Project Overview

NIU's Board of Trustees has approved a project to move the legacy phone system to Microsoft Teams Voice. The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) is currently working with a vendor to help plan and execute a phased rollout of Teams Voice to campus. We anticipate the rollout to occur over the course of several months, beginning in January 2022. This webpage will be updated with additional information, including timelines and training information, as we progress in planning.

Teams Voice

Teams Voice uses Microsoft Teams to make and receive external calls using our 753 or 752 numbers and works right within the Teams interface on a computer or mobile device. Teams Voice provides modern calling options such as voicemail to email, call history, call blocking, call transferring, call forwarding, and much more. Teams Voice will allow NIU employees to take their 753 or 752 numbers with them wherever they are working.

Teams Voice Benefits to users

  • Your 753 or 752 phone number will be moved to Teams Voice.
  • Voicemail transcription is within the Teams application and sent to Outlook.
  • Call people by name or number, not just by number.
  • Improved directory searching capability.
  • Centralized hub for collaboration, meetings, and calls.
  • Improved accessibility and integration with compatible TTY devices.
  • Supports work-from-anywhere situations without the need for a or having to take a physical phone with you.
  • Web, mobile, and desktop applications for Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Linux.
  • Easily set vacation or other out-of-office notices on your phone.

Teams Voice Benefits to NIU

  • Reduces telecommunications costs by nearly $400,000 annually.
  • Greatly reduces the risk of catastrophic phone system failure such as the outage in 2013 that resulted in no incoming calls for 36 hours.
  • Utilizes licensing already included in the NIU's Microsoft agreement.
  • Supports flexibility for telecommunications capabilities offsite for various scenarios.
  • Fosters collaboration.

Estimated Timeline

Teams Voice - Estimated Timeline

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we changing phone systems?

There are multiple reasons why NIU is making this change:

  • The current phone switch was installed over 35 years ago and is no longer manufactured or under warranty. The supportability of the phone switch has become inadequate with a shrinking number of vendors providing support and replacement parts becoming more expensive and increasingly difficult to source.
  • The current phone switch was designed to support four times the amount of NIU's current calling volume. With email, cell phones, and an increasing amount of collaboration taking place over Teams and Zoom, the average monthly outgoing call volume is about 6 calls per month for 95% of the assigned phone numbers at NIU with approximately 2000 phone numbers not making any calls.
  • The age of the existing phone switch presents limitations to enhancing voice services such a voicemail transcription, integration with our Microsoft 365 collaboration platform, and geo-redundancy to limit downtime.
  • High operating and support expenses of nearly $2M can be reduced by nearly $400K by moving our voice services to Microsoft Teams.
Why Teams Voice?
Microsoft Teams is a proven communication solution at NIU with remote faculty and staff using Teams for meetings and collaboration with or without external participants. Because of the rising adoption of Teams at NIU, the seamless integration of the voice solution within Teams, the ability to work with our NIU directory contacts and external contacts, and the recent innovations spurred by the worldwide remote working trend, the move to Teams as a voice provider made more sense than other competitors in the Voice over IP space.
What is changing with Teams Voice?

There are several changes that Microsoft Teams Voice introduces.  Here are some highlights:

  • Phone numbers are no longer associated with a device. Instead, the phone number is associated with your account.  This means that you can make and receive calls to/from your work phone number on any device that you are logged in to Teams with.
    • You can make and receive calls using your work number from anywhere.
    • You can access your phone via the Teams desktop app, the Teams web app, or the Teams mobile app.
    • There is no longer a need to have multiple phone numbers if you have multiple offices.
    • There is no longer a need to forward calls to your cell phone.
    • There is no longer a need to mask your personal cell phone or home phone number when making calls if you are still working remotely.
  • You can search/call by name or by dialing the full 10-digit phone number.
  • Voicemails will be delivered to you via multiple mechanisms by default.
  • You can access voicemails from the Teams app as an audio file and a supplemental transcription.
  • Voicemails will also be emailed to you with a transcription and an attached audio file.
  • If the caller is an internal NIU constituent, the email will come from the caller.  This means that you can reply to the email and continue the conversation via email if you wish.
How do I prepare?
Ensure you have Teams installed. Teams is likely installed on your computer but If not, you can download and install the Teams client

