first then expand. The land and expand strategy.
- Do not want to invest more in ShoreTel handsets
- Want a partner to be able to help them along the way as they run into issues
- Want someone to tell them it is a good idea or bad idea, i.e. validation.
- Some have had basic call center requirements as well
- Know how to manage ShoreTel(add/remove users) but fuzzy on more advanced architectural elements of the system.
In addition to talking with IT Directors and Managers about these concept, we also had our first implementation with a customer. I wanted to share what we have learned thus far. The customer is about 60 employees with 2 office locations and 10 full time remote workers. Roughly 15 of their most technical employees decided to move to MS Teams phones the rest are staying on ShoreTel. The 15 technical employees were heavy users of MS Teams(not the phone system part) and slowly getting adoption within the rest of the employees. Depending on how the experience with the MS Teams phones is they will then decide upon the adoption strategy for the rest of the company. Below is a list of lessons learned.
- Email should be on office 365 – we don’t recommend migrating to Teams phones if email is still in on premise exchange. It works but not as well.
- Be prepared to update the MS Teams client a lot.
- The customer bought physical phones for a number of employees. They are effectively paper weights. By the customers own admission, if we had told him they didn’t need phones they wouldn’t have done the project but very quickly they realized the phones do not get used. This is due to
- The phones not being as usable as ShoreTel or more intuitive systems. This is because of immature teams client on the phones themselves and smaller touch screens yet full size keyboards(?).
- The teams client simply being so feature rich.
- Troubleshooting real world Teams issues can be painful. Changes take a while to propagate when done in Teams and user experiences on the team client are not always consistent. How the Teams client behaviors for one person will at times be different than how it behaviors for another and it is not obvious why. We have seen this even on the same versions.
- The ability to dial other people in other organizations on teams, either phone or chat or sharing screen is an unmatched productivity enhancement. The telephone effect with other organizations that adopted teams shouldn’t be ignored.
- Having a single interface, i.e. the office 365 teams admin portal, to manage users and the phone system is awesome. Not that ShoreTel WAS brilliantly simple but now having an AD or Azure AD user object that manages email/voice/chat is just that much more simple.
Overall the customer is very happy to have made the move but also had/has some technical hurdles with the first 15 people. In speaking with him a few things to consider
- You need to have a group of champions go on the platform first for a few months before creating your organization wide adoption strategy. This group needs to be committed to learning the ins and outs of using this system.
- You need to have your organization be willing to or already have adopted the MS Teams ecosystem. MS teams phones without Teams client buy in will not work. If the organization isn’t willing to have 90% of people with the teams client running at their desk then MS Teams phone is probably not a good fit…at least not today.
- Headaches and IT problems related to phones don’t go away per say. You are doing this for the productivity enhancement not because it makes phone issues disappear. Your help desk won’t get less tickets nor will you likely save a material amount of money at least not in the short term.
- Minimize how many phones you purchase since they will likely go to waste…yet at the same time recognize that emotionally people may need to know they have that option. This is will be hard for most organizations to balance because it really is like a bait and switch strategy, offering up physical phones knowing that only 1/20 people will want to keep it.
To recap we integrated our first customer to a ShoreTel/Teams environment where users can be on either and dial each other. We have brought other smaller business directly to the Teams platform but we should not assume that success with smaller simpler business means adoption for larger more complex business is just as easy. This customer is in the starting point of their journey to company wide adoption. The technical hurdles and architecture are now behind as we have a bridge between ShoreTel and Teams and now we start working on the organization adoption strategy with less willing participants. More to come!