For anyone that has ever given a demonstration of Microsoft Teams you will know that the most difficult part is the opener. How do you explain what Microsoft Teams is, or the impact Teams can have on your ways of working – particularly to those that have not seen it before. My personal favourite is to describe Teams as the single pane of glass within which you can access all your Office 365 tools (except Outlook). But it is very difficult for the uninitiated to visualise that impact until they use it and most importantly, fully commit to using Teams to fundamentally change the way that they, and their team, work. Fundamental change takes time, but there are some easy first steps…
The Teams persistent chat (group instant messaging) is usually where people start their experience of Teams. My organisation are very email dependant, and prior to Teams our 3000 users were sending 1.2 million emails a month. Emails are appropriate where formal communication is required, but this can be an overly formal and time consuming communication channel for people you work with regularly. With Teams our email dependency has reduced to around 500k emails sent per month, which is still too much, but it continues to go in the right direction. From a personal experience I also love the seamless Teams mobile experience, and sending a quick Teams chat message whilst travelling is so much faster and easier than drafting an email. Dare I say it, the emoji, memes and giphys can even make the working day fun.
The next area of focus is Teams Files, with the inevitable question – so is Teams replacing SharePoint? The response, as we all know, is that Teams Files are built on SharePoint but provide a more user friendly veneer to access documents, with a look and feel more aligned to file explorer. There is an even an option to open the files in SharePoint for the purists. Most significantly with Teams, Microsoft have softened their approach to folder structures, which most users are comfortable with. Even though I promote the value of metadata and the opportunities with SharePoint, I still inevitably go back to folder structures eventually. It is also important that Teams Files, aren’t used in addition to other file storage but as a replacement. As such, I am an advocate of the need to convert SharePoint sites to Teams and move files away from traditional file servers.
Within each Team, the tabs are the area that cause the most excitement but also pose the biggest challenge. Beyond the Files tab, each team need to define their own set up, deciding how best to bring in the other O365 tools (and external connectors), to make the most of their workspace. I would assume most Teams are like my own, we have tried lots of different tabs, but have now settled on those that add the most value (Wiki, PowerBI, Planner, embedded SharePoint intranet page) – with the option to add in other tabs for shory term work.
Teams Meetings is proving a slow burn for us, with many users staying with Skype for Business. Teams as we know, overtook Skype for Business in terms of feature parity, in the summer of 2018. Audio and Video conferencing, coupled with the ability to easily share content is a platform for culture change – and can be a great replacement for expensive conference numbers and travel. My organisation has continued to run Skype and Teams in parallel for now, but features like the sharing tray and the ability to organise meetings within Teams make it feel simpler and more user friendly.
It is still early days for us. Having fully launched Teams in February we have increased to over 1000 users month on month – around a third of our workforce. Usage stats also show that most of our users are infrequent and certainly not using Teams to its full capability. The role of my team, having raised awareness, will now be to support users to make the most of the features, embedding Teams within their daily routines and taking the bolder steps to transform the way they work.