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3 steps to Microsoft Teams Calling

Adopting Microsoft (MS) Teams Calling may appear to be as easy as flicking a switch to turn it on, but there are some considerations that if ignored can become major issues, even for organisations who have already adopted MS Teams for chat, meetings, and collaboration. Using a direct but structured process can assist in managing these considerations, identifying risk early, and planning for a successful transition to MS Teams calling.

To quickly recap for clarity, MS Teams calling is the feature within Microsoft 365 that enables a Teams user within your organisation to make and receive phone calls to and from any phone number in addition to the all the other Teams features. Why focus on MS Teams

The focus on MS Teams is driven by the extensive use of Microsoft 365 and Teams across many organisations for chat, meetings, and collaboration, and where there is already a heavy investment in the Microsoft 365 suite of applications. Most not-for-profit (NFP) organisations are using Microsoft 365 for emails, documents, video calls and chat, especially due to the favourable charity pricing and trusted brand of Microsoft; although the approach outlined below can be equally applied to any cloud first telephony system.

Overview Many organisations have already adopted MS Teams to some extent for either chat, meetings, file storage, or other capabilities within the Teams application. But expanding on the existing usage to add calling is best facilitated by a structured method such as the three steps below:

Following the steps above provides the best opportunity for a successful adoption of MS Teams calling (or any other cloud telephony platform) to enhance your organisations capabilities.

Key insight: Rushing into what may appear to be a simple technology change can ultimately take longer and cost more than taking a structured approach

Strategy & approach

The first step, which sets the foundation, is to form and agree on the strategy and approach to the planning of Teams. While on the surface this may appear to be straightforward and simple, there are several considerations that need to be carefully examined and fully understood to enable success in the subsequent steps and overall implementation.

To build your strategy and approach, start with three questions:

  1. Why should we do this?

  2. What features and functions do we need?

  3. What other considerations or constraints need to be included?

Answering these three questions will enable you to understand the strategy and approach to this implementation, and complete with confidence, any business case or other documentation which may be required for approval to proceed to the next step.

Key insight: The engagement with key stakeholder groups is often the first step in the change management process. It is generally the initial socialising of the idea broadly across the organisation and therefore should be planned carefully and conducted in an open and consultative manner to gain buy in into the project.

Why should we do this?

The answer to “why” will set the boundaries around the project and enable a more relevant assessment of cost, risks and benefits, keeping in mind that there may not be one simple answer to this question. Broadly speaking, the “why” can be a tactical decision, a strategic decision, or perhaps a combination of both a short-term tactical needs with a view to build a foundation for further strategic development.

Answers to the “why” question are often already known and the reason that a project was initiated, however, it is highly recommended to formally assess the reasons and engage broadly across impacted stakeholder groups to ensure all valid reasons are captured.

Key insight: It can also be useful to rank reasons according to priority (e.g.: 1-10), or by using a risk management approach to qualify and quantify each reason which will help in later stages through evaluation and when decisions need to be made.

What features and functions do we need?

Understanding what is needed requires engagement with business stakeholders to understand their needs but does not mean that full detailed business requirements need to be created. Instead, an overview of the capability that is required should be focused on, enough to form a strategy and approach.

For example, you may need “call routing capability using multiple routing methods including skills-based routing” as a broad capability, but not to the level of functionality of how many queues, the call flow or routing method in each queue. One of the key purposes for establishing this understanding is to determine if MS Teams is the correct solution, if there are any add on products that may be required (e.g.: contact center, compliance recording, etc.) or if MS Teams is not appropriate and an alternative technology is required.

Key insight: The needs and capabilities are not just the functional needs of the telephony system, but also encompass peripheral needs. These can include such things as reporting, compliance, support methodologies, etc. and ensure that all needs, both functional and non-functional, are adequately captured and understood before an approach is decided.

What other considerations or constraints need to be included?

Understanding constraints and considerations requires looking through a business lens at both internal and external factors that need to be considered along with these decisions, as well as both internal and external constraints.

Some examples of these constraints and considerations could be:

  • Other projects or change within the business currently.

  • Availability of key resources to implement and the support this change.

  • Interaction or impact on other service providers, e.g.: managed services provider supporting the M365 environment.

  • Existing investment or deployments in complimentary systems such as meeting rooms.

  • Regulatory compliance requirements.

  • Integration into other systems such as CRM, ERP, CMS, etc.

Some considerations or constraints will be reflected as either functional or non-functional needs, while others may be reflected as risks.

Key insight: Some of the considerations or constraints may limit options or eliminate some altogether and need to be considered early in the process to ensure that the right groundwork has been completed before moving onto the next step.

Can’t I just add the MS Teams Calling license to turn it on? In short – no. At the very minimum, if MS Teams will do everything required, there is a connection to the public telephone network (PSTN) which will need to be procured through a partner or carrier, and numbers transferred, before you can make and receive telephone calls. Your existing partner / carrier may be able to do this for you if they have the capability, however, it is often best to partner with an organisation who can not only provide this, but also provide the implementation and configuration services, provide training to your technical staff and users, etc. to ensure a successful implementation project.

