Microsoft Teams was introduced in November of 2016 as a new “chat based workspace in Office 365.” with a vision (in the form of a video) showing people from different backgrounds and cultures all gloriously working remotely and collaborating seamlessly.
So what’s it really like to use Microsoft Teams?
I work mostly as a project manager, from home on digital projects. Typically, I work on SharePoint implementations and CRM Portals – and I constantly work with others. I work with Client teams, and teams internal to Fullscope. Before Teams, we typically stored our documents in SharePoint, used shared OneNote notebooks to collaborate, and typically used Skype for internal calls and GoToMeeting for client calls.
First ImpressionsWhen I first got a look at Teams, I felt like I stuck my head in a bubble of Microsoft. It felt new, yet comfortable, with touch-points to familiar tools. I felt like I was in a marketplace containing versions of all the stores I know, or something like that. Also, it felt contained, with access to chat, groups, search, and my team’s notes and documents – people and artifacts within reach.
It is easy to add integrations (click the “+”) to extend Teams, and I spent an enjoyable time checking out the possible apps I could add as Tabs. Clicking on the “…” in the left Menu I found hundreds more Apps from StubHub and Weather, to Jira Cloud, Planner, and there are more being added. It seemed like a whole new entry to the world of work! We created a few teams for logical groups of people at work, and we were off to the races.
A Deeper Look
With more Teams experience, I found that the functionality in the most useful tabs for me, such as OneNote and SharePoint, was not as good as the I’d hoped, and I found myself clicking out to use OneNote and SharePoint in their original form – now I rarely use those tabs, but they do work as shortcuts in a pinch. Also, my Teams interface for these is slow. Same goes for Planner, although I do find myself using this more frequently in Teams. For the basics, the Teams interface is adequate, but it’s more like a shell. However, I’m warming up to this as a method of document sharing – I can get the links from right in the interface.
Teams really shines in the Conversations Tab. The topics are threaded, so it’s always easy to see what different conversations are happening, and the interface even contains chat and video chat – so that someone on the team who’s not in the video chat, but who happens by the Conversations tab when teammates are talking can see us talking (yes! Our little talking heads in the Teams interface!) while the meeting is going on.
It’s possible to save conversations (bookmark them), to “@mention” someone, or even a whole team, which will notify them that they’ve been mentioned, and it’s possible to add attachments, emojis, rich text and gifs. I’ve found this useful, and working from home as I typically do, it’s the closest thing to the feeling of knowing what’s happening in the office – if everyone’s using it. That’s one thing that’s key – When the team is using Teams, it feels like the place to be, but if some people have one foot in and one foot out, or prefer to just interact using email and OneNote and SharePoint, it starts to feel less relevant.
I like teams, and I want to use it more. Microsoft Teams is here to stay. Skype will be replaced by Teams, and Teams provides a central location from which to access all kinds to resources. But should everyone use it? Now, at least, it’s optional – a matter of preference. Skype is still outside of Teams, and people will continue to work outside of teams as they have been doing, just out of habit or personal style. The O365 environment offers a ton of choice. Teams pulls it all together, and that may make a lot of sense for many workplaces.
One important thing for businesses to do early on in rolling out O365 is to consider oversight and planning around who does what with Teams and Office 365 Groups. Likely, not everyone in an organization should have the ability to create new ones! Good governance around O365 – which means thoughtful steering, more than clampdown – will go a long way to keeping a businesses’ documents and online workspace manageable and users productive.
Teams will become more useful and more widely used as time goes on. Teams offers multiple benefits to collaboration in a global workplace, and it meets the challenges of remote work, asynchronous conversations, workspace organization, and team collaboration head-on.