A Peek Behind the Curtain: What to Make of Microsoft's Operator Connect

Marcus Schmidt, Vice President of Product Management, Intrado
Marcus Schmidt, Vice President of Product Management, Intrado

Marcus Schmidt, Vice President of Product Management, Intrado

Only a few months ago, Microsoft announced changes to its calling options for Microsoft Teams (Teams.) Prior to the change, Teams users could only utilize Direct Routing or a Microsoft Calling Plan to enable PSTN calling. Now there’s a third option: Operator Connect. But what is the feature, how is it unique, and how can businesses use it?

IT leaders and content creators are scrambling to answer these questions and understand how Operator Connect might affect Teams’ 250 million active users.

To start, Operator Connect is less a new solution and more an evolution of an existing calling solution. It is the next iteration of Direct Routing, providing all the same capabilities but making it easier for customers to get their calling up and running.

At a high level, Operator Connect is a carrier-managed service that allows businesses to “bring their own carrier,” or “operator,” to power calling services in Teams. For reference, Microsoft defines an “operator” as a third-party public switched telephone network (PSTN) carrier.

Businesses that utilize Operator Connect can easily enable PSTN calling from their existing carriers directly in Teams. By using the “Operators” tab in Teams’ admin center, an administrator can easily pick which quality carrier will power their calling services without leaving the Teams app. After selecting their preferred carrier, they can obtain and assign phone numbers to users.

Intrado is one of 12 initial Operator Connect partners. As a Gold-Certified Microsoft Partner, Intrado offers a seamless Operator Connect integration experience for customers. Intrado gives its customers access to expert consultation to identify voice needs, determine the best migration path, secure appropriate licenses, and deploy the solution.

Operator Connect delivers advanced network configurations, integration with applications such as external contact centers, and cost benefits through “pay-for-what-you-use” pricing models. Businesses can also leverage Operator Connect Conferencing, which is the ability to implement third-party-carrier PSTN numbers for PSTN conferencing. This is a capability that Intrado also plans to support when it is released by Microsoft later this year.

Outlined below is a sampling of the key benefits businesses can expect to reap after making the switch to Operator Connect.

● Streamlined PSTN deployment: Operator Connect shortens the time and process  needed to deploy PSTN capabilities. It takes mere minutes for system admins to connect their preferred carrier and assign phone numbers to users, meaning businesses can initiate or continue communications quickly and with minimal interruption.

● Greater autonomy: Businesses get to select an approved carrier, like Intrado, that has been vetted and verified by Microsoft. They can determine the provider that best meets their needs to add and manage voice services through Teams.

● Cost savings with the “pay-for-what-you-use” pricing structure: With Operator Connect, businesses can save money by merging communications services with Teams. Instead of managing multiple providers and platforms, Operator Connect’s setup streamlines resource management. Carriers manage PSTN calling services and session border controllers (SBCs), so businesses can easily access quality solutions without investing in costly infrastructure.

● Alleviate the burden of technical support: Carriers have shared service level agreements, which strengthen the quality of customer service and support. Because carriers manage PSTN calling services and SBCs, businesses benefit from cost savings and fewer management responsibilities. Users also gain robust security protocols through Microsoft, which is especially useful if a company has a small IT or no dedicated IT department.

● Gain greater flexibility: Operator Connect enables businesses to have more flexibility to make calls, manage resources, and customize experiences. Further, as companies everywhere reevaluate their technology stack to best support a hybrid workforce, Teams and its calling features offer agility and the technical services required.

● Optimize Teams: Operator Connect is a starting point for businesses to truly optimize MicrosoftTeams as a productivity and PBX solution. Once companies obtain Teams licenses and get calling up and running, they can then access a host of other communication and productivity solutions within Teams.

Deploy a More Sophisticated Collaboration Solution+

With a better understanding of how to leverage Operator Connect, businesses can improve allocation of IT spend and deploy a more sophisticated collaboration solution. Operator Connect makes it simple for companies to leverage a pure cloud calling solution without sacrificing the on-premises functionalities they’re accustomed to.

Rather than bouncing between multiple platforms, companies can enrich their existing Microsoft Office 365 suite and host communications, collaboration, and productivity under one virtual roof. Centering communications in this way not only boosts productivity, but it also drives return on investment of existing IT tools.

By using Operator Connect, businesses can activate full-capability calling for their teams, enabling them to call anyone, regardless if they use Teams. As the newest form of Microsoft calling with the best user experience, Operator Connect is the ideal upgrade from other calling solutions.