Microsoft Teams has been part of the Office 365 productivity suite for a little over two years now, having been originally launched in November 2016. New functions have gradually been added, and the tool will ultimately replace Skype for Business – which means that if your organisation hasn’t yet been experimenting with migrating over, a good new year’s resolution might be to get started.
Nevertheless, embracing any new technology can be a challenge, particularly when the onus is on staff members to get to grips with the new tool and use it in place of existing processes.
Here, then, is our beginner’s guide to Microsoft Teams.
What does Teams do?
Microsoft Teams is a unified communication as a service (UCaaS) application, described by Microsoft itself as a ‘chat-based workspace in Office 365’.
In practice, this means that Teams offers a wide range of communication and collaboration functions, including videoconferencing, public switched telephone conferencing network (PSTM) networking, instant messaging, voice over IP, virtual meetings and shared working on Office applications. Its aim is to enable teams or groups of workers, wherever they are located, to share information and ideas as seamlessly as possible.
The Teams structure
This means that each collaborative project within the application needs to be assigned to a working group, officially called a Team within the application – and understanding this structure is key to understanding how to use and optimise Microsoft Teams altogether.
Setting up a Team is quick and easy – all you need to do is enter a name, short description and add the required members. From there, the application automatically creates an associated Group, OneNote, SharePoint site and Plan for the Team.
Then, each Team can incorporate subsections called Channels, each of which typically will cover individual projects or workstreams that subsections within the group are responsible for. A General Channel is created automatically, but many teams will require additional ones to be set up manually, whether for one-off projects or ongoing departmental responsibilities.
Access and navigation
There is a web app freely available with your Office 365 business subscription. We recommend that, in the first instance, you speak to your IT team or managed services provider and ask them to install it on your device. If your company is already using Teams but not effectively, then contact Adept4 and we’ll be delighted to demonstrate the application.
Once the application is installed on your desktop, a series of five buttons appear on the left of the main Teams dashboard, which manage the main navigation. These cover:
- Activity – updates that relate to the user in question, such as updates, replies to messages, new Teams they have been added to and so on.
- Chat – the new-look Skype for Business, which enables private chat with colleagues beyond the Teams that the user is part of (chats with team members should be carried out via the Teams menu).
- Teams – access to each Team the user belong to or has created.
- Meetings – the scheduling tool, which pulls in meetings from Outlook and allows the scheduling of virtual meetings with other members of a specific Team.
- Files – shows the location of all the files the user has worked on recently and is synced between Teams and OneDrive.
Each individual Channel dashboard starts off with three core tabs along the top: Conversation, Files and Notes. Users can also add extra tabs, including Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.
Conversations are the Skype for Business functionality within Teams, forming a platform for centralised group discussion which is automatically saved and can be searched at a later date. Instant messaging, file sharing, video calls – they all happen here. This is the core function of Microsoft Teams and should be the main tab your users get their heads around. Use the @ symbol to tag or notify individual users and groups of users.
Files allows users to access all the functionality of native Office apps – Word, Excel and so on – without flicking through multiple different applications. Users can edit files whilst holding a chat in the former tab. Finally, Notes allows access to the teams shared OneNote.
Practice makes perfect
Ultimately, Microsoft Teams is an intuitive application with a familiar interface to anyone already using Office 365 and other Microsoft applications. Whilst there will always be some friction involved in migrating users to a new platform, with a bit of encouragement a huge array of functions can be opened up, making your organisation more collaborative and communicative. It all starts from that Team structure.