Microsoft have released federation capabilities to Microsoft Teams and this has been rolling out to tenants over the world in the past few weeks.
This is a much anticipated feature and one of the most critical differentiators that turned cloud first companies to explore Skype for Business Online rather than Teams for their Unified Communications.
Now that federation is here companies can now consider Microsoft Teams as a viable alternative to Skype for Business Online, or can they?
I have to say I was excited when I heard it was coming, and being part of super TAP for Teams I was able to extensively test this feature out before it landed to TAP and now GA. However, the feature has disappointed me in some areas.
I’ll start with the positive, we can now chat to other Microsoft Teams users from other tenants without fudging it using guest access. We are able to chat, call and place video calls to each other. In the main the process is slick but there are some downfalls.
The two big features that are missing in my opinion are file sharing over federation and multi-party communication.
Currently I can file share, but I have to upload the file I want to share to my OneDrive, then generate a sharing link and then paste that into the chat window for the federated user to download. This only works of course if external sharing is enabled on One Drive for Business.
Perhaps the biggest limitation though is the inability to add more than one person to a federated chat. You only have the ability to perform federated P2P. This is the case if you’ve got a group chat in-progress with several internal users and you want to invite an external user in over federation, you cannot do this. The Teams client will not resolve the federated user’s address and you cannot search externally.
I have also experienced issues while trying to perform chat over federation to Skype for Business Server users. This is supported and you can do this, which is great. However, what I have discovered is that the partner who is an on-premises Skype for Business server user must have Skype for Business Hybrid set up with their tenant and synchronizing their AD Accounts via AzureAD Connect. If Hybrid is not setup, even if the Skype for Business server deployment is enabled for external federation, you as a Teams user, will not be able to communicate with them.
Here is an example of the message you’ll get when the partner has not configured hybrid
However, all is not lost. If the same Skype for Business user tries to send you and IM, you will receive that as a Missed Conversation Message in Outlook.
However, that person’s experience of contacting you is misleading because in Skype for Business you will appear as available due to unified presence, but when they try to IM you they get the following message
If you are a Skype for Business user and you get this experience, this is because the person you are trying to chat to is using Teams.
I have no doubt that federation capabilities will get better as time progresses. I just hope that Microsoft do not see this as a done deal and completed feature just yet. In order for organizations to move completely to Microsoft Teams, especially ones who rely on federated communication need the ability to seamlessly converse with organizations who are running on legacy communication solutions.