How to Unify Your Communication with Teams
Today, people are working both together and apart like never before. In April 2020, 47% of the entire UK workforce ended up working remotely — and in 2021, 97% of employees would prefer to continue to work from home even after a return to “normality”.
Keeping up with business as usual with distributed workforces has meant adopting software and tech tools that help team members maintain communication and facilitate collaboration no matter where in the world they are. A number of tools have risen to the occasion, including Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams.
At present, Microsoft Teams is the most popular business collaboration tool. Teams now has more than 115 million daily active users, and our own research shows that 70% of large organisations and 60% of all businesses use the platform. But only 5% of those users have opted for Direct Routing.
Although Teams is used by a majority of businesses, only 39% of businesses use it as their “main” platform — which is still the top spot. We use too many collaboration tools, and that damages communication with disjointed notifications, access, data storage and more.
Furthermore, with the future business environment combining a flexible remote and office working pattern, the importance of both a hybrid and unified communication strategy is critical to efficiency and saving costs.
This article is about helping you understand the power of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, and explaining how it can help unify your entire collaboration system with Teams. Let’s get started.
What is Direct Routing?
Standard business phone calls are delivered using a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system, which is typically located on the physical business premises. Today, Direct Routing enables businesses to connect Teams directly to standard telephony or a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), including PBX and Session Border Controller (SBC). With Teams, Direct Routing connects Microsoft’s phone system to the PSTN to deliver calls via a telephony provider.
More simply put, with Direct Routing, you can use Teams to make and receive external phone calls from anywhere, on any device. Critically, this means real phone calls to actual phone numbers — not simply audio calls to other Teams users within your organisation.
Why placing a phone call with Teams is important
With the wide number of business collaboration tools in use (even within a single organisation), standard phone calls are a unifying communication tool. Collaboration with external stakeholders still mostly takes place on the phone. Fundamentally, integrating this communication option into your business collaboration tool is the only way to deliver full-spectrum coverage across every necessary collaboration channel.
Is Direct Routing the only way?
Direct Routing is not the only way to place and receive calls within Microsoft Teams. There are two other options for making and receiving standard phone calls with Teams. However, Direct Routing is by far the best option for placing a phone call with Teams. Let’s explain:
- Cross launch apps: Several tools provide in-app cross-launch overlays that can be used with Teams, including RingCentral, Zoom, and Cisco Jabber. All of these apps provide the ability to place standard phone calls, and cross-launching them from Teams delivers an effective way to place that call quickly from the Teams interface. But it’s not actually an integrated solution. This means no centralised access and no data storage — it also means that incoming calls won’t ring the Teams client. Most importantly, using an app means using yet another outside application to place a call, contributing to the ‘too many tools’ issue. Once again, we’re talking disjointed workflows and complex costs and management.
- Microsoft Phone System and Calling Plan: The other alternative to Direct Routing is connecting to the PSTN network through Microsoft’s in-house option. Microsoft Calling Plan and Phone System deliver an integrated solution, but not a very sophisticated one. The problem with this option is that you do not get the same level of call control that a standard business phone system (using a PBX or SBC) can provide. That means that although this option will let you place calls with Teams, it’s unlikely to let you migrate your entire business phone system to Teams. A lot of this comes down to the weakness of Phone System as a control tool. Calling Plan can also be an expensive choice.
Pro tip: You need a Microsoft Phone System licence to enable Direct Routing. However, with Direct Routing, this is simply a prerequisite licence, rather than the central control tool that it becomes with Microsoft Calling plan. For more information, check out the two blogs below.
Suggested Reading: For more information on the pros and cons and price comparisons of in-house Microsoft calling options, check out our two blogs:
How Direct Routing changes collaboration
For the overwhelming majority of teams, Direct Routing is the smartest and most outcome-driven option. Unlike the alternatives, Direct Routing lets you go above and beyond merely placing calls with Teams — it enables you to replace your entire business phone system with Teams by integrating a fully-capable phone system within Teams. This is what we mean when we talk about delivering real unified communications.
