99 problems but Teamwork ain’t one

Today, internet chat and social media is everywhere, also within the business, often in their own solutions specific to the organization.
The use of chat, VoIP, SaaS applications other collaboration tools, that users and organizations starts to use grows regularly, and the business and its users are forced to get more productive and efficient.
Along with this, the enterprise also has its own line of business application and other applications used by the employees each day, making the everyday experience for the user more and more complex, with the added systems and applications
they must relate to and use. This can limit the productivity and efficiency of the business as users find it a hassle to relate to all these different applications – this is in most cases, more true than not.


Some common applications are:


Microsoft Outlook
Outlook, your mailbox, calendar, contacts etc. Now, e-mail is a good tool, and you probably always have the application open or minimized. But with all the means of communication today, e-mail is also outdated.
You will most likely always have it, and that’s ok too. But, if your organization or you, are using this tool to do internal communication, it’s really about time to make a serious change.
I will go as far as to say that nothing makes more noise, distractions, coffee breaks, complaints and other inefficiency than outlook/other e-mail clients.
If you have a set of tasks to complete and keep this application open while focusing on a task, having pop-ups about e-mail and reminders jumping on the screen just kills your focus on the set task.
This especially is problematic if your company has endless internal communication, with one-line replies and endless people on cc, that’s just a real-life nightmare when trying do your job.
It makes it far too easy stop the task, check and reply email and kills your productivity.
Use e-mail only for out/incoming communication to customers/clients or other formal needs. Internal longer e-mail not categorized as general talk, and more serious or sensitive also fits e-mail.
Your mailbox should be related to your tasks and important information not endless internal discussions.

Skype for Business
Many organizations have moved over to IP for landlines and integrated this with the likes of Skype for Business to take advantage of VoIP, video, meetings, chat etc., and this makes a great tool to be efficient.
With Skype for Business you have instant access to schedule and join meetings, voice/audio call and chat with both internal and external participants.
Chats get logged to your mailbox – if you don’t close the chat window to soon – so you can find the chat history there.
This is all good but, searching the mailbox for everything you need to find can be a bit tedious, and not very productive or efficient when you need it.

SharePoint
For document libraries many are using Microsoft SharePoint, to safely store all business documents in a central location, leveraging co-editing, versioning secure access and more.
Personally, as I’m not an administrative worker, I find SharePoint tiresome to work with, when accessed via traditional web browser.
As the number of documents grow along with multiple projects and separate libraries per needed situation, SharePoint grows more by the day, and the structure and time needed to browse to find the right location
just gets ineffective. Constantly clicking link by link do click your way into the right place in the SharePoint structure. More locations to store documents = more clicks and wasted time waiting for the user = bad user experience and unhappy user.

OneNote
Many are, hopefully, using OneNote to gather notes from meetings and other day by day tasks, and this really is a great tool, available across PC, Mac and mobile.
Paired with Microsoft Office Lens on your phone, and OneDrive for Business** it makes taking notes on the go quick and easy, whether its whiteboards, paper, business cards or just photos. All easily accessible for you to collect all information in one place.
If you are not actively using it but have the access to use it – I recommend taking a good look at it and try it in your day to day needs – it really has a lot of powerful features.
Here is a good video from Ståle Hansen at CloudWay about OneNote – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7PYPl5WSVA

SaaS applications
SaaS applications are growing by the day, and if your organization are using this or other web-based portals you need to use for work, this is yet another system for the user to relate to, and switch between together with other line of business applications.
Preferably, If SaaS application, your organization has set up SSO via SAML /ADFS or other tools limit the number of passwords the users need to relate to as well – if not, make them check if it’s available, and implement it.

**Part of Office 365 package

To the rescue – Microsoft Teams, Hub for teamwork!

Microsoft Teams is a part of the Office 365 package***, and is a new tool for collaboration and interaction.
Teams will replace Skype for Business Online, but can for now exist side by side, and Teams integrates with existing SfB as well, so there is no reason to not use both.

Teams give you most of the same possibilities as SfB, but adds more, a lot more.
You chat with your colleagues, call, make video calls, schedule meetings, join meetings, group chat etc – across devices both computers and mobile.


But with this client you create Teams, and within the Team you can create Channels for various topics – a Team is in general an Office 365 group, and comes with its own area in SharePoint Online, team notebook, and document library+wiki.
(If you already have some Office 365 group, you wish to move into the teams client, you can create a Team with the already existing group)

I.e. you can create a Channel for your Company – for all internal communication – and under this Team you create channels for various departments/topics depending on what suits your company.
You then add the users as members of the team, and they get access to the Team and underlying channels/files/libraries/apps.
All teams created comes with a channel called “general”, this can be used to information meant for everyone – company announcements you name it. All users get notification on posts in this channel, for other channels, only users who have added the channel to favorites gets notifications.
(you can limit who can post here, if you wish to keep this as a company informal channel and prevent it being used for general conversation threads – I would recommend this)

Separate channels under one Team are used for separate topics.
Within each channel you can upload documents and folders related to that channel, and integrate other services, like document libraries in SharePoint,Office 365 integrated apps like PowerBI, Stream, Planner, OneNote and weblinks + a lot of 3party apps.
Integrations are shown as separate tabs in that channel.