Selection & procurement

The second step adopts the strategy and approach agreed upon in the first step and expands on these needs to generate full business requirements. These requirements are then used to guide the selection and procurement process to find the best solution and partner. Undertaking the selection and procurement process is best served by a robust and diligent process which does not need to be complex and can be addressed in three activities

  1. Detailed requirements

  2. Procurement, evaluation, and selection

  3. Contract negotiations and execution

Key insight: Consider including the contract review into the procurement evaluation process so that any legal or contractual concerns can be addressed before finding a contractual roadblock which forces a re-evaluation.

Detailed requirements

Armed with the needs and capabilities from the first step, this activity requires further engagement with key stakeholders to understand and document the detailed business requirements.

These requirements need to include both the functional and the non-functional requirements, such as support agreements, implementation approach, service levels, etc. The requirements should then be classified according to the level of importance, for example if they are mandatory, desirable, or even optional. Together with the procurement documents, such as a request for proposal (RFP), these are ready to be distributed to vendors capable of providing the required services.

Key insight: These detailed requirements need to be formulated in a way that are unambiguous and easy to understand. This applies to not only the requirement, but also the responses that will be provided from vendors and will form the basis for the subsequent assessment and evaluation.

Procurement, evaluation and selection

After defining and agreeing the detailed requirements, the procurement documents are created which are shared with potential vendors through a request for proposal or quote (RFP / RFQ). These documents inform the vendors what you need and also provide a structured way for vendors to respond to your requirements with how their solution, or proposed alternative method meets these needs.

Once responses are received, an evaluation and comparison of each response is needed to shortlist the preferred options, and ultimately make a final selection. The evaluation criteria need to be defined prior with agreed priorities, criteria, and methods of evaluating the responses by all stakeholders performing the assessment.

This evaluation is easiest if the methods can assign a numerical value to each requirement according to the criteria and then quantitative analysis and comparison can be completed to supplement the qualitative assessment.

Key insight: Business stakeholders are key, not only in defining their requirements, but also in assessing and evaluating the vendors responses and participating in the selection process. This ensures they understand the capabilities of each potential solution and help to get buy-in from the people who will be the primary users of the system. It is also important to have a shortlist of preferred vendors present their offerings to key stakeholders in order to fully understand the offerings and provide opportunities to ask questions and engage in dialogue with them.

Contract negotiations and execution

The final activity in the selection and procurement step is to negotiate any changes or amendments to the proposal and contracts to enable the completion of the procurement process and commence the partnership.

Often, there may be requirements which the vendor will not be able to meet, or they may propose an alternative way to meet the objectives. These situations will often become discussion points in presentations and can potentially change the vendors response as business needs may adapt to alternative ways of achieving outcomes once the dialog commences with a preferred vendor.

Key insight: Separation of the contract terms and conditions from the service offering can often speed the review process where key stakeholders can review the service offering and the legal department or partner can review the legal terms and conditions.

Implementation and transition

The third step  is defined by the procurement agreement and contracts agreed in the previous step. The vendors proposal will generally have a broad definition of how they will implement the solution and transition from the current state to the future state. But the implementation and transition cannot be left to the vendor alone and will need to be led by a senior stakeholder within your organisation to take on the role of project sponsor with the required team roles to ensure the successful delivery of the project.

There are three key factors critical to the success of the implementation:

  1. Project management

  2. Change management

  3. Technical implementation and handover

Key insight: The success of the implementation is just as dependant on the receiving organisation as it is on the vendor providing the system and services. Without strong sponsorship and management within the organisation, the project can easily be delayed or detoured by roadblocks or even stopped altogether. Key insight: The success of the implementation is just as dependant on the receiving organisation as it is on the vendor providing the system and services. Without strong sponsorship and management within the organisation, the project can easily be delayed or detoured by roadblocks or even stopped altogether.

Project management

Although the implementation can appear simple on the surface, there are some technical elements, especially if there is a contact centre involved, that can require accurate planning and scheduling. This helps ensure there are no negative impacts to the business and that timely communication and information is shared across the organisation and potentially customers as well.

Key insight: Project management of the implementation and transition project should be a joint effort between the receiving organisation and the vendor to maximise the opportunity for success.

Change management

The impact on staff (users) and customers cannot be overlooked or under cooked, even in an organisation that has been using MS Teams for other functions. The change from a well-known and familiar telephone system to MS Teams can still be a challenge or even frightening for some, and provisions need to be made for all people impacted to enable the successful adoption of the new technology.

Key insight: Establishing personas of different types of users can assist in targeting the change management activities according to different needs of each group.

Technical implementation and handover

The technical implementation is often run by the vendor and takes care of the technology configuration, testing, and transition from existing systems to the new platforms. There is generally some involvement from the receiving organisation, due to the shared nature of the administration of all systems within the Microsoft 365 management portals, and these overlap with the user provisioning and configuration processes.

As important as the implementation is, the handover to ‘business as usual’ teams is critical to the long-term success of the platform, and to ensure that the ongoing management and improvement of the platform is maintained.

Key insight: Business stakeholders have a critical role in the implementation process to test and validate the configuration to ensure that it meets the agreed requirements and specifications.


Adopting and implementing MS Teams calling is best served by using a structured process because although it may appear to be simple, the process can assist in identifying any potential issues or risks and provide the strongest foundation for a successful implementation and result in higher and more efficient adoption.


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