You may have noticed that Microsoft, their partners, and IT companies have been talking about Microsoft Teams like it is the holy grail of business. But does it live up to the hype? Can it really have an impact on my business?
Whether you have used Teams before or, not sure what it even is, hopefully I can give some clarity on why it has become so popular in recent months and years, and whether it can help your business.
It is important to know, that like most applications, you will get out of Teams what you put into it. This includes how it was introduced to a business, and whether the adoption/deployment was planned and managed properly. It is fair to say that it is an extremely powerful application, one in which Microsoft are investing heavily in, but without the proper training and strategy it’s benefits and uses can be missed.
As shown in the below graphic, Teams is designed to be the central hub for teamwork. A place for structured communication, meetings, instant messaging and collaboration, but also a place to open other applications. The Teams environment can be fully tailored and customised to suit the individual needs of different departments, projects, or work groups within a business.
In this blog I shall break down the core sections of Microsoft Teams and give examples of how they can be used in practice. The real benefits of this application come to light when it is tailored to your business environment, I will break down the core functionality into sections and hopefully cover the core areas.
Let’s first touch base on the video meetings, this is what most people associate Teams with and compare it to Zoom. The meetings side of Teams is very slick in its approach, but it is only a very small part of the overall experience. So, what can you do in a Teams meeting? Apart from the standard things like virtual backgrounds, waiting rooms and screen sharing there are some unique features that Teams can offer over Zoom.
For example, when a meeting has been completed, any files shared or conversations had during the meeting, will automatically be saved and made available to all participants. If that meeting is then rescheduled for a follow up, the notes/whiteboard/chat will all be readily available for reference. This is now taking a standard video meeting into an ongoing experience that doesn’t end when the video session stops. This is one of many features, this blog is only intended to scratch the surface and not be a full deep dive into the meeting experience.
The next area I wanted to briefly cover before getting into the heart of Teams and its use cases is the chat section (see below)
An area where you can have instant conversations, similar to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. You can create group conversations or have 1:1 chats based on your organisational and personal needs. A nice feature is being able to @ mention people, which will then give them an instant notification on the devices they are logged into. Conversations in the chat section can be with people inside and outside of your organisation, depending on your policies and permissions. This extends the internal experience of Teams, to direct, instant chat with clients, suppliers or any other relevant party to your business.
We have spoken about the Meetings and Chat areas within Teams, but the true heart of the Microsoft Teams experience lies within the ‘Teams’ section. Shocking, I know. This is where you can split the business into different sections or ‘Teams’, this could be departmental, group projects, events or any combination that is suitable for your business and the type of work you do. This area would need the most consideration as it will form the base for structured communication and collaboration in the business. See the below example and I shall explain what we are looking at.
Towards the left you can see this business has been split into 5 different Teams (Customers, Marketing, Projects, Health and Safety, and Training). Some of these Teams have been expanded to reveal channels. In this example we have clicked on the Ignite channel and you can see the contents of this channel towards the right. I have made a recent post that the project is suspended until further notice, I have marked this as important which is why you can see it marked ‘IMPORTANT!’ and has the exclamation mark on the right side.
Everyone in the projects Team will see this message and see that it is marked important. I have very quickly notified the whole Team of something crucial and that message is going to stay there. I could have used the ‘@’ symbol to tag a person orgroup if I felt necessary. Other members of that team/channel can reply or react to that message if they wish, you can see the reply option at the bottom of the post.
The Teams section is designed to segment a business into separate communication channels. This will structure the conversations and create a clutter free environment for team members to express themselves and share important/relevant information.
Most people arecomfortable with Microsoft Outlook for internal and external communication. In fact,the majority of business users in the world will be using Outlook religiously throughout their day. One of the major drawbacks is that it can be very time consuming and challenging to keep Outlook organised and structured. On top of this, it is near impossible to standardise an outlook configuration throughout a business and categorise their emails into folders. Most users inboxes end up being full of spam, supplier emails, subscribed news emails, internal emails, customer emails and everything in between. There is no way as a business to structure this on their behalf, which is where important emails can get missed or forgotten. This is essentially the polar opposite to Microsoft Teams. You should consider your conversations in Teams channels as sacred, it is not a place for ‘chit chat’ or irrelevant noise, this can be done in the Chat section I mentioned before.
