One common grumble I seem to hear repeatedly is the age old “we have so many tools to use, I wish we could consolidate them without losing functionality.” Microsoft Teams has been around for over a year now—it could save your teams invaluable time.
I recall sitting at my desk during the webcast unveiling of this tool and vividly remember thinking how this could change so much for those who were experiencing portal overload. I remember immediately messaging a few folks that I knew who could use this to significantly improve their workflows. Nobody seemed to share the same excitement, and I even got an “oh great, another tool to use.” Well here I am, a year and a half later, mind unchanged.
“What is it?” you ask. Initially it was released to users with most Office 365 bundles that included SharePoint and Skype for Business (e.g. Office 365 E3). It was not limited by the size of the organization, so even the smaller ones out there could still access it with as much as a Business Essentials subscription. The reason why I call out the subscriptions specifically is because it combines the powers of many Office 365 services (Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Planner—the list goes on) into one easy-to-use rectangular purple package.
If you’re a mobile user, say goodbye to having to remember where you left all of the individual apps and get ready to collaborate! The possibilities are endless, and you can even integrate non-Office 365 services into this such as Creative Cloud, Hootsuite, and Zendesk.
Last year at Microsoft Ignite, it was announced that Teams would eventually replace Skype for Business. Admittedly, I can be slightly resistant to change, but after seeing it in action again from the Orlando Convention Center, I was a lot less concerned. Yes, you can go back and see old conversations in Skype, but it does involve more reading than I’d personally like. With Teams, when you close out of the chat window, you can go back to it without missing a beat (persistent chat). You can also use the search function to look back on different conversations. When you record a meeting, you can search down to the time in that meeting when you talked about a specific item. We’ll still have all of the features that we love and enjoy about Skype, but it will be so much better.
Teams also takes the social aspect of Yammer into account with a “Conversations” tab that is added to each team by default. This tab is comparable to a newsfeed where you can have conversations with the whole team and even mention (@) a teammate if you need to grab their attention. There is also an activity tab that lets you know if something relevant to you happened. Recently, Microsoft introduced a few new features (and they seem to constantly be doing so). During one of the Inspire 2018 Corenotes, I watched from the comfort of my desk as they presented a demo showing the integration of Cortana into Teams. Soon, Cortana will take notes for you and even jot down action items from the meeting.
Back in May, they also showed some AI in the mix with inline message translation. This one hit close to home the most for me, since Spanish is my first language. Many times in my life, I have seen language barriers get in the way of others. Teams will help knock down those walls and translate both text and voice in real time through closed captions.
I could enthuse about this product all day long. Over 200,000 organizations are using Teams today, 60% of them being outside of the U.S. The full Teams experience isn’t available as a standalone service at the moment. However, the last tidbit of knowledge that I’ll drop is the announcement that you can now collaborate with users outside of your organization at no additional cost to you. Any person with an email account—be it Outlook, Gmail, or even a consumer account—can access teams if they are set up with the right permissions. This is done through Guest Access, and guests could be anyone as long as your admin permissions allow it. Think of all of the collaboration that your organization could get done with vendors, suppliers, and consultants!
At Inspire, Satya Nadella said something that resonated with me. He was talking about what he says to students who were looking to join Microsoft. He said, “Look, if you want to be cool, go look for someplace else; but if you want to join a company that is committed to making others cool, join Microsoft.” Teams is such a prime example of a tool with so much possibility to make your organization cool, but not only cool—efficient, productive, and organized.
Teams is available to you, talk to your licensing specialist about how you can take advantage of it.