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Article:

The Reluctant IT Director’s Guide to Microsoft Teams and the new way to collaborate

21 July 2020

As a Reluctant IT Director, the non-technical director responsible for IT, you are probably aware of Teams, Microsoft’s collaborative productivity application. That’s no surprise, as the number of daily Teams users has doubled to over 75 million since March this year. However, did you know that Teams provides far more than video conferencing, audio calls and simple collaboration tools?

In this article, Nigel Morris from BDO’s Technology Advisory Services (TAS) team sheds light on the purpose and appeal of Teams, identifies the benefits of a comprehensive implementation, and explains why many organisations fail to exploit its full potential. When properly implemented, Teams could become your organisation’s go to application for improving collaboration and productivity in conjunction with Office 365.

A time before Teams

Through a combination of continual product development and acquisition, Microsoft has built up a portfolio of user productivity applications, each addressing a collaborative activity.

COLLABORATIVE ACTIVITY

PRODUCTIVITY APPLICATIONS

Shared file editing

Word, Excel, PowerPoint

Shared file storage

Sharepoint, OneDrive

Email management and shared calendars

Exchange, Outlook

Presence (indication of location and availability)

Outlook, Skype for Business

Instant messaging (IM)

Skype for Business

Video/Audio calling and conferencing

Skype for Business

Shared notes

OneNote


Since the advent of Office 365, many of the productivity services have been delivered via the cloud rather than installed on premise, yet the overall collaborative offering has been disjointed and suffers from a lack of integration. This resulted in limited user efficiencies and complex administration procedures. As a result, Microsoft Teams was born.

What does Teams do?

Microsoft recognises that people work together in teams on work streams that incorporate both regular business tasks and one-off projects. A work stream can be made more productive if it employs a single application, enabling members to interact with each other, storing, searching and accessing all the information relevant to that work stream.

Prompted by the arrival of competitor Slack, Microsoft developed Teams to provide a single application and user interface. Through this, users can seamlessly access all the collaborative features from existing productivity applications, while reducing the administrative effort required to configure those applications and services.

Teams has become well-known as a competitor to Zoom and Google Hangouts for video and audio calls, but these represent just a small subset of its capabilities. Teams employs familiar Office 365 backend services such as Exchange and SharePoint, but simplifies their management by carrying out administrative tasks in the background.

Organisations will achieve a greater return on investment by employing the full range of Teams features and ensuring that users are trained and instructed to use them.

The Benefits of Using Teams

Teams enables groups of people to work together efficiently, increasing productivity by improving communications and providing access to a single, up to date version of each document. This avoids the information overload and multiple file versions associated with email communications and attachments.

Platforms

Teams is accessible from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Your employees don’t need to stay in the office to stay in control, they can access everything they need using a web browser and apps that run on Windows, iOS and Android. What’s more, Teams is available through a wide range of end user devices, all sharing a common user interface design to reduce training requirements and encourage usage. Teams functionality can also be extended by integrating Microsoft and 3rd party apps.

Connections

In Teams, you can link a group of users by a common purpose. For example, marketing can be designated as a team, and may include internal and external contacts. A group chat within a team is called a channel, and a team can have multiple channels. For exampleSocial Media, Exhibitions, Telemarketing, KPIs and Strategy, with threads which are specific topics of discussion within each channel.

Functionality and ease of use

Teams has a simple navigation pane enabling access to a broad range of functionality. Key to its ease of use, there is no need to skip between multiple applications, the collaborative functionality is all embedded directly into the Teams app.
 

FEATURE

DESCRIPTION

Top bar

Conduct searches across all messages and files, and manually set your current availability.

Activity

Display a feed of notifications covering all collaborative activity since you last opened the application, enabling you to keep abreast of any relevant activity that has taken place in your absence.

Chat

Access all of your personal and group interactions. These can be listed chronologically or by contact, and include all forms of communication (IM, video/audio calls etc.), and information linked to that communication such as Office, image and PDF files.

Teams

Manage and access the teams you belong to, along with the channels within each team. Each channel has a set of tabs that link to collaborative functions, such as accessing conversations, files, notes and other information relevant to that channel.

Calendar

View your calendar and manage your meetings.

Calls

View your call history, make an audio or video call, or initiate a chat.

Files

Manage and access all your files as you would with File Explorer. Office files are opened for modification within Teams with a version of the appropriate Office app, avoiding the need to start separate instances of Word, Excel etc.

Apps

Utilise apps from Microsoft and 3rd parties that extend the functionality of Teams and connect with 3rd party systems. Microsoft has created an app store to allow 3rd parties to develop apps that integrate fully within the Teams user interface.


The Downsides of Teams

It’s a team effort

For Teams to work at its very best, general team communications need to be made through Teams rather than Outlook or Skype. This can take some adjustment.

There is no traditional folder structure

All uploaded assets are added to the channel root folder and then stored with metatags rather than a conventional folder structure which can take some getting used to.

Workflow and systems migration work may be required

OneDrive for Business or SharePoint need to be made available for all employees using Teams, and both local and shared drive content needs to be taken into consideration. If the infrastructure and permissions are not configured correctly, you may have duplications or additional challenges.

Getting it Right

If your business is going to make a success of Teams and experience the many business efficiencies that come with collaborative working, then it needs to have an implementation plan and training sessions. Without investment to support the change, new ways of working can be more difficult to embed. If needed, here at BDO, we can help you to navigate the transition, with an accountable and expert service that allows you to concentrate on your core business.

Teams Alternatives: The Slack Option

Slack is a competitor to Teams and has a lot in common in terms of intent, functionality and implementation. While Teams is very closely integrated with Microsoft products, Slack can operate with multiple productivity application providers including Microsoft and Google.

If your organisation uses or plans to use Office 365 then Teams is your logical choice. However, if you utilise Google G-Suite, or choose to be independent of Microsoft, then Slack is a very capable alternative which is worth considering. If you need further advice on the route to take, our BDO experts are here to advise, guide or supervise on any aspect of your IT management.

The BDO difference

Here at BDO, we understand the challenges that the non-technical board member faces when they become responsible for IT. Our Technology Advisory Service (TAS) team has an extensive hands-on track record of delivering strategic, operational and technical IT advisory services. We’ve developed our services with the non-technical board director in mind and we provide management and support services to suit each client’s needs.

Please contact Nigel Morris to find out more about our practical independent advice and IT support services.

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