One of UC consultant Kevin Kieller’s favorite illustrations for describing the transitions and migrations in Unified Communications is a piece of stock art: Two fishbowls sit side-by-side. On the right, a goldfish is swimming happily (I think he’s happy; I’m no expert on reading a fish’s moods). On the left, a second, stressed-out goldfish is seen in mid-air leaping out of his bowl, destined -- he hopes -- for the bowl on the right.
Kevin’s company, enableUC, is a Microsoft partner that specializes in helping enterprises through their UC transitions, so his subject usually centers around the Microsoft suite. He was our obvious choice for an Enterprise Connect webinar, this week during Microsoft’s big Ignite conference in Orlando. In the webinar, Kevin reviewed Microsoft’s UC-related announcements from Ignite, where the company strongly reinforced its message that Skype for Business is on the way out, to be replaced by Teams.
So the left-hand bowl is Skype for Business, and the right-hand bowl is Teams. And you’re the fish in the air, suspended in an alien atmosphere, your safe landing by no means guaranteed.
It’s not a position unique to Microsoft customers. Pretty much every enterprise is trying to figure out how to get from the old world of siloed PBXs and telephony to the new world where communications is a feature of almost everything a knowledge worker does. Enterprises know where they’ve been, but they don’t know exactly what environment they’re heading into.
They know it’ll be different and they have to plan accordingly--a reality brought home to me in the webinar by Kevin’s use of the term “scenario parity” to describe the relationship of new tools with their legacy predecessors. In previous technology transitions, we talked about “feature parity,” which meant that a new IP-PBX could do exactly the same functions provided by the TDM PBX it replaced. If the phones that came with the old PBX had red Hold buttons on them, the new IP versions had better have those same red Hold buttons, preferably in the exact same spots.
“Scenario parity” is a much looser translation of features going forward. It means you can do all the same things with the new gear as you did with the old, but you may not be able to do it in the same way. Kevin gave an example from the days when Skype for Business (or its predecessors) became a PBX replacement: The Skype for Business Presence Status indicator replaced the PBX Line Appearance feature. That reflected a change in the way people worked: To see if someone was busy, you looked not at their telephone, but their instant messaging status.
We’re moving into a scenario parity world. We have to be, because they’re literally not making communications gear like they used to. Nobody really wants them to.
But on the other hand, those old PBX features were never just features for features’ sake. They were created to let people do something they needed to do. It’s the same with the communications products of today and of the future. Hopefully, once we achieve scenario parity for the particular needs we have to fulfill, we can all breathe a little easier.
One thing that can help you make the leap is to attend Enterprise Connect 2019, the week of March 18, 2019, at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, Fla. Kevin will present an in-depth session helping you understand the details of the Skype for Business-to-Teams transition, as part of a program featuring more than 60 sessions across nine tracks. We’ll start posting program sessions soon. I hope you can join us in Orlando for a great week of learning.