This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Inspire 2021 news and conference guide

Microsoft Teams calling sparks partner business

Partners may see increased business in Teams cloud calling as Microsoft expands the platform's business focus. Education and governance offer other channel opportunities.

Newly expanded Microsoft Teams calling features are among the top opportunities next year for partners focusing on the collaboration platform, through which users made 650 million calls in October 2020.

Microsoft this week said a new Teams calling interface provides users with a unified view of contacts, voicemail and calling history. Other new features let users place and receive Teams calls in vehicles using Apple CarPlay, merge individual PSTN or VoIP calls, and save recorded calls in OneDrive and SharePoint. Users will also be able to transfer calls between mobile and desktop devices. That latter feature will be available in early 2021, according to Microsoft.

Gavriella SchusterGavriella Schuster

"Calling is becoming a great area of opportunity for our partners," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft's One Commercial Partner organization.

Schuster said Teams calling projects have a large advisory and adoption services component, and they open opportunities to provide more managed services. The expanded Microsoft Teams calling features, which she said support a wide range of business needs, could also give partners an opportunity to help customers transition from legacy, on-premises PBX systems to cloud calling.

Partners cited growing customer interest in IP-based phone offerings to accommodate remote workers as among the key technology trends expected for 2021.

Calling is becoming a great area of opportunity for our partners.
Gavriella SchusterCorporate vice president, Microsoft's One Commercial Partner organization

While calling is a specific opportunity, Teams also provides a general opening for partners to help customers get the most out of the platform. Organizations that deployed Teams in haste during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic may still need education on the technology and its applications.

"I still think so many customers haven't really exploited the full collaboration capabilities," Schuster said.

Many partners have already created in-product experience guides that help customers with Teams adoption, she noted. 

In addition, partners can help customers with compliance and governance regarding the use of Teams, Schuster said. Partners have cited governance, along with training and change management, as roles for their companies to play in Teams deployments.

Meanwhile, partners may also be drawn deeper into software development in light of Teams' integration with elements of Microsoft's Power Platform. In November, the company released new Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents apps for Teams. Power Apps for Teams, for example, lets partners create low-code apps within Teams.

"We definitely have seen an increase in organizations partnering with us to focus on app development," Schuster said. She cited the example of Beedle, a Microsoft partner and education specialist based in Iceland that built an application that lets teachers plan lessons and manage class lists within Teams.

Overall, Microsoft partners have flocked to Teams, particularly since the pandemic emerged in the first quarter of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, one out of five Microsoft partners worked with Teams, Schuster noted. Amid COVID-19, "we see almost all of our partners working with Teams in some way or another," she said.

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