Why Skype for Business is More Important Than You Thought

The second post in a brand-new series on the BetterCloud Monitor: The Cloud Office Transformation Series will continue to explore transformational applications for cloud office systems that change the way people work on a daily basis.

The truth hurts: Meetings, no matter how painful, are necessary.

In the past, meetings required employees to gather face-to-face in the same room. Today, that’s no longer the case. Tools like Skype for Business and Google Hangouts are changing the way we think about what’s possible in meetings.

The “modern meeting,” according to Microsoft, “requires that participants in any location can see, hear, and collaborate within the meeting as easily as if everyone is sitting in the same room.” Microsoft continues to build towards that goal, and Skype for Business is an integral piece of the puzzle—along with Office 365.

Recent moves like the replacement of Lync in favor of Skype for Business, the introduction of OneDrive for Business, and the continued investments in Office 365 collaboration capabilities are intersecting to reveal the growing role Skype for Business will play, not only in meetings, but in the everyday work life of Office 365 users.

In May, the first-ever Microsoft Ignite Conference, the largest and most comprehensive Microsoft technology event, revealed several new and upcoming improvements for Skype for Business and the Office 365 platform.

Features Available Today

Skype for Business Conversations

Skype for Business is quickly becoming essential for communication and collaboration for Office 365 users. Recently-released Skype for Business Conversations allows users to quickly start a chat, voice, or video call in Skype directly from the Office 365 inbox—the latest step towards tighter integration between the two.

Quickly join meetings directly from the client

Microsoft recently announced at Ignite 2015 that “every meeting scheduled in Office 365 will automatically be a Skype for Business meeting, so users don’t have to do anything additional to make every meeting a video meeting.” As a result, users can quickly join meetings from Outlook or even directly from within the Skype for Business client, which enables users to view their meeting calendar, and more importantly join a meeting, directly within the Skype client.

Skype Directory search

The recently announced Skype for Business Server, now generally available, brings a host of new features to Skype for Business users, the most apparent being access to Skype Directory search. Skype users have always been able to add any user that uses Skype, but only if they knew their username. With Skype Directory search, users can search the entire Skype directory and add contacts outside their organization without needing to know their username (note: access to this feature is controlled by the admin).

Features Coming Soon

In-call co-authoring

Today, users can co-author documents in real-time within online versions of Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel. Sometime this summer, users will be able to co-author documents from within a Skype call, allowing those on the call to more effectively collaborate in real-time.

Prep meetings with pre-loaded attachments

Microsoft will soon offer a new feature to help meeting creators and attendees ensure they have everything they need in advance. The feature allows users to prep meetings with pre-loaded attachments. Combined with in-call co-authoring, the two features will help to make meeting time more efficient.

Broadcast meetings

Skype for Business will soon offer the capability to broadcast meetings to up to 10,000 viewers. Organizations can even choose to record the broadcasted Skype for Business meetings, making them available on-demand for Office 365 users. According to Microsoft, “The service uses Azure Media Services for streaming audio, video, and PowerPoint presentations, and offers built-in interoperability with Bing Pulse for sentiment tracking and Yammer for audience conversations. Extensibility enables third parties to add audience polling, formal Q&A, and other functionality.”

The evolving role of Skype for Business

Microsoft is dedicated to creating a seamlessly integrated and truly powerful Skype for Business experience—and there is clearly more on the horizon.

That’s welcome news for organizations that rely on Skype for Business.

As the product evolves and improves, users can expect it to play an even more pivotal role in their day-to-day work activities—and in the process, potentially transform the way they work entirely.

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