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Skype for Business Retirement – 5 Collaboration Experts Tell Us What It Means For YOU

Blog Industry News August 28, 2019
Skype for Business retirement
Dominic Kent

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Skype for Business Retirement – 5 Collaboration Experts Tell Us What It Means For YOU

Skype for Business retirement

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Skype for Business retirement.

But fear not, Skype for Business is not going away immediately, but Skype for Business Online does have an end of life date of 31st July 2021.

Assuming you can’t wait until Microsoft Inspire to find out what this means for your business, read on for insights from industry experts and Microsoft MVPs to see what Skype for Business retirement means to them, and what it should mean to you.

Firstly, should the announcement cause mass panic?

My first port of call was Patrick Watson, Journalist at UC Today. He covered the news and was quick to assemble a podcast with Microsoft MVP, Tom Arbuthnot.

Skype for Business retirement podcast
Listen to Patrick Watson & Tom Arbuthnot discuss Skype for Business Online retirement

I asked Patrick how the Skype for Business retirement announcement would change IT Manager’s day to day lives.

“The Skype for Business retirement date doesn’t change anything at all for Skype for Business Online customers.

Patrick was to the point, rather than fluffy and dancing around Microsoft’s communications.

“Admins should already be working on their migration strategies.”

He also said, “Managers should have known this was coming as Microsoft has been clear about its progression path from Skype for Business to Teams generally.”

What has been the immediate reaction to Skype for Business retirement in the MVP community?

I asked Tom Arbuthnot for his take on the feeling in the Microsoft MVP community. His sentiment echoed Patrick’s.

The MVP community is, by definition, on the pulse of what Microsoft is doing, so the end of life of Skype for Business Online in favour of Microsoft Teams was unsurprising.

Tom went on to suggest that the MVP community is in favor of Microsoft’s decision: “Microsoft Teams use is growing massively and Microsoft is putting all its efforts into their cloud-native UC and Collab proposition, which makes sense.”

Will the Skype for Business retirement announcement cause mass panic?
Will the Skype for Business retirement announcement cause mass panic?

Another Microsoft MVP, Joel Oleson, was keen to point out in his blog that IT Managers need to act sooner rather than later.

“Prepare Now: Don’t Just Mark Your Calendars: July 31, 2021.”

It seems fair to say that the Microsoft community was ready and waiting for the retirement announcement but there is still work to be done in IT.

The timing was just before Gartner named Microsoft leaders in UCaaS, does this change anything?

Each year, Gartner publishes a Magic Quadrant for the UCaaS industry.

This year, Microsoft was named a leader, and appeared in the desirable top right-hand corner.

Microsoft named a leader in UCaaS, but does Skype for Business retirement impact their position?
Microsoft named a leader in UCaaS, but does Skype for Business retirement impact their position?

The timing of the Skype for Business Online retirement announcement was only a week after Gartner named Microsoft as a leader.

One question raised on Twitter was whether the removal of Skype for Business Online removed the UCaaS element to Microsoft’s offering.

I reached out to collaboration expert, Chris Isak, Founder and Journalist at TechAcute to get his thoughts on the matter:

“I don’t think Gartner relied on Skype for Business in Office 365 for their judgement too much.”

Chris added that Microsoft will still deliver Unified Comms as a Service – just not through a Skype body.

He justified his remarks with a counterquestion to me:

What is there that Skype can do that Microsoft Teams cannot do?

My immediate answer was the lack of federation and the guest access alternative. But, overall it’s not lacking much in the way of functionality.

For a breakdown of the differences between the two platforms, this post compares Skype for Business vs Microsoft Teams.

I also reached out to Gartner to see if they had any insider info on the matter before release the 2019 Magic Quadrant but they suggested they do not reveal their research process to the public.

Should end users be going to Microsoft or partners for help with Skype to Teams migrations?

Our recent Unified Comms influencers list didn’t include any direct employees of Microsoft.

It did, however, include many partners, resellers, and managed service providers that are fully qualified Microsoft MVPs.

I asked one influencer, Randy Chapman, Head of Consulting at Meeting Zone, for his take on where IT Managers should start with migrations.

He suggested if a company does want to migrate to Teams, whether from Skype for Business Online or Server, they should engage a partner that can help.

