Phone transition to Teams calling nears halfway point

As fall term nears, the transition of the University of Oregon's telephone service to Microsoft Teams continues full speed ahead, on track to finish by the end of the year.

On Sept. 21, another three dozen units — comprising hundreds of staff, faculty members and graduate employees — will make the switch, replacing most of their conventional desk phones with the new Teams calling service.

Last month, Information Services released the full transition schedule, showing most UO units assigned to one of four transition dates. Most academic departments will transition to Teams calling Oct. 19 or Nov. 16.

They'll join the two dozen units that transitioned on Aug. 24. Currently about 1,800 people use the new system.

"Given the complexity, scale and speed of this modernization project, we've been delighted to see how smoothly things are going overall," said Melody Riley, associate chief information officer for enterprise solutions. "I want to thank all the departmental liaisons who are helping this effort succeed, working hand in hand with our project team."

Information Services aims to switch all UO units to Teams calling by the end of 2022. Most faculty members, staff and graduate employees will transition to the new system as part of that process.

"We want to ensure this transition goes smoothly for you, especially during a busy time like fall," Riley said. "At the same time, we ask for your understanding about our tight schedule. Our current, aging hardware is no longer supported by the vendor, so we want to switch systems before a problem arises."

Faculty members, staff and graduate employees can attend live remote trainings to familiarize themselves with Teams calling. Dozens of those interactive trainings will be offered throughout the transition, on a rolling monthly schedule.

The Teams calling section of the UO Service Portal also contains a robust suite of training and self-help materials, including short video tutorials, a prerecorded training video, printable quick references guides, an FAQ and other written instructions. Employees will receive more information by email before their phone service transitions.

A new UO Service Portal page about call quality includes tips for troubleshooting some common problems with calls.

The new Teams calling functionality adds a virtual dial pad to Teams that connects to the employee's existing UO phone number. That enables people to make and receive telephone calls from the Teams application on their computers or mobile devices.

"In our feedback survey, someone wrote, 'It is so nice and much easier to now have calling accessible by Teams as I have been able to make phone calls from multiple locations and devices,'" Riley said. "That's exactly what we were going for."

Most desk phones will be collected as part of the transition. For each switchover, Campus Planning and Facilities Management distributes and picks up collection bins around the Eugene campus.

Eventually Teams calling also will be extended to employees who currently lack UO phone service. However, during 2022, Information Services will focus on moving people off the aging Avaya phone system.

Plans are also underway to implement a separate, more traditional phone service outside of Teams this fall. That new system will accommodate exceptional situations for which Teams calling isn't a good fit, such as emergency phones and elevator phones. Information Services partnered with Safety and Risk Services to identify such situations.

Teams calling won't replace Amazon Connect for high-volume customer service operations. Employees who use Amazon Connect will start to use Teams calling for their direct lines. In addition, Teams calling will be used for many smaller-scale shared departmental lines answered by several people.

Part of the Office 365 suite, Teams already allows everyone at the UO to collaborate through audio and video conferencing, chat and file sharing. The app can be installed on Windows and Mac computers, and employees also have the option to install Teams on their personal smartphones. Most features of Teams and Teams calling also work through a web browser.

The two new phone systems form the capstone of the communications and collaborative technologies program, formerly referred to as unified communications. Prompted by the need to replace the university's existing telephone system, which originated in 1989, Information Services launched the program in early 2019 to broadly address communications technology.

Anyone with questions about Teams calling can submit a ticket through the Microsoft Teams support page of the UO Service Portal.

—By Nancy Novitski, University Communications