The Evolution of Microsoft Teams as a UCaaS Service

When Microsoft Teams first emerged on the market in 2017, it was as a simple solution for business communication and collaboration, intended to replace Skype for Business. Since then, the technology has evolved into a comprehensive platform, capable of forming the foundations of a complete communication stack. You can even build your contact centre through Microsoft Teams.

According to CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella, the goal of Microsoft Teams is now to create a digital platform “as significant as a computer operating system or internet browser”, particularly for the new age of hybrid work.

The company is definitely on its way to achieving that target, with Teams now standing as the fastest-growing application in Microsoft history. Let’s take a closer look at how Microsoft is evolving Teams into a full UCaaS solution.

Creating a Comprehensive Communication Stack

Microsoft’s path into the UCaaS landscape and beyond has largely been accelerated by the rapid convergence of IT and telecoms during the pandemic. As circumstances forced companies to rapidly move away from old-fashioned 9-to-5 working environments into the hybrid future, tools like Microsoft Teams have become the new central “work hub”.

With team members working from a range of different environments, and on a host of different software tools, companies have found themselves in search of a very specific technical landscape. Businesses need single-pane-of-glass applications capable of combining a multitude of different requirements into one easy-to-use tool. That’s exactly what Microsoft Teams can offer.

The aim of UCaaS has always been to unify technology from a range of different communication environments into one space. UCaaS typically brings together voice, video, chat, and file sharing in a single platform. What Microsoft did differently, was start not from the communication space, but from the productivity and technology landscape.

Most companies already had an investment in Microsoft before Teams began to grow in popularity, using it for things like Microsoft Dynamics, and Office 365. When collaborative tools became essential to the workflow, choosing a solution already integrated with these offerings made sense.

Microsoft allowed users to build on their productivity stack with collaborative tools for video, chat, and file sharing, then it began to look at communication.

Transforming Productivity into UCaaS

Microsoft’s decision to start building a UCaaS environment by focusing on its strengths was clever. No-one saw Microsoft as a communications provider, because it never had a background in the telephony space. However, to create a full UCaaS offering, Microsoft did need to eventually bring voice into the mix. This is where the company really cemented it’s position as a leader.

Although Microsoft does offer built-in telecommunications solutions in the form of “Business Phone plans”, it appealed to its customers by allowing them to “bring their own” communication provider too. Companies were given the option to enhance communication functionality in teams with Direct routing. As of 2021, Microsoft revealed around 70.4% of all organisations chose this route.

Direct Routing captured the attention of the market and positioned Microsoft as a real contender in the UCaaS space, by allowing it to combine communication expertise, with it’s existing standing in the productivity and technology world.

However, Microsoft didn’t stop with Direct Routing. The company continued to implement new and improved ways to make its solution more accessible, with the rise of Operator Connect. What Operator Connect did differently, was give users the freedom and flexibility of direct routing, without the need for any coding knowledge or PowerShell complexity.

Microsoft’s existing partnerships with a host of communication providers meant it could start offering users a more streamlined solution for flexible telecommunications instantly, in locations around the world. Eventually, Operator Connect started to evolve to include mobile providers (for 5G connections), SBC solutions, and conferencing vendors too.

If all that wasn’t enough, Microsoft then started eyeing up the CCaaS landscape too. This is an important step at a time when many companies are beginning to explore the benefits of combining “as a service” offerings in a single cloud environment.

Microsoft now has 8 certified contact centre solutions to choose from, and the convenient connected contact centre program guarantees a high-quality, reliable service for anyone who wants to use it.

Becoming a Market Leader

Microsoft might not have started its transition into the UCaaS (and now CCaaS) space in the same way as most vendors, but it’s certainly achieving the right results. Now, the company has been named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrants for both UCaaS and Meeting Solutions. 2021 marks the third year in a row Microsoft hit the Leadership position for UCaaS.

A unique approach to the landscape, focused on putting technology and innovation with partners first, allowed Microsoft to create a unique ecosystem where people can build the perfect unified environment they need for today’s agile communications space.

What’s more, by opening the door to communications partners from day one, Microsoft has ensured it can work with the other vendors capable of offering a better communication experience to end-users, instead of against them. Microsoft’s path to leadership in the UCaaS sector is an excellent insight into just how diverse this marketplace can be. As the company’s Teams’ solution continues to expand, with new functionality and partnership opportunities emerging all the time, Microsoft really does have the potential to transform the UCaaS world as we know it.