As businesses in Eugene and throughout Oregon adjust to the hybrid “office and home” work model, workers and managers alike are trying to figure out what tools are available and how they can maximize their benefits. Microsoft Teams is now a major player.

While Teams is easy to activate and use at a basic level, what makes it challenging is adapting its configurations to the internal policies and cultural rules that govern collaboration within a company.

In this post, we’ll share some tips for managers and end-users, and remind you to reach out to us if you need Microsoft Teams support or training for your company.

Set up Teams and Channels that Align with your Business

Think about the way your teams work in the office, how cross-functional they are, or how they are teamed up for specific projects, then re-create all these Teams inside the platform.

Each Team is essentially a hub for group chat rooms and file sharing; these hubs are called Channels, and you can create multiple Channels within every Team. For instance, you can have a Sales Team, with Channels for Eugene Sales, Medford Sales, and Portland Sales. Other examples would be organizing your Teams and Channels project, department, or location–you can choose whatever suits your organization’s way of working.

Each channel that you create will then have Conversations, Files, and Notes tabs where the relevant information can be stored for better collaboration.

Additional Tips:

Mimic the Collaborative Nature of the Real Office

In the office, we have quick face-to-face conversations to find resolutions fast and as a team. To create the same collaborative experience in Teams, we can use Conversations in each channel, with features like “pinning” and “tabs” to foster better teamwork with the toolset.

More specifically, “pinning” conversations is a very useful feature–once discovered you’ll find its adoption is almost immediate. Pinning a conversation is essentially creating quick access to a specific conversation. Users can pin up to 15 key conversation chats, saving time from looking in the “Recent” folder for different individuals or group chats.

Another useful feature, especially when collaborating on a specific file, is the “Add a tab”  function. Users can add tabs directly to the chat windows of individual and group chats. For instance, if employees are constantly collaborating on a PowerPoint presentation, they can add a PowerPoint tab directly in the chat window; or, if they’re collaborating on a spreadsheet for a long period of time, you can add the Excel tab.

Bonus tip: Encourage your teams to use video. If users need face-to-face conversation, encourage them to jump straight into video chats with other channel participants. They can do this with just a single click, and the result is an increase in the engagement, which ultimately enhances productivity.

Get Teams Buy-In with Use-Case Examples

Communication will be key here. Let your team members know what Teams is and how they will use it.

Yes, Microsoft Teams is a great tool to organize your workflows and keep your employees connected at all times. However, from our point of view, the biggest selling point is productivity. Teams integrates tools that your end-users are already familiar with, providing a better user experience and streamlining processes.

For instance, let’s talk Files. Teams is integrated with Microsoft’s online office suite, Office 365, which means it is tied to other Microsoft Office services, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as its cloud storage and sharing services, such as SharePoint.

End-users can complete work in real-time with colleagues as they chat together, and work on files through Teams, rather than taking turns emailing updates.

Which means….drum roll, please…

Say goodbye to having multiple versions of everything! 

Documents, spreadsheets, presentations and the like that are shared within a Team are synced with a copy stored in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage, so every Team member always has access to the latest version.

Now let’s talk about email. Email can be one of the most painful tasks for your employees, but Microsoft Teams makes it easier for them. Within Teams, email threads get more organized and relevant to each of the Team Channels.

Here is how:

Microsoft Teams aims to organize workplace communication, activities, meetings, and creative/strategic ideas into one platform, all the while integrating people as they work and interact with each other.

Additional uses for Teams:

Back-end Governance, Policies, and Performance

Governance Strategies

Every Team created in the platform will automatically create a matching Sharepoint Team site, Office 365 Group, and shared OneNote. While this brings a number of great benefits, such as shared documents and centralized team information, it can cause some governance and admin headaches.

For back-end management of the platform, it is necessary to have an understanding of tools like Exchange, Active Directory, Sharepoint, and Application Manager. There’s no need to be an expert in all of these, but understanding how they work, and how they are configured will help when organizing policies and procedures for the correct use of Teams.

Careful! Governance is a thin line between runaway usage and users running away. 

Deploying Microsoft Teams without consideration of policies will result in a disorganized platform, where hundreds of teams are created for every little project, storing a few files or conversations, causing redundancy of data (Runaway Usage). Setting up too many controls for Team and Channel creation, or feature usage such as video meetings, screen or file sharing, could make end-users fall back to tools they already know like Dropbox or Trello (Users running away).

Can you manage this by yourself? Yes, with some training. Should you manage this yourself? Maybe not.

Working with a managed service provider (MSP) to not only implement Microsoft Teams, but also to support the platform’s management, will be beneficial, especially when rolling this out in a short time-frame. That’s where StepUP IT can help.

Learn more about Microsoft Teams Governance

Establish Training Strategy & Policies

Like explained before, you need to make sure Teams really reflects the way your employees work both cross-functionally and by department.

One example of a best practice, is to train your employees to identify if a Team already exists before creating a new one. This is independent of a Team Name, in that a Team is not defined by the name only, but by the participants, conversations, and files stored. Training your users to understand this, will allow you to reduce the number of duplicated teams and keep your platform organized.

Microsoft Teams is designed to provide an easier way for small groups of people to communicate and collaborate. For all this magic to happen, your employees need to squeeze the goodness out of it. Here is a list of resources you can use to build a training program:

Additionally, setting up clear communication policies will create more clarity into how to use Teams for certain scenarios. For example, you can establish a policy of video calls for meetings with up to 5 people, so every time your employees are using Teams to communicate with less than 5 co-workers they know video is the best way.

Pro tip: Set usage policies for the following:

Set up your Network for Success

The best advice here is to follow the recommendations Microsoft has created for a successful O365 implementation. Considering the performance of your network is an essential part in guaranteeing an availability of service for all your remote users.

Pro tip: Enable and deploy a split VPN funnel so O365 doesn’t transit your corpnet. We’ve seen performance issues when a VPN allows traffic coming from the end-user device into the network and to the O365 service, which can be a security risk if you don’t have additional layers of security installed in each device. What you want to do is create a VPN tunnel an end-user can use to access O365 services only, without entering the corporate network. This will optimize the traffic coming in and out, and the speed of access to data. Read More Here

Nobody knows your business better than you. That’s true. Working closely with an experienced Microsoft partner to help you migrate and implement Microsoft Teams will be beneficial when customizing your platform. As mentioned before, having the expertise in areas like Application Management, Active Directory, and Sharepoint, will guarantee a cleaner and faster deployment.

Here are some of the things we can help you with:

Let us know if you need help implementing Teams or simply supporting an existing environment. We’re here to help.