Microsoft Office

Bringing communication together at last

Like many businesses, we’ve been using Microsoft Office 365 for a long time. Unlike many others though, we do our best to take advantage of each new service they release to make our business run smoother. A big one for us is Microsoft Teams. It took a little getting used to, but once we understood the path Microsoft were taking their online collaboration it became far clearer and easier to adopt, but there was a lingering problem. Phone calls to and from clients…

 

Teams has this amazing feature for making and receiving phones calls – but of course Australia is outside of this loop. The advertised capability for this feature looks great! Perfect for business! So why when I try to activate it do I have to buy something from a different provider?! This is a standard Microsoft product everywhere else in the world.

 

In typical Aussie fashion, somebodies come in and ‘bought out’ the monopoly on that feature, and it’s not the first time with Microsoft. I won’t go into a blame game or strategic business position conversation here, but to keep things in perspective – what was quoted to be a $7,000 setup cost for 10 users ended up taking 2 hours for the same functionality done with some very simple instructions. Somebodies making a tidy profit. 

 

So how did we get there? Lets be clear, what we have setup now is not a full phone system running on Microsoft Teams. That capability exists elsewhere in the world, but for us Aussies, understand that the most you can do right now is turn your Teams client into a very stable softphone. So that’s what we did.

 

Why did we want this so badly though? We had existing softphones and a phone system. Well for us it was twofold:

 

  1. The phone system we had was actually very good and very stable but the softphone endpoints – where our staff answer and make phones calls – was having dramas. Dropouts and inconsistent quality. It was particularly poor for our guys in the Philippines. Yet, whenever we had a Teams meeting with the same staff, those calls were perfect quality and stability!
  2. Our overseas partners had been using this feature for years with great productivity results and we’re using it for everything else related to communication – it makes sense for phone calls to happen in the same application as well. Keeping things simple!

 

How does it work? You’re essentially ‘plugging in’ an existing phone system to Microsoft. Warning, techy talk now. You’ll need a PBX that has the appropriate Session Border Control capabilities that allow connectivity to the Microsoft Office 365 platform. Not all providers have this – particularly legacy  phone systems. The big players in this space charge like a wounded bull, but if you have one of those systems, you’re probably used to those costs 😉 Documentation and expertise in getting these systems connected can be hard to find as well.

 

After enquiring with our current VoIP provider they weren’t quite ready for integration, so off to the Google search engine we go. After a quick search on VoIP providers with Microsoft Teams integration we found a local provider, small but very easy to work with. Everything online and pricing that’s easy to follow. We’re still in early days, but so far the quality has been great!

 

For the technically minded, this setup is very straight forward. Follow the bouncing ball type of stuff. If you’re not tech savvy, it’s probably best to get your IT folks onto it.

 

Lets talk costs and what it really means for you. Here’s what you’ll need as a bare minimum:

  • Microsoft Phone System license for each user that will have the phone call capability – $11 per user per month
  • PBX Provider – systems and providers vary with their costs. Ours is based on who’s making calls out. For a completely unlimited call quantity it’s $34.95 per month per user. We don’t have that for everyone though. The minimum cost for us is $7.95 per user per month.

That’s it! For some you may need trunking and 1300 number purchases etc, everyone’s different and these should all be factored in.

 

For us, in comparison to our previous phone system, our costs only went up by about $30 per month to have this capability.

 

So what does it really mean for us? We can live in Teams for everything to do with communication between staff and customers. For the Team in the Philippines, it means stable call quality! For everyone it automatically meant we can take our landline on our mobile phone without any extra setup or special instruction. Where ever we are, we can communicate effectively. 

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