Microsoft’s Teams promises easier internal communications through its chat-based workspace within Office 365. But how does it work and is it the right option for you?
In today’s blog post, we’ll go over what Teams promises, some of its best features and positive effects using it could have for your staff’s productivity, teamwork and company culture. We’ll also name some of the most common pitfalls new users of Teams face and how to avoid them. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft Teams.
What you need to know about Teams
Microsoft introduced its Teams application back in 2017. It’s first and foremost an internal communications tool that allows you to complete a number of tasks in a single screen and share this with your team. You can use key functions of many of Office 365’s most popular applications inside Teams, including Outlook, SharePoint and Skype.
By utilising these tools, people are able to manage their calendar and schedule meetings, call and chat with team members and create, search, edit and share content. This means you don’t have to switch between screens to do these tasks and are less likely to get distracted. By using the ‘@’ symbol, you can tag and notify specific people in the chat, meaning your message is less likely to go unnoticed by the intended person.
When you create a new Team, a shared Plan, SharePoint team site, OneNote and Office 365 group will also be created for it. You can then create multiple Channels for your Team, allowing specific topics to be addressed in each channel. For example, your Marketing Team might have a separate Channel for social media management, blog content, SEO and ads.
The consensus is that eventually, Teams will replace Skype for Business, another Microsoft application. This means that if your company is an avid user of Skype for Business, now’s the time to start thinking about moving onto Teams.
Additional Microsoft Teams features
Teams is a cloud-based application, meaning that you can access your files, work chat and calendar from anywhere and on any device. This offers greater flexibility and supports remote work.
One of our favourite aspects of Teams is the option to use bots: the application’s own chatbot can help new users get to grips with using the application. You can also choose from a number of third-party bot integrations, such as Polly, or, if you have the skills, you can even build your own to meet your exact needs.
There are also a number of third-party tool integrations available for Teams, from planning apps like Asana and Hootsuite to common filesharing apps like Google Drive and Citrix ShareFile. This means that Teams can be highly tailored to fit your exact needs. You can also add extra tabs to the application, including Word, Planner, Excel and Power BI, meaning you can carry out even more key tasks within Teams.
Teams is also diligent about cybersecurity, offering round-the-clock data encryption and multi-factor authentication among other things. You can also get people external to your company involved, giving them visitor access to specific files and chats.
5 Great ways Teams can support your internal communications
1. Always have the most up-to-date version of files and plans
When you’re sharing files via email, it’s often hard to keep track of what the latest version of a piece of work is. This is not the case with Teams: because the application is cloud-based, a single file can be created and edited by multiple people and the latest version is always shown.
2. It’s easier to get all team members involved in plans
There’s no need to worry about who you need to CC into emails or invite to meetings: you can tag specific people into messages and meeting invites, but they’ll be visible to all. This means there’s greater transparency and people can decide to pop into a meeting even if they’ve not specifically been invited. Done right, using Teams means there’ll be far less hurt feelings about being left out of the loop.
3. Office 365 tools are familiar to everyone
Virtually everyone has experience using Word, Powerpoint and other Office 365 applications. This familiarity with O365 tools means user adoption could be easier than you expect.
4. You can get started for free
That’s right, you can start using Teams for free. This means that you can use the application even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription. The option is there to upgrade to a paid version at any time for those who’d like to take advantage of the full capabilities of Teams.
5. Supporting remote work
Because it’s a cloud-based tool, Teams is great for supporting people who work from home. The chat makes sure staff still feel part of the conversation and can easily ask questions even if they’re not in the office. Meanwhile, the cloud-based storage means they always have access to all the files they need and you can host video meetings via Skype to help keep everyone in the loop.
Potential pitfalls with Microsoft Teams and how to avoid them
One of the potential pitfalls with Teams is that it might be hard to get the whole team on board. Ideally, shifting to Teams means that Outlook will no longer be used for your internal comms because it’s easier to keep it all on one channel. Email would then be mostly reserved for external communications.
That being said, this is easier said than done. After all, we’ve all got our work habits and these can be hard to shift – especially if they’ve been accumulated over years, even decades. Some people might be reluctant to change their ways and convincing them can take time.
It’s also easy to set up too many Channels, making your experience with Teams confusing. It can be difficult to gauge exactly what you’ll need from Teams before getting started, but do take some time to figure out which Channels you really need before creating them – you’ll likely need fewer than you’d think.
As Teams automatically creates updated versions of any files you edit, make sure you don’t create new ones; otherwise, you’ll have multiple versions of a file floating around and it’ll be hard to discern what the latest version is.
One of the best ways to overcome all of these pitfalls is to have a set process and etiquette in place for using Teams. This includes basic training, guidelines for what kind of communication Channels are used for and rules limiting the creation of Channels and multiple files for one piece of work.
You should also have rules in place for reorganising files in the Channel root folders, as this will break all previous links to them in conversations. It’s also a good idea to limit people’s ability to carry out certain tasks in admin settings to only what’s necessary.
The bottom line
All in all, Teams offers easier collaboration and improved communication, making it an excellent resource for many different types of organisations. If you’d like to talk to our experts about how Microsoft Teams could work into your IT strategy, please get in touch with us. You can also read more Office 365 articles on our blog here.