Here are some screenshots of a blank Team just created:
My client is in Norwegian, but you would get the basic idea.


Here is the newly created Team called Contoso shown under favorites in my list – gets added there by default when you are the one creating the Team – clicking the Team sends you to the General channel.
In the channel you can see 3 tabs by default – Conversations, Files and Wiki .
On the left side you have icons for Activity feed, chats, teams and meetings.
Meetings shows your agenda from Outlook, and you can join meetings from both SfB and Teams directly from here.
Activity show activity from your subscribed channels, chats etc.
Channels are added as favorites by clicking the star in the channels list for that channel.


In the Files tab, you can create files and folders directly, add shared storage, drag & drop existing files (also multiple files at one time), or open the files library in SharePoint.
As stated, Team creates an area for the Team on your SharePoint in O365, so all files are stored inside your company automatically like other SharePoint libraries.



Wiki tab takes you to the following where you can add general information FAQ or similar depending on your needs for the channel.

Clicking on the + icon takes you to where the real fun is, this is where you can add connections to integrated 365 applications and 3party apps for use as tabs in your channel.
Web links external websites can be added as tabs as well – eliminating the need to open your web-browser for needed services.

This makes it possible to create channels based on various user groups in your company and add services relevant to that group as integrated tabs within Teams, for them to work, co-edit, read, share, discuss all that is related to them in one place.
No more need to open various number of web browser and other services, and instead keep what is relevant of these services in one place for the user.
This makes the users more focused on their tasks and what Is relevant to them.

Conversations in a channel is started by writing in the normal text field in the channel, conversations are threaded, meaning when you reply to a conversation, use the reply button – not the text field.
This is important to make conversation history in the correct thread, and not start a new thread for each time you write something.

This also makes it easy for other users to see the communication flow and keep up to date on the topic for that discussion.
Users can tag users/channels and teams with @ mention to make them aware of the thread and get notification of being tagged in a conversation.****


Editing settings for the Team

Each team can have different settings configured, and some of the configuration options include.

  • Team picture – icon for the team shown in the Teams client.
  • Member permission – permissions on what team members can do, within the selected team as follows;
    • Create, update, and delete channels in the team
    • Add and remove applications/integrations/tabs for the team
    • Add, remove and update connections for the team
    • Delete their own messages
    • Edit their own messages
    • Settings for the General channel
      • All can publish to channel
      • All can publish. Show warning that everyone gets notification when posted in this channel – good for big groups and limit noise to users.
      • Only Team owners can publish to the channel – good if this is meant as an informational channel and not for discussions.
  • Guest permissions
    • Allow creating and updating channels – default off, you typically not want guest/externals to do this
    • Allow deleting channels – default off, you typically not want guest/externals to do this
  • ****Settings for @ mentions
    • Allow @team mentions for this Team – @team/@teamname sends a notification to all members of that team – good for messages important for everyone to read.
    • Allow @channel mentions for channels under this team – @channel sends a notification only to users that have added this channel as a favorite.
  • Fun stuff – good for keeping light and open conversation, but it may be inappropriate in some settings or when working with externals on that team – can give an impression off less professionalism if used unwisely.
    • Settings for Giphy – insertions of gif images in conversations – you can filter this to limit inappropriate gifs – strict moderate and allow all is available.
    • Allow stickers and memes
    • Allow uploading memes

To get to the settings for the team, click on the team name, this takes you to the general channel, then click on the name of the channel on the top – this may be fixed later, as it’s a bit annoying to not be able to just click the Team name in the teams list for this.

You then get to the channel settings, and can edit members, channels, apps etc.
This is also where you go to edit the description previously on created channels – in case you need to edit or did not put in this when creating the channel.

 

 

If you want to change notification settings etc for your client, you can do this by selecting your icon in the top left and click settings.
Good if you want to limit the popups on your screen and take control of your focus.

You can send e-mail to channels

Each created channel gets an e-mail address.
This makes it easy to pass information from incoming e-mail to a channel and discuss the matter there, or to send it to a channel as information.

To get the e-mail address for the channel, right click on the channel name and select get e-mail address.

 

Be careful not to make this address publicly known to avoid getting junk and unwanted e-mail to the channel.
If needed to add this e-mail in an external facing e-mail use bcc for this.


You can also limit who is allowed to send e-mail to this address by choosing advanced settings.

 

Chat/call

When you are in a chat with someone you can jump right over to a quick video or audio call, add others to the chat from inside the client.
If you wish to jump over from a chat to a more formal setting you can schedule a meeting directly in the chat and add other members in the invitation there as well.