As you’ve probably worked out, unified communications is exactly what it sounds like — running all communication channels through a single platform. With today’s employees spending 50% more of their time engaged in collaborative work than ever before, it’s essential to deploy tech tools that allow teams to work together seamlessly. As we touched upon earlier, this is especially vital for businesses with a remote and distributed workforce. In 2020, 50% of organisations have also reported the need for increased collaboration, even in the face of social distancing measures.
Why migrate from multiple tools to just one? Using a single, unified communications platform for all of your business needs can help:
- Boost productivity and efficiency
- Promote better internal communication
- Simplify collaboration with outside stakeholders
We already know that Microsoft Teams is the best choice for most businesses looking for an all-in-one platform. Unifying your communication through Teams brings benefits like:
- Ease of access: An all-in-one system means everyone has easy access to what they need, as everything related to your workforce is kept in the same virtual space. Unifying your communications with Direct Routing also means a single phone number, no matter where you are.
- Centralisation of records and information: For employees, this means less time wasted jumping between applications and trying to keep up with what’s happening on each one. When conversations, meetings and shared files are available within a single shared user interface, productivity will naturally increase as a result of fewer mixups, missed messages and ‘sorry, can you resend the file?’ requests. With Direct Routing and Teams, this even extends to external collaboration.
- Federated presence: This refers to the ‘status’ symbols that indicate whether or not you are available. Ensuring that each team member’s status is present (and consistent) across every communication channel boosts internal communication and transparency. In simple terms, a federated presence means employees won’t be interrupted when they’re on an important call with a client or presenting in a meeting.
- More efficient workflows: Ultimately, unifying your communications is about making your workflows more efficient. Microsoft Teams was designed to enable flexible working, with access to tools from whatever device your employees are working from. Teams also offers better communication options, with instant messaging, video, voice and more. Using Teams as an ‘all-in-one’ suite enables your business to continue without interruption, no matter where in the world your team is working.
Shifting your communications to a single platform — Microsoft Teams — is an essential step to delivering the business outcomes you want in the new normal and beyond. For the majority of businesses, this means using Teams to its full potential by harnessing the unifying power of Direct Routing.
Suggested reading: For an in-depth guide on increasing Teams adoption and unifying your communication, download our Guide to Microsoft Teams.
How to set up Direct Routing today
So what’s the best way to set up routing for Microsoft Teams? As stated, you need a Phone System licence. If you have the E5 version of Microsoft 365, that licence comes standard, otherwise you will need to buy it separately. Again, check out this blog on Microsoft Phone System for all the details.
The next step is to find a provider that can deliver a sophisticated Direct Routing solution capable of meeting your business requirements. For this, you have two broad options:
- Stand-alone Direct Routing: The traditional choice is a managed service provider able to integrate your existing PSTN carrier with Teams. This requires communication across multiple stakeholders, slowing down and complicating the process.
- Integrated Direct Routing: The simpler option is to find a PSTN carrier able to deliver Direct Routing themselves.
At Callroute, we provide an integrated Direct Routing option. In fact, we provide the simplest and most straightforward option on the market. If you want to get started making calls with Teams today, it’s the best option available. Here’s why:
- A free line for life: With our completely free Starter Plan, we offer businesses more than a free trial — we offer a free line for life. Start placing calls from Teams in minutes, no card required.
- Fair and flexible pricing: Unlike other Direct Routing providers, we charge per phone line, rather than for every user. Multiple users can be added to each channel in line with capacity. Autoscaling means that no one will ever hear a busy tone, but you only pay for what you use.
- Instant integration: By integrating the Direct Routing and PSTN breakout into one solution, we have auto-configured our integration process. This means you can try out Direct Routing in minutes — where most Direct Routing providers take up to seven days.
Suggested reading: For even more on what we do, check out the five ways that Callroute improves Microsoft Teams.
Modern business demands Direct Routing
In today’s business world, there’s nothing more important than flexibility. Direct Routing with Teams delivers just that. Unifying your communications empowers your workforce to drive productivity, whether working from home or the office, and this inevitably leads to better high-level outcomes. Combining the all-in-one power of Microsoft Teams with the convenience of Direct Routing is a winning combination. To see how this works for your business, try our free line for life to start placing calls in minutes, no card required.