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Teaming voice with Office 365 .

Craig Gordon, Head of Vuzion, tells Technology Reseller why Microsoft 365 Business Voice is generating such interest in the channel

Earlier this month, Microsoft fixed a weakness in its offering with the launch of Microsoft 365 Business Voice, a cloud-based communication and collaboration solution for businesses with up to 300 employees.

The add-on to Microsoft 365 and Office 365 plans integrates voice services with Office 365, giving users access to calls, chat, meetings, calendars and email through Microsoft Teams, currently used by 13 million people daily and targeted to grow by 275% in 2020.

As well as calls to and from any number, Microsoft 365 Business Voice enables users to add a dial-in number to meetings; collaborate on Office programs, such as Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, within calls and meetings; turn chats into meetings with one click; start, schedule and join meetings straight from Outlook; and enjoy automatic speech-to-text/text-tospeech conversion for voicemail and chat.

Microsoft 365 Business Voice is being made available to the channel through cloud distributors and Microsoft CSP Indirect Providers Giacom, Tech Data and Vuzion.

Craig Gordon, Head of Vuzion, told Technology Reseller that within hours of announcing a webinar on the product, to take place that same day, over 15% of the company’s partners had registered to attend. By 2pm, a new record had been set for registrations for a Vuzion event.

More affordable

It is not hard to see why Microsoft 365 Business Voice is generating such interest, especially amongst channel partners servicing small and medium sized businesses, for whom it offers a simpler, more affordable and more flexible proposition than has been available before.

Previously, to make and take PSTN calls in Office 365 (through its Skype for Business client) customers would have to subscribe to Microsoft’s Phone System and Calling Plans SKUs (previously Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling).

As Vuzion points out on its website, this arrangement had serious drawbacks; it was only available for Enterprise SKUs in Office 365, making it unaffordable for SMEs with Office 365 Business SKUs; and, while such users could integrate Phone System for people that needed it, doing so was complex and expensive.

“SMB customers were almost treated like second-class citizens,” claimed Gordon. “To get the same features as a larger organisation, the cost, in most cases, would not be justifiable. SMBs were either stuck with second-class services or a large amount of funding in order to be able to deliver this type of rich experience.”

Microsoft 365 Business Voice overcomes these limitations. Not only can it be added to the Microsoft 365 Business, Business Essentials and Business Premium SKUs, eliminating the need to move to an Enterprise SKU; it is also available in a choice of bundled SKUs with pricing that, in Gordon’s words, is “absolutely competitive and viable for SMB organisations”.

Choice of bundles

The standard bundle includes Phone System, audio-conferencing and a domestic calling plan for 1,200 minutes per user, per month, with the option of an international calling plan add-on.

Alternatively, customers can choose Microsoft 365 Business Voice without a calling plan, which, when used with Qunifi Call2Teams, enables businesses to integrate their existing PBX with Microsoft Teams’ telephony functionality, giving them the flexibility to migrate fully to Microsoft at their own pace.

“From a personal perspective I really like the fact that small businesses can now utilise the best of both worlds – joining best of breed voice providers with the best of breed communications platform that Microsoft has. They have the ability to use the power of Teams with existing voice services, should they already have them, or they can purchase some options from Microsoft,” said Gordon.

“The former will be the most common option, as most established businesses in the SMB space probably already have a voice solution. For businesses that don’t have that existing relationship, we can deliver the whole end-to-end communication stack, including voice services.”

Broad appeal

Vuzion currently has a customer base of around 700 resellers, of which 450 are active, but because Microsoft 365 Business Voice brings together the telecoms and IT worlds, Gordon expects to strike relationships with more resellers from a telecoms background.

“Most of our existing partners are in the IT world, and this SKU enables them to expand their offering to include voice services. IT partners who need voice for their SMB customers are probably our biggest immediate opportunity, but this also enables telecoms and telco providers to partner up with IT companies or to establish their own IT offering to enhance their voice practice,” explained Gordon.

He added: “We have ready-to-go, off-the-shelf, pre-built solutions including help and assistance and guidance for people to be able to launch these tried and tested, Gartner-leading, Magic Quadrant solutions for their businesses right now.”

What resellers say

“Here at Care Computers we are in the process of spinning up a new communication offering. We were about to start researching Microsoft Teams with phone system integration and seek out suppliers of Teams devices when Vuzion reached out about their business voice solution. Having a partner like Vuzion as a one-stop-shop for all our Microsoft Teams telephony services gives us a huge advantage and enables us to focus our resources on what we do best, delivering these products to our customers.”

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2020