If your company has a Microsoft Office 365 subscription, you may already have tried Microsoft Teams, even if just as a replacement for Skype for Business, but the chances are you’ve only scratched the surface of what Teams is capable of.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is really a collection of tools underpinned by Microsoft SharePoint which helps groups of workers collaborate on projects and other tasks. It’s not so much a ‘product’ – although there is a Teams app – as an environment that pulls together lots of different tools and apps to help you organise and manage your work, communicate with colleagues, suppliers, consultants and other external stakeholders in a fairly user-friendly and intuitive way.

Teams can be difficult to describe because it crosses several boundaries and there is no single ‘best’ way to use it. As with all products, Teams has its limitations and frustrations, but if you are new to the party you’ll be pleased to know that the product you will be using now is far better than it was a couple of years ago!

Rather than wax on about the myriad of features, the key things you need to know about Teams are these:

Microsoft Teams helps you find stuff

Teams gives you a place keep all your conversations, documents, meeting notes, research, decisions together so everyone can a) find stuff and b) collaborate – from anywhere you have a connection to the internet. Having a single place to be able to locate everything related to your project or department can be transformational for individual and team productivity.

Teams plays well with Office 365 – but also with other apps

Teams provides clever ways to work with other Office 365 products and components and lots of 3rd party plug-ins so you can do nearly all your work within Teams. That means if you use Mindmeister for mapping out your project designs and Trello for running your agile projects and Github to manage your code, you never have to leave Teams. Even if an application you use doesn’t have a connector to Teams, if it runs in a browser (and is hosted on a secure website) you can run it in a Teams Tab.

Teams lets you talk – and video and screen share

Teams is a fully-featured communications platform that allows you to take and receive voice and video calls and meet with people within and outside your organisation. Teams is often touted as a replacement for Skype for Business, but with Office 365 enterprise licenses and a Microsoft Phone subscription, Teams is part of a fully featured unified communications system. You can connect through mobile, desktop or tablet and even the smallest organisation can have access to communications technology that you would normally only see at large corporations.

What Teams isn’t

Microsoft Teams isn’t a magic bullet

If you don’t already have a sharing, collaborative ethos, Teams isn’t going to get groups of people working together.

Teams won’t do the work for you

Teams helps to organise your work and to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues, but the work still has to be done. Even with the best tools, groups can still be disorganised and unproductive. People still need to be managed and results measured to achieve productivity gains.

Will Microsoft Teams work in my business?

The answer to this is almost certainly yes, but you do have to plan for successful adoption.

Organisations of all sizes and in many different sectors are already benefitting from using Teams – with demonstrable improvements in communication, productivity and employee engagement.

What is the ROI?

If a happier and more productive workforce isn’t enough for you, consider these:

Faster Onboarding

When someone new joins a department or project using Teams, all the resources and history are immediately available, so the newcomer gets productive fast – and doesn’t have to waste the time of colleagues asking dozens of questions to find their place. Put a price on that.

Leavers Leave Something

Similarly, when a Teams user leaves, their contribution doesn’t walk out the door with them – you get to keep all the work that has been done already. Many businesses will recognise the real value of this.

Single Source of Truth

If you make use of the document library, OneNote notebook and the SharePoint team site that underpins your Team, you can save a tremendous amount of time by having all documents, conversations and meeting notes in one place, accessible by everyone and you can even collaborate on the same document in real time. No more hunting for files or trying to work out which is the correct version. This alone will boost productivity and save time every day.

Better Quality Meetings – when you have to have them

Teams is great for ad hoc meetings with small numbers – i.e. just those needed to make decisions and get the work done. For larger meetings – for example, regular Project stakeholder updates – Teams makes it easy to schedule, invite, minute and even record formal meetings. When you record a meeting in Teams, it creates a Stream video with participant timeline and you can even create a searchable transcript. This is a great way to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that decisions are followed through.

If you miss a meeting, a recording is a great way to catch up – or just search the transcript to see if you get a mention!

Reduce time spent in Outlook

Teams helps you focus on work without the distraction of email. Typically Teams users can virtually eliminate internal emails and restrict Outlook usage to external communications. Think about how much time that saves on checking emails and being distracted with additions to the inbox. By bringing all communications together in chats, there is only one place to look or search to find things.

Work from Anywhere

Because Teams is cloud based, you can work from anywhere you have an internet connection – with all the security features of your Office 365 tenancy (assuming you have configured them). Use the Teams app to join meetings or calls from your smartphone or tablet – wherever you happen to be. Even if you are in a different time zone, using Teams means that you can quickly catch up with what is happening when you do check in – especially if key meetings that you may not have been able to attend are recorded.

What can go wrong with Teams?

Sounds great so far, right? So what can possibly go wrong?

Teams itself is a great set of tools to help make workgroups more productive, but it does need some planning and there are several human factors that can undermine the potential productivity benefits you might otherwise achieve.

The most important factor is your existing culture. If you don’t already have a collaborative mindset, using Teams isn’t magically going to make you a team player. If your organisation operates on a ‘need to know’ basis, doesn’t communicate across departmental silos and doesn’t value contributions from your staff, you won’t gain much from adopting Teams.

How you structure Teams also needs some thought before you dive in. Will you have Teams for departments, projects, geographical areas – or all three? When should you create a channel or even a new Team? Should anyone be able to create a Team? What happens when you have too many Teams?

Some common sense planning and ground rules before you start can help avoid Teams chaos further down the line.

You will also want to have some education around Teams etiquette. Bear in mind that Teams is a work tool intended to improve productivity. It’s not a social media platform to chat with colleagues – it is for getting work done.

Managers also need to be made aware that Teams isn’t supposed to be used to micro manage staff. If you do, you will just end up with unhappy people who avoid the platform and find other ways to work.

What Next?

If you think Teams will work for your organisation, set up a pilot project or pick a department where you are likely to have willing participants and give it a try.

Set up a Team, add the members and start using it.

Provide access to training materialsfor users – on Teams and tools like OneNote if you aren’t using this already (you should be – OneNote is one of the best productivity tools Microsoft has ever produced) and basic SharePoint usage. There are some really good information and training resources for Teams – both from Microsoft and third party providers. Check out some of the resource links at the end of this article.

Most elements of Teams are straightforward to understand, and once people start using it they will soon get to grips with the basics.

A pilot project will help you find the strengths and weaknesses of Teams for your particular environment and should highlight any skills gaps that might need to be addressed before a wider roll out.

Assuming Teams does work in your environment, a pilot project will also give you some Teams evangelists within the organisation to help with user adoption on a wider scale.

Most Teams users really love the environment and the way it makes their jobs easier, so there are rarely major barriers to adoption.

Large scale company-wide roll outs may need more planning and there may be issues around security, data privacy and external user access, but the means are there to address these concerns both within Teams and at your 365 Tenancy level.

If you need more help and advice on how Microsoft Teams could help your organisation improve productivity and manage projects, drop us an email at help@tradeit.uk.com

We have been using Teams extensively since it was first released in early 2017 and have helped organisations structure their Teams and SharePoint Team sites to get the most out of their Office 365 subscriptions. 

Teams has come a long way from its first release. Many early deficiencies have been resolved and Microsoft continues add features and improve usability. Today, Teams is a solid, reliable environment and Microsoft provides the tools to enable a level of security appropriate to your sector and business type.

If you have been sitting on the fence about using Teams, do some planning, set some ground rules and get started. Remember, your competitors probably already have! 



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