The 2020 Realities of Working in an Office
Working in a physical office these days means not only dealing with traffic, parking, and the craziness of a commute, but taking additional precautions due to the ongoing pandemic. How do you keep your teams productive when they are dealing with so many stressors? Further, why keep paying rent on unused office space, since everyone needs to spread out? Is it really efficient anymore? Maybe, like most businesses, you’ve decided that empowering most of your staff to work remotely just makes more sense at this point. But how can you ensure collaboration is both seamless and secure? Effective? If you’re not already using the full power of Microsoft Teams, this blog will help you better leverage a subscription you probably already have to securely enable remote collaboration.
Improving Collaboration With Teams
If you have considered implementing Microsoft Teams as part of your response to the events around the globe recently, I can tell you that would be a wise move and an excellent investment of your company's time and resources. Heck, it's still a great idea even if you're not planning on a remote workforce. Oh, and by the way, if you are already using the M365 cloud for email and other features… It's included in what you're already paying.
If you have been slow to take that step, let me say that I’ve been the one hesitant to adopt in the past. So, I understand that. We initially undertook this step internally, ourselves, I was apprehensive about our team’s migrating to the platform. We had other comms channels in place that seemed like they were working just fine. I lacked the vision of Teams in its entirety, but now that I have been using it for some time, I can't imagine not having it.
In short, the Teams platform is a feature-rich application that will undoubtedly add abilities that may have been out of reach before. In my experience, it has consistently helped to streamline our own company’s focus– and those of my clients– by making Teams the hub for Collaboration, Group efforts, Shared Files, Calendar Management, and my favorite, Meetings; this platform even replaced our phone system!
Let me walk you through some of what you can expect, to help paint the picture that I was lacking.
What is Teams and How is it Going to Help?
Microsoft Teams is a persistent chat-based collaboration platform complete with document sharing, online meetings, and many more advantageous features for business communications. There are some core components that make it stand out from other collaboration software:
- Teams and channels. Teams are made up of channels, which are conversation boards between teammates.
- Conversations within channels and teams. All team members can view and add to different conversations in the General channel and can use an @ function to invite other members to different conversations.
- A chat function. This is commonly found within most collaboration apps and can take place between teams, groups, and individuals. I find this feature particularly useful; it saves a ton of time by allowing us to get straight to the point much faster than in-person conversation or the needless back and forth of email.
- Document storage in SharePoint. Every team that uses Microsoft Teams has a site in SharePoint Online, which contains a default document library folder. All files shared across all conversations automatically save to this folder. Permissions and security options can also be customized for sensitive information. In some cases, we can even migrate all company documents to SharePoint and get rid of specific servers depending on your business.
- Online video calling and screen sharing. Need that face to face meeting? Video calls to employees within your business or clients outside your business, no problem. Mircosoft has also included a desktop sharing feature, be it for technical assistance or multi-user real-time collaboration. Better than being in the office and trying to have others shoulder surf to share your monitor -and your breath mints. HA
- Online meetings. This feature can help enhance your communications, company-wide meetings, and even training with an online meeting function that can host up to 10,000 users. Online meetings can include anyone outside or inside a business, and it includes a scheduling aid, a note-taking applet, file sharing, and in-meeting chat messaging.
- Audio conferencing. With a dial-in number that spans hundreds of cities, even users that are on the go can participate with no internet required, anyone can join an online meeting via phone in the app or from a simple phone call. Are they late? You can call them from the meeting too!
- Full telephony. That's right! The days of seeking VoIP vendors and overspending on a phone system are finally over. Microsoft Teams can completely replace your business's existing phone system. This feature would require a license upgrade and some planning to implement, but it can certainly pay off.
How Do I Prepare for Teams Implementation?
First off, use the resources at your disposal and consult with your IT team; there are a TON of options when preparing to utilize Teams. You may not want to utilize all of the features, and some features you will want to spend more time configuring.
There are two general approaches for this:
- The Organic Approach.
A business can choose to immediately implement Microsoft Teams in a "complete free for all" fashion where everyone in the company can do whatever they want with the platform, and the adoption and usage of the Teams platform can grow organically.
- The Controlled Approach.
This, more managed approach involves mandating Microsoft Teams' use for specific aspects of the company. It also involves tightly controlling who can use it and who can do certain things within the platform, resulting in a phased rollout plan across the company.
I would highly recommend scoping this out as a project, making clear goals, and setting your expectation appropriately. If you don't take a structured approach at configuring the overall platform, it can become an unruly mess, and you could look past some critical security features best enabled early on.
There are going to be responsibilities for both the administrative staff and for the IT Team– plan it out and work together. This effort is worth the time spent. You can choose to do something involving both of the above approaches, or something that falls somewhere in-between. What is right for a particular business depends on its culture and use cases. Teams can be controlled and configured directly from the Teams admin center.
From the user standpoint, Teams is very intuitive, and the learning curve is quite small compared to more complicated collaboration tools. Additional training can be provided if needed for team members, there are some paid options out there, but Microsoft has prepared their online user training materials, and I wouldn't consider them the standard boring IT videos. Most of them are short, engaging, and quickly explain how to use the features and functions within Teams. Because of how easy and straightforward it is to share documents within Teams, custom training materials and business guidelines can be created and uploaded for new users. This effort can be a HUGE help for getting your company educated on the solution and can be expanded to include other items that would help your HR dept with the general onboarding process long term.
Teams is a powerful and extremely useful collaboration environment that will only get more popular. As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft Teams is included in Microsoft 365 for free, so any company can enjoy the benefits of this collaboration solution with some effort. The solution has a ton of potential for any business, but especially if you are looking for ways to increase productivity and help streamline some of your processes, this is the right solution for you.