Microsoft Teams: Creating The Dream Team


Editor's note: The following post was written by Office Servers and Services MVP Eric Overfield  as part of our Technical Tuesday series. 

Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part. - Casey Stengel

We certainly have a dream team here at PixelMill, a California based digital agency specializing in bespoke Office 365, SharePoint, and Azure solutions. But to paraphrase MLB Hall of Famer Casey Stengel, building a dream team isn’t the hard part  - getting them to play together is the real challenge. For all companies, collaboration and teamwork is far from easy. Thankfully, Microsoft has a pretty nifty and aptly named tool that helps teams play better together: Microsoft Teams.

For those new to Microsoft Teams, the cloud based platform provides a one-stop workplace service for chat, meetings, and more. It’s integrated directly into Office 365. Even more at Ignite 2017, Microsoft announced that Skype for Business is now integrate. PixelMill recently adopted Microsoft Teams and we’ve seen impressive results in record time. Setup is simple and intuitive, and we found user adoption was faster than anticipated. So how did PixelMill do it? I’ll walk you through our adoption process and our favorite things about Microsoft Teams. More, I’ll show you our Microsoft Teams wish list, and how PixelMill plans to use this exciting new tool in the future.  

How we did it

Our sales and marketing department was looking for a new way to restructure collaboration, and decided to jump head first into Teams. Our employees had specifically asked for a more centralized way for us to collaborate. “Let’s reduce the amount of time spent switching between platforms and get us all in the same place!” you’d hear them say. So, we did the following:

1)Commit

We chose Teams for many reasons, but one of the biggest deciding factors was that it integrates with Microsoft Suite. We also had been actively using Slack, and although a good tool, it did not have the integration points we wanted.

2) Rip off the Band-Aid

Besides cutting off Slack, as well as finalizing migration to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, we knew we had to stop using the other duplicative tools to effectively activate the Team potential. Skype, Dropbox, and GoToMeeting have their time and place in our governance, but are near extinction in our day-to-day use.  

3) Discover + Define

To effectively adopt this new platform, we had to define how our organization planned to use it. We knew we wouldn’t have all the answers or a perfect governance from the start, but you can’t play a game without any rules. We began with a loose living governance document that we updated weekly to ensure we were following practices that made us more effective. Initial governance included how Teams and Channels would be defined and named, guidelines on when to create a new team or channel, and how best to organize tabs and files. Each Friday we discussed what was working and what wasn’t working as a team and adapted our governance until we got to a place that worked for the collective. Now that other departments are adopting Teams here, we have a Best Practices governance that all departments follow. There’s also individual department governance that outlines their department specific uses.  

4)Be the change you want to see in the world

Leaders, I’m talking to you. Your employees are watching to see if you do what you say - so, do what you say. It’s really that simple. Lead by example, follow your governance to a “t”. After all, if your governance is thoughtful and strategized you should want to follow your own rules. That being said, you should open to feedback. The team will be much more likely to adopt governance of a tool that they feel they’re part of.

5)Foster champions for change

It's crucial to have Team advocates in and outside your department that can help encourage adoption. For example, when someone messages you outside the Team environment, kindly direct them to Teams to finish the conversation. If you see someone not following governance, help them get back on track—nip those unhealthy habits in the bud.  

Things we Love

There’s “i” in this Team — 4 i’s to be exact. They’re Information, Interaction, Independence and Intuition.

Information

Teams makes file collaboration a breeze! It's easy to share a specific file in a Conversation Thread and have an in-depth conversation related to that file for the whole team to see. Conversations in Channels helps keep everyone up to date and on the same page. The Files tab in Teams also saves time so you don't have to leave the app to share and collaborate on content with your co-workers.  

Interaction

One of our favorite features is the 'like'. It's a great way to ensure a team member has read your message. Conversations have also encouraged more open dialogue and idea sharing while cutting down on meeting time because everyone is up to speed on where projects stand with transparent access to conversations that once may have been in personal emails or messages on a messaging app. Plus, who doesn't love a great gif—after all a picture is worth a thousand words, right? The ability to share specific files ensures everyone is looking at the correct file version. Collaborating has saved us a great deal of time and resulted in superior, more efficiently executed collaborative works.  

Independence

Quick access to files, recordings, pertinent and relevant conversations, and important company information makes for independent workers. Everyone has easy access to the vital information they need and a quick easy way to collaborate with their team when necessary.  

Integration

Integrations like Planner, Forms, OneDrive, Stream and meetings make for more efficient and happier employees. Keeping our team in Teams has definitely helped raise moral. Gone are the days of more switching between multiple apps and services to find information. It's encouraged us to better utilize our other tools like Forms and Planner as well.  

Teams Wish List

We do love teams, but we also knew going in that this is a young product with a lot of opportunity. Here’s our wish list for the utopian Teams tool. Most of these are well known to Microsoft, and it appears as though a few are already in the works.

  • Pop-out windows for chat. We're not alone and if you wish for this too. Make your voice heard in Microsoft's User voice by voting here.
  • Assign specific members to a Channel. Do you wish this too? You can vote in User Voice for this request here.
  • Improved integration with Forms, Flow and Planner. They're working on it! Vote and/or give Microsoft feedback here.
  • Delete/hide old Conversations. Vote here.
  • Ability to Archive Channels. Vote here.
  • Share screen without calling. Hooray! This is likely to come out in September. You can still vote here.
  • Link files to SPO instead of OneDrive. Agree? You can vote in User Voice here.
  • IOs Teams conference calls. Agree? You can vote in User Voice here.
  • Renaming a Team Channel would rename the associated SharePoint file folder. Others agree on this wish and you can vote in the User Voice here.
  • Recording option in Team Meetings. Agree? You can vote in User Voice here.  

The Future for PixelMill

So, what's next for PixelMill and Teams? As we continue to see more and more improved integrations we expect to take better advantage of Forms and Flow, streamlining our processes. We also see promise in integrating much of what we do in Teams with other services, such as integrating Jira, our project management solution of choice, directly with specific channels associated with each project. With the resources we see Microsoft committing to Teams, we are excited for it’s potential.


Eric Overfield is a Microsoft MVP, a Microsoft Regional Director and a leading expert in SharePoint Development and User Interface design. Mr. Overfield, President and co-founder of PixelMill, has over 18 years experience with web design best practices and techniques, and over 12 years experience with SharePoint branding. Besides his in-depth knowledge of SharePoint’s branding capabilities, his expertise includes general SharePoint technology, design and architecture along with custom coded web parts, solutions, JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3. He is a co-author of Pro SharePoint 2013 Branding and Responsive Web Development (Apress 2013) and Black Magic Solutions for White Hat SharePoint (EUSP Press 2013). An engaged speaker and organizer of SharePoint events as well as an active blogger (ericoverfield.com), he discusses all things SharePoint Branding and UI Design @ericoverfield.

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