Getting the most out of Microsoft Teams as your Phone System with Exactive

By Josh Relf, Exactive

Microsoft Teams can be easy to deploy in a company – but it’s not easy to deploy well. It takes planning, strategy, good project management, network assessments and a clear vision. For businesses in the current age of the remote worker, it’s common to want to enable Teams to act as a phone system, but enabling this without proper planning often leads to significant challenges, from poor technology uptake to an outright digital transformation failure.

The world of technology can be incredibly complex and getting a helping hand in using Teams to its full potential isn’t a waste of money or a failure of the IT department. Quite the contrary – it just makes sense.

It can be hard to grasp your options when it comes to using Teams as a phone system and sometimes you need expert help. Exactive have years of experience in this field, and we can provide you with an overview of what your options are, why you should consider talking to professionals, and what areas are most important for professionals to help you with. Finally, we tell you why we think Exactive could be the right choice for you.

What are my options? Teams acting as a phone system is highly desirable for businesses. It can be highly flexible, cost effective and it enable Teams to be more integrated as a true unified communications solution. There are multiple ways a business can enable Teams to be their phone system though, and knowing what is right for your business can be hard.

Microsoft offers a way to allow Teams to act as a phone system, a Microsoft Calling Plan. It works by using Microsoft’s own infrastructure to place calls and enable telephony with a fixed number of minutes and call enablement. However, this method has its flaws. Calling plans are relatively expensive and provide low numbers of minutes, making them largely cost prohibitive and too inflexible for any business more than a hundred people strong. They are only available in a few countries worldwide and are not the most resilient option, as all services are with a single company, Microsoft.

The other option is Direct Routing (DR). In basic terms, DR is linking Microsoft Teams to the telephony system, the Public Switch Telephony Network (PSTN). Calling Plans from Microsoft do this too, but the difference is that DR uses other provider’s infrastructure, not just Microsoft’s.

Implementing DR does not have to mean starting your communications system from scratch. Some businesses want to retain their legacy phone (PBX) system and integrate it into the new DR solution. Some businesses want to keep their telephony contract running, thus keeping their current numbers. Some businesses have a cloud first strategy and others would prefer everything to stay on site. Direct Routing offers flexibility to integrate with PBX or keep your telecoms provider.

Why should I consult experts and how do I choose? Without expert help, the myriad of Teams telephony enablement options can easily overwhelm even the most seasoned IT professional.

Enabling Teams telephony is not as simple as flipping a switch – doing it wrong can undo the positives it can bring.

When looking for a solution for your business, Exactive recommend considering every aspect of your solution in detail. Company support, planning and cultural change are the three most common sticking points we see that can lead to an unsuccessful transformation. We recommend asking questions of Teams Partners to know what they can provide in these areas, and how they can help you.

Regarding support, you should closely examine the areas that a potential provider can support you with. Some only deal with issues with the telephony system, some don’t deal with Teams problems, and some don’t give much flexibility in their offering of DR. You won’t want to be wondering which company to call if there are issues with call quality later down the line.

When it comes to planning, take the time to find the solution that is right for your business, instead of making your business fit to a solution that isn’t right for you. Ask about project management, e.g. how long does a typical deployment take? Pay attention to statistics like their Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction.  You’ll be working with this company for a long time and you should feel comfortable to ask any question at almost any time. Will there be a dedicated account manager on your account? How much experience does the company have?

Last but not least, cultural change. A Teams Partner worth its salt will know that end to end management of your solution includes assessing your company's readiness for the transformation you’re considering. Do they provide training and cultural assessment? If not, where will you get that from? End to end support from a single provider is highly desirable, saving your time and money and really will make the world of difference when it comes to success of your solution.

Why Exactive? At Exactive, we use our bespoke UC Success Wheel, to plan your deployment in a repeatable systematic fashion to ensure every I is dotted and every T is crossed, and that your staff understand and engage with the change.

We have a deep vertical specialism and have sat in the converging IT and Telecoms markets for 15 years. We possess support specialists in all spheres from the PSTN, to Teams, to SIP Trunks. With our combined expertise we routinely complete incredibly complex builds and solve challenging tickets, a feat many companies can’t achieve. Believe us, we have probably seen your situation before.

Get in touch if you need any advice, the door is always open. Or come find us at Commsverse.

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