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7 things you should know about Microsoft Teams

FlexJobs reveals in its State of the Remote Job Marketplace report there are now 3.9 million Americans (or 2.9% of the total US workforce) who work from home at least half the time. And it’s a trend that is growing. Fifteen years ago, remote workers were just that - remote. Silent, sometimes-forgotten employees. 

However, advancements in communications technology mean remote workers are now connected to the office, their colleagues and teams better than ever before, making working from home a standard practice within many organizations. Ever more traditional employers are finally realizing the benefits that come from flexible working arrangements, including a larger talent pool to source from, higher employee engagement, and lower overhead.

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams have contributed greatly to this new way of working, allowing remote teams, employees, partners, and clients to work together and share information via a common space, regardless of location. If you’re not familiar with Teams, please check out our overview.

Released in 2017, Microsoft Teams is a chat-based communication and collaboration platform with video meetings, file storage, and application integration included. The platform is free with Office 365 (learn about all of our Microsoft 365 solutions) making it a more cost effective solution to platforms such as Slack. Teams is already widely used but it’s expected that the number of companies using it will double in the next two years (Source: Microsoft).

Here we explore seven things users of Microsoft Teams should (but might not) know about the platform.

1. It’s incredibly secure  

Security has been a concern with users of Slack, but is something Teams users need not worry about. With its ultra-secure workplace hub software, Microsoft Teams users will always be provided with cutting-edge security and compliance capabilities as the platform is part of Microsoft’s global network of data centers. Teams is designed to meet the same security and data protection standards as Office 365, and the service enforces two-factor authentication, single sign on through Active Directory and encryption of data in transit and at rest.

2. Collaboration is efficient and easy

Teams belongs to the Microsoft Group, making all your data and communications accessible through Microsoft Graph and Office 365’s centralized governance and management console.

  • Graphs – Teams was constructed around the idea of leveraging the maximum capability of Microsoft Graph. Everything you do inside the Office 365 Suite is captured as a signal for content discovery, making applications smarter. For example, by integrating with Graphs, apps can now access a user’s calendar to suggest meeting times, pull updated data from an Excel file, or search for people in your organizations by name or topic. Every conversation you have within Teams automatically becomes information assets and are saved.
  • Hub – Teams offers a shared workspace, or hub, for the different applications in Microsoft Office including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Planner, OneNote, SharePoint, Delve, and Power BI. This feature gives you and your teams the option to work locally without having to be concerned with toggling between applications to get projects completed.
  • Teams - A Team in Microsoft is a group of people, conversations, files and tools, all centered around one theme. Within an organization there might be a Marketing Team, an IT Team, an Operations Team etc.
  • Groups – You can create groups within Teams made up of internal or external users, and then collaborate together and access products in the Office 365 Suite. For example, within the Marketing team there may be a Project A group, which includes the client that you are working for.
  • Channels - Within each team, users can create different channels to organize their communications by topic. For example, the Marketing team may have a channel for each campaign they are currently running or project they are working on. Each channel can include a couple of users or thousands, it depends on your needs. Each team gets their own messaging general channel and individual conversations are easy to label.
  • Tabs - Tabs allow team members to access specific content within a channel or in a chat. Within both channels and chats have two tabs by default: Conversations, and Files, and within chat there are two additional tabs, Organization and Activity. Owners and team members can add more tabs by clicking Add a tab at the top of the channel or chat. Tabs allow the team work directly with tools and data and have conversations about the tools and data, all within the context of the channel or chat.
  • Chat - the chat function (see the next section) is a critical means of keeping in touch with coworkers and members of a project team. If you have a quick question that does not require an immediate answer, sending a quick chat message is ideal. In addition, when working on a file within Teams, users can maintain a persistent chat around that document which makes collaborating on a document even easier. With persistent chat, messages related to that document are saved over time, so new and old chat participants can see all the chat history at any time

3. It has a very powerful chat function

The chat function of Microsoft Teams (learn about all of our Microsoft 365 solutions) is a simple means of having both private and team conversations. There are many features within the messaging function that make it superior to other chat-based platforms:

  • Messages are customizable, as well as being editable. Microsoft Teams lets you add a title, mark the message as important, and add other rich text options such as bullet points, highlighting etc. within the message.
  • Like other messaging services, Microsoft Teams messages can also incorporate popular social features such as emojis, GIFs, stickers and custom memes, and you can also react to messages, such as ‘liking’ it.
  • Microsoft Teams’ guest access feature allows users to invite people outside their organizations to join internal channels for messaging, meetings and file sharing which helps to facilitate business-to-business project management.
  • The @mention feature can be used to notify your entire team by typing the name of the team in the channel (example: @HR) or you could mention the name of a specific individual to alert them of something (example: @bob).
  • Plus, within a team-based messaging thread, users can send files, schedule voice and video meetings, or make impromptu video calls.

