Microsoft has added telephony features to Skype for Business that reduce the trade-offs companies have to make when choosing the cloud-based communications software over a more feature-rich on-premises IP PBX system.
Microsoft announced this week at the Enterprise Connect conference the addition of auto attendant and call queues to the Skype for Business Cloud PBX. Also, Microsoft partners introduced updated meeting room products leveraging Skype for Business telephony.
The auto attendant system answers and routes inbound calls. Callers use the Skype for Business dial pad or its speech recognition capability to ask to be directed to a particular department or person. Call queues send incoming calls to a customer support or sales agent in the order they are received.
The lack of features for managing incoming callers has hampered enterprise adoption of Skype for Business telephony, analysts said. Other missing capabilities include E911 support, which can be a deal breaker for a full-scale Skype for Business deployment.
Microsoft has whittled away at the shortcomings analysts have said make Skype for Business a complement to an on-premises IP PBX system instead of a replacement. Over the last six months, for example, the company has expanded calling and conferencing over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) into more countries.
Microsoft's work on Skype for Business telephony has helped drive adoption. Last October, InfoTrack, a division of telecom research firm T3i Group, reported that the number of enterprises and small businesses completing trials of Skype for Business had increased by 42% and 33%, respectively, since 2015.
Microsoft Skype for Business partners
Other Enterprise Connect announcements included a preview release of Skype for Business Online Call Analytics. The dashboard within the Office 365 administration console helps IT managers identify and address problems affecting callers.
Microsoft partners announced additional support for Skype for Business. Starting in April, Polycom's RealConnect for Office 365, which connects Skype for Business online users to room-based video conferencing systems, would be available in the United States. Skype for Business is a part of Microsoft's Office 365 suite of cloud-based software.
Also, Crestron Electronics introduced an update of its Skype Room System, which integrates the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 touchscreen with Crestron audio/video systems.
An evaluation of Skype for Business video conferencing
Planning for a Skype for Business deployment
Supporting Skype for Business on virtual desktops