Microsoft Teams is a tremendous tool for collaboration. At Total Solutions, we have adopted Teams as the primary way we organize our professional services staff and collaborate.  Nearly all projects at TSI are run through a Team, and we have found great efficiency in using this as our standard.

Right now, there seems to be a gap in the business community about Microsoft Teams, and how it fits into the technology picture.  Should it replace Skype?  Slack?  There are meritorious arguments that Teams could replace both, but rather than dive into a deep competitive comparison, I wanted to give a practical example of how I have used Teams as a manager.

 

A Little Background

When Microsoft announced its latest product offering for Office 365 back in late 2016 called “Teams”, my initial reaction was that this technology would be a disrupter! I thought “Here we go, another new user interface to add to the confusion of end users.” You see – cloud technology changes fast, I learned this early in my career working with the Google Suite, and Office 365 is no different.  The impact on the modern business professional is that its difficult to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of technology. So I was a skeptic from the beginning on Teams.

Fast-forward a year and half later, and here I am drinking the Teams Kool-aide! Why do you ask? Well, Microsoft has done an incredible job with Teams, creating a truly turnkey solution for collaboration with the Teams Product. Within minutes a new collaboration environment can be created in your tenant with a host of features to help your team work more efficiently, be more innovative, and work closely to get the job done.  Reading the vision set forth by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, its apparent this was the strategy all along.  (Read the initial announcement and vision)

In March of 2018, I was tasked with leading a new elite unit at Total Solutions, known internally as the “Strategy Team.” The core focus of this new unit was evaluating our traditional consulting processes for modernizing and improving each offering of the business. Exciting stuff right?

Initial Setup of Microsoft Teams

To start, we assembled a group of 4 individuals who would be working closely with each division within our consulting practice during this revamp effort. We evaluated our technology options and settled on Teams as our space for collaboration.I was very surprised at how quickly we got our Team up and running. At Total Solutions, we have a strong governance policy around securing client data in SharePoint sites, but since our team was more internal evaluation we felt like we could simply “link” to content that needed to be secure.

For this reason, we created our team to be a very open section of our corporate Intranet and we did not apply any strict permission schema to the Team. From my perspective, this was a great method of encouraging participation across our company vs. putting up red tape and walls to discourage collaboration.

My first Microsoft Team screenshot!

 

Content for My Team

The core components we created all focused on  our primary mission of revamping Total Solutions consulting efforts. I didn’t want to distract the team with noise, so we opted to not include more traditional announcement boards or news feeds in our team, and focus 100% on collaboration and work!

The result, was the following key features:

1. Request List – We created a centralized tracking list for all Strategy Team work requests which we internally designated as a PSR or “prioritized strategic request”. This allowed for new priorities and assignments for the team to flow quickly to all members. When a new request was dropped in, all 4 primary team members are notified.

Support Request List Collaboration Example in Microsoft Teams

 

2. Task Tracking – Each morning, our team would review the request list and prioritized a Centralized “To-Do” Task Tracking List, with Priority Assignments and due date reminder notifications. This made each team member’s life a little easier, because we always knew what each person was working on.

Task Tracking using MS Teams

 

3. Wiki Knowledgebase – To help deal with the growing technology landscape our company was servicing, our team created a robust Team Wiki to document best practices and new lessons we learned from our research. This base continues to grow as the practice expands and turned into a very valuable area for other employees to stay in tune with the MS market.

 

Sample Wiki knowledge base using Microsoft Teams

 

4. Document Storage – The Strategy Team required two Centralized document libraries for all key content we were working on. These document libraries existed in SharePoint Groups, giving us advanced metadata and security capabilities, and was segmented between two key libraries based on our work breakdown processes.

Document Management in Microsoft Teams

 

 

Advantages Using Teams

Overall, I found numerous benefits and advantages to using Microsoft Teams for collaboration.  I would highlight the following as the biggest advantages from my perspective as a manager:

Advantage #1 – Everything in one place

One of my favorite aspects about using Microsoft Teams is that you have everything in one place. Quickly customize your top navigation tabs to access the most important information your team needs. The intuitive interface allows for administrators to make changes and additions very quickly.

Advantage #2 – Seamless Integration with SharePoint

While I am slightly biased as a SharePoint Consultant, having the direct integration with SharePoint Online is a nice feature of teams. We can add metadata to documents, track versions, and we have the confidence of knowing our documents are stored in a secure and reliable location.

Advantage #3 – Speed, speed, and speed

One thing you will notice about MS Teams compared to other Cloud Applications – its fast! With the option to also run a desktop version you can run Teams really-fast. This is one reason why I also elected to not include much clutter or noise in our team, because my colleagues can quickly get what they need to get the job done!

Advantage #4 – Mobility

Teams is very mobile responsive and having access to all this functionality on the road has been a game-changer. In the past, we certainly relied on OneDrive or SharePoint for mobile access but combining everything together with Teams makes it that much easier.

Advantage #5 – Short Learning Curve

Despite my early apprehensions to Teams, I was quickly won-over by how quickly I picked up the functionality. As the Strategy Team at Total Solutions grew in size the last 6 months, we found onboarding new team members was seamless and intuitive!

Wrapping it up

Microsoft has truly created an innovative product for collaboration with Teams. This is one of the many new features being rolled out in Office 365, with more functionality expected to come down the road!

If your organization is struggling to keep pace with the technology enhancements with O365, checkout Total Solutions unique Cloud Empowerment Program to learn how you can maximize your cloud investment!