Microsoft announced Microsoft Teams to the public as a direct competitor to Slack on November 2, 2016. Fast forward two years, and Teams came out as the breakout performer for Microsoft Fiscal Year 2018 with more than 14 million active users.
By October 2018, Microsoft had incorporated all Skype for Business Online features and functionality into Teams. Teams supports all messaging, meeting, and calling needs on Skype for Business Online. Also, Skype for Business Online is going end life on July 31, 2021, leaving organizations just about a year to make that final switch over. However, there are still a lot of organizations transitioning from Skype for Business Online to Teams. If you are one of those organizations, hearing my experience of transitioning from Skype to Teams is probably worth a read.
By the time I started using Teams in early 2019, it had all chat, call, and meeting functionalities of Skype for Business. Here are some thoughts I’ve had as I adapt to using Teams for collaboration with my colleagues.
The short-lived chat experience on Skype for Business was so discrete. On Teams, the individual chat stays in the app, giving a sense that a permanent communication channel has been open between you and your collaborators. The persistent chat experience creates a pathway for ongoing collaboration. It provides a feeling that your colleagues are sitting across the worktable from you, even when you are miles or continents apart from them. Microsoft has also added the functionality to Teams that will enable you to pop out individual chats.
You can chat with specific teams in channels or you can chat in meeting space. Also, you can create smaller chat groups if you are looking into collaborating with a smaller group of two-to-three people. You can be more casual and expressive in chat spaces by adding GIFs, depending on whether you are a GIF person or not. Chat-based collaboration is enabled across Teams, perhaps because chats between collaborators is becoming the new atomic unit of production, as Jared Spataro said in one of the episodes of the Microsoft 365 Modern Workplace Podcast.
Calls and Meetings
I noticed the enhanced quality in VoIP calls on Teams as soon as I migrated my calls from Skype for Business. Setting up meetings on Teams was very intuitive. Teams has its own Calendar app that is in sync with my Outlook Calendar. I can set up a meeting right from Teams without having to leave the app and go to Outlook and come back. Also, Microsoft Teams pop-up windows notify you a few minutes before a meeting; this is extremely useful to me since this allows me to be on time for my team meetings. I also like the lobby system that enables existing callers to allow external participants to join the call. Microsoft increased the number of Teams participants who can be viewed simultaneously to nine. Education users can have 49 simultaneous participants, simulating a classroom effect online.
The other thing that I really like about the call experience is the ability within Teams to select individual apps rather than selecting your entire screen—this way, I don’t have to worry about people seeing my messy desktop. Recently, Microsoft has added Background Effects to Teams as well so you could attend your meeting from a tropical beach or even the top of Mount Everest, if you like. Overall, Microsoft Teams gives a secure and satisfying call and meeting experience.
Productivity and Collaboration Tools
Improved chat and meeting experiences are great, but what makes the Teams user experience exceptional is the productivity and collaboration apps that wrap around the chat, call, and meeting components. This is where you start to see the power of Office 365 and Teams working together. I was delighted to see that I can open and edit files right from Teams. This way you don’t have to go out of Teams to work on your recent Office 365, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. With the help of OneDrive and SharePoint, the collaboration on documents with your team feels seamless. Also, you can integrate a lot of other apps, such as Microsoft Planner, to Teams. Teams also allows you to add many external apps for your various productivity needs. Also, the new Task tab in Teams is an essential enhancement to the productivity component of Teams.
Making Teams My New Home
I can see myself breaking away from email and making Teams my work hub. Teams is transforming the way I collaborate, and it is also transforming the work culture, making it less formal—yet more productive. I am looking forward to learning more about Teams every day and to helping more people who are new to Teams get used to the platform.
If you’re preparing to fully integrate Teams into your organization, take advantage of our new Microsoft Teams Rapid Readiness assessment. Our Microsoft Services team will help you quickly assess your environment to determine your overall readiness for a Teams rollout. Contact an Account Manager today to start your successful transition to Microsoft Teams.