Let your business manager know if you no longer need a 753 phone number and wish to not have a 753 number ring in Teams. DoIT will work with campus business managers to identify opportunities to disconnect unused phone lines to cleanup before the rollout to campus.
Will my call center still use RingCentral?
Call centers will continue to use RingCentral in the near future. DoIT will evaluate Teams as a call center solution in a later phase of the project. If Teams can handle our call center workload, then DoIT will work with call centers to migrate RingCentral configurations to Teams Voice.
When will my department move?
The sequence of department moves has yet to be determined. DoIT will work with departments to schedule moves and the rollout schedule will be published on this page when ready.
Will I receive training?
While using Teams Voice is as intuitive as initiating a Teams Chat with a coworker, we will provide training materials on this page along with opportunities to attend virtual training sessions throughout the rollout.
Will I keep my phone or receive a new phone?
The current phones across the university are not compatible with the new system because of their age. DoIT will be reclaiming phones as part of the campus rollout to be surplussed later. We anticipate that in very select cases installing a physical Teams certified phone is the only viable solution for a unit.  These cases will by and large be scenarios where using a computer to make/receive calls is impractical.  An example might a building phone that allows any user to call out, a central phone in a department that is accessed by many employees to answer calls to their department line, or possibly a PolyCom unit in a conference room.  DoIT is evaluating these scenarios to determine the appropriate solution and will provide guidance to departments during the rollout.
Will I need a headset?
The Microsoft Teams application is considered a "soft phone", meaning that the calling capabilities exist in software and do not require a traditional handset to make and receive calls.  Microsoft offers the Teams application as a web application; a desktop application for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux; and a mobile application for Android and iOS.  Computer speakers/microphone or any Bluetooth or wired headset will work with the Microsoft Teams application, though there are "Teams Certified" devices.  The difference between a Teams Certified device and any other headset or earbud(s) is that a Teams Certified device will be able to control the Teams application, i.e. mute, volume control, etc.  Using a standard headset requires users to control their calls from the Teams application.

DoIT will work with departments to determine the demand for headsets and distribute available headsets as part of the rollout.
Can students use Microsoft Teams?

Students, student employees, and graduate assistants have full access to all of the Microsoft Teams features except the calling capability.  Students cannot make true "phone calls" from the "Calls" area of Teams due to licensing limitations.

Will 911 work in Teams Voice?
Yes, Teams Voice does route 911 calls to a public safety answering point as our phones do now. Some design work needs to go into determining the best way to identify a caller's location.  With remote workers and Wi-Fi this becomes more challenging.  Our guidance on making 911 calls from Teams Voice will be published here as our planning progresses.
When do I need a Team vs. Group Chat vs. a Teams Meeting vs a "Call"?
  • A Team is used for departmental conversations, projects, and other activities in which there is a defined group of people focusing on a specific activity.

  • A chat or group chat is used more for impromptu discussions and private chat conversations. 

  • Calls are generally used for making and receiving calls to people outside of the university. 

  • Teams meetings are for more formal scheduled virtual meetings that can include NIU employees, students, and external contacts. Teams Voice will provide each Teams Meeting with a call-in number for those not using the Teams application.

  • Every Team that is created also creates a SharePoint site behind the scenes, so if you have a departmental SharePoint site or shared drive, creating a Team is a great mechanism to make interacting with SharePoint document repositories easier.

Login to Teams

Teams Help Center

New Features in Teams | October 2021

New presenter modes available - you can now use a presenter mode such as Standout, Side-by-side, or Reporter in a Teams meeting instead of sharing screen or window content only

Read more

Back to top