Making Phone Calls In Teams

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UPDATE: Edits to the original article were made due to Microsoft’s announcement of its intent to acquire Metaswitch Networks.

Microsoft has rebranded previous communications and collaboration platforms to Teams, and executives are already pushing their IT groups to figure out how to make it work, specifically, how can you make external phone calls? The quick answer is, yes. It can be done, and it only takes 7-10 days. Skip to that part >

Why This Is Happening To Begin With

The Microsoft Teams phone call problem starts with Microsoft Lync (or even OCS, for any of you old voice folks like me). As Microsoft continued to own the productivity desktop space, they’ve also decided to forge ahead into communications and collaboration. You probably remember when they took the enterprise world by storm, giving away their Instant Messaging & Presence (IM/P) tool with a customer’s user licenses—first with Microsoft Office Communicator (OCS), and then Lync.

Through Lync, Microsoft then recognized a new revenue opportunity via software licensing, launching Microsoft Lync Enterprise Voice to capture a new market of business voice users. Unfortunately, most businesses in 2010-2011 weren’t ready to give up basic traditional voice features they’ve grown to know and love over 30+ years with the likes of Nortel, Siemens, Mitel, Avaya, and Cisco.

Microsoft continued to charge forward regardless of the immediate demand, rebranding its collaboration tools as Skype for Business, hoping to leverage the branding popularity around the popular platform. And yet, Microsoft couldn’t truly capture the hearts and minds of companies that were steeped in the traditional voice platforms.

Voice Capability Comes To Microsoft Teams

Microsoft has once again rebranded their communications and collaboration platform and tools as Microsoft Teams, and executives are pushing their IT groups to figure out how to make it work. From our ears on the ground, that conversation typically goes like this:

Hard-Charging Executive: Why does my Microsoft Teams client have a phone handset icon in it, but I cannot make phone calls with it?

CIO: Our IT telecom group is supporting Cisco Call Manager, and it doesn’t integrate with the Microsoft Teams client easily to enable the phone icon. You can make phone calls out of Cisco’s softphone client (also called Teams – not confusing at all!).

Hard-Charging Executive: Cisco? Sounds like I would have to learn another tool. Don’t we use Microsoft Teams across our whole organization? Can you go figure out how we make the phone icon work on Microsoft Teams?

CIO: Okay. {sigh}

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many companies we work with are trying to figure out how to make the Microsoft Teams phone call function work and instead feel like they’re looking for a unicorn.

On one hand, Microsoft continues to claim that their native Phone System license feature activates the phone icon, which is true, but it lacks basic desired phone features. Microsoft’s shortcomings in unified communications isn’t lost on CEO Satya Nadella and his leadership which is why we are now witnessing significant investments in telecom-related companies. Two very strategic and exciting acquisitions with Affirmed Networks’ 5G connectivity enhancements and soon to be completed the acquisition of Metaswitch Networks, one of the largest voice networks globally. We will keep an eye on the progression, but I don’t expect any impactful changes until 2021.

On the other hand, on-premise and cloud-based phone system providers state they can use Microsoft’s API integration, providing a voice platform in Teams. Unfortunately, the API integration doesn’t activate the phone icon, adding a confusing step in Teams for your users to have to remember to make a voice call from the Teams client.

Today, your unicorn hunt ends.

How to make phone calls within Microsoft Teams reliably

Making phone calls within Microsoft Teams doesn’t require the possibility of sacrificing features or simplicity when using Direct Routing Partners. Direct Routing gives enterprise clients, an option to use a robust voice platform in conjunction with Microsoft Teams. All the simplicity of the Teams User Interface without the loss of necessary voice features and functions, whether in the contact center or in traditional business voice.

image show how to make phone calls within Microsoft Teams with direct routing partners

We’ve noticed there are a lot of companies that claim to be a Direct Routing Partner, but the true list of reputable Direct Routing Partners is actually quite short. As far as time table, to make phone calls within Microsoft Teams, you can conservatively enable Microsoft Teams voice within 7 to 10 days using a PowerShell script. Porting of existing telephone numbers will typically take 2 to 3-weeks.

Whether your company is made up of 10 people or 10,000 people, in a single location, many global locations, made up of remote users, or everyone is in offices, you don’t have to compromise usability for simplicity or simplicity for versatility and scalability. There are options for Direct Routing Partners depending on your unique situation, we’re happy to get you plugged into the right one. Just ping me below.

Eric Skeens of 3 Tree Tech

Eric Skeens is the co-founder of 3 Tree Tech in Portland. He is a platform-agnostic tech researcher that transitions siloed organizations into automated DevOps centric businesses. Message him right here.


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