Live From Enterprise Connect 2018: Robert Davis and Lori Wright of Microsoft

14 Mar 2018

In this Executive Insight video podcast, Kevin Kieller of BCStrategies is joined by Robert Davis, CVP, Skype Business Services & Office Product Group Customer Experience at Microsoft, and Lori Wright, General Manager, Microsoft Teams and Skype, at Microsoft.


Kevin Kieller: Good day. My name is Kevin Kieller, and on behalf of the BCStrategies Group, I am thrilled to have with me Bob Davis, corporate vice president of Office 365 Engineering, and Lori Wright, the general manager of Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams Product Marketing.

First of all, congratulations on a very informative and interesting keynote, and Lori, certainly before on the panel session, had great information. We just want to drill down into some of those things around Skype for Business and Teams.

Now, if we go back, kind of to the night you announced your vision around intelligent communications, you talked really about Skype for Business moving the capability of the teams. So Bob, at the time, there really wasn’t a fully fleshed out road map and yet you decided to make the announcement. Can you go into some of the thinking about why announce it before the road map was built out anyway?

Robert Davis: Sure, first of all, as you know from working with a lot of these big enterprise accounts, they have long planning cycles. We felt like it was really important to be transparent with our customers about where we were headed so that they could plan. We wanted to take them on this journey with us. Consequently, very soon after that night, we published a very detailed road map, actually, in October. We have been steadily making progress against that road map with even some of the features that we committed to coming in a bit early. So we felt that it was really important to, you know, different customers are running different features and capabilities within Skype for Business and Skype for Business Online. If they were just interested in chats or instant messaging and presence, we were ready for them at that moment. We have added features such that today we have a very full solution for meetings. We introduced a few weeks ago, audio conferencing. So they will be able to dial into a meeting. So now we have a complete meeting solution. What we didn’t have then, and we don’t have quite yet is the full phone system functionality. So again, customers are at different points along their journey with us. We wanted to lay all that out for them so that they could plan accordingly. Then we published a very detailed road map to show them how we are making progress along that road map.

Kevin Kieller: Okay, so yeah, heads up and then the complete road map. Now Lori, Teams, it’s really a hub and it integrates tons of the Office 365 capabilities, right, the SharePoint, the OneNote, Skype for Business… As well, it’s also a developer platform, positioned against slack and it certainly has a developer platform. That really speaks, and it works well with the Microsoft DNA. How do you see Teams playing in both of those roles?

Lori Wright: I think it’s all in that platform story, if you think about the fact that we want to make the product—it is a great hub for teamwork. A lot of it is going to be based off of the tools and technologies we already have at Microsoft, but we know that it also needs to be extensible to other apps and services that are already being used. So I would say it’s absolutely both of those things. It is the building on the 120 million users of Office 365, recognizing the value of this suite. You can do document co-op. You can be in there with your Power VI dashboards together. You can have your persistent chat going. You can escalate into a voice or video meeting at any point in time, but you also want those workflow processes to be there. So we are very focused on working with the deaf community to get those apps built in.   

Kevin Kieller: Okay, that’s very exciting. So when you talk about building in and transitioning all the Skype for Business functionality into Teams, what are some of the things Microsoft is doing to help customers with that particular journey, Bob?

Robert Davis: Sure, well, look, change management is a big aspect of this, moving from one to the other. The first thing is that we have been listening. We have spent a lot of time with our customers hearing about feedback as they have used Teams. In fact, one of the things we encouraged all of our customers to do six months ago at Ignite is run both Teams and Skype for Business side to side. I think a lot of times we are used to these upgrades where you come in one day or using one thing. The next day, you are using something completely new. That can be very disruptive.

The nice advantage that we have with Teams is that you can run them side by side. We are seeing that. Seventy percent of our enterprise accounts are running both Skype for Business and Teams side by side. You can bet they are giving us feedback that we are listening to.

We also said move at your own pace. That’s what we are seeing is customers are seeing when it’s right for them to begin moving.

Then there is a lot of additional assistance that we are providing. We talked a little bit about just before we went on air here, but we have got things like materials on our websites for customers to help them with adoption. We are doing in-product messaging to help customers adopt and locate different parts of a product that are interesting to them. We have done training on LinkedIn to assist customers. There is just a lot of things that we are doing to help assist customers with this transition.

I used to run a big chunk of Microsoft IT. I know that change management is really important when you are changing the culture. It’s not as simple as just rolling something out and hoping that people adopt it. So there is a lot we can do here with continuing education.

