If you’ve moved to “the Cloud”, you may already be used to new ways of working. Cloud productivity solutions break us out of our “email and file server” habits – or at least they should if we truly want to embrace the benefits of modern technology. Small and medium businesses can now improve their collaboration methods and how they share information within their organisation. And if you think that’s only helpful if you’re a big business, smaller businesses are more likely to suffer from the results of outdated collaboration practices. They’re trying to handle a multitude of information sources, external communications and internal challenges with a small number of staff, a limited budget and agile competitors.
Getting your head around Cloud-based file sharing and real-time document editing (co-authoring) is the first step that most businesses embrace. It’s a start, but it doesn’t massively impact our email overwhelm. As businesses grow and Cloud solutions gain popularity, it’s common to investigate other products too like Skype and Slack. They’re easy to use, but you’re now managing conversations and information in other places too, so it’s easy to just move the overwhelm and further silo your information.
Introducing Microsoft Teams
Since November 2016, Microsoft has had a chat-based product available for businesses to preview. In fact, more than 50,000 organisations across the globe have been trying it out, including Accenture, Alaska Airlines, Deloitte, Expedia, Sage, Three UK and Trek Bicycle. From this week, Microsoft Teams is available globally to all businesses with an Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1, E3 or E5 subscription. If you’re using an Office 365 Business plan for email and Microsoft Office, you might now be eligible for Microsoft Teams at no extra cost. So why would you bother?
Email versus chat
It’s amazing that we’re still using e-mail, a system developed in the 1970s, as a primary communication method running businesses in 2017. The very nature of our internet world means we’re connected to more people and we expect information, fast. On the one hand, we want to encourage a sense of community, ownership and enjoyment amongst our teams. On the other hand, we get frustrated by long-winded email chains and multiple replies clogging up our already full inboxes. Email is where information goes to die, hidden away in the inboxes of those privileged enough to be involved at the time.
Microsoft Teams is a chat-based interface that handles different subject channels and conversation threads with ease. You can notify individuals or entire teams that information requires their attention. Online conversations are preserved in one place, searchable and visible by others (at your control) who may have something important to say, but might not have been added into an email. Imagine how fast someone new to your organisation can get up to speed if they can search for the history of a customer engagement or an internal project and see not only the associated files but the conversations, recommendations and key people involved.
Integration with Microsoft products
A key differentiator for Microsoft is the tight integration that Teams has with the other products in the Office 365 stack. Tabs can link to team files already stored in Sharepoint Online. If you want to start a discussion about a file, that conversation stays linked to the file for future reference. You can add a tab for your Power BI data or Microsoft Planner tasks. And it’s easy to start an individual or group Skype audio or video call, without leaving Teams.
Outlook integration shows your calendar, lets you join online meetings and lets you schedule meetings. Forward an email into a Teams channel as a conversation starter and it will preserve details like the email importance and any file attachments. More Outlook integration features are planned too. Your corporate videos can be linked from the Office 365 Video services and Microsoft Stream is also launching soon, like your own private corporate YouTube.
We love how much of a gateway this product provides, so we don’t have to switch between different services to seek and discuss information.
Integration with other products
Microsoft Teams includes some third-party product integration as tabs, including Wrike, Hootsuite, Zendesk and Asana. In addition, the Connectors gallery currently holds 80 different service connectors with more planned. Today you can integrate Twitter, Facebook Pages, Trello, Wunderlist and Mailchimp and more and we expect this list to continue to grow. Teams itself can be run from a web browser, desktop client (PC or Mac) and there’s an iOS and Android app.
Chat bots are becoming mainstream and the Teams’ one on one chat area allows you to add bots from a number of services. Polly and Growbot let you run polls and leave recognition for your teammates. Kayak and Stubhub find flights and event tickets, while TrackingTime, Summarize and Zoom.ai boost your productivity. Bots can be turned on for use within just your private chat area or in the team channels. Help is replaced by T-Bot, who learns and adapts to your questions and refines its results based on feedback from everyone using the service.
Behind the scenes, Microsoft Teams hooks into the same Enterprise-grade authentication and security services as Office 365. This is great news for small and medium businesses with compliance regulations, with the ability to use legal hold and eDiscovery. Teams is also compliant with regulations like SOC 2 and ISO27001. Logins and accounts are the same ones used by your other Office 365 services so you’ll still have just one place to manage staff accounts.
The benefits for SMBs
It’s easy to see how bigger businesses would benefit from such a powerful internal corporate communications tool. But what about small businesses? If there are three of you working together in the same office, you can just talk to each other.
If you have staff in more than one location or staff on different rostered shift times, Teams can be a great way for everyone to feel connected, get the important information they need and stop drowning in emails.
You’ll be able to easily find information on discussions about topics, especially if you’ve been away from work. Who wants to return from leave to “Inbox 300”?
And the most amazing (and often unexpected) benefit of a team collaboration tool like this is the company culture that it fosters. Natural conversations invite input and feedback, as well as giving people a place to raise issues and questions that seem too unimportant to email to the boss.
Today’s workforce expects modern tools and now you can bring people into your company culture, news and discussions easily and they can stay connected from any device.
To get started with Microsoft Teams
If you have an eligible Office 365 account, you’ll start to see the Teams icon with your other Office 365 services when you log into Office 365 in your web browser. From there you can download the desktop app if you want, and the various mobile app stores have the Teams app available. Jump in and create your own Teams and channels, and connect with bots and other services.
View the official Microsoft announcement here: https://blogs.office.com/2017/03/14/microsoft-teams-rolls-out-to-office-365-customers-worldwide/?wt.mc_id=AID600843_QSG_PD_SCL_144656
Download Microsoft’s ultimate guide to chat based tools: https://resources.office.com/ww-thank-you-ultimate-guide-to-chat-based-tools-interactive-ebook.html?LCID=EN-US
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk more about how Microsoft Teams can help your small business.