BizTech BizTech Podcasts

52. Microsoft Teams, Is it always the right fit? With Shane Speakman

January 18, 2023

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Tune in today to hear Shane Speakman, VP of the UC practice at Telarus. Shane comes back on for Season 2 after being our very first guest on the show last season. Today we discuss something we’re all familiar with, which is Microsoft Teams. More importantly, we talk about when it is a fit, and when it isn’t. Shane lays out some very specific scenarios that I think our partners will like to hear.

Josh Lupresto (00:01):

Welcome to the podcast that is designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus. And this is Next Level BizTech. All right, everybody. Today we’re back here as you can see with the special guest, Mr. Shane Speakman, VP of the UC practice at Telarus. Shane, thanks so much for agreeing to come back to the podcast.

Shane Speakman (00:28):

Yes, thank you.

Josh Lupresto (00:30):

Shane was guest number one on the podcast, so when we had no plan, no goals, no whatever, and we just kind of winged it, here we are back coming up on 50 episodes. So appreciate you, and we’re back here in the studio, studio 19 in Utah. So excited to jump in, man.

Shane Speakman (00:46):

Yeah, thanks. Congrats on the success. It’s been really fun to hear about your different guests.

Josh Lupresto (00:51):

Yeah, thanks. It’s fun. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s been so cool to just learn so much about people that, you know, we, we thought we knew a lot about your illustrious scrapbooking career.

Josh Lupresto (01:03):

It’s where it all started. That’s right. But today we’re not talking scrapbooking. If people wanna know about your career back in the scrapbooking days and, and where your, your awesome path has gotten you to, they can go back and listen to episode number one on that. But you know, let’s, let’s remind everybody though of, is this the path that you set out to, right. When, when did it really click for you? When did you know this technology area, this space was the path for you? Yeah, maybe let’s start it off there.

Shane Speakman (01:30):

So, a actually, let’s go, let’s go back to scrapbooking, which is, I, I sold my company in my late twenties and, and moved into a little nicer neighborhood. And it’s just so happened that my neighbor owned a telecom company, and as we became friends and worked out and vacationed, he said, Hey, why don’t you come lead my sales organization and I’ll give you a piece of the company? And I said, I don’t know anything about telecom. He said, that’s alright. It’s easy. And, and I’ll tell you, my thought process was I saw that the industry that I had invested in was starting to die. It was, it was turning digital. And as I looked forward towards telecommunications and the cloud services that were coming, I thought, oh, here, here’s, here’s a, a long term play. And so as we look at the ebb and flow, whether it’s through the macroeconomics or microeconomics here locally, it’s been a, a fantastic industry. And so for me, it was really about longevity, which is obviously proven to be that the internet and communicating is not exactly a fad ,

Josh Lupresto (02:28):

See, I think it’s gonna stay. And, and speaking of fads, not, not a fad. Who knows? The topic of today that we’re talking about is Microsoft Teams easy at the right fit. I mean, there was a period where, where we went through where that was just every other word that we said was Microsoft teams. And so, so that’s the point that I wanna lay out of this podcast is we’re gonna dial in as we go through this talk track of the fact of is Microsoft Teams always the right fit, rhetorical, but we’re gonna end it and we’re gonna answer it and, and solve that as we kind of go through this. So talking about that I wanna see what, what are you seeing, right? Yeah. It’s been a while since you’ve been on. What have you seen with customers that are moving to teams? Is it working? What are they struggling with? We’re coming out of obviously all the pandemic stuff, and, and that has settled down, but, but what, you know, what’s your thoughts there?

Shane Speakman (03:16):

You know, a lot’s actually changed since last time we talked about Microsoft Teams and the series that we did early on. I think it was filled with some ambiguity as to what teams ultimately would become, how much of the industry it would take over. What what’s really interesting is Gartner just released its magic Quadrant for UC suppliers, Microsoft Teams was, was noted as the leader. And so not only has it proven to be a a good stable platform, it’s, it’s also becoming more feature rich with better integration. So certainly, especially as we talk with suppliers in our portfolio we are more cognizant of the fact that this is, this is certainly a, an important player. As I spoke with one of the Gartner analysts last year, he indicated that he thought that this would be 25% of the market.

Shane Speakman (04:05):

And we’re seeing, if you look at those monthly active users in 2020, of course there was a huge bump, right? I think we saw an increase of about 20 million users as people went to work from home. But that was really only from about 44 million up to roughly 75 million. And now we’re approaching that 300 million month monthly active user mark mark. So with that increase of adoption, clearly we’re seeing more innovation not just with Microsoft teams, but with third party suppliers integrating into that. And we, we’ve seen the advent of operator connect, which I’m sure we’ll talk about, but certainly it’s, it’s growing and it’s changing, becoming more robust.

