On July 31, 2021, Microsoft will finalize its end-of-life (EOL) program for Skype for Business Online, offering the Microsoft Teams collaboration and conferencing platform as the improved alternative. Teams enables distributed workforces to collaborate on documents, chat, meet virtually and, most importantly, stay connected. As the workplace has dispersed to home offices, the Teams platform has become essential to doing business for many organizations.
While many businesses will make the transition from Skype to Teams, regulated organizations have the additional challenge of capturing, retaining and monitoring communications on these platforms. Transition plans must account for managing compliance on both Skype and Teams during any usage overlap. Special attention must be paid to ensure regulatory needs are met throughout the process.
As Skype for Business’s EOL draws closer, IT and compliance professionals in regulated industries like financial services must be ready for the transition to Microsoft Teams.
Managing the transition from Skype to Teams
The capture and retention of both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams content is critical as long as employees are using either tool. To manage a seamless migration from Skype to Teams in the face of regulatory oversight, we recommend these tips for moving things forward:
Activate transition plans
Organizations should be well into their transition plans by now to ensure uninterrupted communications capture and monitoring. However, there’s still time to get it right. If you haven’t developed a transition plan yet, Microsoft has an extensive support system that includes documents, kits, FAQs and workshops. Configure the scope of your plan based on the number of users and integrations currently using the Skype application, with the same consideration for how you’ll use Teams. Make sure all stakeholders are aligned: IT, compliance and legal teams, and anyone else who is involved in managing adherence to regulatory requirements.
Give equal consideration to the past, present and future
Research the migration processes, customer support and EOL provisions for Skype for Business. Make sure to allocate the necessary resources for pulling existing information from the retired application to maintain compliance. When planning a migration to Teams, or for any new third-party platform, it’s important to know the underlying infrastructure, implementation processes and ongoing support that are available to you. Don’t forget to consider how to prevent interruptions in supervision programs throughout the process.
Enable new communications channels
Change is inevitable. Your employees, customers and strategic partners will adopt the newest apps to communicate, and what starts as a consumer application always has the potential to become a business tool. This is a good thing — new collaboration platforms breathe new life into employee productivity. A flexible communications archive and carefully considered supervision strategies will enable collaboration when these inevitabilities happen.
Keep policies & training up to date
When adopting any new communications platform, make sure your usage policies are current and available to employees. Enable and encourage collaboration within the parameters that make sense for your business. Whenever possible, offer training and proactive guidance through transition periods.
Prioritizing risk mitigation and compliance
Perhaps the most important part of your transition plan is to have the right tools in place for mitigating risk and managing compliance. In the most recent Smarsh Annual Risk & Compliance Survey Report (2020), Microsoft Teams was the most popular choice of collaboration tools by far. It is used by 53% of respondents — more than almost all other options combined. However, nearly a third of companies surveyed (28%) indicated they do not have an archiving or supervision solution in place for collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, even though they allow employees to use them.
Organizations transitioning to Microsoft Teams need a modern solution to enable communication and collaboration through the platform while staying ahead of potential regulatory or legal risks. As the volume and variety of communications channels and data grow, a future-proof capture, archiving and supervision solution will be necessary to stay connected and competitive. Solutions should include the following capabilities:
- Direct capture of Teams content, in conversational context and preserved in original format
- Ability to capture all generated content such as chats, comments and attachments, along with metadata like point-in-time snapshots of edits, deletes, joining or leaving a chat, times, dates, etc.
- Content storage in an immutable and context-aware cloud-based archive
- Simple, quick, comprehensive search
- Utility for e-discovery, to make the process faster and more efficient/complete
- Single point of control for communications supervision and surveillance processes to ensure security and accuracy
- AI/ML capabilities and policy controls to make supervision and surveillance more precise and efficient for reviewers
This won’t be the last transformation of tools we use to communicate in business. Regulated organizations should be taking advantage of solutions that can enable future evolutions of today’s rapidly changing communications landscape. New apps and tools to keep people connected are constantly emerging while existing programs will transform, expand or retire.
Enabling a smooth transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams will be critical for all affected organizations. Firms in regulated industries must additionally ensure they can reliably and efficiently preserve and monitor employee communications and stay focused on their bottom line.
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