We use Slack. And GoToMeeting. And Boardview (now Windstream) soft phones. And shared calendars. I’m a fan of best-of-bread products in favor of a single vendor that tries to do it all. We tried using Teams about a year ago but the experience wasn’t quite there. To be honest, we were turned off by the interface. Slack was much cleaner and easier to read.
About 3 months ago as of this writing, I asked the Tech team to give Teams another try. I was fresh off a Microsoft conference and I was drinking the cool-aid. After all, we were paying for Slack and Office 365 (which includes Teams). After a week or so of cutting off Slack, the team was sold. They still preferred the clean interface of Slack, but Teams had some killer features. Conversation chains were easier and more intuitive. The idea of organizing “teams” in different groupings came naturally to our workflow. Third-party plug-ins had vastly improved. Lastly, it was free.
Then we looked at our phones. Still on my conference high, I purchased some “Phone System” and “Domestic Calling Plan” licenses for myself and tech team. There was no commitment. If testing went poorly, it wouldn’t be a detriment to our budget – we could cancel anytime. I forwarded the tech team’s direct numbers to new Teams numbers and had them answering and returning calls with Teams. I also purchased a $250 physical phone for myself. This worked extremely well. We had no complaints from customers or techs. We eliminated the clunky (and often broken) Windstream soft phone software. It worked so well I began to seriously think about moving to Teams for phones full-time.
After watching some free, online training, I added a “Conferencing” license to everyone in the company and removed GoToMeeting. The total licensing cost was less than GoTo for us and, because it was built-in to a tool we’ve already been using daily, it was easier for everyone. I also splurged on some conference room equipment. We have at least 1-2 techs working remotely during weekly meetings and we’d always spend the first 10 minutes of every meeting figuring out how to share screens and see each other. The Teams conferencing solution works extremely well, though more difficult than it should be to setup. And adds a $15/mo license.
Lastly we needed to jump off Windstream, and luckily our 5 year contract with them was almost up. Without getting too negative, our experience with Windstream was less than ideal. Uptime was great, only 1 outage in 5 years. But the soft phones were always broken and support is almost non-existent. So we started the process of porting numbers.
I could write a whole separate post on our experience porting numbers. And from what I gather from other vendors, technology partners and peers, this excruciating process isn’t unique to Windstream. After a month’s worth of delays trying to schedule cut-over dates, we were finally given a Monday morning. Pretty terrible timing, obviously we’d prefer a Friday afternoon. But after all the back and forth I didn’t want to make any changes – we were desperate to move forward.
We expected this to be a rough transition. We’re not a phone system company and we’re moving to a hosted system we were unfamiliar with. I set internal expectations accordingly. Monday was mostly an outage for us. We were dealing with Windstream on one side and Microsoft on the other. Both companies outsource help desk outside the US. Both are slower than you’d prefer when you’re down. We couldn’t get our main number assigned to the Teams system. It just wouldn’t take. After most of the day, the issue was adding a prefix “+1” to the text impute on the Teams portal. Not indicated anywhere, even Microsoft Tech Support didn’t know. Brutal.
After a rough Monday we’re running on Teams. We had to purchase two additional licenses than expected so we could forward to an after-hours service, and another for the auto-attendant. These are both “issues” Microsoft is aware of and is working to eliminate the need for licenses for non-users. Microsoft blogs, partner messaging, and conferences all stress that Teams is where Microsoft is putting all it’s resources. It’s considered THE app for all things 365. You can access calendars, files, meetings, and a ton of third party plug-ins are now available. It’s clear they want you living in Teams. And we’ve already seen a good deal of positive work done with the app since we jumped on.
I can’t stress one feature enough – internal video calling. Each time our techs are collaborating in texts back and forth in Teams, at the click of a button they can video call each other. It works fast and reliability, even if one person is on their cell. Communicating is vastly improved because of this. Slack has video calling but it’s not nearly as robust as Teams, which is build on the Skype backbone. It’s incredibly convenient to be chatting with someone and call them up quickly. Even more-so to add another person to the call at the push of a button.
We eliminated Slack, GoToMeeting, Windstream (and it’s bad soft phone app), and migrated our on-call calendar to “Shifts”. We’ve moved our monitoring notifications to Teams as well, cleaning out a ton of email we used to receive. Overall we’re paying less than we were before and we consolidated vendors. We just finished moving from Citrix ShareFile to Microsoft OneDrive as well, making file access inside Teams even easier. With a few bumps in the road, mostly consolidated to a single day, everyone is happy with the switch. Including Accounts Payable.
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