How to Make the Most of Microsoft Teams Collaborative Tool for BusinessDonna Marie Padua
Today’s businesses use various tools for communication and collaboration, and it’s not uncommon to find different departments in the same company use different tools. Microsoft Teams addresses that issue. Teams are a collaborative tool by Microsoft that can be deployed company-wide to bring together employees, their conversations, and their content to work more.
Like its counterparts, MS Teams can be fully integrated with other Microsoft products, making collaboration so much easier. There is a Microsoft Teams add-in for Microsoft Office apps like Outlook, Excel, Word, Planner, and One Note. It can also be integrated with third-party apps like Trello, Wikipedia, or Asana, making Microsoft Teams greatly convenient for office workers.
There are a few more ways that the collaborative tool Teams could benefit your business. Some of them include:
- Company-wide Chat – The main function of Teams is the chat functionality. The app lets you have threaded conversations, so everything is recorded in one, easy to find a place. There’s no more digging through your inbox looking for emails or even the bombardment of emails as group conversations take place. Your conversations can take place as a team discussion, or you can chat privately. There is also the ability to integrate Skype to have audio and video conversations.
- Full Integration with your Business Apps– As we mentioned earlier, Teams brings all your commonly used tools together for a seamless working experience. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Planner, SharePoint, and more are integrated with Teams. If you’re all reviewing a Word document at once, you can have the document sitting in the chat as you talk.
- Customized Workspace – Every team is different, and Microsoft Teams understands that. This collaborative tool by Microsoft is customizable. You can even integrate with third parties. For example, the marketing team would receive updates from Twitter, which would be just as important to them as updates from your CMO.
- Communicate in Real-Time – Being able to chat in real-time rather than bouncing emails back and forth, which could take hours to be read and responded to, could kill productivity. High priority initiatives might get pushed back because an email hasn’t been answered, while instant messaging allows ease and fluidity that enables productivity to thrive.
- Everyone is on the Same Page – You send an email to everyone giving them an update. They reply to you but not to all. Then someone else replies to you. Suddenly the conversation is splitting out into seven separate conversations, with everyone’s ideas being directed at one person when it should be a group discussion. With Teams, this doesn’t happen. Everyone knows what the status of the discussion is, keeping the productivity flowing.
Tricks to Enhance User Experience with Microsoft Teams
Each of us is surrounded by a plethora of technologies designed to make life and work easier. Very few of us are leveraging these tools to their full potential. As many of us find remote work becoming the “new normal,” we have summarized below a few helpful tips to take you from zero to hero with Microsoft Teams. His isn’t a training document, but rather a guide to help make you aware of some of the great Microsoft Teams features that can help you and your team use Microsoft Teams effectively in a remote setting.
While your organization may utilize SharePoint (or a similar knowledge repository) for each business unit, Microsoft Teams has become the go-to platform to organize teams of any size. Many organizations that have invested in Office 365 are using Skype for Business today. While Teams’ chat functionality offers little over Skype, it’s expected that Microsoft will sunset Skype in 2021. If you’re looking to double-down on virtual collaboration, we recommend creating a critical mass of Team users.
Organize Your Teams and Channels
The fundamental structure of Microsoft Teams centers around two units: the Team and that Team’s channels. Using Microsoft Teams can be created for everything from strategic collaboration across an entire business unit to tactical collaboration for a specific project. Think of the channels within each Team as individual topics or areas of focus. By default, each new Team will come with a General channel within which all activity could be organized. Additional channels create more organization and offer additional privacy based on a given channel’s settings.
- When Should You Set Up a Teams Site? Teams sites are a great resource when working on highly collaborative projects and initiatives, recurring meetings, or even managing department-wide communication. Even if you are working on a single file with a small team, Microsoft Teams brings together personal document storage in the cloud (OneDrive) with powerful chat capabilities.
- Private or Public Team? One of the first questions to answer when creating a new Team is whether this team’s activity should be public to the organization. A Private Team will require you to invite and approve members before they are added. A Public Team allows users to self-select into your Team without any approval. Therefore, if you expect your activity to contain confidential information, a Private site would be more appropriate. If your Teams group is designed for broader collaboration across the company, the Public may be best.
- Hidden Teams, It’s effortless to hide teams and channels that are not immediately relevant for your use. You will be notified if someone @mentions you within the Activity of the hidden team or channel.
- Owners, It’s a best practice always to have more than one person listed in the Team Owner role so that you have a backup to help administer the Team.
- Channels Your files and chat are organized into one or more channels. It’s best practice to create a channel per topic of discussion.