“A partner can help them understand the features and benefits and also the implications of moving to Teams. They can also help with governance, change management and user adoption.”

Sticking with the theme of change management, Kristof Maes at Xylos suggested the main reason for organizations not already adopting Teams is the change & adoption requirements to move to Microsoft Teams as a complete Workstream Collaboration tool.

Skype for Business retirement

Randy also mentioned that there isn’t a certified Teams migration partner directory.

It’s a sought after tool that IT Managers would love to get their hands on.

He said: “Gold level partners and those with a track record with Skype for Business are a great place to start. Although not all will have jumped in with both feet for Teams.”

What are the major differences IT Managers need to be aware of?

While feature parity is the ultimate goal for Microsoft Teams, there are some differences between the platforms.

Microsoft Teams vs Skype for Business
Click for a Microsoft Teams vs Skype for Business comparison

The most requested feature on the Microsoft community forum is guest access.

Users of Skype for Business will be familiar with the external federation access, where users from one company can Skype another company.

This is yet to be made quite as straight forward in Microsoft Teams.

There are some key differences between the two platforms as we move from instant messaging to team collaboration.

We’ve outlined what your users will need to get to grips with here.

Does Skype for Business retirement mean I have to move to Microsoft Teams?

The simple answer here is no.

There are tons of Skype for Business alternatives.

Does Skype for Business Online retirement mean on-premises version will be retired soon too?

Microsoft has committed to supporting Skype for Business Server to at least 2024.

While it’s not clear when the plan to retire Skype for Business in its entirety is, Chris Isak suggested there is nothing to worry about just yet.

“Skype For Business may well run for another decade on-prem.”

There will be some careful decisions that need to be made when assessing whether to stick or twist with Skype for Business.

Skype for Business retirement

Ultimately, only the folks at Microsoft know the answer to this question.

And they may not have decided yet.

I use Skype for Business with other apps, what happens when I move to Microsoft Teams?

Firstly, you are not alone.

In fact, 63% of companies using Microsoft apps are using Slack in parallel.

There are a few ways to remedy this conundrum…

Firstly, the Microsoft app store has a whole host of integrations ready to install out of the box.

So, for apps like Trello and Zoom, your experience will likely become more streamlined.

For other messaging apps, like Slack and Cisco Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams opens the door to complete messaging interoperability.

Check out what is possible in this video…

Microsoft Teams interoperability with Slack

What is Cisco’s take on Skype for Business retirement?

Recognizing the high volume of mixed messaging environments in the workplace, I reached out to Jono Luk, Director of Product Management for Cisco Webex, to see what Skype for Business Online retiring meant to Cisco.

Jono said: “At Cisco Webex, we believe in providing the best possible collaborative experiences for our customers, even when they’re using other platforms too.

The retirement of Skype for Business Online is an opportunity to offer our customers what we believe to be a richer collaboration experience with Webex, but at the same time a call to ensure that whatever they decide.”

“We’ll support their choice and continue to allow their users to work across platforms with the help of partners like Mio.”

Ultimately, Cisco is more than open to interoperability.

Cisco is building bridges to interoperability with Microsoft Teams
Cisco is building bridges to interoperability with Microsoft Teams

Contrary to recent history, collaboration vendors now realize that they must coexist and that one-size-does-not-fit-all.

If you are one of the 91% that use at least 2 messaging apps, and will continue to do so when you move to Teams, schedule your demo of Mio’s interoperability solution here.

Setup a demo of Microsoft Teams interoperability with apps like Slack and Cisco Webex Teams, ready for Skype for Business retirement

Common FAQs

Is Skype for Business being retired?

Microsoft has confirmed that Skype for Business Online is being retired July 31st 2021. There is no formal communication regarding on-premises versions of Skype for Business.

Is Microsoft phasing out Skype for Business?

Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Teams has reached feature parity with Skype for Business. Furthermore, Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31st 2021.

Will Teams replace Skype for Business?

Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Teams has reached feature parity with Skype for Business. Furthermore, Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31st 2021.

Is Skype being discontinued?

Skype is not being discontinued. Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31st 2021. There is a distinction between Skype (consumer) and Skype for Business (business).

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