When your organization is using office 365 and Microsoft decides to end Skype for Business, the complaints come piling in. Then they announce, finally, that they will add interoperability for consumer Skype external users. So, you begin eyeballing MS Teams with hope, though still wary.

The day arrives that this new ability is available. Still, the tech in you says, test it before sharing the good news.

First There was Skype

Skype was launched in 2003; back then, the model was simple. You sign up for a screen name/Skype ID. Then Skype was bought by eBay in 2005 and finally acquired by Microsoft in 2011.

Since Microsoft acquired Skype, signups have changed. Now, instead of a Skype ID, you sign up with an email or cell phone number. If you already have a Skype ID, you can still use it, and this is only for new accounts.

Skype Meeting Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

What Happened to Microsoft Lync and Office Communicator?

Office 365 use to have a messenger called Microsoft Lync or Office Communicator. In 2015 it was rebranded as Skype for Business. It was buggy and had a lot of issues, but it allowed communications from a business Skype account and consumer Skype account mostly.

Then Microsoft announced in 2017 that Microsoft Teams was their new product and that Skype for Business was being retired. The initial versions of MS Teams had no way to communicate with users on consumer Skype. The thing is as much as Microsoft hyped its new product, it failed in many ways.

If Microsoft envisioned its MS Teams to be a Slack Killer, it still has a long way to go to get there. That’s even after three years of being launched and updated with new features.

Like many Microsoft apps, these apps outlived the goals of Microsoft and its developers. Remember Net Meeting, it’s also been retired for years.

Microsoft Teams in a Nutshell

Microsoft announced that they would release an update that would allow for Skype consumer interoperability. MS Teams users waited patiently to get it, too.

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For a while, it seemed like it was never actually coming, as they missed every announced deadline that they set for this upgrade. Even 2018, users and support staffers were calling for this service availability.

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Finally, in April 2020, it appeared this interoperability had arrived, but it’s not exactly as many may have expected. Here are the issues:

  1. To be able to add a Skype or External user to your MS Teams list, you first need to add them as a Guest in Azure Active Directory. Microsoft has this full walkthrough that provides all the steps
  2. This connectivity doesn’t mean that your “guest user” will get your message in their Skype client. Instead, they need to open up teams in a browser or application
  3. It’s not a simple process that any user could do, an admin has to be involved
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Conclusion

While MS Teams has come a long way since 2017, there is still more development needed before it can fulfill the needs of all of its users.

After working with Microsoft Support and resorting to Rediff forums, I finally was able to add one test account to my list. My point is, it shouldn’t be this difficult and from a user standpoint, I would wonder how many will be calling an Admin to invite a guest user, just so they can add them to their Teams list. I’m hoping there is more on the roadmap to fixing this after so many delays and get it working more as it did on Skype for Business.

Whether you are looking at Slack, Google Meet, or Zoom, I think most would choose one of them before MSTeams for all the above-stated reasons.