10 Jan.

Experiences with Cloud PBX (Skype for Business Online)

Over my years at Paradyne I had run Lync in a variety of environments – on-premises, in a datacentre, and with a couple of different hosted service providers.

Being acquired by Generation-e just over a year ago allowed us to bring the Paradyne cloud skills together with the Generation-e unified communications skills – specifically with Skype for Business.

For the past year we’ve been running in an on-premises environment, and have held off moving our users to Cloud PBX in Skype for Business Online for a couple of major reasons:

  • No Response Groups (aka Hunt Groups)
  • No PSTN calling

In fact PSTN Conferencing was only made available in Australia on the 1st of September 2016.

When I visited the Hyperfish office in Kirkland WA late last year I was jealous of their use of full Cloud PBX functionality – something we couldn’t have in Australia.

So the only choices available in Australia (and most other parts of the world that aren’t USA, UK or France) for organisations that have Skype for Business on-premises infrastructure is to utilise a hybrid deployment where all calls are still routed via the on-premises infrastructure but users live in Cloud PBX. A simplified version utilises the “Cloud Connector Edition” which requires less on-premises infrastructure. Anyway, I digress.

To get Cloud PBX working with on-premises infrastructure is somewhat straight-forward and available in this article: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt455217.aspx

The experience

As an end user I haven’t really noticed any difference. The only thing that threw me is that instead of having a localised dial-in conferencing number assigned based on user location policy, in Australia we only have a single number with a Sydney prefix (02). How I was thrown was when I dialled in a customer they asked me if I was Sydney-based (I am actually based in Melbourne).

However you can assign numbers from various capital cities to individual users by following the process on this support page: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Getting-Skype-for-Business-service-phone-numbers-e434aeb2-af99-40e7-981e-a474f0383734?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

(I have since done that for myself and now have an 03 Melbourne prefix for my dial-in number.)

I don’t really do much international conferencing with parties that don’t already have Skype for Business – but if that were to arise I can easily enable PSTN conference dial-in numbers for other countries:

The only loss of functionality is the Unified Messaging functionality. As we were using Exchange Online there was no Australian language pack available which meant we never had voicemail preview (speech to text conversion), so all I’ve lost is the embedded media player:

And now instead receive the voicemail as MP3 file attachment:

Apart from that the experience is no different than on-premises. The call quality both when on a PSTN call or conference call is superb, and we can now see the usage details in the Skype for Business Online admin centre:

As well as the ability to see call quality in the Skype Call Quality Dashboard:

My migration experience: barely noticeable.

My usage experience: same as before.

 9 Jan.

Integrating Yammer into Microsoft Teams

One of the challenges that Microsoft Teams brought is the confusion around which communication medium and when. This is confusing for IT departments, change managers, team managers, and general users.

I’ve written previously about the challenge with multiple communication modalities here, here, and here.

While attending the Microsoft MVP Summit in November 2016 we had a number of sessions around Microsoft Teams. In several of them we were told about the Yammer tab that would be coming soon, but unfortunately no further information was given.

In the interim however we’re left with a choice of silos – do I drive communications via Yammer, or Teams? Well thankfully one amazing developer called Guillaume Meyer has built the “Yammer Tab for Microsoft Teams” so that we don’t have to make this choice – nor do we need to wait for Microsoft to update the Teams app to support this functionality.

The process is simple:

  1. Download the YammerTabForTeams.zip file
  2. Click on your team contextual menu and select “View Team”

  1. Select the “Developer (Preview)” tab and upload the YammerTabForTeams.zip file

  2. Go to the channel where you want to add the Yammer group, and hit the + sign in the top navigation, you will now see the Yammer icon

  3. Accept the developer license terms, and select the type of Yammer feed you want to display – being Group or Feed. If you select Group as I have done in this screenshot then you will need to pull this from the URL of the Yammer group itself (ie. the 7377811 from here: https://www.yammer.com/generation-e.com.au/#/threads/inGroup?type=in_group&feedId=7377811&view=all)

  4. Press “Save”, and you should now see your Yammer group showing up in your relevant Microsoft Team channel!

Rinse & repeat for every channel you want to add a Yammer group to (this means you’ll need to upload the “YammerTabForTeams.zip” file to each Team you want to add it to).

You can access the GitHub page of this solution here: https://github.com/guillaumemeyer/YammerTabForTeams

A huge thank you to Guillaume Meyer for creating this!