Microsoft Teams Insider

Migrating to Teams Phone Real-World Experience & Dealing with the Pace of Microsoft 365 Change

January 10, 2024 Tom Arbuthnot
Microsoft Teams Insider
Migrating to Teams Phone Real-World Experience & Dealing with the Pace of Microsoft 365 Change
Show Notes Transcript
  • Damian Lewis is a digital workplace specialist at a global enterprise responsible for Teams telephony, Microsoft Teams Rooms, and other Teams-related projects.
  • Tom and Damian discuss the challenges of migrating legacy telephony into Teams, especially the porting of numbers, which can be unpredictable and time-consuming.
  • An ideal operational model for telephony in Teams is still being defined, including allocating responsibilities between the network team and the collaboration/digital workplace team.
  • Damian's organization has established a weekly Microsoft Message Center review board to stay on top of updates, assess their impact, and communicate them to users through a "did you know?" communication.
  • Keeping track of Message Center updates is crucial to avoid surprises and ensure smooth operations, especially for significant changes like the retirement of Stream Classic or introducing new features.
  • Damian recommends following the YouTube channel "365 Message Center Show" hosted by Daryl Webster and Daniel Glenn for additional insights into Microsoft updates.

Thank you to Numonix, this episode's sponsor, for your continued support of the community. 

Tom Arbuthnot:

Hi and welcome back to the team's insider podcast got a good one this week My friend damien lewis who works for a global enterprise who a lot of people probably recognize He is a modern workplace specialist and we get into how he deals with the amount of Microsoft 365 change and, uh, the message center and processing around it. And some of the challenges around it is something that we've been looking at a lot at empowering cloud with our reporting and research, and we are building a whole process around it. So a lot of insight has come from Damian on that as well. So thanks to him for that. Thanks to pneumonics who are this month's sponsor for the podcast. Really appreciate their support, everything we're doing at empowering cloud, and I hope you enjoy the show. Welcome to this episode of the Teams Insider Podcast. Really excited for this one. I've got Damian Lewis, who's a digital workplace specialist at a global enterprise, but also very active in the community. We always cross paths at a lot of the UK events always have a really good conversation, sometimes super in depth. I'm super excited to have you on. Do you want to give us a brief overview of you and your role and how you got here?

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, cheers Tom. So see, I think we first bumped into each other at Commsverse last year, 2022. So yeah.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Was that the first in person?

Damien Lewis:

That was the first in person, yeah. And the strangeness of ended up jumping in your car and ending up at the wrong hotel and then having to get back to the Commsverse venue and find my hotel. So I've I've been around in IT for many years now. Effectively joined my current role nearly two years ago now and it's built on everything I've been building on for all my other roles up until now. So now a point where I'm pretty much the system owner for Teams, that'd be Teams telephony, Microsoft Teams Rooms anything that falls under Teams comes into my bucket. But I also get involved in a whole load of other bits and pieces. I chair and run the weekly Microsoft Message Center review board. I guess it's an interesting piece because I was having this conversation with an old colleague last week and they were saying they really struggle with the cadence and where do I find my information? How do I break this down? How do I manage it?

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah I just want to give the audience a bit of context in terms of the scale and complexity of the environment you're working. So can you just talk us through kind of high level what you're doing? Because I know you're kind of spanning project and ops at the moment as well, which is interesting.

Damien Lewis:

For the last year or so, we've been migrating some legacy telephony into Teams, but at the same time, I sit in the operation side, but I've been working on the project side, bringing that in. And it's getting that balance between knowing what's going on in the project side and being able to keep the lights on in the real world. And that's really difficult in the telephony space. You look at some of the scenarios we've had number ports for numbers saying it's four weeks in advance yet confirmed on X day at Y time. Brilliant. You can plan for that. You can plan it and you can build that process in. Then you get, Oh we're porting your numbers in 30 minutes. And. You just can't manage that.

