Microsoft Teams (Teams) has become an integral component in facilitating communications and collaboration for companies of all kinds. In fact, Microsoft recently announced that Teams surpassed 250 million monthly active users. Microsoft is expanding its communications capabilities with a new calling service for Teams called Operator Connect, which has caused much excitement — and also some confusion.
As IT leaders evaluate technology stacks for the coming year, they are eager to understand how Operator Connect is different from Microsoft’s existing calling options for Teams.
Operator Connect 101
While Operator Connect is new, it is more so an evolution of Direction Routing. The tool is a carrier-managed service that makes it even easier to bring their own “carrier” or “operator” to power Teams calling. For reference, Microsoft classifies “operators” as third-party PSTN carriers. Customers can choose from a curated and vetted list of operators to support Teams calling. The flexibility for businesses to choose from approved operators not only makes it easier for them to set up calling, but it also offers greater flexibility and control over their calling capabilities.
Operator Connect’s Key Differentiators
Given the vast success of Teams in supporting business communications, it was a strategic move for Microsoft to implement a streamlined calling option. The evolution from Direct Routing to Operator Connect further diversifies the Teams platform and is a more convenient way for customers to initiate calling with just a few clicks. Unlike Direct Routing, customer administrators can use the Teams Admin Center to provision phone numbers with no coding requirements. After an admin enables Operator Connect, they can then easily select phone numbers, assign them to each user, and begin placing calls from Teams.
In addition to calling capabilities, Operator Connect also delivers telecom enhancements to Teams such as advanced network configuration, app integrations with external contact centers, and affordable scalability with its “pay-for-what-you-use” pricing model. Operator Connect will also eventually offer audio conferencing phone number support that will use the same administrator interface as Operator Connect.
Operator Connect Conferencing
With Operator Connect Conferencing, teams will be able to easily add dial-in numbers to Microsoft Audio Conferencing. The conferencing solution will offer organizations an additional way to connect with their teams through virtual face-to-face meetings or voice conference calls. Like Operator Connect, users will be able to choose their preferred conferencing partner based on an approved list of vendors in the Teams app. The conferencing feature is scheduled to become available in December 2021.
Operator Connect unlocks several important benefits such as simplicity and seamlessness with setting up calling via Teams. Other capabilities that help businesses improve collaboration with their teams and customers include expert IT support, notable cost savings, and more robust external communications capabilities.
Benefits of Using Operator Connect
Simple PSTN Provisioning
Businesses that use Operator Connect have access to simple provisioning. The Operator Connect partner provides phone numbers, which the Teams admin can choose from in the Teams Admin Center. Simple provisioning means customers can seamlessly transition to the tool to access pure, cloud-managed telecom solutions with little to no downtime. In addition, employees get fast access to carrier-grade calling and unique features through APIs. Companies can use this data to inform business decisions related to staffing needs for better customer service.
Expert IT Support
Microsoft and Operator Connect providers are held to high standards through a shared service level agreement. The agreement requires that operators provide quality service, enhanced security protocols, and accessible customer support. As a result, internal IT teams are not solely responsible for technical assistance and can instead focus on other tasks such as security, software, or storage. Moreover, business leaders can rest easy knowing they have an added layer of IT support.
Notable Cost Savings
Operator Connect offers notable cost savings by merging telecom services with Teams. Businesses can experience swift cost benefits associated with eliminating unnecessary hardware or software and minimizing in-house support requirements. Companies can also see cost savings by cutting ties with old service providers that previously powered calling capabilities. Decision makers can then reallocate savings to other business investments or to meet IT needs.
Stronger External Communications Toolkit
Operator Connect enables companies to enhance their Microsoft UCaaS suite. Since Teams has calling capabilities through Operator Connect, businesses can simplify their tech stack without cutting back on the telecom solutions they offer to employees and customers. Decision-makers can combine collaboration tools and access to global, carrier-grade voice services within one application. The combination transforms Teams from an internal productivity and collaboration app to a vital tool in a company’s external communications toolkit.
With the addition of Operator Connect, Teams is positioned as a central hub for business communications, offering a suite of capabilities from file sharing to external calling. Operator Connect is an essential steppingstone for Teams users who want to create a unified, cloud-based communications experience for internal and external stakeholders. Businesses that invest in a modern PBX system, like Teams with the integration of Operator Connect, will see a return through improved productivity and engagement.