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Teams & Skype-for-Business: Devices & interoperability

Since Office Communications Server 2007 days, Microsoft has had a close partnership with headset device partners to create a tight integration experience with users and their communications software. This has allowed users to control their communications in a variety of ways like answering, disconnecting the call, and muting a call by manipulating their device rather than having to find a window on their desktop and click a mouse button.

When Microsoft Teams first arrived on the market a couple years ago, Microsoft hadn’t yet built in the ability to have that tight of an integration with devices like it had with Office Communicator, Lync, and Skype for Business. Fast forward to today, Microsoft has finally added in support for devices to control communications within Microsoft Teams. As before, with Skype for Business, you needed to have a certified device for all this wonderful goodness to work.

As you might have noticed though, not all is happy with your device controls if you are running Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams on the same PC. Running both is fairly common recently as many organizations that have been running Skype for Business are now considering Microsoft Teams as part or in whole for their communications strategy. As with many things, there is a need for testing and understanding, and then a migration between the two.

Regardless of the situation, many are finding that they can control their communications in one app or the other, but not both at the same time. What is confusing is that sometimes Microsoft Teams is the one you can control and other times Skype for Business is the app being controlled. There unfortunately is nowhere to set which one is preferred (which seems like the simple answer to me).

In Microsoft Teams, they do try to give you a hint as to what is going on with a message that pops up on top of the Microsoft Teams app, but this is about the only visible clue you get before you actually try to use the device. But with so many pop-ups it might be missed.

So, after talking to a few people and doing some of my own testing, the secret to this madness is if Skype for Business is running it ALWAYS tries to take control, even if Microsoft Teams was started first. The only time I was able to get Microsoft Teams to fully control the device with no issues is if Skype for Business is not running. You don’t have to restart Microsoft Teams for it to figure things out, but it might take a few minutes for it to realize it can have control after shutting down Skype for Business.

Now, there is an exception to running both apps at the same time and that is to run Microsoft Teams in one of the Skype for Business modes. The big one that people are testing right now is commonly known as “Meetings First”, otherwise known as Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings. In this mode, Skype for Business is still in control of things, but now it’s aware of Microsoft Teams. When you are in a Microsoft Teams meeting all your device controls work great. Even, if you take a Skype for Business call (which puts the meeting on hold automatically). You can control the Skype for Business call from your device, and then when done switch back to the meeting and boom, all your controls still work. In my experience though, there’s a catch… the Microsoft Teams meetings must be hosted by your tenant. Meetings as a guest can get weird with the controls again.

Well there you have it. Hopefully with this knowledge you can create a strategy to use your devices with your preferred communications product. Microsoft is constantly trying to improve the users experience and I have no doubt they are still trying to improve how devices interact with their communications products. Thanks for reading and you can always find me on twitter @ucomsgeek.

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