Tom Arbuthnot:

The best ones are when you're just inquiring about what the plan is and they're like, oh yeah, we've done it. Well Wait a minute.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. So we had, the numbers come in 30 minutes. We're like quick. Send out all the comms tell all the users. And then we'd send all the comms, all the users, sorry, like this is really last minute. All these numbers are gonna be coming across. 30 minutes later, when they say, yeah, the numbers have come across only 4 of them came across the others would be like next week. So we're then having to go back to the user and say, sorry, only 4 numbers of the 30 or 40 numbers we were expecting to come across have happened now. So, number porting is just an absolute lottery. The very last one for two and a half, three months. We were pursuing with the provider because the provider was like a reseller. So they had resold the number downstream to someone else. So in that, process, no one knew who the owning address was, who, the authorized name on the account was. So we were going through the reseller down to communicate to the company who have the numbers back up again. It kept on going and going, and in the end we said, we need to do this by x. They came back and said, Oh, the numbers are coming tomorrow at it was, what was it? 9 a. m. Eastern because it was East Coast numbers. And how can I manage that? I'm on another project. That week, we were deploying a Microsoft Teams Room in the East Coast, I said, I can't do that deployment. And it was the Friday. So it was the end of the week and we were doing all the rundown tests and checking everything was running fine. I can't do this. We just had to draft in some resource from other areas to cover that number pool. So things like that, then the learning what we've had in the last year of just how difficult it's going to be.

Tom Arbuthnot:

And are you strategically porting to, are you trying to port down to a single operator or a handful of operators? What's the strategy there?

Damien Lewis:

We're trying to keep it as small as we can. All of America are now on to Operator Connect. That's not been easy. If you get new numbers, easy. It's just give me the numbers, assign the numbers. It's the porting, which is. There's no standard and you would think by now that it would be transactional. It would be I request the numbers you give me a time frame, we agree a date. It's not. It's a complete free for all, everyone makes their own rules up.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah, and the rules and standards differ from country to country about what's required and what's expected. And even carrier by carrier, like you say things like the address and the name on the account. Like everything else is right, but you need to tell us the name. It's I don't know, I signed up 10 years ago, but we've had eight company names since then.

Damien Lewis:

We had that for, one of the offices and they were like, Oh, but is that person still the subperson of the company? Can they email? No, they're not at the company. Their account's closed. Can you not get them? No, I can't either. What do you want me to do? Light their account up and send you an email from their account.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Worryingly that sometimes the path of least resistance, actually, If you're in exchange, you'd be like okay, I'll create the account.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. I think that it's the inconsistency. You would just expect you're requesting something and it just happens. It just doesn't, and looking at the bigger picture, it's looking around at some of the areas that we've got to do. Some people are saying if you go into the South Americas or places like that, you could take months to do some of those ports, so yeah, we'll have to see.

Tom Arbuthnot:

And You're going to Operator Connect you said in America. Is it Operator Connect where you can and direct routing and you've got some interesting countries.

Damien Lewis:

Yes, it's going to be some in the Middle East. So some of the areas where you just can't do Operator Connect. Then we're going to have to look at doing direct routing, but as we can go to Operator Connect as much as we can then it's just so easy. So it's within 10 minutes, you've set up an operator.

Tom Arbuthnot:

You're making the ops easy then as well, aren't you? Because the ops are all in Teams Admin Center and there's no SBC for your orgs to look after. So it's not just the initial thing. It's then going into service. It makes life a bit easier as well.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. And I guess that we did get caught out on the Americas. We've now got two, we've got an EMEA supplier and we've got an AMS supplier and the question with the AMS we've got all these numbers, but not all of them assigned. And I can see them all in Teams. And they said, oh yeah that, that's fine. I said how does this work with the billing? And they said, oh, it's gonna cost you$8 a month, let's say to have those numbers in Teams unassigned. I don't want that. I've got, 2-300 numbers. That's a lot of money that I'm spending a month for not having those numbers. Oh no. I said, if you release them and put them back into our management system, it's 99 cents per number per month that's unassigned. I said that's fine. So we went through this massive exercise. Of releasing or drawing back the numbers out of Teams to leave them in the Operators.

