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Digital Workspace Unified Communication and Collaboration

Microsoft Teams Integration Provides Flexible Cloud Calling Options for Employees

WWT helped a large food company integrate its existing Cisco voice solution with Microsoft Teams to enable native cloud calling for Teams users.

In This Case Study

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Challenge

After migrating its collaboration suite to Microsoft 365, a large food company realized its employees were still hungry for a better end-user experience.

Employees were using Microsoft Teams for chat and file sharing and Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) for calling, resulting in a disjointed experience. Increasingly, the company’s IT team was receiving employee requests to add calling capabilities within Teams so they could streamline all collaboration within a single application.

With CUCM and Cisco infrastructure already in place, the company couldn’t afford to abandon its existing voice solution. Instead, it desired a hybrid solution that would allow employees to leverage both Cisco and Microsoft Teams for inbound and outbound calling.

The food company needed a partner with Cisco and Microsoft expertise to help design and deploy this solution. So it turned to WWT for help.

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Solution

We started by conducting discovery sessions with the company’s IT team to understand and assess their environment and determine the best options for moving forward. Based on these sessions, we identified two integration options that leveraged the company’s existing Cisco infrastructure as the back-end voice delivery mechanism.

Option 1: Direct routing integration

This option provided native integration with Microsoft Teams. The company would connect their existing Cisco telephony infrastructure to Microsoft Phone System using its Session Border Controller (SBC) — Cisco Unified Border Element (CUBE) — to allow employees to make and receive calls over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The dial pad and calling interface would remain within Teams and provide a consistent look to the rest of the application. While the direct routing integration was more complex to design and deploy, it provided a better end-user experience.

Option 1. The direct routing integration lets employees easily escalate chat conversations to a voice or video call while remaining within Microsoft Teams.
Option 1. The direct routing integration lets employees easily escalate chat conversations to a voice or video call while remaining within Microsoft Teams.

Option 2: Cisco calling integration

This option used the Webex Teams calling application to provide Cisco telephony functionality within the Microsoft Teams client. With this integration, native calling capabilities would be removed from Microsoft Teams. Instead, the Webex Teams app would display within Microsoft Teams to facilitate calling (i.e., users would see an app within an app). While a Cisco calling integration was simpler to design and deploy, it would provide a clunkier end-user experience.

Option 2. Integrating Webex Teams calling within Microsoft Teams lets employees escalate chat conversations to a voice or video call by clicking a button in the bottom navigation bar to launch Webex, then clicking again to place their call.
Option 2. Integrating Webex Teams calling within Microsoft Teams lets employees escalate chat conversations to a voice or video call by clicking a button in the bottom navigation bar to launch Webex, then clicking again to place their call.

To help the company select the right integration for its environment and needs, we hosted a workshop to explain and demo both options. Ultimately, the company chose the direct routing integration (Option 1) because of its seamless end-user experience.

Leveraging our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), we conducted a proof of concept (POC) to simulate the direct routing integration in the company’s environment. During the POC, we discovered the company’s CUBE needed an upgrade to meet Microsoft’s direct routing requirements. We also ran into challenges with the company’s existing firewall. As a result, we decided to use a public IP address to connect to the CUBE.

Low-level design topology of the company's direct routing integration.
Low-level design topology of the company's direct routing integration.

After finalizing the integration design, we implemented it into the company’s environment and deployed cloud calling capabilities to eight initial users. During deployment, we provided on-the-job training and detailed documentation to the company’s IT staff so they could repeat the same process for their remaining users.

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Outcomes

The company’s direct routing integration delivers a flexible, seamless end-user experience for calling.

Employees can now make and receive calls both inside and outside of the organization using Microsoft Teams and CUCM platforms, and from any Microsoft Teams-enabled device. If someone calls an employee, for example, it will ring on their laptop, Cisco desk phone and Microsoft Teams mobile app. This increased flexibility enables employees to accept calls from any device, anywhere.

Additionally, the native Microsoft Teams calling interface is easy and intuitive to use, allowing employees to quickly escalate a chat conversation to a voice or video call in one click.

The company is continuing to deploy Microsoft Teams cloud calling capabilities to its workforce based on our training. Since implementation, the IT team has deployed Teams calling to 17 additional users.

The company plans to closely monitor platform usage to determine if a full migration is right for its business in the future.

Interested in implementing Microsoft Teams direct routing at your organization?