By understanding how to use this environment, the end result can be a highly efficient team that have direct, immediate access to relevant information on any given subject within the company. It will take time to get past the traditional mindset of sending all written internal communication as emails in Outlook, but in my opinion it is worth the effort to invest time in training, educating and helping your team understand the benefits a Teams environment can offer long term.
We have covered Meetings, Chat and part of the Teams section, so lets take it a step further and look at how we can use Microsoft Teams as a central hub for teamwork.
In the image above I have now moved over to the Envision channel in my Projects team, however instead of the ‘Posts’ tab like I showed in the previous image of the Ignite channel, I am now in a different tab. In fact, I have opened Microsoft Planner within Teams. Planner is a task management application available with most Microsoft 365 subscriptions, but I have very easily created this particular Envision plan within the Envision channel. Not only is this readily accessible, it is pinned and viewable by all members of the Team. We now have a situation where we can assign tasks to the relevant team members associated with this project. A different example could be setting actions/tasks after a video meeting in readiness for the next meeting.
In this second example (above) I have created a feedback form using the Microsoft Forms application. Once I have created the form, I then pinned it within my Envision channel in Teams.
There are over 700 different applications that you can open within a Microsoft Teams channel, some are Microsoft apps, some are by third parties such as Trello, Asana, Monday.com or Zoho CRM. It is near impossible to explain all of the different application uses you can compliment a channel with. Which is why it is so important to look very carefully at company processes and workflows when considering a Teams deployment.
With so many potential supporting applications for your Teams channels, you can have a completely bespoke experience from one department to the next. Since you can open most applications from directly within Teams, why would you need to work outside of it? This is part of the reason why it has been branded the ‘central hub for teamwork’. When it is deployed in the correct way, with the time and attention it needs, the end result can be an efficient, high functioning team that can work from anywhere on any device.
Any file that lives in SharePoint will automatically be both encrypted and a ‘live document’, meaning multiple users can access at the same time. As Teams sits on top of SharePoint any file shared within the client will be accessible and editable by the Team members it was shared in.
In the above picture I have shared a PowerPoint document, as it is shared in Teams all members will be able to access and edit the document. This means there will not be multiple versions, but a single file that can be edited over time by the team members. Additionally, as it is shared in the ‘posts’ section, the group can offer feedback, comments and suggestions within the Teams interface.
Collaboration is extremely easy within Teams, with many companies having a disjointed workforce due to the pandemic, it is important that employees can still feel included, part of a team and not isolated.
Microsoft Teams is included in any business or enterprise 365 license, meaning there is a high chance that if you are using Microsoft 365 there would be no additionall icensing costs for your business.
The only cost you may need to consider is for an IT professional to assist in the structured deployment of Microsoft Teams. We advise that the professional will not only help you install the client and configure the backend, but also consider the business structure and processes.
Training staff and team members to use Teams will have mixed results if there is no plan or structured adoption process. Having a good adoption plan is just as important as the right Teams, Channels and supporting applications. For the most part, people are adverse to change and will need be treated sensitively when introducing new systems or processes. Adoption is often one of the most overlooked areas, when in fact, it is one of the most important. Helping and supporting your workforce with Microsoft Teams will raise morale and confidence, but more importantly they will be embracing the benefits of modern communication.
Yes and no,to put it simply. Microsoft Teams can have a dramatic, positive effect in most businesses, especially during this current time of pandemic where flexible work and remote workers are the new normal. However, the determining factor of whether it lives up to the hype for your business is down to the planning, deployment, and adoption strategy than an IT company or professional takes.
Teams is not just an application to slot in alongside other applications, it is a mindset change, a completely new way of working, that needs to be handled carefully to achieve the positive end result of an efficient workforce.
If you have made it this far, thank you, this blog took considerable time and consideration to put together, and I hope you found it useful and I answered your questions. I am more than happy to discuss further any points raised, or if you would like to explore Teams further then please get in touch.
© This blog was written by Matthew Crump on 29/10/2020 and is original content
Cloud Top Technology Ltd