Tom Arbuthnot:

They're not making a distinction between assigned in Teams and assigned to a user on their system. So they're just either you're using them and they're 8 or they're on hold and they're 99 cents.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. So if you move them back, if you shift it left back into that management console for the telephony provider, they'll charge you less per number for it to be unassigned. Then when a new starter comes along, you just upload that number into Teams. And you assign it to the new starter. Yes, you've got leavers, when a leaver happens, you've got to then push that number back into the system to stop paying that$8 a month. But then you look at the Europe supplier that we've got. It doesn't matter if the number's in or out of Teams. It's just a flat rate for that number. So it's things like that, that there's differences between suppliers, like how they work.

Tom Arbuthnot:

That's really interesting. Yeah, we're doing, with Kevin on the Empowering.Cloud team, we're doing some research into how to make that operator decision, because there's 61 operators now, and it's things like that, the detail is really in the weeds. That can make a material difference for your ops overhead, or some of the operators have a massive team behind to help with that porting requirement and some of them you're on your own. It's self service. So like those things people don't always think about straight away.

Damien Lewis:

And some of them like we've seen in America can I get some new numbers? And it's within hours You can have the numbers if they've got them in the range, whereas, The current europe supplier that we've got can have some new numbers and it's yeah, it's only four weeks It's four weeks, in America, I can get them, next day, it's like next day delivery for America, Europe, say no it's going to take you four weeks. So how come? Oh, we've got to go to this team and then they've got to order them and then they've got to go to billing and then they've got to go to deployment and they've got to go to someone. I'm like. I just need the numbers. And you see the numbers. It's, oh yeah, I've got them in Teams. I can see them in Teams. And they're like, I'll say, can I use the numbers? No, you can't use the numbers until we tell you.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Oh they're just like part of the provisioning process.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, like they've been ingested into Teams. See that and then you still can't use them. So there's not even the consistency in the provider. You Would expect it's Operator Connect, it all runs the same way. No, each provider has their own nuances of how they get to the end goal.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah. Yeah. And some of them are fully automated web platforms and some of them have no web platform whatsoever and you're emailing and phone calling and doing paper contracts. So it's really interesting to see the diversity there.

Damien Lewis:

But then I guess, weirdly, when I needed one number to be moved from a user number to a voice app, I emailed our Europe provider and said, can I move this number from user to voice? It was done within 30 minutes. But they can't give me new numbers for weeks. I couldn't believe it. I think, I'll put the request in and it'll take a few weeks to, they came back and said yeah, yeah, that's done. I was like, oh yes, it is done.

Tom Arbuthnot:

That's interesting. So that's the kind of phone number element of it, something that comes up a lot in these projects is, Does Teams Phone have the breadth of features you need, so you're moving off legacy phone platform. Have there been any issues or conversations around that?

Damien Lewis:

No. If anything, it's made some of the use case a little bit easier. So last week I was working on a solution for our Ireland office where when the user goes on planned leave in the old system, they would have to log into the old system and manually change the number. I said that's that didn't need to do that. We could just set up a holiday and we just put your holiday date and when you tell us when you're going to be on holiday and you just, you put the holidays in and it automatically will just route to the UK number. That was so simple to do. It was so simple that they actually went, Surely that's not going to work. Yeah, it is going to work, because we, and they said, Oh no, we've got to, we've got to log into this portal, and then we've got to change the number, and then we've got to do all of this extra work, and it takes an hour to replicate. So no, it happens within minutes. There's little scenarios of that people then say, is this going to work? Yeah, it works.

Tom Arbuthnot:

That's great. And is this project like, so in some organizations, it's signed off on a country by country basis. They're like, this country has to approve Teams and go ahead. And some projects are top down or wide. What's the approach there in terms of your migration?

Damien Lewis:

I think the first phase was pretty much testing the water. And now we've done that. I think we're at the point of looking at how we're going to do this on the bigger picture. Can we get all of the geographic regions all within one supplier? There's a few out there that may be able to do that. Or do we go with one big supplier and then pick off those areas? That we can't get with that supplier. That's the kind of the next big phase that we've got to look at and then included with that is, is going to be when you're touching some of the bigger areas is you're then going to go into contact center solutions and you're going to have to hook all that into it. So it's a big task. We've learned a lot in the 700 numbers that we've now got, okay. In the system. There's a lot of hours have been put into getting it to that point. I guess you've got to think with 14 numbers is because my organization is global, if we're porting numbers, they're going to happen in local times. And when we start to do the APAC numbers I'm not going to be there at 3 o'clock in the morning porting numbers. We're going to have to think globally on how we support it.