Josh Lupresto (04:41):

So, so we’ve established that it’s, it is really kind of what we talked about and what we set out that it would, it would proliferate and it would just kind of expand into the broader marketplace and people using it, whether we thought it was a good fit or not. But what do you see from a struggles perspective? What, let’s, let’s talk about the bad people that maybe have moved or thinking about, you know, have moved part of their things into it. Is it working? And, and if it’s not, what are they struggling with?

Shane Speakman (05:09):

Sure. Right. Of course, with anything, the answer is, it depends. What we have found, of course, is that an IT department or an a strategy would be let’s, let’s put everything Microsoft on in our stack. And so we’re finding that with that natural integration, especially into office 365, it becomes a matter of even if this tool that has potentially pstn connectivity through licensing is available readily in this platform, does it have the features? Does it have the ai, does it have the really the integrations to make the most efficient workspace? And the answer is not all the time. And so if a company has deployed Teams is using teams, it may be sufficient for a lot of users, but it’s not necessarily changing the game. And when we look at innovation in the industry, it’s somewhat lagging, which is, which is natural and to be expected.

Shane Speakman (06:10):

So where is it not working? Well, it’s, it’s certainly not working. If a company is looking to change customer experience through technology with a communications platform the other, the other areas that’s not working would be in that look, it, it can get really expensive, really fast. I, I was actually talking with a customer who had slowly bolted on the different oli carte options from teams, and then as they audited their, their bill, they thought, oh my gosh, we are spending so much money on teams. When in reality, if they had gone with a direct routing partner, or even with a third party PBX vendor, they could have bifurcated some of those licenses to say, we need some basic, basic subscriptions here, and we need some maybe more advanced features over here, and ultimately could have saved money.

Josh Lupresto (06:57):

You know, you, you you bring up a good point with, with, it seems like I, I care more about what the Fed chair does and what the economic headwinds are that, that face the broader markets than I ever did ever before earlier in my life, probably more than I even like to care about now. But I think it’s important because we, we look at those things and we have to determine how are they gonna affect business? How are our partners gonna be able to approach, or how are they gonna have to approach their customers differently? Is it gonna promote a, a sea of digital transformation where people are a little more willing to spend money, or is it gonna promote a time where people need to examine their costs and figure out where they’re spending, how they’re spending? And I think that’s what’s great about this is that, you know, for our partners that are listening to this, they’ve always been such incredible entrepreneurs and just figuring out a way to be successful.

Josh Lupresto (07:48):

And during the periods of the bull run, it’s, let’s do digital transformation. Let’s modernize, let’s accelerate. And now maybe it’s a little more of, to your point, let’s look at where we’ve spent money in the last couple years. Is it making us profitable? Is it too high of a cost? Is there a better way, a more efficient way for us to kind of do things? And so you, I think you bring up a great point that our partners have to be aware of is, you know, if you frame that into a question, what’s that? What’s that question that the partners that know their customers have moved a little bit into, teams are not sure about it? And if they need a reason to re-approach them, what’s a question that you give them to ask related to kind of what you just mentioned?

Shane Speakman (08:27):

So, I, I, I would say there are a few different considerations. When we talk about, lemme take a step back. When we talk about UCaaS we’re really talking about collaboration suite. And I think inherently we go to voice as kind of the default. And when we talk about Microsoft Teams, we’re also talking about different types of communications. And so ultimately what, what we’re really struggling with, I would say with Teams, would be those integrations into the disparate systems. And so that’s one of the first questions which would, would surround what are, what are the other technologies that you’re, you are utilizing? Which, which of these systems would you ultimately want to integrate into a communications platform? We find that a lot of, a lot of users are buying a bolt-on messaging platform or they’re, they don’t have, again, that AI embedded into teams, and so they’re using a third party AI platform for transcription service, or they, they aren’t integrating with their inventory management system, which you wouldn’t think would be a necessarily an integration into communications.

Shane Speakman (09:36):

But as you look at the ability to receive a message, have it dip into that inventory management system, and then respond with some really good output, it will increase that customer experience. And unfortunately, our partners, I think at at least a, a large subset of them have come from that clac world just like I did, where it’s all right, we’re gonna do key emulation, we’re gonna just move this exact PBX into a cloud environment. And as we’ve moved or progressed forward, I, I think we’ve had to really change the mindset to we’re going to be a consultant and now show you what the art of the possible is. And so those questions will vary based on the customer’s needs or their appetite for innovation as well.