Kevin Kieller: Okay and it sounds like so there are lots of materials that people should go look for on the websites.

Robert Davis: Yeah.

Kevin Kieller: It sounds like that’s even evolving as you hear from customers.

Robert Davis: Yeah.

Kevin Kieller: So we talk about this transition, Lori, but for large enterprises, it’s not just like a cut over. Skype for Business Online is going away at some point. Do enterprise customers need to worry about this date where you are going to turn that off and force them to move over to Teams? What is the Microsoft position on that?

Lori Wright: Yeah, one of the things that we are very focused on is making sure that we move when it’s right for the customers and for our enterprises, we are looking to learn from them and to have them help us along this way. We are setting up the tools and processes that Bob has spoken to you on helping them through that journey. But we don’t have a date, yet. I mean there is truly not an internal date that we are all sitting around saying oh, we are just not sharing this.

Kevin Kieller: The secret.

Lori Wright: There is no secret date.

Kevin Kieller: Okay, no, I am sure that’s good for the enterprises to understand.

Talk a little bit about this call control road map, and I think at the beginning you talked about the road map and you are actually delivering some of the things ahead of schedule. So in terms of call control, how are you going to make it robust enough that really enterprises can use Teams as their call control platform?

Lori Wright: We are well on our way down that path. When we announced last September that we were going to be taking Skype for Business and Office 365 and moving that over into Teams, we pretty shortly thereafter put out our road map for what the time frame was going to look like for us to build those pairing features. There were 70 enterprise voice features on that road map. By January, we had already delivered over half of those. We are on a path right now to have the vast majority of them and those that are truly critical and that represent what people need to move. We will have that done by June.

So I think we are continuing down road map. We are executing really well from an engineering perspective. We also had a really important announcement this week, as you know, around the call direct routing. As Bob spoke to you, what direct routing really does is it allows you to focus the trunk, and if you have a Microsoft calling plan, you continue to use that Microsoft calling plan with Teams. But if you have an existing telco and you want to keep that relationship, and just connect those trunks through, then we do that through direct routing. In doing that, we have essentially just enabled global dial tone. So the combination of us continuing to deliver these enterprise voice features, be able to deliver this global dial tone capability now, sets us up for a complete solution.

Robert Davis: Yeah, I will also just add, it’s not like we have had to choose blindly at what we need to do to meet these voice features. We had hundreds of thousands of seats moved to our cloud phone system on Skype for Business. So when Lori talks about parity, we absolutely know what is required.

Lori Wright: That’s right.

Kevin Kieller: On that direct routing, I mean that was an exciting new choice that you are allowing enterprise customers. So that was certainly very exciting to hear about.

Lori Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Kieller: Teams as a cloud only service – one of the things I am excited about then, and you started to show us some of this is what the cloud enables. So things around artificial intelligence and those features…can you talk about your vision of what are some of the maybe give a sneak preview to some of the things that Microsoft is thinking about that being all into the cloud enables, especially around artificial intelligence types of features?

Robert Davis: Sure and we showed a little bit of this in the keynote just a few moments ago, but the ability to know who the right people are to involve in a project, especially in large companies, finding expertise is really difficult. With all of the information that we have in the office graph and the source for every email, every message, every document that is shared around, we know a lot about the enterprise or we can serve up a lot of the enterprise to end users. So knowing who to talk to is one.

Digitizing the analogue information in a meeting is another one and making that available, too, like doing translation, by doing recording, and transcription and translation of the information and making that available. All of that information in the past has just been lost to an enterprise. You know you have the meeting…You might be lucky enough to write up the notes. You might not. There are great opportunities for artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc., to help with those kinds of scenarios. I am not sure if you have some others that you share, but--

Lori Wright: Yeah, I know. I am going to hit on a lot of the key ones, but it really is about deeply imbedding AI as well. It’s not just like bolting it on on top. Like we are really thinking about how it gets used throughout the product.

Kevin Kieller: Okay, yeah, so I guess it is that intelligence communications and the pre-meeting, the meeting, and then the post-meeting that you talked about. It’s exciting to start to see some of these features.

Robert Davis: Yeah, that’s one illustration. Another one that I thought of that was really great that we showed in the keynote was just doing things like being able to call someone in your enterprise. Lori and I work together frequently. There are probably 500 Lori’s at Microsoft. But if I say something like, “Hey, call Lori” it knows that that is the Lori I work with, just like we have infused AI through the rest of Office 365. When I author an email and I start typing Lori, it recognizes that I typically communicate with Lori Wright. Subsequently, she’s put on the “To” line. So that same concept that we brought throughout Office 365, there is such an opportunity to bring that to communications and collaborations.