Your Presence/Status in Teams
As Microsoft calls it, your availability, or ‘presence,’ is published across most products in the Office 365 platform. It’s a useful way to indicate to your colleagues whether unscheduled interruptions are invited in a virtual world. While your Outlook calendar fundamentally controls it, you can manually set your status to one of the options below:
- Available – It’s recommended to use this as a default if you welcome a quick chat with a colleague
- Busy – Set your availability to this status if your task requires uninterrupted focus. It is not recommended to leave your status set to Busy for the duration of the day. In fact, messages from colleagues will still come through via Chat.
- Do not disturb – When sharing your screen in a meeting via Teams, your status will default to this status. This is useful if an interruption on the screen would be disruptive to your task or if you need to mute all Chat temporarily. Messages will not appear on your screen when using this status.
- Be right back – It’s recommended to use this status if you intend to return to your keyboard in < 5 minutes.
- Appear away – Though Teams will default to this status if you leave your computer unattended, you can manually set your presence to this status if you know you’ll be away for a while.
Using Microsoft Teams Notifications
Notifications are an important feature to help you get the most out of Microsoft Teams. Check your settings to set up your notifications. To start, set your notifications to both Banner and Email on the topics where you want to be notified. You can always come back to the settings at any time to change your preferences. You can also set your timing here to automate any missed activity emails.
As Teams becomes more integrated into your daily workflow, you’ll find yourself spending less time in Outlook. At this point, disabling email notifications from Teams will ensure a tidy email inbox.
Do not disturb is an essential feature when sharing your screen or presenting. Use the notification settings in Microsoft Teams to mute your notifications during meetings.
File Management Tips: Word, Excel, PowerPoint & Visio
Collaborating on files in Microsoft Teams is simple. Files shared in your team’s file library are accessible to every member of the Team’s channel. Edits to documentation can happen simultaneously across users without a need to check out files.
- PRO TIP: Office files on Teams open in the online version of the product (e.g., Word Online, PowerPoint Online, etc.). If your edits will involve changes to formatting, it’s recommended to open the file in the full version of the product. Hover over the filename in teams, click the 3-dot drop-down, and select Open > Open in <Product Name Here>. This is particularly useful when collaborating on PowerPoint presentations.
To see prior versions of a document in Teams, click on the File > Info > Version History. All the changes are easily found and restored from that location.
If you need to alert a team member to a document, it’s always recommended to use Chat. If email is a must, it’s best to send a link to the uploaded file. Avoid sending the attachment directly.
- PRO TIP: When emailing a colleague a link to the file in Teams, try starting in Outlook instead of Teams. When drafting the email, select Attach File and allow your Recent Items to refresh. You’ll likely see your file listed with a cloud over the file icon. Select this and choose to send a link (and not attach a copy).
Alternatively, with your document open select Share (upper right corner), provide your colleague’s email, compose a brief message, and select Send.
Chat with Teams
Using the Microsoft Teams chat feature has some nice benefits for collaboration. Make your colleague laugh with some funny GIFS, send them praise, or correct a mistake by editing your message after you sent it. Here are some more tips for Chat on Teams:
- @Mention someone in the search bar to try to send a quick message to someone but don’t want to lose focus on the task at hand.
- Microsoft Teams has rich text editing, which allows you to make your chat visually appealing and stand out. You can add titles, mark messages as important, add bullets, highlight, and color features.
- A bookmark in your chat lets you save a message or attachment for later reading and helps you find frequently used information.
Using Microsoft Teams for Calendars & Meetings
Scheduling and Hosting a meeting can be simple if you have a Microsoft Outlook plugin, but you can also use the Teams calendar to schedule a meeting. Click in your calendar and schedule in the title’s details, required attendees, time, and location for the meeting. You can even publish the meeting to a specific Teams channel. Switch to scheduling assistant to check the calendar of others in your organization.
To do a quick call with someone you are chatting with, open up the chat and click on the video or call icons in the top right corner. The screen-sharing button is in the same location for easy access.
Like the other Microsoft products available today, a mobile version of Teams is available for iOS and Android devices.
Integrations to Other Applications
Microsoft Teams is a compelling option to use as your “hub” for all things collaboration. In fact, its integration into other Office 365 products is extensive. We recommend adding a tab in one of your Team’s channels for MS Planner, which is a great way to manage tasks, due dates, and checklists across your team. OneNote is another must-have for keeping meeting minutes for your team. This, too, can easily be added as a tab to a Team’s channel for quick access to the team’s collective knowledge.
Employing the right collaborative tool in your organization can streamline your processes that can lead to your members becoming more efficient. Communication can also be improved, and errors regarding data can be minimized. All these are possible with the new Microsoft Teams.