4. In Microsoft Teams, video calling and virtual meetings are painless

Often, it’s quicker and easier to speak directly with a project member, rather than emailing or messaging back and forth. With Microsoft Teams you can have a quick video chat or call to easily touch base.

To make a video call, open up the chat with the person you’d like to video or call, then click on the video or call icons in the top right-hand corner. One of the best features of the video calling is that during a video meeting, users can share live video from their mobile phones and project it into the meeting!

With the increased dependency on remote workers, meet virtually has become essential. Virtual meetings must be easy to set up, seamless to conduct, and reliable throughout. Microsoft Teams gives you a view of your scheduled meetings, the timing, the subject, and a list of other persons who’ll be attending. There is also an integration with Outlook for Microsoft Teams which lets you create view, accept, and join meetings in either app. When you create a Team a corresponding Outlook Group is also created, and this already has a shared calendar available for you to use! Each member of the Team can add this calendar - for example, deadlines related to team projects - and it’s visible to all in the team.

5. Notifications can be customized

In Microsoft Teams, new messages are highlighted with a red icon in both the Teams vertical taskbar as well as in the channel flow discussion. Also, a red circle with a number in it appears next to the channel name. You will receive notifications alerting you to new tasks, mentions and comments. These notifications can be enabled, customized, or disabled according to your preferences.

To personalize your Microsoft Teams notifications, click on your profile picture to access the account settings and click on Notifications. Once in, you’ll see notifications for three different subheadings - Messages, Mentions and Other. Here you can choose the type of notification you receive for each.

  • Banner notifications - These appear in the corner of your screen whenever you’re mentioned individually or as a team in any channel/group, and when someone messages you personally. The banner notification will indicate if the alert you’ve received is from a message, reply, etc.
  • Banner and Email - Microsoft Teams notifications can also be sent to your inbox alongside a banner notification to ensure that you’re alerted on all fronts. You can also configure Teams to send one email with several notifications - for example, once every 10 minutes - rather than for every notification.
  • In Feed - Alerts can also appear in your activity feed.
  • Sound notifications - Some people like their notification to be accompanied by a sound, especially if they don’t spend every moment in front of their computer screen.
  • Channel Activity notifications - If desired, you can follow any given channel to receive direct notifications whenever there’s new channel activity. You can also catch up on all your followed channels in your Activity feed. Tip: If you ever want to quickly check all of your unread channel notifications, just type /unread in the command bar at the top of Teams! 

6. Your activity feed will help you stay on top of everything

Your Activity Feed shows you a list of everything you’ve been up to lately in Teams and is the place to come to see everything related to you, including your recent likes, @mentions, replies, and more.  You can update your notifications preferences to receive message notifications directly within your feed, as well as notifications for the channels you follow.

The first thing you’ll see is your regular feed. You can filter your feed based on what kind of notification you want to see. If you filter your feed by your @mentions, you can keep your important information on top of your to-do list. Click the Filter icon to select the kind of notification you’d like to see first.

7. You can customize Microsoft teams for your needs with bots and apps

Bots are automated programs that respond to queries or give updates and notifications. Microsoft Teams comes with many bots with a variety of functionalities that can be used to help increase productivity. For example, the T-Bot can answer most basic and frequently asked questions about Teams, Polly Bot can be used to poll co-workers, Growbot allows the exchange of kudos with your co-workers, and many more. Currently, Teams supports bots in personal chats, group chats, and channels within a team, and administrators can control whether the use of bots is allowed. You can even create your own bots using the Microsoft Bot Framework!

In January 2018, Microsoft also launched the Microsoft Teams app store, where users can search for third-party apps for use in Microsoft Teams. Some of the apps in the store include Asana, Trello and Zendesk, and the Microsoft Teams App Studio enables developers and businesses to build their apps for Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams is a powerful tool that is already a major player in the enterprise communication and collaboration platform market. If you use Office 365, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make Microsoft Teams part of your organization and increase your overall productivity, tailoring Teams to meet your company’s unique needs.

Let Amaxra help you be more productive with Microsoft Teams.

Whether your organization already uses Microsoft Teams or you are considering your options for a migration to the cloud with Office 365, Amaxra consultants are here to help!

If you found this post useful, here are 3 more posts you might also like:

Contact me at Rosalyn.arntzen@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

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