Tom Arbuthnot:

And everything you've done so far, has that all been in house or have you been working with a Microsoft partner or a consultancy?

Damien Lewis:

It's all pretty much been in house. We've had some injected help right very early on in the process. I've learned on my feet as I've gone.

Tom Arbuthnot:

That's great to hear. It's interesting, again, different approaches for different customers. I'm seeing more and more of that because it's SaaS and cloud, particularly with Operator Connect, people are trying to pick off a lot of it in house and keep that skill in house as opposed to paying consultancies.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. And I think the things that we've especially learned around But thinking about how the holidays work there's even if you're looking at the Americas, they have a different set of holidays and then the difficult one is when you get to like Christmas and which lines are going to open when and that all needs to be thought out. Holidays was a challenge for us because you've got to get it right with the business, then you've got to work it in, and they might change their mind and you've got to think about how we get to that point.

Tom Arbuthnot:

So that's a nice transition actually to something we talk about a lot, is what's the operational model here? So you've got project, you've got porting and getting things over and I guess on that operational conversation, what are your thoughts on? Is it a voice team and a rooms team and a collaboration team? Is it all of Teams? Is it all of M365? How are you guys looking at that?

Damien Lewis:

It's a good question. So you can see this changing as time goes on. The conversation we've had recently around while we historically with it was an on premise telephony solution, it would historically sit in networks. The system move is effectively well, we're just gonna move into Teams and port the numbers and bring all across and bring the call contact center solution into an integrated cloud solution. That's going to shift all of that system. But what's going to happen with the resource and the roles and responsibilities for that? Does some of it stay within the classic network, or does it come into the more collaboration space within digital workplace? That piece we really need to understand more now. I can see that if we don't get the clear lines of engagement internally, we're not going to be able to, that a user's going to put a request in, or tell it, so the problem, no one knows where it's going to end up. Oh, it's telephony, it's got to go to networks. No, it's not, because it's cloud.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah, this is what I'm seeing with other organizations I work with as well, it's like there's like telephony is now a feature of Teams, so it lives with the Teams team potentially, but there's that ops team that are. Coming from the Microsoft lands, understand the intricacies of telephony and vice versa. You try and keep it with the telephony team, but they don't really understand how Azure AD or move sets or changes or also attendance and call queues work because it's all Teams Admin Center. So there's definitely a line there that's blurring a bit like telephony used to be independent of networks and like you say, very common like in your org where telephony becomes part of networks because it went IP. I'm working on a model with another organization about what that looks like, because then you've got the wider M365 impacts telephony and meeting. So you've got to be aware of the entire stack, really.

Damien Lewis:

And then you've got the question. I'm starting to look at this week What does the new Busy on Busy user setting, how does that impact on the call queues? We've got Busy on Busy still at the top layer of the tenancy, everyone gets the same policy. If I start to give it to a user with Busy on Busy and say to the users, okay You decide what you're going to do when a call comes through. What impact does that have on call queues whenever we've got the calls coming through the call queue to those users that are in that call queue. I was at the point of writing the comms and I think hang on what's going to happen if I give the users the responsibility to control what happens when they get a call and they're busy. Is this going to have an adverse effect when someone says or I'll accept the call and someone else says I'll send it to voicemail? How does that work? Yes, it works fine if you're not in a call queue and you're just a normal person, you're not accepting calls from the outside. When you're in a call queue, how does that work? So I've got some more testing to do around that.

