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TeamMate: Making the Right Call on Microsoft Teams

TeamMate: Making the Right Call on Microsoft Teams

This article by Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne was originally published here on UC Today

After all the headlines and triple-figure growth in 2020, Microsoft is kicking off the new year by accelerating its disruption of business calling, UC, PBX and SIP Trunking; in total, a market set to be worth over $198.6 billion.

To the average person it may be confusing to consider Teams as a platform to make and receive calls, after all, it is first and foremost a collaboration tool. However, it’s a different story for the solution providers, with vendors finding their products fitting into two categories. The business-centric features that work nicely within Teams, such as group chats and file sharing, or those that compete directly in conferencing and PBX functions. But one thing is for sure, every Service Provider, MSP, Reseller and Distributor is now formulating their Microsoft Teams Strategy.

Microsoft themselves have been rapidly advancing and improving what users see and what the APIs allow in Teams and, to this point, there are essentially two methods of giving a Teams user access to PSTN calling: Native or Cross Launch. But even within these methods, there are a few choices that have implications.

Go Native

Over 115 million employees around the world have discovered the native ability to call their colleagues, either with audio or video, but businesses can also purchase phone system licenses to add a dialpad for PSTN calling. If you use Teams a lot this Calls application is useful because it works wherever you are – mobile, laptop, browser, or tablet and there is also a growing line of Teams-compliant phones from which to choose. If you do choose to add the dial-pad to Teams, you will have a built-in Microsoft Teams softphone. Here are your choices from there:

  • Use Microsoft Teams for Calls application, PBX features, calling, and phone numbers: This is the nuclear option – move everything to Microsoft so you get one bill from one provider.  This is the option everyone reading this article fears (except Microsoft employees) and it shows. So far, uptake has been slow, features are not mature, support is difficult, and customisation is almost impossible
  • Use Microsoft Teams for Calls application and PBX features only: This is when you create a Direct Route connection from Microsoft Teams to any SIP Trunk service provider. You pay Microsoft for PBX features and a Service Provider for calling and phone numbers. Many providers sell SIP Trunk to businesses on Microsoft Teams and it is recommended to have this in your Microsoft Teams Strategy
  • Use Microsoft Teams for the Calls application only: This is where you create a Direct Route connection and register the Microsoft Teams user on the existing PBX that the business is already using. In turn, Microsoft Teams Calls becomes another very useful way to place and receive business phone calls. Combining Microsoft Teams and the existing PBX is particularly relevant to companies who rely on their current phone system and are not ready to deal with the challenges of moving to Microsoft

Cross Launch

A ‘Cross Launch’ starts in Teams but ends up opening a 3rd party client or application to make the call or take advantage of the functionality. Cross launches are inherently clunky and often lead to user error or problems navigating mobile phones and desktop environments for the user. The two benefits of cross launch, in this case, are that you can avoid the license costs to Microsoft, and you can keep users in your preferred clients or applications which gives you more of a chance to sell them complimentary services like conferencing and chat.

  • Teams Application with embedded 3rd party portal: Many of the largest competitors to Microsoft have taken this approach. It centres on building a Teams Application where you can serve up chatbots, web portals and connectors. When the user wants to make a call, another client or app outside of Teams running on the same device takes over
  • Teams Application with embedded 3rd party portal and WebRTC: This approach is like the option above, with the addition of WebRTC to allow call setup from the embedded web pages in Teams. WebRTC is unreliable in many ways as a front-end call control and does not currently work on most mobile phones, although it is powerful as it can bridge the web browser to SIP
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