By Rob Doucette, Martello Technologies
Microsoft Teams has been a crucial part of the hybrid work environment and the modern workplace. Features such as Direct Routing simplify the connection between legacy telephony technology and the Teams user. However, it does add a layer of network infrastructure complexity. How do you ensure service quality for Teams call capabilities? How do you seamlessly integrate Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) and Private Branch Exchange (PBX) connectivity with Teams? What proactive measures or solutions should be implemented?
EMA research shows a discrepancy between how critical Microsoft 365/Teams is to enterprise productivity and the management capabilities that enterprises have in place to ensure its reliable performance. Just 10 percent of respondents reported having proactive or end-to-end monitoring. Even more surprising is that 33 percent viewed Microsoft 365 (MS365) as mission-critical, with 21 percent noting business “grinds to a halt” when there is an outage.
The Challenges Of PSTN And PBX With Teams
Now that we can work from anywhere, Microsoft Teams usage has increased by 96 percent at organizations polled by EMA, with 82 percent reporting it doubling by 45 percent or more in the past year.
Surprisingly, though 32 percent of those surveyed have invested in Microsoft Teams, only 10 percent report having either proactive management of MS365 applications or an end-to-end view of their performance. In fact, only 11 percent use third-party tools to aid in ensuring application performance and availability, to make certain that business does not grind to a halt.
Although Microsoft was attributed as the likely culprit in 23 percent of the issues experienced with Teams, a full 77 percent of performance issues came from other sources. Yet, when it comes to managing MS365 performance, 25 percent rely solely on Microsoft tools and 43 percent use a combination of Microsoft tools and internal infrastructure monitoring. Despite our technological advances, 19 percent of enterprises surveyed rely on users to report issues to help desks. Outdated troubleshooting methods, and PSTNs and PBXs that cannot bring all networks, users, and locations into a central point for problem identification and resolution, leave organizations struggling to control call quality and reduce future problems.
PBX systems allow users to talk to each other via a private telephone network or an organization’s internal telephone network. Disparate hardware components work in conjunction with one another – routing and managing inbound and outbound calling features – to provide telephone network connectivity.
PSTN systems enable different network users, such as AT&T and Verizon, to connect as well as patch through local calls. Organizations with a significant number of users likely will invest large sums of money to connect myriad users across multiple networks. PBXs use fewer external phone lines, relying on their internal phone system. It offers greater technological advances and features than PSTNs. They also allow for easier integration of call quality solutions.
Steps To Maximize Microsoft Teams Call Quality
Organizations embracing the hybrid workforce model, and those using Microsoft Teams, recognize the importance of integrating it with their internal PBX or legacy PSTN.
Features such as Direct Routing streamline a Teams user’s connection to legacy telephony technology. However, legacy telephony and networks can muddy Teams call quality capabilities for users. With many working remotely in various locations and on different networks, it creates an even bigger challenge for help desks to proactively monitor user activity, circumvent problems, and address issues quickly.
The good news is that there are solutions that monitor and manage call quality, improving visibility so that potential issues can be spotted and addressed more proactively. The following steps can improve call quality, reduce downtime, boost productivity, and enhance customer service.
- Take a holistic and proactive approach. Nothing is a problem until it’s a problem. But why wait until there’s a crisis? Why not take a more holistic and proactive approach in identifying expected problems, potential issues, and those that might come from left field? EMA surveyed 128 IT leaders globally and found that 33 percent viewed MS365 as central to their strategic plan, while 48 percent revealed that it is widely used throughout most departments and functions. Another 19 percent said it varied from department to department. Factoring expected, potential, and out-of-nowhere problems into your strategic plan, along with solutions to proactively deal with them, will go a long way to thwarting issues and improving service and productivity. Interestingly, of those who rated MS Teams strategic, 78 percent saw an outage as critical, with 70 percent revealing it had a high or critical impact on business productivity, defined by EMA as “business grinding to a halt”.
Too often, organizations take a “one and done” approach, employing a single solution to address their most pressing issues rather than a holistic strategy to proactively address myriad scenarios. While the Microsoft Teams Call Quality Dashboard (CQD) is a useful tool, it’s not a one size fits all, especially for organizations that need deeper insight into call quality by user and alerts for problems.
- Commit to consistency in all call quality areas. It is important to solve major issues, but it still leaves organizations vulnerable to a host of other problems affecting call quality. Therefore, IT must regularly look for ways to monitor, isolate and troubleshoot calls to ensure Microsoft Teams call quality consistency.
