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Why we Love Microsoft Teams

Posted by Brooke Lockhart on March 20, 2020

In late-2018, we made the leap to a new file management system, Google Suite, and Office 365 - including the most transformative element: Microsoft Teams. Now 16 months later, we cannot imagine life without Teams.

We've been getting requests from organizations who are just now migrating to Teams so we created a short video to illustrate our approach:

MS Teams structure (3-mins)

Here are some of the insights we learned along the way:

What we set out to achieve:

  • Access. Access from desktop, laptop, or mobile devices of any kind. Ability to work, even on a slow internet connection.
  • Collaborate. Ability to share files and screen-share. Ability to send quick questions or longer more in-depth messages. Real-time collaboration where multiple users can edit a document simultaneously. Ability to assign project work to one another.
  • Focus. Ability for different team members to "pull" the information they need at the time relevant to them (and ignore the rest) instead of information being "pushed" at inconvenient times - causing constant distractions.
  • Store. Ability to record project information and documents in a central location where all users have access, without having to trade emails (that can get lost). 
  • Share. Availability for anyone on the team can see the status of projects and quickly get up to speed (to either offer expertise or cover for a colleague who is out of the office).

How we structure our Teams:

  • All-company announcements - news, reminders, updates to forms/workflows, changes at our vendors, and one channel just for fun (birthday wishes, pictures of pets, recipes)
  • Teams for smaller teams (groups of 4-5 to talk about issues relevant only to them)
  • Teams for every project (for us that means one Team for each active search, archived once the position has been filled)
  • Temporary teams (improvement projects we're exploring, current events facing our clients, archived once no longer relevant)

A few of our lessons learned:

  1. Think about your workflow. We set goals for what we wanted to achieve and we documented "case studies" of how to use Teams in real work scenarios - illustrating the difference between our prior approach and the new structure. In reality, there were features we thought would be helpful (for example, Tabs on each Channel) that we ended up not using. (We had the luxury of time to research, planning, and test. You might just jump-in and see how people use it, and then standardize later.) 
  2. Get comfortable with transparency. That's a cultural value for us, but it may not be for everyone. The way we use Teams, we record everything (so that we don't hear questions like "what did we say we were going to do? what was the result? did we record that somewhere?" or answers of, "I don't remember"). Having all your work on display can be uncomfortable at first because if you forgot something or made a mistake, someone might reply and point it out, as public record for the entire team to see. Of course embarrassment is not the goal, but is a risk. (Workaround: you can use Chat to send private messages.)
  3. Think about your notifications settings. Teams can be overstimulating at first. With notifications and orange lights blinking every few seconds (sometimes three people sending you messages at once), it can be a lot to manage and you will probably worry you'll miss or forget something - especially if you click on one thing and the other notification disappears, leaving you wondering, "I know I saw a note; where did it go?" While the saved bookmark list can help you flag messages to refer back to later, it is not the most detailed or organized to-do list. (So take some time to adjust your settings, double check your Activity section as many times as you need to make sure you've seen everything, and give yourself a break while you adjust to the change.)
  4. You will save so much time. Posting to Teams, and then moving on with your day - knowing you can always go back there to read it later - helps free brain space for other projects because you know that task was done, documented, and shared with anyone who might need it. Everything you need is in Teams (when combined effectively with a file storage system), so colleagues can find the information they need - when they need it - in real-time, without having to ask you about it. (Occasionally someone may still ask, "where is that..." but it's just a matter of sharing a quick link to the post instead of worrying if it got lost in cyberspace.)
  5. You won't look back. Once you get used to hitting a simple 👍 instead of typing a response, or adding a GIF to lighten the mood, or editing a typo in your message even after you've sent it, it can be hard to go back to regular email and other communication methods with less features. (When I was trying to fix a typo in a text message I had already sent, and realized there was no post-send-edit option, that was the moment I realized I am spoiled.)


Training Resources:

We found these links helpful when our team was getting up to speed.

  1. What is Microsoft Teams?
  2. Intro to Microsoft Teams
  3. Video on how to use MS Teams
  4. A good starting point for MS Teams training
  5. The case for using Teams instead of email
  6. Interactive Teams demo
  7. Overview covering toolbar commands "/" and "@" chats vs conversations, navigation, meeting scheduling, and more
  8. 8 surprisingly great things about Microsoft Teams

Topics: Remote Work