Transition to Teams calling begins for UO phone service

Laptop and phone on desk

The transition of the University of Oregon's telephone service to Microsoft Teams is moving into high gear.

Starting in June, Information Services plans to transition up to thousands of UO employees per month to the new Teams calling service, replacing most conventional desk phones.

"We're excited to be moving forward with this modernization effort," said Melody Riley, associate chief information officer for enterprise solutions. "We ran into some unexpected delays during the pilot but also learned a lot and made important progress."

During the pilot project, staff in Information Services and University Advancement transitioned to Teams calling.

On June 1, four more departments are scheduled to make that switch: the School of Music and Dance, Business Affairs, Purchasing and Contracting Services, and the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance.

Such transitions will continue throughout 2022, pausing only for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, with the goal of moving all units to Teams calling by the end of the year. Most faculty members, staff and graduate employees will transition to Teams calling as part of that process.

Soon new employees throughout the UO will begin their jobs with phone service through Teams calling.

One of the first new employees to do so was Abhijit Pandit, who started as the UO's chief information officer on April 25.

"I'm delighted to be taking this big step forward with all of you," Pandit said. "The project team has been working hard for years to advance the UO's communications technologies to meet the community's current and future needs."

The Teams calling section of the UO Service Portal contains a wealth of new training and self-help materials, including short video tutorials, a prerecorded training video, printable quick references guides and other written instructions. Faculty and staff will also have the opportunity to attend live remote trainings.

"This robust suite of training materials offers something for everyone," Riley said. "We want to ensure this transition goes smoothly for you."

The Microsoft Teams calling FAQ, originally posted in December, has been updated with more answers to questions from the UO community. Employees will receive further information by email before their phone service transitions.

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 any location using the Teams application on their computers or mobile devices.

"Teams calling provides the kind of features and flexibility that many people have asked for," Riley said. "Although this effort was launched before the pandemic, the need for such tools only became clearer with the shift to remote and hybrid work."

Eventually Teams calling will also be extended to employees who currently lack UO phone service. However, during 2022, Information Services will focus on moving people off the existing Avaya phone system, which is no longer supported by the vendor.

Employees whose only UO phone service is a university-issued cell phone won't be switched to Teams calling at this time.

A separate, more traditional phone service will be implemented outside of Teams to 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, the new service for high-volume customer service operations. Employees who use Amazon Connect will start to use Teams calling for their direct lines.

Part of the Office 365 suite, Teams already allows everyone at the UO to collaborate through audio- and videoconferencing, 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.

Information Services has already launched several services through the program, including Zoom videoconferencing, Amazon Connect and Dropbox as a complement to Microsoft OneDrive. Tool selections were informed by interviews, focus groups, observations and survey feedback from hundreds of members of the UO community.

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