Kevin Kieller: Right, and that is a great example. That is really the intelligent part of it, as you said. It’s seamless, but it just does the right thing through the contacts.

Lori Wright: Right, it’s ambient. It’s kind of just there.

Kevin Kieller: Now, you know, Lori, I mean Teams seems to be the one client to rule them all. Does the vision include maybe moving Outlook into Teams? I mean it’s bringing everything in. So what do you see the long term of email? Do people that live in Outlook, do you see them living in Teams eventually?

Lori Wright: Right, well, I think with Outlook, like if you think about Outlook and email in general is it’s a ubiquitous mass communication tool. So if I can email anyone, anywhere, anytime, as long as I can find my email address and that is kind of the channel that has been established for a long period of time now. Certainly, we didn’t build Team or design Teams as a replacement to email, but what we did envision at the time was rightsizing email and recognizing that now we live in a world where people, SMS and chat, and that really clutters up an inbox. It’s not an efficient way to communicate, especially when you are doing that rapid fire ad hoc communication. So what we look at is that if we certainly don’t expect email to go away. In fact, email continues to grow and the numbers. The email grew ten percent last year or something in that quarter. So Teams is about just rightsizing that and getting the communications in the right place anytime. 

Kevin Kieller: Okay and you used that “rightsizing,” the email phrase in the panel discussion. I thought that was a great way to put it. So email is not going away. Outlook will stay. You heard it here first. Breaking news!

So you made some great announcements and showed off some of the devices that work with teams. Talk about the importance of devices and teams.

Robert Davis: Our partners are very important to us, our hardware partners. The amount of innovation coming from them is incredible. So but we also believe that it’s really important to get Teams as close to the user as possible, whether that is in the meeting room, on the desk phone, etc. It does a few things. First, it certainly helps with quality; a service is constantly being kept up to date. We need that endpoint to be kept up to date. Whether it’s a PC, a mobile phone, a device in the conference room, etc. So as you walked around the expo hall, you probably have seen our partners with examples of all of their devices running Teams natively.

The other thing that we showed in the keynote that I think is really interesting is the ability to get our skills and our senses down there. So we used examples of invoking things like making a phone call just by lifting the handsets and calling, by using voice to invoke a skill. We have something called our Command Bar in Teams today. You can see many of the skills that we have there that are open to our third parties as well. So getting Teams close to the user, we would like to say “Teams everywhere,” but doing it on our partner devices has really been something that has been amazing to see just, since last Enterprise Connect to see how our partners have embraced that.

Kevin Kieller: Yeah, certainly huge progress in this short year, right? I want to think it’s like officially been one year now.

Lori Wright: Today.

Robert Davis: Today.

Kevin Kieller: There you go, very exciting. So maybe to both of you to wrap it up, what would be key recommendations to your existing Skype for Business users, especially in the enterprise? These are the organizations that kind of start with OCS, a lot of them, went to Linc, came with you on the journey to Skype for Business. What do you say to them now in terms of us as Teams becomes clearly the future platform?

Robert Davis: I have two things. One is, as I mentioned earlier, run it side by side. Don’t just take our word for it. Start to use the product if you’re not already. As I mentioned, about 70 percent of our enterprises already are. So you want to be doing that.

The other thing I would mention is we have a program called Fast Track. We use Fast Track to help customers transition to the cloud. Now that most customers are on the cloud, we are using that same service that is incorporated with Office 365 to help customers move from Skype for Business to Teams. So work with your account teams, get engaged with Fast Track. We are happy to map out this journey with you. So those are two things to consider.

Lori Wright: Yeah, I think those are great. The only other one I would add to that is I think a lot of people thought well, we are just going to take what is in Skype for Business and build that into Teams and kind of call it a day and have it like on this new platform, but the reality is we are adding so many new innovations and features into Teams, that you truly don’t look at them as parity products. Skype for Business is great, and it does the set of things that it does. But Teams is really the future. It’s where we are building all of these new capabilities. So it is important to get going with it.

Kevin Kieller: Okay, well, with that I think Teams is the future. I think that that is the great way to wrap it up. Lori, thank you very much for your time. Bob, thank you.

Robert Davis: Thank you very much.

Kevin Kieller: Yeah, thank you very much. On behalf of BCStrategies, this is Kevin Kieller signing off.


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