Josh Lupresto (10:19):

Fair, fair. Good stuff. Okay. we’re gonna get into trends on deals here in just a second. Maybe we’ll, we’ll talk a little bit about Operator Connect. We’ll talk about direct routing. What, what are you seeing before we, before we kind of jump into that, right? It, it, some of these folks are being faced with modernization. They’re, they’re trying to evolve their business, and I think we talked about that just a minute ago, whether they’re transforming or they’re trying to save costs, right? The track is gonna be a little different, but what are you seeing a lot of the asks and the trends from partners, right? Is it, is it, do I need to care about operator connect? Is it, what are the differences between this and direct routing? And, and, and before we answer that, if we back up to when we talked about this last time, we were just trying to decipher through what truly being a Microsoft partner was. And we thought everybody said they could do Direct Connect, and then we found out, oh, direct Connect really meant if you have the Azure Certified Session Border Controllers and the Microsoft ones that are on their approved list, and where those are, and the adjacent in in ad, you know, all of that good stuff versus now Operator Connect changes at, so a lot of kinda loading that question up, but what, what are you seeing out of that trends and, and differences around those two Microsoft offerings?

Shane Speakman (11:32):

So, I would say most immediately, the last time we talked, I think there were still some ambiguity around the architecture of going through call to teams. And we, we saw that a lot of third party PBX vendors were kind of masking the fact that they were using this, this third party to actually connect to one of those approved SBCs within Microsoft. Call to Teams was acquired by qfi, which is now Destiny which is a Brussels based company. I don’t think there’s any real concern around their partnership, but ultimately what that has done is that it, it has led to more innovation. And we look at operator Connect, for example, where now third party suppliers are embedding their technology into the Azure ecosystem. And so it’s it’s now an app that you can self consume through their marketplace.

Shane Speakman (12:20):

And so when you, when you look at the experience, we’re finding that, whether it’s direct routing or through call to teams even operator connect there’s some minute differences. And the, the innovation is really in how easy is it to now provision, and that’s part of Operator Connect. What, what does the redundancy look like? And clearly we’ve had, we’ve had some Microsoft team outages. And so I think ultimately the real goal here, if I’m a partner looking at an environment that has teams, which is probable, it’s do we wanna rip and replace or do we wanna find a solution that hits all of their needs and then incorporates the core technology that they’ve already invested in?

Josh Lupresto (13:06):

Yeah. Great. Great point. And just from what it seems like, at least from an engineering mindset, I don’t see a lot of revolutionary things out of Operator Connect that they couldn’t do before. Right? Yeah. To your point, maybe it makes it a little more intuitive for people to turn up. Maybe it brings some more part you know, supplier, vendor partners into the ecosystem. But again, it’s just, it, it does follow into the talk track of what you and I always used to talk about was that Microsoft will continue to iterate, they will continue to be partner friendly, but we just don’t know what that next product is gonna be. But it seems that Operator Connect has just been an iterative product and iterative development that makes it a little more easy to, or a little easier to, to, to integrate with Microsoft in that as they go forward.

Shane Speakman (13:52):

Yeah. there was a, there was some concern around the management or the provisioning through Microsoft PowerShell. Mm-Hmm. , right? It can be laborious, and if you don’t have somebody who’s certified or at least have has gone through the process, it, it can really be a challenge for, for companies to migrate. What’s really great about our full service providers is that you have that support and then you can circumvent that process by utilizing a really good operations team who clearly has experience in in this.

Josh Lupresto (14:24):

Yeah, good point. All right. Let’s talk about successful partners. We, you know, we, we talked about some of the pain point, and remember, the, the, the goal of this track and the title of this track is, is Teams always a Fit? Right? And, and I think we’re addressing things that allude to help you decide one way or the other, if, if it is, and when it is successful partners that are out there that are, that are navigating this talk track, what are they doing? What are they developing expertise wise? What are you teaching and training? What, what do you want people to gleam from that to continue to be more successful in this area as it evolves?

