17.04.2018

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Despite Microsoft Teams being over a year old now, I still get asked by many “traditional” businesses and even colleagues “which office 365 app do I use, and when?”

I have been a fan of Teams since its launch, yet it has taken quite a bit of mindset changing to get the majority of the business embedded in Teams on a daily basis. I’d like to share my thoughts and annotates around positioning chat-based collaboration tools such as Teams within your organisation.

Outlook isn’t going away but….

Did you know, email was invented in 1971 (that’s before I was born) and quickly became the popular (and really only electronic) choice for communicating with people both inside and outside of our organisations (unless you still loved fax)? Today, like most professionals, we spend a large portion of our work lives in email (personal life seems to have moved on much quicker).

According to research, over 270 BILLION emails are sent every day, and on average, a typical office worker receives 120 emails and sends around 40. Like many, I have long moved past the point of being able to read (and most definitely action) all the emails I receive and assume that if it’s not from my boss or flagged as important, I will get another email “did you get my email” or a call/IM asking me to respond!

Many (in fact I’d say most) of these emails we receive, are from people we work with, sometimes the person sitting right next to us or at least in the same office with a chain of people cc’d, which un-controlled end up as chains of reply to all emails in some 1970s attempt to have a chat based discussion. To bring calm to this chaos, Outlook does try to “group” conversations and of course, you can always create folders in their Inboxes to help you “find” stuff again.

Collaborating / Getting work done

With technology innovation and new tools and attempts to move away from email, one of the biggest problems users have faced for years has been “too many tools in too many places”. Users had to leave Outlook to go to a web browser and open SharePoint, login to a different system or access file shares over VPN to save files etc. Products such as Skype for Business brought us IM (chat) but this was also somewhere else (outside of Outlook anyway), but finding stuff still wasn’t that easy – even if the conversation history was stored hopelessly in Outlook.

Saving, storing and accessing files happened all over the place. On the desktop, in Outlook (why not) network drives, SharePoint, other places. Data and apps everywhere and almost impossible to collaborate (I know… Let’s email multiple copies and get multiple copies back all edited differently!!!) – we have all been there right!

Does Microsoft Teams Help?

Microsoft Teams is fantastic (once people really get to grips with it). Teams allow us to bring many (if not all) of our tools together in one convenient location without actually replacing them – which is key! Instead, Teams brings these together and incorporates them – chat, files, calls, video, other apps and services.

This, of course, leaves one key question – what about my Outlook? What if I need to send an email. The emails sent to the Teams Group doesn’t show in my Outlook Inbox?

For Example:

I’m part of a Project Team called “Leadership Team”. As you might guess, this is a group of people that represent the leaders/execs across the business – from Sales, through to Technical Delivery, Support and HR. The “team” regularly communicate, have calls and share documents with each other. We also have weekly all-hands meetings and have an issue and actions register which leads to tasks being assigned to individuals within the team. In this Team, we have set up “channels” to focus our content and discussions: Sales, Technical, Support Services, HR, Contracts, Issues & Risks. This helps us focus and we try to ensure we stick to these channels as much as possible.

Occasionally we do have to reach or discuss things outside of our “inner circle” (internal and external) which does not form part of our Team. This sometimes includes sending a monthly report and of course, it is possible to send the mail and then “cc” the Microsoft Team “Group” (which of course has a distribution list) – but there is much better (in my view way to do this).

We can email channels

Within Teams, each channel has its own unique email address. From within the Team Channel, you can simply click on the ellipses to get the email address. You can then copy this email address and add it to Outlook when you send the email – this ensures the email thread is present within Teams.

What is great about this is that any attachment within the email gets automatically uploaded to the channel (of course it is also in the email so in Outlook too) but at least us in the “Team” can access the same copy for consistency.

In summary…

Will Microsoft Teams ever replace Outlook? No, not entirely.

Using Teams as the default communication tool doesn’t work in every situation – emailing into Teams, for example, could still be slicker, I think it would be good if Outlook recognised my Teams automatically, but it has meant that I am able to start separating Teams and Outlook from internal use and external use. I use Outlook for communications that happen with people outside of Teams and across customers and partners.

That said, Teams is a great way to replace that reply to all conversation thread, keep documents, chat and calls in a simple logical place (rather than files, desktop, IM and email apps). In a nutshell for Team Work – Teams beats Outlook hands down!! Right Tools, Right Job!

To find out more about Microsoft Teams or start your Teams journey, register for your Modern Workplace Innovation Centre Experience today!

Written by Cisilion’s Chief Strategy Officer, Rob Quickenden