Skype for Business Online will be inaccessible from July 31, 2021. If your organisation is using Office 365 and needs Skype for video, voice and instant messaging then it’s time to understand the implications and take action.
Microsoft will continue to update Skype with security patches and customers will be able to add new users to the platform until the retirement date, but the time to act is now.
This isn’t like similar end-of-life situations seen with Windows 7. There is no option to continue using Skype for Business Online - without security patches and updates, the service will just disappear overnight.
What is Microsoft Teams?
The good news is that Office 365 subscribers will have access to a replacement service that is actually an upgrade.
Microsoft Teams launched in 2017 with the intention of marrying the same rich communications capabilities included in Skype with a host of new collaboration experiences that enable entirely new and improved ways of working.
Employees working on a particular project or even entire departments can be divided into ‘teams’ so they can easily gain access to the people, conversations and content they need to work together.
Groups within Microsoft Teams have access to channels of conversation, real-time document collaboration, and third-party application integration. Organisations that have adopted Microsoft Teams are more agile, more collaborative and more efficient.
Over the past two years, Microsoft has worked closely with customers to ensure the platform has feature parity with Skype for Business, and believes the elevation of Microsoft Teams to the default communication experience within Office 365 is evidence of maturity. More than 500,000 organisations worldwide and 13 million users now rely on Microsoft Teams to communicate every single day.
Prepare to Migrate
New Office 365 customers will have access to and may well be using Teams as their central communication platform, however, existing users will have to consider how and when they move to the new service. July 2021 might seem like a long time away, but it could take months to migrate depending on your organisations’ requirements.
There is no typical migration. A company with fewer than 500 staff who only need Skype for VoIP calls and instant messaging might be able to make the transition within a week. However, larger enterprises with a complex IT environment will need longer to provide staff training, identify use cases, and ensure third party integrations and workflows are compatible with Microsoft Teams.
Communication and collaboration are two of the most integral elements to the connected workforce, itself a key pillar of digital transformation. Anything that disrupts the interaction between people and ideas will only stifle the business and undermine any digitisation initiative.
To not plan for the end of Skype of Business Online would be negligent, and failing to harness the opportunities afforded by Microsoft Teams would be an oversight.
What to do now?
Microsoft itself has identified several migration paths, but identifying the correct one for your organisation will take time.
It’s possible to use Teams for certain functions, such as collaboration and meetings, and continue to use Skype for voice and video simultaneously for a period. It’s also possible to restrict the use of the new platform to particular groups of people and manage a phased deployment.
Any migration will require planning. Microsoft Teams isn’t just a significant technological change, but also a cultural one that will necessitate the involvement of numerous stakeholders in order to gain the maximum benefit. Taking the time to understand the various needs of every part of the business will be valuable in the long run.
Delaying the inevitable will not only make the transition more difficult when it is eventually forced upon your organisation, but it also risks forfeiting the advantages of Microsoft Teams by embarking on a rushed, inappropriate migration.
Fortunately, time is still on your side to facilitate an orderly, effective migration. By understanding the impact of the change on your business, your organisation’s needs and the technical and cultural impacts of Microsoft Teams, you can embrace a new way of working with no impact on operations.
To start your migration journey, read our guide on ‘How to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams’