Phone handsets will start to disappear off state agency desks, with WaTech's first to go

Home » Phone handsets will start to disappear off state agency desks, with WaTech's first to go
Release Date: 
09/17/2020

Employees of WaTech will soon be among the first in state government to clear their desks of a telephone. And while WaTech is the first to do so agency-wide, it’s a trend that will likely happen wherever you work before you know it.

The state’s technology agency, which manages telecommunications services for multiple state agencies, will switch its own phone service to M365 Teams Telephony Service over the next six weeks.

The cloud-based service by Microsoft, also known as Phone System, allows users to do most of the same things they can do with their physical desk top phone only via their PC or laptop. But if someone can’t stand to give up their actual phone, there are handset (and headset) options too.

WaTech has initiated a service offering around Phone System but will be the first to hang up its own desk top devices agency-wide (except for agency call center staff). Phone System is currently in use by a segment of the Washington Military Department. The next large-scale adoption will be by Department of Fish and Wildlife staff at the Natural Resources Building.

Not only is there an overall cost savings, but with Phone System, state workers can use Teams to place and receive all calls, transfer calls, and mute or unmute calls. Phone System users can click a name in their address book or use the dial pad, and place Teams calls to that person. To place and receive calls, Phone System users can use their mobile devices or a headset with a laptop or PC. (Handsets will be available to those who might require one).

While the standard version of Teams allows users to call others who already have the collaboration software, Phone System integrates with the state’s central phone system to allow for calls anywhere, internally or externally. You’ll even get a dial tone.

But unlike your current physical phone, you’ll be able to make and receive video calls. And just as with the current handset system, Teams phone users can place callers on hold, choose different ring tones and ringer alerts and transfer calls from a cell phone to a PC or desk phone.

You will also be able to call Enhanced 911, do basic conference calling and use voicemail. Voicemail messages are transcribed for you – the transcription is forwarded to your email. This sheet from Microsoft lists the full feature set.

A basic user guide has already been developed and training will be available through WaTech as well.

WaTech Telephony Manager Eric Talberg said WaTech has set a goal of having the agency’s customers using either Teams or other available “Voice Over IP” services by 2024.  He is not yet sure what will happen to the old phones. Some will be redistributed to other agencies or shipped to the state surplus.

For additional information, you can check out Teams Telephony on WaTech’s website or contact the WaTech Support Center at support@watech.wa.gov.   

But the real question for many will be: What will I do with all that extra space on my desk once my phone is gone?