April 13, 2021
Over the last couple of years, and particularly since COVID-19 transformed how business is conducted, the number of users on Microsoft’s cloud-based Teams platform has skyrocketed. Introduced in 2017, it quickly became “the company’s fastest-growing business app ever,” VentureBeat reported. One Microsoft exec predicted that it will soon outpace Windows.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Teams soft-phone tool Microsoft Calling has been so widely adopted by organizations of all sizes. Besides letting Team users securely communicate with each other on their PCs and smartphones, add-ons like Microsoft 365 Business Voice and Microsoft 365 E5 expand on that basic capability with a public switch telephone network (PSTN) that routes incoming and outgoing calls to and from external landlines and mobile devices. As with cloud-based software and data storage, the decentralized off-prem option is becoming increasingly popular.
“You’re not tied to upgrade cycles, and you’re able to add features and install patches much more rapidly than with on-prem phone systems that require an outside specialist to perform the upgrade for you,” says John Irey, Principal Consultant for Mindsight.
Setting it up (getting licenses, assigning user numbers) can be done internally if organizations have a dedicated Teams administrator, Irey explains, or by a knowledgeable vendor like Mindsight. Then you’re good to go — no special hardware needed — with a bucket of pre-paid minutes for external calls and features that include hold, blind and safe transfers and reporting.
“It’s a way of simplifying things,” Irey says. “Now you have one interface, whether it’s your computer or your smartphone, instead of loading a lot of different programs. And you can also do everything else Teams does.”
According to Microsoft, Teams Calling customers can even retain their own calling plans and phone numbers by using a configuration called Direct Routing “to connect voice trunks directly from their network to Microsoft Teams or interconnect other telephony entities such as call centers or analog devices.”
And the cost benefits are significant. A Microsoft-commissioned study published early this year by Forrester Consulting found that Teams Calling users among SMB organizations enjoyed an average ROI of 185 percent, with a net present value of $197,000. There were a number of contributing factors, including: weekly time savings for mobile workers; less time spent managing voice infrastructure and users; improved security and business continuity; increased worker and customer satisfaction; lower internal set-up costs; licensing flexibility; the elimination of ongoing management and user training; and the ability to use existing devices instead of purchasing new hardware. Average total cost benefits (risk-adjusted) after three years for SMB orgs, Forrester determined, came to $367,000.
Forrester collected testimonials as well:
- “The old phone system was costing us too much. For example, we had to pay our supplier $50 just to change a display name.”
- “Had we not moved to Microsoft [Teams Calling], we would have had to get cell phones for 17 more people. That saves us $10,000 per year.”
- “We used to pay $200 to our vendor to move a phone, and we did this 10 to 15 times per year. Now we do it all ourselves.”
While the COVID pandemic is ongoing, there’s an end in sight. And with so many people still working remotely (a model that many companies have adopted permanently), Irey says it’s important to start gathering up loose threads by channeling business calls through a single communication system rather than relying on employees’ cell phones if they’re using those from home. “You want those phone calls coming in to your main lines so you have control over where they’re going and you aren’t dependent on people answering business calls on their personal lines.”
Just remember this: An internet-based PTSN calling system that hosts scores, hundreds or even thousands of users requires robust connectivity in order to avoid traffic jams and service disruptions. Irey says you might even want to consider investing in redundant internet circuits with another carrier that can take over if your primary system goes haywire, potentially rendering everything on it useless for however long it’s down.
With all of that in mind, and especially if you’re already using Teams, the easy-to-add and price-competitive Calling option makes a lot of sense logistically as well as financially.
“That way,” Irey says, “one platform can do everything you need.”
Mindsight is industry recognized for delivering secure IT solutions and thought leadership that address your infrastructure and communications needs. Our engineers are expert level only – and they’re known as the most respected and valued engineering team based in Chicago, serving emerging to enterprise organizations around the globe. That’s why clients trust Mindsight as an extension of their IT team.
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About The Expert
John Irey is a Principal Consultant at Mindsight focused on call center and collaboration solutions. With nearly 20 years of experience in information technology, John has helped businesses of every size optimize the technology powering the contact center. He seeks to provide a consultative voice to contact center leaders and continues to focus on emerging technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.