Hello readers, hope you’re well.

This is a post on a couple of features that came to Microsoft Teams a little while back.  The reason I’m only writing about this now is because there is a new administrative way to manage this for users.  So this is a feature write-up, a how-to, plus an opinion piece in one.

Background

Call Pickup is a feature of most telephone systems.  It offers users the ability to press a button or enter a short code and redirect a ringing call to their own phone so they could take the call.

I was an Avaya certified engineer before I moved my focus to Microsoft and the IP Office had call pickup as standard.  There was a catch all short code of *30 which could pick up any ringing phone in the estate.  There were also short codes for picking up a call ringing on one specific phone and another to pick up calls for specific groups.  This feature was (at that time) very popular.  You see, in the UK, you’re often told that a call should always be answered within 3 rings.   Any longer was bad customer service.  And there was never a distinction between calls to hunt groups or to a users’ DDI.  At least in small businesses.  There are probably notable exceptions, for instance, you wouldn’t want to allow a new starter to answer the calls of the MD or similar.

This is where Group Call Pickup comes in.  With Group Call Pickup, admins can create groups add members and associate that group with one specific short code.  The idea being, a user can only pick up calls in their group.  Sometimes, this is everyone but managers or directors.  I think you get the idea though.

And then there was Lync

When Office Communication Server R2 got telephony features (and Lync 2010 after that) Microsoft threw away the rule book and that big book of antiquated features of traditional PBXs and decided to start from scratch.  It is said, that Microsoft spoke to customers about what they wanted from a telephone system and delivered what they asked for.  Plus a few things they didn’t, but that Microsoft thought was good and useful.

Lync, did not, have call pickup.  Instead, Microsoft gave us something called Team Call Groups.

Way back in July 2012 when I was just starting my blog, I wrote an opinion piece about Team Call Groups and how it was a good thing.  How to explain the lack of Call Pick-up in Lync as a benefit.  I’ll let you read it, it’s short.  But I basically say that you can explain the lack of call pickup as a benefit.  Saying that Team Call Groups are a much better way to go because it puts the power with the user.

Turned out, it didn’t matter how enthusiastic people were about TCG.  Users (in the UK) wanted, no, they needed call pickup.  That’s what they used to do on their old PBX, so that’s what they expected on their new PBX (Lync).  And Microsoft heard them, and in October 2013, they caved.  And delivered Call Pickup, this time in Lync 2013.  Again, I wrote it up.  Call pick-up in Lync is finally here.  It was configured with PowerShell and SEFAUtil or using a handy tool written by MVP James Cussen (MyLyncLab & MySkypeLab).  While it was delivered, it only worked for DDI calls.  Not Response Group calls.  And that never changed.  In fact, Skype for Business 2019 uses the same call pickup engine as Lync 2013 had.  And SEFAUtil.  There were one or two 3rd party “Trusted App” add-ons that could be used to configure call pickup for RGS, but I don’t think they took off.  Times were changing.  People decided that call pickup for DDI calls wasn’t good enough and resigned to the fact that call pickup was gone.  So they started configuring Team Call Groups and call forwards.  Or even better Response Groups, with overflows so calls got answered eventually.

That’s the history lesson.

What about Skype for Business Online?

Skype for Business Online never got call pickup.  Because SfBO was just a a big, multi-tenanted Skype for Business Server instance, and there were limits to the scalability of certain things (like call pickup) Microsoft never bothered.

And Teams?

Microsoft claim to have released Group Call Pickup in Teams.  But have they?

Group Call Pickup in Teams

Group Call Pickup in Teams can be configured, as of today (in the UK) in the Teams Admin Centre (TAC).  Here’s how.

First, to to Users.  Then choose the user you want to configure GCP for.  Yes, that’s right, you can configure GCP for a user as an admin function (like you could in SEFAUtil).  Open up the user config page.  Then click on Voice

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To add a user to their pickup group, click add

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This opens the search form.  Enter a name and click the add button.

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This adds the user to the People List.  Repeat for everyone in the group and click Save.

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Now you’ll be back to Group Call Pickup list.  Here, you can remove a user or change the order.

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If you do change the order, you’ll be notified that the list was updated.

