3 reasons you should be using Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams was launched in March this year, and has quickly become a vital channel that myself and colleagues use to communicate. Some technology commentators wrote it off as nothing more than a chatroom, but it’s so much more than that. The chat functionality is a key element – particularly with Microsoft labelling it a “chat-based workspace”, but to reduce it to that ignores all of the functionalities that improve collaboration and productivity. Here’s my top 3 reasons you should be using Teams.

1. Fewer communication methods, more productivity

One of the contradictions of the modern workplace is that it requires more than one method of communication, but too many ways to communicate can leave staff dithering. For example, we use email, phone, Skype calls and instant messaging…the list goes on. Each communication tool can serve a different purpose; phone calls and Skype instant messaging are for those must-have, immediate answer needed conversations, while email can more easily be documented and allows for longer messages and file sharing.

Teams offers all of those functionalities in one place. The chat function is based on Skype for Business, meaning you can instant-message your colleagues without having to leave Teams. The channels (find out what they are in Steven Osprey’s blog) are based on conversations – think of them like internet forums but faster, more appealing to the eye and with fewer trolls…

You can create a number of channels in each team, which keeps your conversations really focused. Colleagues can post in these channels and they can be used for debate, comments, file sharing, informational purposes…pretty much anything. Channels are intended to replace email, with the opportunity for more in-depth conversations. You can attach files, web links or anything else you might share via email (memes also count).

2. Everything you need in one place

This is where the detractors are wrong when they say it’s chat-only. You have tabs within each channel, starting with the baseline 3: conversations, files and Wiki. SharePoint forms the basis of the files section and is like a mini SharePoint document library within your channel – you’ll soon realise that Microsoft wants you to have everything you need within Teams rather than having to app-hop.

You can organise files into folders and share them via SharePoint-generated links to those both in and outside of your Team. But like many other Microsoft business applications, you can also add folders from external sources including Google Drive and Dropbox, which will help users new to Office 365, OneDrive or Teams to adjust to these new tools.

Wiki can be used in whichever way you see fit; it can form the basis of a Word document, collate notes from a team meeting, or become a team or channel’s knowledgebase. It allows colleagues to collaborate on a document in real-time within Teams, rather than opening a Word document externally.

The most interesting thing about Teams’ tabs is that they can be entirely customised. You can embed additional Office 365 applications, such as Planner, SharePoint, Power BI and so on, into your channel so that, once again, you don’t have to leave the app to do something important. Again, there are a number of third-party applications that can be integrated such as SurveyMonkey, Zendesk or even websites.

For example, my team at TSG manages our events and webinars, which requires the strictest organisation and clear visibility across our team. We have spreadsheets embedded into our ‘events and webinars’ channel within the Marketing Team so that we can see everything we need to at a glance. We also have a Planner embedded into some of our Teams so that we can track our workload in one single place. Microsoft Teams is very much a single pane of glass if you use it effectively.

3. Only get the notifications you need

We’re all bombarded with emails on a daily basis, so some might ask: why would I need notifications for everything my team or channel is doing? The beauty of Teams is that you only get the notifications you want or need.

You don’t get notified every time someone posts in a channel because let’s face it, that would be mind-numbing. You can favourite certain channels and Teams so that it’s easier to keep on top of the conversations that matter the most to you.

Sometimes though, you need some feedback on your post or an article you’ve shared as a Word document, for example. You can @mention certain people or even your entire team so that they’ll get a popup notification that is far friendlier than another email. We use Teams effectively for sharing blogs and posts for feedback and upload, and it helps to mention the entire Marketing Team so all members can feedback on it in their own way.

We also work closely with our product specialists to make sure the information about all of the products we offer is accurate on the website. Teams makes this collaboration easy, as we can have channels for each product area and can mention certain specialists if we need their input. They’ll get a notification so they know it’s an actionable query or request.

You can set up a notification for replies to your post, or not. This is useful if your colleagues are commenting on a piece of work or an idea that you’ve requested feedback on. Alternatively, you could switch off those notifications if you need colleagues to simply confirm you’ve seen your message.
This choice allows Teams to be more open and free-flowing than email. You don’t have to worry about the equivalent of reply-all, where you either get too many unnecessary one-word replies or colleagues are discouraged from writing a brief reply because they’re scared of bombarding the group.

Are you convinced?

When Teams is used effectively, it can significantly improve the way you collaborate with your colleagues. It might be a long time before it or anything else completely replaces email, but at TSG we’ve noticed a huge drop-off in lengthy emails as we instead converse, share files and information and collaborate effectively within Teams.

Have you tried out Teams yet? Or maybe you don’t know where to start? Following fantastic feedback from our workshops in London and Newcastle, we’ll be hosting more Office 365 Productivity Fundamentals workshops which cover the use of Teams from communication to collaboration and document management. You can register your interest and see some of our customer feedback on our event page.