Shane Speakman (15:01):

I have two thoughts on this. Number one, if, if there’s an environment with teams where they have set that standard, I, I think it is unwise to try and uproot that it is, okay, embrace the core of the technology and let’s add to it, let’s enhance what they have. Secondly, I would say if you are not taking the consultative approach and showing the art of the possible, or using maybe use cases or examples from our solutions architects and opportunities that we’ve been involved in to create new workflows, customer experience communication possibilities, then you’re not doing your job. And those successful, those really successful partners have looked at how those different either interactions take place with different different servers or technologies, even softwares such as Marketo or Eloqua. What they’re doing is looking at that saying, okay, there’s an opportunity here and I’m going to show you how to make for a better customer experience, and this is the ROI that you can expect.

Josh Lupresto (16:08):

Good. let’s, let’s go into examples. So what I think is always interesting when we talk about this is that sometimes when the deals come to us or the opportunities come to us, it, what we end up selling doesn’t always look like what it came to us originally. Like, certainly, you know, I hope when, when our team gets involved and when you get involved, we, we help a partner multiply that opportunity or improve the close ratio, or, you know, any of those kind of metrics, right? We uncover more things. Would love to hear about kind of an example where, you know, an opportunity that you saw, what it looked like, what the problems were, what were some of the pieces that, that you, you realized that we could help with and uncover and, you know, what was the end result in that?

Shane Speakman (16:53):

Sure. You and I have kind of joked about that. Most, most conversations start with Microsoft teams and it’s amazing how the percentage of Microsoft teams deployment when we’re done with that consultative approach is really kind of low. And so you know, I think at the beginning we, we kind of wondered, is this going to be every conversation? Well, it certainly starts with every conversation. One in particular that I would say was impactful and maybe it’s very typical for a partner would be that, look, I’ve, I’ve got Microsoft teams in a, in a few different deployments here. I’ve got a PBX as well. And so I’ve, I have some tools that I’m using outside of Microsoft Teams. We’re still seeing that there are a lot of Zoom licenses being utilized for, for video. They may even have Slack for, for a messaging platform.

Shane Speakman (17:46):

And so a typical opportunity would be one in this is one that I think that we saw a lot of success, especially with that horizontal or, or looking in the different technology stacks to be able to incorporate different practices. But it’s one where you say, okay, look, do you wanna stay in teams? And then this is a situation? They said, look, yeah, we’ve invested in teams and, and we don’t wanna deviate from that. And so what we did is looked at the other technologies that they had deployed and said, all right, if we’re gonna do this, let’s first of all, let’s incorporate new technology from a PBX vendor, throw that into teams. And there are ways now to circumvent that $8 PBX charge by throwing a dialer natively into the into the app, which, which is fantastic, right?

Shane Speakman (18:28):

Saves you money there, it gives you additional features. It starts to introduce the AI and change the workflow. Not only that, but it then it also brings in the messaging. We find that just like just like some video platforms, we, we, there’s a propensity to stick with whichever chat feature that that your organization uses a changing that can be somewhat difficult. So when we integrate that into teams, we find that now you don’t have to consume quite as much of that a la carte stack. And then in this example, what happened is we ended up actually saving them money through that integration, but then also giving them the additional feature sets.

Josh Lupresto (19:06):

Love it. Yeah, I think we just, you know, we have to make that determination of, you know, is this a fit? We talk a lot about some of our UC providers, like a dial pad, right? That have incredible artificial intelligence, and I’m, I’m not gonna steal your thunder room. We talk about kind of the future, but it, it, it either seems like it goes that route, or it goes the route of somebody like you know, that’s on the forefront of the cutting edge of what being adjacent to what Microsoft is doing, like an s SCB global, where they’re in the Azure pops, they’re, they’re embracing and, and, and training and teaching and managing operator connect and anywhere 365 and all of these things. And so, good example I think it, it just builds on what we’ve talked about of we’ve gotta understand where they’re at. Are we ripping? Are we integrating, are we growing? Do we need help managing, do they lack the people to do it? All that good stuff. Okay. Great stuff, great examples. Last couple thoughts here as we wrap this up. When you look at the future, and maybe this is 12 months out, maybe this is a little bit further, what are some of the trends that you want our partners to be aware of? And, and really maybe what is that talk track? What are some of those questions that you wanna leave them with?

Shane Speakman (20:16):

So I think that when you look at the, based on my experience, when you look at the innovation that’s occurred in this industry over the last even five years, it’s sexy, right? Dial tone, ah, maybe not so sexy. We, we expect that it’s good when you look at Microsoft calling plans, whether it’s their, you know, this, their domestic, international or pays you get, all right, we’re, we’re, we’re not, nobody’s doing high fives over, over anything like this . But when we start talking about how to really impact customer experience or employee experience using this new technology to mitigate churn in your, in your workforce to, to better manage a remote workforce, to utilize a messaging platform that allows for better communication, especially with a a generation that expects immediate results from a, from a Google search or an immediate response for any type of information inquiry it becomes really fun.

