Microsoft has landed at the top right position as a leader in the market. This graphic is from Gartner, as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. With Gartner reports, vendors can pay to redistribute them free to customers, Microsoft has provided links to both the Gartner Unified Communications as a Service report and Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions report, which also places Microsoft top right.
Gartner defines UCaaS as a cloud-delivered service that provides:
- Software apps (formerly software clients)
- Communication APIs and SDKs
- Adjacent services such as CCaaS, QoS, monitoring
For each vendor, Gartner notes strengths and gives some cautions.
For Microsoft on strengths Gartner notes the massive growth and adoption of Teams, noting nearly 250 million monthly active users of Teams and nearly 80 million monthly active Microsoft Teams Phone users (though “Phone” really means PSTN and p2p calling for this 80 million figure), the fact that Teams is quickly adopted for meetings and messaging which later makes it a natural platform to consider for Telephony. The strength of the certification program for devices and operators and Microsoft’s continued (all be it quite slow) expansion of Microsoft PSTN calling plans, particularly for SMB/C customers who appreciate a single vendor approach.
For Cautions on Microsoft, Gartner notes:
- “Microsoft Teams is not as unified as that of its competitors, specifically Cisco and RingCentral. Some clients cite that there is too much reliance on Microsoft PowerShell for administrative and provisioning tasks”. I think this is a fair criticism of the admin experience, we have certain features in the Teams Admin Center (TAC) web UI, some things only in PowerShell, and some feature configuration even only accessible in Graph API sometimes or initially. It’s fair to say there is work to do here. I would love to see 100% PowerShell coverage prioritised for large customers, it makes scale management and automation much easier.
- “Microsoft cannot address organizations that require advanced telephony features (such as advanced multiline hunt group capabilities, and advanced queuing and interactive voice response [IVR] capabilities”. There are some phone features from traditional IP PBX’s. I would always question how much these features are needed in 2021 vs the other benefits and modern approaches to workflow in Teams. For the advanced queuing/IVR stuff, there is quite a lot “in the box” but if you need more you should look to a certified contact center vendor. There are now 8 certified contact center solutions, including NICE InContact, Genesys, and Five9, with an additional 12 in the process of certifying.
- “Many midsize and large organizations have the perception that Microsoft’s telephony is not reliable enough, and they are sceptical about voice quality. Gartner has not observed evidence indicating significant reliability issues with Microsoft Teams Phone System.”. Microsoft Teams has been inaccessible or down more than once, though typically not for long periods of time. The service is currently Three 9’s SLA. Unfortunately for Teams, it has been inaccessible due to Azure AD login issues more than once, so while the Teams service was “fine” if you can’t log in you are still “down” as a user. On April 1, 2021, Microsoft updated their service level agreement (SLA) to 99.99% uptime backed by a 10% service credit for Azure AD user authentication. There is also the option of Microsoft Teams Survivable Branch Appliances and inbound PSTN redirects as mitigations against telephony issues. Interestingly these minor outages seem to have not damped the demand for Teams Telephony at all from my experience.
- “Microsoft does not have contact center capabilities.”. Many other UCaaS vendors do. It looked like Zoom would be adding Five9, which would have been quite a move, but the deal fell through. Microsoft has a strong stable of certified partners for contact center, but you could wonder if Microsoft will ender this market directly in the future.
While the strong ecosystem of certified vendors can be seen as a benefit in terms of options, innovation and price competition, I could see that listed as a caution as it means many customers need to assess and deal with multiple vendors to complete their solution. I was surprised Microsoft adding PSTN conferencing into nearly all its licence levels was not mentioned as a strength, but maybe Gartner will wait until that has actually been released. I’m also surprised that the integration between Microsoft’s Microsoft Azure Communication Services (CPaaS) and Teams is not called out as a strength. I think this will open up a lot of development opportunities to meet specific vertical solutions.
What are your thoughts on the assessment of Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft has provided links to both the Gartner Unified Communications as a Service report and Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions report,
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