Tom Arbuthnot:

So to even get to that conversation, you've had to be aware that feature is rolling out. You seem to have a, at least a mature process around looking at those Message Center and Roadmap changes. Talk us through how that works.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, so this kind of started when I started the role. I guess it was from even from my previous role. I was getting very conscious of the level of change that was coming from Microsoft and the cadence that it was coming through at. And when I started in my role, I said, look, do we look at the Message Center? Are we aware of what's going on? It was very much a, Oh, we might have a look every now and again. So I started up this and it was just a startup really just to see how it how it would work out. So every Tuesday afternoon, I lead through the Message Center review board. And that often is around 15 to 25 key messages, which have come through in the week. And we sit down as a team from the operations, from security, digital workplace who else we've got on there. We've got the kind of some of the Intune management perspective. We've got a collective of people that we work through these messages. And when it comes to like Defender and Security and Purview that I've got specialists there that I I put up on screen and say, guys you chew through this because I'm out on this one. Teams and the kind of collab stuff, fine when it starts to get deep down into some of the security technical areas I'm out. And we go through each of the messages. And then we say okay, no impact on this one. It's going to be for reference. This then goes into the bucket that we communicate to our users. And that goes into our, we call it the,'did you know?' So every Wednesday we put a, did you know up on to Yammer and it's one of those useful little snippets of information. Oh, did you know that in PowerPoint there's now a button that you can share directly into the Teams meeting. Those type of things they will just slip through the Message Center if you're not aware it's coming on. Then you get the, oh, 15th of May, the break glass and screen moment from Microsoft Stream Classic, no one's going to be able to upload any videos into Stream Classic after the 15th of May unless you extend the date. And that's going to be a big one because if people aren't aware of that And you're not diligent and seeing what's coming through that Message Center your users are going to get to a point where they're going to go. Why can't I upload a video and then you're on the back foot your firefighters.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah, totally and it's a tough job because the Message Center ranges from like massively impactful scenarios to you know, Excel features changing and does it really matter? But then knowing what matters to you is a really challenging job as well, because you haven't necessarily got visibility. Microsoft have started doing those impact numbers where they have a feel for like, you have this many people working on this workload. I still think it's a really tough job to go through that Message Center and sometimes the messages are a little bit vague on this is changing at some point. It's like, well, what do I do with this?

Damien Lewis:

Some of the crazy ones that come through blocking macros. That was a massive one from last year. That start that dropped at the start of the year. Authenticator light. So the authenticator in the Outlook app on iOS and Android. The change to numeric. So you have to put the numeric code in authentic MFA now. Yeah. And then it doesn't then work on an Apple watch. So MFA has now been dropped from the Apple watch, things like that, you just don't know. So the way we've set this up is that we've, so we've got a Planner set up where we've got a, it's like a utility account. The utility account then goes in at 2am every morning. It goes into the Message Center, draws out any New messages and puts them into a bucket within Planner, which is the Message Center. Every day I then go through.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Nice. You've got a process. So you will you'll have caught, 100% of them because it's processed. That's really smart.

Damien Lewis:

So the utility account will dump all of the, all the message centers in the morning, come in and I say how many I've got in? I've got four in overnight, right? Those ones can go because they're just like not rubbish. But it's the generic stuff which comes through, Oh, here's what's, here's what's come out in this month's preview channel or something like that. But then the other stuff, I think, okay, this is going to be either impactful. We need to be aware so if the users raise anything on this or this is going to be a big change going forwards that goes into the review bucket. Every Tuesday we run through the review and then in that Planner, they get then assigned to those individuals to deliver. And once it's been assigned, sometimes I go and look around and see what's going on. But essentially if it's assigned to you, it's over to you guys.

Tom Arbuthnot:

You've got named people responsible for your understanding of the impact of this change. I like that you've got a process there.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. There are some crazy little things that come through like this week came through there's now if you turn on at the tenancy level, users can edit their responses of form submissions but you've got to turn it on at the tenancy to then allow the owner of the form to decide whether or not to toggle on or off edit after submission. And if you don't know that you're if you don't know that's coming through the Message Center, it'll never get deployed it'd be years and years. And someone will say, do you know, if there's a way that you can edit a form or submitters can edit their response after the form's been, oh no. Let me have a look. Go Google. Have a look. Can I do this? Oh, yeah. It's, oh, it was that Message Center, so two years ago that the ability came in, but we never switched it on. So as soon as it came in this week, we all agreed. Yep. Let's turn this on, raise the change, turn it on. Then we'll put the notification out as a,'did you know?' To say, did you know you can now if you want to allow submitters to edit their responses?