Shane Speakman (21:18):

It becomes really transformative. And so, yeah, you’re right. When, when you, when you talk about AI in general I, I think there are a lot of companies innovating really cool new technology that really changes the way that that we even think about how we operate. If I were to give you an example, if, if I were able to and let me back up and say, the CPAs community, which is growing rapidly, is really starting to innovate and bolt on different features into UC platforms that allow for really cool messaging and geolocating in these short codes. And you start talking about what we have seen on the periphery as being this almost rogue platform that was de developer driven. And you start to incorporate that into a teams environment. Now, now, if you really got something so when, when, when I see the ability for my son to be able to text his his favorite shoe store and have that come back with, yep, here’s a link and here’s the shoe that’s available, and here’s the price and would you like to put this on hold?

Shane Speakman (22:26):

But because he has the app when he walks through the mall, that’s able to geolocate him to shoot him out a message that says, Hey, I, we can give you 10% off if you shop within the next hour. Now, now that’s transformative. And that all goes back to and revolves around this communications platform, which you can use teams as a, as a, as a basic platform that everything is enhanced on. Well, also when you start looking at natural language processing the transcription service transcription service in itself is cool. It’s becoming really good, and it will be, it will become better, but it’s how you use that data, right? How an organization is able to start to cash all of it and then make really good assumptions about that data looking at the the algorithms that say, Hey, we’re predicting that this conversation is going south, and so here’s a suggestion based on success that was indicated in, in an aggregate of a thousand different calls or a million different calls over here.

Shane Speakman (23:29):

It’s just a very different way of looking at communication. And I think that we will see more of that. The expectation will be that as a workflow and as an employee experience, if I wanna message one of my colleagues and say, Hey, what’s going on with this deal over here? And the AI can pick it up and say, Hey, I, I noticed that you asked about this deal. Here’s a suggested link to your sales force. Or here, here’s a, here’s a link that shows that this actually hit your BI tool because of a inquiry into your, your data system over here, and it’s already sold. Now we’ve really become more efficient. And it’s yeah, it makes for a cool experience. Yeah.

Josh Lupresto (24:07):

Great. There’s like 16 great golden nuggets in there. I think what I hope the partners walk away with is, you know, on the surface you might feel like, yeah, but everybody has a collaboration tool, or they, I think my car, my, my customer just bought something. But if you don’t ask yourself those types of experiences and put yourself in the role of a consumer that is buying a like product at, at a competitor, you have to take that stuff back, I think, and, and, and ask yourself is, is my business, is my customer able to do these things? And able to innovate in a way that, you know, to your point when dial tone was just not the sexiest thing, it was a necessary commodity and it was a cost. Now the technology space and the collaboration space has to be looked at as a way for these businesses to modernize and capture revenue that they just haven’t thought of. So I think our, as our partners are not just thinking at this as a, well, have I sold them this? Have I not sold them this yet? It’s how can I help my customers and my prospects modernize the way that they’re generating revenue, the way that they’re building their own brand, to your point, right? Now they can communicate with a demographic that they just couldn’t communicate before. And if they’re not able to do that, to your point, they’re just missing the mark and somebody else is gonna do it,

Shane Speakman (25:22):

Right? And the innovation is certainly changing the way that that we operate. I’m a truck guy, and when I, when I think about my old diesel truck, look, it, it does the same thing that my new truck does. It, it hauls my trailer, but now my, my new truck is a, it’s, it’s a beacon of technology, right? When you, when you look at the Bluetooth thing, you look at the, the navigation, and you look at the, the internet that I connect to in my own, in my own truck. I never had that expectation before. I just needed something to tow my trailer. And I think it’s the same here where we, we should expect, and as partners, we ought to be expecting that we, we bring that new technology and that that advice so that we’re seen as that long-term consultant.

Josh Lupresto (26:07):

Great stuff. Okay. I think we wrapped it up. I, I hope people listen to this and, and gives them a little bit of a gleam of when and if Microsoft Teams is really a fit. I think you did a great job of providing us some examples of how to talk through that. So Shane Speakman, appreciate you coming on, man. Good to have you on again.

Shane Speakman (26:22):

Thanks, bro.

Josh Lupresto (26:24):

Ok everybody that wraps us up. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering here at Telarus. Wrapping up with Shane Speakman, VP of the UCaaS practice. Until next time.