Microsoft Teams update: What you need to know

This week Microsoft announced the Teams functionality that we (well, at least the Office 365 geeks like @365_tony, @duff3h, @giustis5 and I) have all been waiting for; that it now includes guest access.

Teams is arguably the strongest of the collaboration platforms included within Office 365; so strong in fact, that I now use it for most of my team’s groupwork tasks, including;

• Product updates to sales and consultant teams
• Tender responses
• Product evaluations including legals
• Event planning
• Demonstration builds
• Virtual team meetings
• Creating content for blogs (this blog has been through Teams!)

Microsoft has alluded to this update for some time, primarily because avid Teams users overwhelmingly requested this functionality, but gave no launch date. This is potentially one of the most exciting Teams developments, and paves the way for hundreds of thousands of employees to collaborate with customers, partners, suppliers and even consultants in one place.

Since the announcement, I am now able to use the same platform for:

• Partner campaign planning
• Partner and supplier forecasting
• Product updates from partners
• Organising events with partners, for example Futuretech, where a number of partners are involved
• creating proof of concepts with customers

We’ve written a number of times about the benefits of Microsoft Teams – you can catch up on those blogs below:

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
Teams launches ‘classroom experiences’
Video: Microsoft Teams in 10: Creating a Team

Microsoft Teams brings together the functionality from a number of Office 365 applications, including Outlook email, Skype for Business, SharePoint, Yammer and many more, into one simple-to-use communication tool that you never have to leave. It allows for a level of collaboration between multiple colleagues that email doesn’t; you don’t have reply-all emails that add no value but similarly, colleagues aren’t deterred from interacting with posts. It encourages the kind of communication that email arguably stifles.

You can share documents that everyone or only a subset of people can edit, and you can embed a number of additional functionalities including documents, Twitter feeds, Planner buckets, and so on.

The guest access allows you to collaborate with external colleagues more effectively than ever; your marketing team can work with its design agency to feedback on brand assets. We can collaborate with partners on joint events that we’re hosting – for example, our digital transformation event with Sage. No more lengthy email chains that can easily get lost in your noisy inbox.

This also adds an element of security; if you’re regularly exchanging documents with people outside of your business, you might be restricted in the file sizes you can share. This means many have to resort to external file sharing, which runs the risk of clicking on spoofed emails with malicious links. By sharing documents in Teams and only granting access to specific email addresses, you eliminate that risk. The fact that the system will only allow you to add external users who have their own Office 365 work or school account means that Microsoft is already providing the security ‘wrapper’ for the guest – clever.

The process for adding a guest is straightforward – team owners add a guest in the usual way they’d add a colleague to the team, and new invitees get an email invitation which they must redeem. An automated message announces the new team member in the team’s channels, and it’s easy for colleagues to see who is the guest when viewing team members.

Office 365 admins control the full functions available to the guest and colleagues in Teams, but here are the highlights:

You can check out the Microsoft Office 365 blog for more information on adding and managing guest access in Microsoft Teams.

Guest access in Teams is wrapped up in enterprise-level security and compliance measures. Thanks to Azure AD, machine learning algorithms detect unusual behaviour and can trigger a number of actions to handle potential security risks.

Thanks to this update, you can now collaborate with customers, partners, suppliers or consultants more effectively than ever before. This update breaks the corporate wall around Office 365 and allows organisations to work more closely with each other in a manner fit for the 21st century. This shows how serious Microsoft is about leading the market in collaboration and productivity, the way they have dominated the operating system and core Office products space for decades.

I’m off to send a load of emails with Word and Excel attachments for the next version of our GDPR PII Discovery Tool with Termset, Qlik and some of our early adopter customers… Wait a minute…