A New Microsoft… and Teams (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back, in the last article I talked about the ‘old Microsoft’, if you’ve not read that part, please go back and read it now… it won’t take you long, I’ll wait…

All caught up? good…

New Microsoft

Here we have a Microsoft that’s proposing ‘solutions’ to your problems and not just a product that did a thing any more… And for a while, things were good, great in fact, everybody wanted a piece of Microsoft AAS – No, that’s not a typo… AAS (as I’m sure you’re all aware) stands for “As A Service”… Service… I’ll say again in bold… SERVICE, i.e. not a product. Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription service.

There are lots of companies that would rather sign up to a service, instead buying and running a product. Often, the reasons that compel them to entertain such ‘cloud solutions’ are not anything to do with the technical feature-set or a check-list that came with the previous system (are you surprised?). The reasons come from a business perspective, capex vs opex, procurement, hardware depreciation, system management overhead, software maintenance contracts, patching and upgrade activities with downtime and risk, separate support contracts for each part of the system, and all that while being responsible for security and compliance – that’s why you pay for a rubbish (garbage) collection as a service instead of running a mini-operation just for yourself. And the point is that you accept the fact that ‘a service’ is just that, a service, not a bespoke deployment, not a customised installation. You get your rubbish (garbage) collected on a certain day at a certain time, and you’re limited to the number of bins (bags) that’ll be collected. If they happen to miss a collection, or break a bag leaving old torn packets and rotten veg festering on your driveway, if that bothers you – then you were obviously miss-sold and therefore their service isn’t right for you.

Microsoft Teams

So with a skip and a jump, and a blink of an eye, along comes Microsoft Teams. Probably one of the most well-known and recent examples of this ‘new Microsoft’ in action and guess what…

Everybody is still moaning…

Microsoft have too many licensing options, they keep adding new features all the time, when will this product be finished so I can use it?

Raise your hand if you have had somebody say that about Microsoft Teams, that its not ‘finished’. What was your response?… you’re immediately put in a difficult position, having to mumble about ‘aggressive roadmap’ and ‘Microsoft are working on it’ because that’s how we all grew up with IT, we’re used to thinking in release cycles and product versions, as soon as feature X is available that’ll be ‘it’ – that’s where we’ll draw the line… basically you ended up saying “not yet, come back later”.

Well, ask them this… what is a ‘finished product’ in a ‘AAS’ world? That notion just doesn’t exist. It’s just not a concept these days. When was WhatsApp ‘finished’? When was LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube ‘finished’? Ok ok, a tenuous point I’ll give you that, but how long ago did you start using those services, and how many new features have come out since then, that when you look back, you just simply couldn’t do without today? – Did you use WhatsApp before they introduced end-to-end encryption?

So what features do you actually need, that are truly business critical, who was it that decided that the lack of a specific feature is an all-out ‘blocker’ before you’ve even tried Microsoft Teams for any of its collaboration or communications ability. I bet it wasn’t the Finance Director who strongly favours OpEx and increasingly has say in IT project approval, nor was it the IT Director that has diminishing budget for hardware, and even less money for hiring new highly-skilled staff. Perhaps it was the SFB Admin that wants their job to remain the same, just like the PBX guy before them – sorry if that comes across harsh.

Perhaps look at the ways Microsoft Teams differs from what you do now and all the ways it can actually help you work more effectively in a modern workplace.

Who wants to spend money on something new, that lets them do exactly what they are doing already?

The ‘New Microsoft’ and the side-effects.

Ok, that last part was a little fluffy and pretentious, but I often feel I have to take it ‘higher’ like that. Because it’s often not a technical problem, nor a ‘feature parity’ problem. The problem is the way Microsoft have positioned Teams as an ‘upgrade’ from Skype for Business Online (which was announced nearly a year ago at Ignite 2017). They are two totally different things, one was a product that hasn’t significantly changed in many years, hosted in somebody else’s datacentre, and the other is a new cloud-based service.

‘Upgrade’ – yeah sure, only in the same way as upgrading from a private car to public transport is an upgrade – fine, they have very similar features if you put them side by side – a means of travel, a seat to sit on, uses the same roads as everybody else, even protection from the weather, but they are ultimately very different things.

Combine that with the strong ‘just try it’ message and you’re likely to fail as false or incomplete expectations won’t be met, unless you have the time, patience, and impetus to learn about what this new service ‘lets you do’, and also possess the drive to implement the solution correctly within the business, it will likely fail. Teams is no different to any other new technology in that regard.

For example, I’ve heard this conversation more times than I can remember…

“Hello there, let me tell you about Teams”

“Nah, we tried it, didn’t like it, don’t want to hear it”

“Well, what exactly did you try?”

“A pilot in IT, ended up with too many Teams, it got confusing quickly, our users will never handle that, so we turned it off, all we hear from Microsoft is Teams, Teams, Teams…. it’s not for us, stop talking about Teams”.

Wow, ok – sorry I spoke.

Or the one that gets me every time when I hear that a company has said – “Teams doesn’t do what Skype for Business can do, so we’re not going to look at Teams”, and then suddenly that’s the end of the conversation. Come on, this is nothing new, they are different, that exact scenario is just the same as how we’ve always approached ‘legacy PBX’ conversations for a long time. It’s just that our perspective has now shifted, where-as we used to say…

You don’t need Group Pickup, because you can work anywhere, and while you’re working from anywhere you won’t hear your colleague’s phone ring to know to pick it up… there are new ways of working, ways to use this new technology to augment your processes for the better – let me tell you about Team Call and Delegates – these are new features that the user can control without needing to raise a ticket to IT for each change.

… sorry, I got carried away…

Anyway, that conversation suddenly turns into a ‘legacy Skype for Business’ conversation about how…

Instant Messaging is an outdated concept, you don’t need to tag your contacts for status updates and wait for them to come online, because Chat is asynchronous, you can work across time-zones now, not just from home or an office. Also think of it this way, why play whack-a-mole with presence, trying to track down somebody that YOU think may know the answer, when you can post the question in a channel in Teams specifically relating to the project you’re working on, where everybody in that Team are invested individuals who may be able to help you quicker and with more accurate information.

Continue reading…

So there we have it, my view on the ‘old Microsoft’ and the ‘new Microsoft’ and how our perception has changed as the industry and people’s mindset moved on with technology. And an example of this new technology (and how it’s developed) that we know as Teams.

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