A tug-of-war is brewing among Microsoft users. (I wouldn’t call it a ‘war’…we’re all reasonable folks, right?)

The question is, which app do we use: Skype for Business, Teams, or both?

Different Apps for Different Communications

Looking at them in terms of approach, Teams and Skype for Business are quite different.

SKYPE FOR BUSINESS: A server-based or cloud-hosted platform meant to replace phones, give the office full Meetings capability, and connect a suite of communications tools to Office apps & email.

TEAMS: A cloud-hosted chat-based communications tool (with extras, like Online Meetings), adding onto the existing toolset. Also connects with Office apps.

Office Chat
The online equivalent of this should be just as easy to arrange. Photo by Chris Hunkeler

Ostensibly, each element in those descriptions would influence a business’ decision to adopt. You might even consider using both, given their respective strengths.

Problem is, there’s also lots of overlap. Too much to make a decision easy.

If you’re looking at Teams and currently use Skype for Business:
You might think, “We already have most of the tools. Why add more?”
Hearing from users who have both, we know that they experience 2 sets of notification alerts. They’re often confused over which tool to use for calls or meetings. They also have 2 sets of conversation history to deal with (1 stored in Outlook, the other in Teams’ channels).

If you’re looking at Teams and don’t use Skype for Business:
You may ask, “Do we want to try out this chat app instead of Slack/Hipchat/Workplace?”
Teams is good to start with, IF you already use Office 365. But even then, you’ll still need a phone for PSTN calls. You can use cellphones of course, but those offices with phones already (either PBX or VoIP) can’t power them with Teams.

This leaves users with a befuddling choice. One we’ll address later in this post. But first, let’s imagine a scenario…what if you combined the two?

Is Integration Possible? Yes…But the Form it Takes Determines Usability

Because Teams and Skype for Business overlap so much—on chat, PC calls, online meetings—the biggest difference between them is the few features the other DOESN’T have.

If you were to enhance one of them, including all of the other’s features? They would look like this.

Teams Enhanced: Calls can go anywhere (including the PSTN). Chats and Meetings with internal & external users, in the same number of steps. Presence status indicates when someone is active on their computer, not just in Teams (Displaying Status in Teams – MS Tech Community).

Skype for Business Enhanced: Persistent Chat acts more like Instant Messaging. Total control of chat within Skype for Business client. Closer/native switching between Persistent Chat & other services (e.g. conferencing).

Could the two integrate? Yes. Would that result in the ‘enhanced’ versions I mentioned? Possibly, depending on the avenue taken.

Right now, I can see two such avenues:

  1. Integrate Teams’ chat space into Skype for Business. Matt Landis has illustrated this wonderfully over at his blog: A Concept for Integrating the Skype for Business & Microsoft Teams User Experience
  2. Build the remaining Skype for Business tools into Teams. Many users are clamoring for this over in the Teams forums: How can we make Teams Better? – Complete Skype for Business Integration into Teams

Neither seems easier than the other, from a development perspective. But both are desired. Users see two types of communications platforms, each missing something the other has, and want those other features.

Teams Could Not Replace Skype for Business (but Skype for Business Could Improve by Integrating Teams)

In terms of integration/replacement between Teams & Skype for Business, I’m going to make another prediction. I predict that SOME form of integration will occur between them within 2 years. Could be as simple as linking Presence; could be as dramatic as merging the two services entirely.

I like Matt’s approach. It patches Teams into Skype4B, acting as a replacement Persistent Chat. As chat is one of my favorite features, this would give Skype for Business a big usability boost.

I looked at the Office 365 Roadmap for any indication of where Microsoft’s going with Teams. Unfortunately, I found nothing specific about Teams feature add-ins or integrations. If anyone from Microsoft wants to weigh in, I’d love to hear it!

So ends my thoughts on integration. But before I finish up, let me address the choice you’re waiting on. When you’re faced with Skype for Business vs. Teams, which is the better choice?

Which Should You Choose, Skype for Business or Teams? Here’s How to Decide

Your existing business communications will contain a number of factors. Weighing these factors will help you decide which platform to use.

These questions should identify those factors. They presume that you are not currently using either Skype for Business or Teams, but want to choose at least one.

Chat Apps

  1. Number of cellphones: What percentage of employees have cellphones now (for business use)?
  2. Are office (desk) phones already in use? Yes/No
  3. If Yes, do they use a PBX or Voice over IP?
  4. Does your business have more than one office, remote workers, or both?
  5. What is your staff’s preferred communications method (besides email)?
  6. Do you use Office 365? Yes/No/Planning To

Use Teams if you gave the following answers:

  1. Percentage is close to 100%
  2. No, or Yes if #3’s answer is Voice over IP
  3. If #2 is Yes, Voice over IP
  4. Remote workers, or both
  5. Instant Messaging, Skype (consumer), texting, or chat (and you don’t already use Slack or Workplace)
  6. Yes, or Planning To

If your answers are different, use Skype for Business. You have communications needs Teams cannot (at this time) fulfill.

Above all, Teams needs the ability to communicate with users outside your organization. Without this, it’s fundamentally hamstrung and unable to mature. It IS coming, but we’ll see how well it works when it arrives.

I hope this is helpful. But always factor in your current IT systems & network capacity when deciding!

What enhancement (if any) would you like to see in Microsoft Teams? Please comment or email your thoughts.

Teams vs. Skype for Business: Which to Choose?
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