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah. That's great that you've got the end user comms in that process as well, because that's the other piece that often, that's a different team that own a different conversation and doesn't get to end users.

Damien Lewis:

So there is a lot that comes through and the cadence sometimes they give you months, if not years, and sometimes they give you weeks or days, or sometimes they just say, Oh, by the way, this is landed. The Teams Admin Center update to refresh, the look of the TAC. I was like, that's changed. That's new. I haven't seen anything in the Message Center. This week comes into the Message Center. Oh, Teams Admin update. Yeah, I've seen the new version of TAC for the last two weeks, but it came in. I was like, Oh, great. Cheers. Yeah, thanks for telling me.

Tom Arbuthnot:

It is interesting, isn't it? Because you've got so many organizations using Microsoft 365. And it's a combination of what you hear in the community. And then on Message Center and some things, hit the Roadmap. I don't get Message Center or some things hit the Message Center and never hit Roadmap. Some things just Turn up and you never know, so it's quite a challenging job to keep on top of it and then do the user columns appropriately

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, there's a couple of cheat mechanisms are. I'll shout out to Daryl and Daniel on the 365 Message Center show. If I can catch it on the Monday evening, it's normally about five or six o'clock on the Monday evening. So I'm being dragged away for dinner with the family, but normally Tuesday morning, I'm in, first thing I'm watching is the playback on the YouTube channel. It saves me a lot of time having to sift through the information. They will quite succinctly put that really neatly together. I can just supplement what they say with some of the internal kind of company logic that we've got To say, hey, this is how it's going to impact us. It's worth looking them up.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah, we'll link it in the show notes. Actually, it's a great show. I do catch that as well. It's definitely one worth watching. Awesome. We're getting close to time, but thanks for giving us the insight. Those are two areas I wanted to touch. I think we should do another show at some point to talk about the rooms because you're doing rooms space, which is interesting as well. It's nice to have a real world perspective on that project migration to Teams Phone and interesting to hear that the bulk of the challenge is actually porting as opposed to features, because often it's people scared of. Oh, would it have all the features I need for my users, but actually it's that project friction of getting to the single cloud operator or multiple cloud operators to be getting from the legacy operators to I see can be quite interesting.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, I mean, when we started on the journey, I didn't think the porting piece was going to be the bit that really held us up. I thought it was going to be more user kind of internal kind of elements. That bits, the kind of the transition that was seamless. Normally user engagement user buy in, all the Internal business fund that you have with that But that was nothing compared to porting was that was just this ongoing pain point. Awesome. Thanks. Thanks for taking time. If you're happy to, I will definitely bring you back again and we'll talk some more about rooms and see where you are on the journey. And thanks for sharing that Message Center stuff. I think that's a really hot area that certainly I'm talking about lots of organizations and there doesn't seem to be a really good best standard out there for that. Something we're looking at in Empowering.Cloud is trying to work out what is the ideal standard for having that. I like your idea of the message change board. That's a really good approach. I get some feedback from some of the people, like people have joined the business and we've brought them into the board and they said, this is great. Like everyone needs this because if you're not on top of it. You're never going to know you're on the back foot continuously because Microsoft are sometimes they drop it on some default on there. Sometimes they drop it default off. There's no consistency there. The joke that I have with when I chat to Daryl and Daniel is, because I see the messages so often. I can look at a message and they say, Oh, this is going to land mid May. That's July. They said, this is going to land mid June. That sounds about right. And then you see an update come through. Oh based on user feedback, this has been extended to to mid July.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Yeah, their start date is always the very first tenant that's got it. It's like a three month rollout. So they're like, yeah, it's going to be in Q2 maybe.

Damien Lewis:

Yeah, guaranteed. I can possibly look at a Message Center and tell you which ones are going to come through or an update it's going to slip by two or three months.

Tom Arbuthnot:

Awesome. If people want to find more from you, Damian, what's the best space? I see you're fairly active on LinkedIn, aren't you?

Damien Lewis:

Yeah. Catch me on LinkedIn.

Tom Arbuthnot:

I can link it in the show notes. Definitely. I think it's Damian's worth following. He's always on the say the team's fireside chat and throwing good knowledge of real world, hands on ops. So I appreciate you sharing.