Using Microsoft Teams as Your PBX

Microsoft Teams was a semi-regular topic prior to the start of the pandemic, but it’s now the 800-pound-gorilla in the unified communications space. It’s pretty simple to understand why: the ubiquity of Office 365, colliding with the pandemic-induced growth of work from home employees’ greater dependence on messaging, meetings, and collaboration technology.

So we’ll share with you today the options for incorporating Teams into the PBX portion of your Unified Communications strategy. In absence of reliable information on how to migrate towards Microsoft Teams as your solution for all things communications, we will break it down so you can be well informed.

Microsoft Teams For Everything Except Traditional Calling

It doesn’t make sense to have a communications platform without being able to make phone calls. However, most organizations are using Teams without the “phone system” licensing for Teams. Meaning it can be used for meetings, messaging, presence, video conferencing, and voice dialing only to other Teams users. (Note: the phone system license comes with E5 or can be added a la carte to E3, etc).

Without the phone system license, Microsoft Teams doesn’t give access to where an end-user can make or receive a call with a standard 10-digit number. This means most customers are using Teams and a separate phone system for external calls and for PBX-type functionality (call flows, schedules, hunt groups, etc.). Which can cause frustration, and questions like “how many systems do I need to make a phone call?”

So How Do We Use Microsoft Teams To Have A Completely Unified Communication Toolset?

Remember the choose your own adventure books as a child? Instead of dragons or wizards, we present grown-up versions such as reporting and integrations for your consideration!

Path Number One: Will Microsoft Teams Provide Functionality To Perform As Our PBX?

This stumps a lot of people. Microsoft has come a long way with Teams, but it still isn’t as mature as a lot of on-premise and cloud unified communication solutions out there. Some specific areas that we help customers consider:

  • How important is reporting?
    • Teams only added Auto Attendant and Call Queue reporting last year and reporting templates are only available via the PowerBI app so it will be more work for the average user to set up or run reports than most phone systems.
  • How important are Integrations to 3rd party systems?
    • Because Microsoft hosts Teams in their own Azure data centers they limit what APIs and Integration options are available to 3rd party developers and companies which limits the number of certified integrations.
  • How important is an Operator Console, SMS, and Desktop Faxing for your company?
    • Since Microsoft is newer to the PBX and Carrier space they are still lagging behind on some of the core additional features competitors offer. There isn’t a native operator console so you have to use a 3rd party add-on. They also currently don’t offer SMS or Desktop faxing so you’ll need to look elsewhere for those capabilities.
  • Not necessarily a feature, but will Microsoft’s support meet your requirements? Yes, SLAs, but accessibility, speed of response, guidance, etc?

To License With Microsoft Teams Or Not To License

So you are good with all of those considerations, and you are ready to hear that dial tone light up in your company’s headsets. A couple of things need to be done:

  • Budget to add the phone license
  • Ask how I should look at adding dial tone?
  • Option 1: Using Microsoft’s dial plan.
    • Advantage: none costly, restrictive
  • Option 2: Using a Microsoft Direct Routing SIP provider
    • Advantage: cost savings, control, architecture

If Microsoft Teams Won’t Work What Should You Do Now?

Answer: Use a UCaaS solution integrated with Teams.

  • Integration is always a loaded word. There are generally two types of Teams integrations:
    • Your end-users will operate exclusively in Teams as their voice endpoint…Using a SIP integration UCaaS providers have created a way for end-users to live within Teams 100% of the time while Teams sends and receives calls via a UCaaS provider to enhance features and capabilities that the company needs. This does require E5 or PBX licenses from Microsoft.
    • Your end-users are using Teams while using a UCaaS integration…UCaaS providers have created plug-ins that you can add into Teams to replace the native dialing and conferencing capabilities with ones provided by a UCaaS provider. This still allows your users to live within Teams but they can take advantage of the capabilities of another UCaaS solution all without any additional Microsoft licensing addons.

In both scenarios, the benefit of this is you’ll be able to use the features, functionality, architecture, telephony, and administration of a leading UCaaS solution. The main differences are going to be:

  • Cost: you need the MS licensing for integration option 1; you don’t for option 2
  • User Experience – using Microsoft Teams exclusively with option 1
  • Using Teams + a UCaaS UI for option 2

What About Microsoft Teams In The Contact Center?

Something we are hearing so much about is what about Teams and my Contact Center? Don’t worry, we have you covered for that too. Stay tuned for our post about where Microsoft Teams & Contact Center technologies can and should intersect.

If you are wondering how to transform these options into action, that is where we have you covered. Contact us today to walk through these options with a team of experts in Microsoft Teams!