We’ve been discussing Microsoft Teams integration over the past few weeks, and it’s time to draw some conclusions. In this article I’ll be providing specific advice for how service providers should respond to business customers who are using Teams.
Step 1: Decide how integrated you want to be
Echoing the three tiers I discussed in my previous article, the most important question is how much do you want to invest in this situation.
- If you have the right skills in your team, and you’re ready to offer a high-touch service, then this is a great opportunity to become a managed service provider.
- If you already have a hosted PBX / UCaaS offering, then I believe you should be integrating Microsoft Teams into the Business Group. In this model standard office lines might be replaced by the Teams client, but more advanced features would continue to be provided by your Metaswitch.
- If you don’t offer a hosted PBX today, we recommend that your Microsoft Teams integration strategy consists simply of offering PSTN connectivity over SIP – e.g. a SIP binding to a Teams “PBX”.
Step 2: Implement the Teams integration
Having decided your strategy, you need to figure out how to offer the service.
If you have a Metaswitch deployment, the obvious answer is to configure your CFS and Perimeta to support Teams Direct Routing. At a high level, this involves:
- Purchasing the Microsoft Teams Feature Pack of licenses for Perimeta
- Upgrading to V4.7.30 or above (if you’re not already there)
- Executing the instructions in the Microsoft Teams Integration Guide (a 51 page PDF available on the Communities website), and/or working with Metaswitch professional services to get this done.
However, that’s not your only option. As Teams has grown in popularity, a handful of third-party platforms have launched which act as middleware. They handle the interface with Teams and then they simply register to your SBC — i.e. from your perspective the Teams client just looks like another SIP phone.
There are pros and cons to each approach. Configuring Perimeta for Direct Routing has the full weight of Metaswitch/Microsoft behind it and it’s a one-time license fee – which is great if you’re operating at scale. On the other hand, if you want to test the waters or aren’t sure how much volume you’ll be doing, you could get one of the third-party apps working in a couple of days with no upfront cost.
Step 3: Pitch your product
If a business already has Microsoft licenses and is considering Teams for their voice communications platform, you need to be able to clearly present why they should integrate with your product.
In this situation, I suggest acknowledging that Teams is a perfectly acceptable client for a standard office worker, but it doesn’t support every feature – e.g. hunt groups, paging systems, a physical desk phone, call recording, etc. So the best way to provide these more advanced features is to integrate the Teams users into a regular hosted PBX business group.
So your pitch is that a business group may include Teams users, but it can also have additional features that Teams alone doesn’t offer. Not to mention the personal, local customer service that they get from their friendly communications provider.
We know of a handful of service providers who have successfully launched Teams integrations with Direct Routing in recent months. We’ve also heard good reports about TeamMate – one of these middleware platforms – and have been testing it out ourselves, with promising results so far. We also know folks who are doing both!
If you’re considering launching some kind of Teams integration product drop me a line and we can stay in touch.