This is imperative in today’s hybrid work environment, since most users no longer use the same, in-office network. With more working remotely, multiple networks and bandwidths in various locations with differing speeds and connectivity can present call quality challenges. These disparate networks and issues make troubleshooting and resolution more difficult. Implementing a solution that regularly monitors users, bridges disparate networks and locations, and provides a big picture view go far in ensuring call quality consistency.
- Incorporate user experience monitoring and analytics capabilities. These features allow IT teams to rapidly prioritize and resolve performance issues that impact the user experience, helping to optimize future performance. Issue resolution is expedited with a unique data correlation engine that transforms monitoring into MS365 and Teams performance insights. Software should identify all Microsoft Teams call data. Microsoft Teams calls can be organized by location, ISP, and type of problem and identified by users with bad calls, low bandwidth, or even poor-quality Wi-Fi. Look for a solution that provides an alert when a certain percentage of users experience the same issue. The alert will pinpoint the problem and provide enough data to resolve it. Consider a product that automatically recognizes all ISPs in use, notifying when a specific ISP is affecting the user experience.
A solution should isolate issues by location, instantly denoting if a location is experiencing poor video or voice quality. Ensure that software prioritizes alerts, so the most critical ones can be remediated quickly. Another important feature should be the ability to create a specific group of users like VIPs to track service level agreements (SLA). If an SLA is breached, alerts will indicate which VIPs are most affected so issue resolution can be prioritized.
- Emphasize the PRO in Proactive. Your solution should afford the ability to prioritize your most critical Microsoft Teams call quality problems, providing immediate insight into organization-wide Microsoft Teams call quality metrics via a dashboard – regardless of users’ locations – and before users even are aware of a problem. Look for features that facilitate resolution of latency issues affecting MS365 and Microsoft Teams. It should allow you to monitor and visualize the entire network path. Moreover, the solution should pinpoint MS365 and Microsoft Teams service disruptions within seconds by correlating any insights with the organization’s existing monitoring tools such as Splunk and Cisco. Finally, the solution should optimize future performance with features like SLA reports, highlighting the root cause for every degradation as well as performance over time. ITSM teams should be empowered to gain full visibility into MS365’s end-to-end service delivery and incidents.
- Invest in support tools commensurate with the importance of the business SaaS for better future return on investment (ROI). Since key decision makers are not regularly on the frontlines, investing in call quality solutions is not always top of mind. The EMA report also noted that enterprise investment in MS365 performance management and accessibility has not kept pace with strategic value and the business impact of those capabilities. It underscores a direct risk to business productivity that is essentially avoidable via automated performance management tools.
When key VIPs including the CIO and CFO take the time to better understand the issues their IT team contends with regularly, they will be more discerning about where and how to invest in service delivery solutions. It goes back to point number one of taking a holistic and proactive approach when implementing call quality solutions, including 24/7 real-time monitoring and a big picture dashboard that allows the IT team to hone in on the most critical or widespread issues. Additionally, VIPs working remotely can receive real user monitoring data that allows them to gather group call quality dashboard data and determine an IT-sensitive threshold alert when the VIP has voice quality issues. Potential latency problems can be reduced for on-site VIPs, especially those working in the same location, even being able to zoom in on the cause of latency (Microsoft, the ISP, the network, etc.). These features reduce downtime and remediation. It also will reduce the number of support tickets that need to be opened if the IT team can identify and fix the problem more proactively.
An effective solution will include a single pane of glass that integrates user experience monitoring and analytics purpose-built for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams with an organization’s infrastructure and network monitoring tools. Consequently, real time, 24/7 information will be routed to the service and help desk teams, improving the user experience and providing a big picture to ensure service quality across the board. IT then can reduce problems and further refine processes and protocols for a more proactive stance, better service, and greater ROI of the monitoring and call quality solution.
Reliable MS365 and Microsoft Teams user experiences are more important than ever in today’s modern workplace. IT teams and MSPs no longer need to struggle to manage cloud services for users working from a variety of locations and networks.
Take the time to invest in the right DEM solution with a complete set of monitoring and analytics capabilities in a single platform designed with Microsoft expertise. In the long run, the organization’s users – even if they are remote – will be more productive. Best of all, call quality will improve and the ROI will be rapid.
About The Author
Rob Doucette is Vice President, Product Management for Martello Technologies. Rob has more than 15 years of experience building market-driven solutions with a focus on real-time diagnostics, monitoring, and analytics. He has assembled multiple software development teams from scratch, managed executive-level partnerships, and relationships, and helped to secure funding from Microsoft. Before joining Martello, Rob was the CTO of Savision, now a subsidiary of Martello where he led software development teams and was responsible for building industry-leading products.