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An Enterprise Guide to Microsoft + Cisco: Co-Existing in the Digital Workplace

Cisco and Microsoft UC Collaboration

Many enterprises have adopted Microsoft Teams for collaboration and productivity, while continuing to exploit their traditional voice infrastructure on Cisco or Avaya. Being able to deliver a simple integrated solution to end users – and having a single portal to manage both technology platforms – is a critical need for all UCaaS providers and large enterprises.

This can be done with a sophisticated UC automation management solution, allowing you to administer and manage Microsoft Teams collaboration tools alongside the existing Cisco UC – or Avaya UC – applications and services.

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Integrated Dial Plan

By putting the user at the center of the solution and offering an integrated Cisco and Microsoft dial plan, organizations will ensure that user experience is optimal, collaboration across technologies is seamless, and productivity remains high.

Management, coordination, and configuration of the dial plan between different estates – Microsoft Teams and Cisco Call Manager – enabling all users to freely communicate whatever device they are on, keep the same telephone number during a migration, and optimize licensing costs ensuring unnecessary services are removed.

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Adopting Microsoft Teams Alongside Cisco UC

If you want to embark on a project to integrate Microsoft Teams into your collaboration landscape, make sure your automation management tool allows you to continue utilizing your existing UC infrastructure, augmenting this with Microsoft Teams services in the same sites, sharing the same number ranges and dial plan management. This guarantees the best return on investment – from both legacy and new applications, and furnishes employees with the latest collaboration tools to keep productivity high and end user experience positive. On the technical side, it requires simultaneous provisioning of both Cisco and Microsoft services, with fully automated Powershell scripting used to read and update Microsoft services.

An integrated Cisco+Microsoft environment can comfortably coexist, all underpinned and managed by a single administrative interface.

Extending Enterprise Voice to Microsoft Teams

If you take the difficult decision to sunset your traditional telephony platform and you want to add enterprise voice telephony to Microsoft Teams, what are the options?

1. Alternative solutions from Cisco and Microsoft

For enterprise voice, Microsoft provides Calling Plans (now known as Business Voice). These come in two flavors for domestic or international calling, can be added to a user’s license, and provide an easy and simple path to introduce telephony. They are most suited to smaller organizations with less complex needs, are not available in all countries, and do not meet the demands placed by larger organizations on their enterprise voice service.
Many larger businesses run their enterprise voice service on platforms from traditional vendors such as Avaya and Cisco. These vendors provide a level of proprietary integration with Microsoft Teams. Cisco UC solutions, for example, includes a Cisco Jabber add-on for Microsoft Teams, allowing users to make and receive telephony calls. The add-on is installed on the desktop, requires a Cisco license, and only operates when connected to the corporate network. It does make use of its own (Cisco) dial pad and with this in mind, is best suited to enterprises that want to keep enterprise voice and Microsoft Teams at a distance.

2. Microsoft Direct Routing – Teams and Telephony

The majority of enterprises connect telephony into Microsoft Teams through a Microsoft supported technology called Direct Routing. This offers a ‘break-out’ point for users into enterprise voice – for making and receiving telephony calls. It also offers enterprises a better level of call control, allows the use of existing numbers and commercial contracts, and is installed without major disruption.

In its basic configuration, it operates as an island and does not offer easy integration with existing applications (such as call recording or contact centers), does not easily enable the migration of users to Microsoft Teams, or leverage the investment already made around existing enterprise voice platforms.

3. Adopting a Hybrid Approach

Or you could adopt a hybrid approach. In this deployment, Microsoft Direct Routing is used to integrate the Microsoft Teams service into the existing enterprise voice platform, providing a single, unified solution. This approach builds on the benefits of Microsoft Direct Routing:

  • Users may freely communicate between any end-point, using either internal extension dialing, E164 or through a user’s contact card. Calls are kept on-net as required, to avoid unnecessary call charges.
  • Existing hand-sets may be retained alongside users with Microsoft Teams, allowing access to a wide range of devices to suit individual requirements.
  • User profiles are available for Cisco (only), Microsoft (only), or multi-vendor (both Cisco and Microsoft devices and clients).
  • Dial plan controls and PSTN break-out points can be reused to provide consistent dialing (including emergency calls) and robustness on the solution.
  • Migration workflows can move users, as required, from the existing voice platform and onto Microsoft Teams without any major disruption.
  • Existing applications, such as Call Recording and Contact Center, may be extended out to users on Microsoft Teams.

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Replacing Cisco with Microsoft Teams Phone

Hybrid and flexible working practices have permanently changed the way enterprise organizations expect their collaboration and phone services to be delivered. Service providers and managed service providers are faced with a challenging path to navigate. With older hosting platforms becoming obsolete, end customers are seeking alternative, more agile, cloud-based solutions for their collaboration and phone service and if the partners do not successfully provide a cohesive transition path to the desired solutions, they risk significant customer churn.

In order to successfully retain and grow existing customers, service providers need to be able to transition these organizations to newer and better solutions. And to do that, they need to offer their customers a clear, easy, and risk-free path to the cloud, for both phone and collaboration services.

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The Value of Cloud-Based Telephony

There are a number of benefits that arise from moving from traditional telephony platforms to cloud-based telephony such as Microsoft Teams:

  • Consolidate existing hosting platforms to rationalize services
  • Increase efficiency, reduce costs, and relieve the burden on highly skilled technical staff with automation
  • Target new SMB segments in a fast and profitable way with zero touch administration
  • Upsell and deploy new customer features and capabilities with intuitive workflows
  • Move customers to Microsoft Teams Phone in a managed and non-disruptive way
  • Improve prospective customer feedback and win ratios with support and assistance including advice, trials, and best practice on customer solution design
  • Improve customer engagement and reduce service desk calls through a self-service portal
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