In the chat you also get tabs to show you all the files exchanged with that person, organizational map for that person if available, and activity for that someone inside Teams – for areas where you also have access.
Files shared in chat can be co-edited directly in the Teams client, and files are stored in 365 – Shared files must come from OneDrive for Business for the team or can be uploaded directly.

When calling microphone and camera if video is on straight away, and not muted/not shared when calling people on your team, unlike SfB where you need to share video manually.

The benefit of chat in Teams vs SfB is that chat history is kept in the Team, not saved in the mailbox history pr user. This makes it easy for new team members to join the team and see historical conversations.

Thoughts around using Teams

From what we see, Teams can be very versatile when used in a good manner to collect information across multiple sources while ensuring ease of use for the users, and good options for collaboration and general teamwork for a business.
Teams can be used to create a Team for a specific project, creating channels for each of the project stages. Make good guidelines for the use of the Teams so all users are aware and are using the tool optimally.
When used correctly and with good thoughts around how, I’m personally 100% sure the users will see good value in this and will also see that it makes them more efficient, less stressed and more in the loop of what is going on in the business.


Using Teams to end internal e-mail should be goal nr1, and is easily done, make a Team structure, make wanted channels and integrations based on need for the channels and add the users.
Be clear internally that e-mail is only to be used in formal setting for internal, and otherwise for outgoing/customer relations/scheduling meetings. All internal dialog is done in Teams for the business.
User will end up with an Outlook clean from internal junk, making it easier to keep track of what is important to reply.


Users can focus on their tasks for the day, and check Outlook only when available to start a new task – no need to keep Outlook/e-mail open for distractions – unless your job role requires this.
If users still send e-mail for internal communication, pass that e-mail over to the suitable channel, and force the dialog for that e-mail to Teams, do not reply via Outlook, this just undermines the culture change to use Teams for this.

Security

Teams as part of the O365 package follows the setting for security you set within O365 and SharePoint.
This gives you great control for who can see what, and adds control if you want to use MFA, conditional access and other security features inside O365.
Security settings in O365 applies to Teams as well.
I.e. You have a HR team in Teams, and HR users have various restricted libraries available to them inside your SharePoint + the team library.
If a normal user gets added to the HR Teams group, that user will see the content for the HR Teams library, but not from the other restricted HR areas within SharePoint.
Supports MFA, encryption at all times – when passive and active, good privacy safeguards.

Keep in mind

  • Decide beforehand on how your organization wants to use Teams for their business and make the structure accordingly.
  • Make a conscious decision on whether to allow all users to generate channels/teams and add/edit members – or select team managers keep this under control – different teams can have different managers.
  • Make appropriate permission settings according to the specific team – some should perhaps not have gifs/memes/giphy enabled
  • Understand that all members of a team see all channels and post and share accordingly.
  • Decide when to use and not use e-mail
  • Keep people engaged and active, give likes to conversations to show support or that you have seen the message, make it fun – the millennial generation is all about likes and hearts
  • Understand the difference between conversation topic and replies – use the reply button when adding content to existing conversation.
  • Use the general channel for wide announcements – use @mentions to notify and engage teams/channels or specific users.
  • Integrate apps for teams and channels according to need to max out potential and user experience.

Ending words

If you already have an O365 subscription, but not currently using Microsoft Teams, you should look at it as soon as possible, it may make your users and business more effective and the users engaged with minimal effort.
If you do not already have a O365 subscription, you should look at that in the first place.
The amount of services you get with a basic O365 license today is amazing at a low cost, packet with a lot of powerful applications, not just to replace exchange/e-mail or MS Office pack.
Using Teams together with SharePoint online and document libraries for instance, makes the tedious task of endless clicking to get to the right spot a breeze. Put the correct libraries on the correct team channels and the need to search SharePoint via web is gone.
As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of that part of SharePoint, but when putting the SharePoint libraries needed for Channels/projects as tabs in Teams, I have no problem in using this – and the time needed for me to find the correct locations are nothing compared to SharePoint via a web browser. Adding multiple files to libraries works as a charm, and not just via Internet Explorer or Edge i.e.
Working with projects can easily be done by integrating Planner, and creating an interactive roadmap and to-do lists – assign pr task pr user – for that particular project, available for project members to see, always updated across users – may limit the need for recurring project meetings to update status.

Here are some short links to other articles about Teams, and the product page from Microsoft

https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software
Required O365 plan; Business premium, business essentials, enterprise E1, E3 and E5

https://www.zdnet.com/product/microsoft-teams/
https://medium.com/@smcollier/5-reasons-to-use-microsoft-teams-instead-of-email-b646b815ee7a

 

Senior System Consultant at Serit IT Partner Møre AS, localized in Møre og Romsdal, Norway. Primarily focus on virtualization and datacenter solutions. Specialized in Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, certified CCE-V.

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