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You can also choose the notification method for each user in the group.  Choose from Ring (to ring the person), Mute (Ring, but only offer a toast or banner (just display the banner without the toast).

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Now that you have a group, you can configure a users’ call delay and order.

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And that’s it from an admin perspective for Group Call Pickup.  What this actually configures is a Team Call Group for the user and sets their unanswered calls option to make calls also ring the Call Group (instead of Voicemail).  It doesn’t turn on call forwarding or enable simulring.  As you can see, unanswered calls are set to Call Group and it is set to ring me for 20 seconds and then redirect.  And you can see my members.

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I know what you’re thinking.  This is just forward to Team Call Group, isn’t it?  As far as I can tell, yes it is.  The users in the group don’t have to dial a code to pick up a ringing phone.  They just get offered the call after 20 seconds and it it either rings, shows a toast or a banner.  The user can ignore the call or they can pick it up (answer it).

And to confirm, if you read the Docs post on Group Call Pickup, it explains that it is the same as call groups.

Configure group call pickup

To set up group call pickup, a user first configures a call group (this is not the same as a security group or an Office 365 group), and then adds the users they want to share their calls with. Then, they choose a simultaneous ring or call forward setting. For more information and step-by-step procedures, see Call forwarding and simultaneous ring in Teams.

Call group creation and notification preferences are user-driven features; administrators do not have to configure these features for their users. Call groups cannot be created from security groups or Office 365 groups; they must be created in Teams.

Admins should enable call groups via the TeamsCallingPolicy AllowCallGroups setting for a user. Admins can only control whether this user can configure call groups. Once the bit is set to true, admins cannot prevent the user from configuring and adding the call group users of their choice.

Limitations

A tenant can contain a maximum of 32,768 call groups. There can be a maximum of 5 users in each call group.

Now that limitation section.  It says that there can be a maximum of 5 users in each group.  I configured a group of 6 users, just to see if I could.  And I could.  So I think that limitation has been changed.

Users can create their own group and set everything themselves.  Here’s how.

Cick on your photo and settings

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Click on calls

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Now choose also ring settings

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Or the unanswered call flow

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Open up and modify your call group

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and set the ring order

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In the below example, I have simulring set up to go to my call group, then to voicemail after 20 seconds.

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And that’s it for Group Call Pickup and Team Call Groups.  The only difference is simulring or if unanswered delay.  But, you can now configure this as an admin.  And I assume, rights can be delegated.

Delegates in Teams

Delegates are that boss admin scenario that has existed in Lync and Skype for Business forever.  It is the ability to allow users to answer your calls and also make calls on your behalf.  A user can do this in Teams, but an admin can do it in the same form as GCP. Here’s how.

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Click Add people, search for a user and click the Add button

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Once your user is in your list, click Save

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Now decide what the delegate can do.  Make or Receive calls only (or both) or nothing.

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Then choose whether the user can change their own settings

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That’s it for an admin.  Once you’ve set up both call groups and delegates for a user, you should see this

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And a user can do this themselves.  Again, settings, General, then Manage Delegates

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You’ll see people you support (are a delegate to) and your delegates

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To add a delegate, search and take the name to add them to the list.

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Then configure call answering roles

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And that’s pretty much it.

One last thing.  You can also change your ring tones for different call types

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Summary

Group Call Pickup is Team Call Groups, just with a name change.  It is a little better than TCG in that you can also decide the order and also the notification for each user in your group.  But you’re not creating a group and an orbit (short code) for users to use to pick up calls.

It isn’t a bad thing that there still isn’t real Group Call Pickup in Teams.  Team Call Groups are still better.  And I think most people have moved on from wanting pickup anyway.  Especially now that users generally take their Teams client with them wherever they go.  If I’m not at my desk, I am still reachable because I have the Teams client on my mobile.  So it is unlikely I won’t answer, unless I don’t hear it or I’m on a call already.  I also don’t work in an office.  I work from anywhere.  So it is unlikely anyone will hear my phone ring anyway.

And lastly, if a user doesn’t have a desk phone, it is likely that the only ring tone that will be heard is coming from the users’ headset.  There is not secondary ring in Teams (yet).  But it is coming.

That’s all folks.  I hope this was useful.  Thanks for reading.