Collaborate with your customers in one place

The way we collaborate with our customers, partners and suppliers is rapidly changing. From physical letters to phone calls and emails, trekking halfway across the country to meet with an important customer to conference calling, we’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. Our communication methods are evolving quicker than ever.

I’m lucky enough to have grown up in the digital age, with the ability to collaborate with customers and (largely) suppliers at the drop of a hat. My manager Stephen Green has recounted the difficulties of working in an advertising agency in the 80s and 90s, where he’d have to painstakingly typeset manually and mail every iteration of work over to his client. It seems unthinkable when I’ve had Photoshop and file-sharing tools at my fingertips since I was at school.

He’d probably balk at the idea that, before Teams, I found the process of sharing work outside of my own organisation difficult and clunky. Previously, to collaborate with our design agency, they’d share the files with me via an external file-sharing platform like WeTransfer or Dropbox. I’d download the files – which would inevitably take a while – and review them with the team, before marking up fiddly amends on the PDF provided and sending it back via a file-share.

I also write for external publications (in the name of TSG, of course – check out one of my articles). Historically, I’ve emailed my articles to our third-party contact, who works with the editors of these publications. If the editor then has any amends, they must email them to our third-party, who emails them to me. I make the amends and email them back over…you can see how this process isn’t as streamlined as it could be. With printing agencies, I’ve largely had to rely on the good old-fashioned postman.

We’ve written about Teams so many times that I’ve lost count, because there’s always something new to talk about. Our Senior SharePoint Specialist Tony has written about how he’s replaced team-wide email chains with Teamswaxed lyrical about the app when it first launched. I’ve written a piece on my top three Teams tips.

Teams has evolved so much since its launch, and the latest big update (there’s been a lot of incremental changes too) is a game-changer. In September 2017, Teams was opened up to guest access – but there was a caveat. External users needed to have an Office 365 account. And while we’d recommend Office 365 to every single business in existence, we understand some aren’t ready to make the move yet or need support choosing licenses or building a business case for Office 365.

Microsoft has understood this too, and has now made Teams available externally to anyone with an email address. Not only does this mean you can streamline and improve communication with those external to your business, but it’s more secure. Particularly with GDPR on the horizon, we’d advise against the use of third-party file-sharing tools, particularly for documents and data that includes Personally Identifiable Information. Teams is wrapped up in Office 365’s outstanding security blanket, so you can be assured that your conversations, content and documents are protected by enterprise-grade security. External users only have access to the teams and channels that you grant them, so sensitive business information in internal-only teams won’t be accessible.

If you’re new to Teams, you can check out some of our guides to getting the most out of it at the bottom of this blog. Essentially, you can do everything you need to in order to collaborate effectively on a project, or more generally, that previously would have required a number of different services. The conversations function allows you to share ideas, thoughts or anything else you’d usually share via email or a project-specific solution. You can instant-message or video-conference with your external guests, and share and collaborate on files in real-time or separately. The files are stored in the SharePoint cloud, ensuring you’re all collaborating on one version of the truth.

Have you collaborated with customers, suppliers or partners in Microsoft Teams? If not, why not?

Check out some of our previous blogs to get started on Teams:

Microsoft Teams: More than just a ‘chat-based workspace’
The launch of Microsoft Teams, your digital workspace
3 reasons you should be using Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams available to external Office 365 users
Skype for Business becomes Microsoft Teams…or does it?
Team email is dead: Long live Microsoft Teams