We are always looking for ways to communicate and work better. Productivity and streamlining is never a completed process, more an ongoing series of steps towards an ever moving goal.
To this end we explored Microsoft Teams. A new collaboration platform built into Office 365. Could it improve the way we communicate as a team and individually? Could it help us share resources in a better way? Could it reduce the amount of emails we get? Could it help us find pertinent historical information quickly?
It is a paradigm shift to start using Teams. Just as you open your email in the morning you also open your Teams client. Emails become about communicating externally. Teams is about communicating internally. We decided to try Teams and it required us to take a leap of faith. From the start of the following week all our internal communication would be on Microsoft Teams.
Teams has been described as “Facebook for Business”. The parallels are there. People post “conversations” which others can reply to. Old conversations move up but a powerful search function makes them easy to retrieve.
The system is split into teams, which are split into channels. You can be a member of as many teams as you want and each team can have as many channels as they need. Each channel has separate conversations, a file store and One Note Notebook. It can initially look sparse but after a bit of experimentation you realise there is a lot of potential. Particularly in the field of collaborative working.
You no longer have to email copies of documents to people to then collate any changes nor ensure it’s placed on a shared system for people to make changes themselves. You simply post the document to Teams and everyone in there can make changes, in real time. There is something uplifting about opening a document and seeing the message, “5 other people are editing this document.” You can see the changes being made by each person and next to it the conversation which relates to the document. People chip in with ideas and the document comes together.
What would normally be numerous emails suddenly becomes a “chat” between participants. It’s like you’re all sitting around the table and working together instead of spread around different sites.
And “chat” is more accurate than you think. Built into Teams is the ability to have video and audio chats with one or any number of people. If you need to quickly chat or meet it’s simply about pushing a button. No more application switching. No more waiting for people to download an update for their chat software. They’re in Teams, you’re in Teams so you chat. It breaks down distances and boundaries.
If you need a physical meeting then no problem. Teams integrates with your Outlook calendar and those of your colleagues. You can suggest a meeting and it will not only handle all invites for you but even suggest times when you colleague is free. These features exist elsewhere in Office 365 but Teams brings them all together in one place.
For schools you can also have Teams which include pupils. Teachers can issue assignments to children who submit them via Teams to receive quick feedback and grading. And just as staff can collaborate, so can pupils. They can come together to produce a piece of work or provide help to others all within a safe and secure setting.
With GDPR the safety and security of our users and data is paramount. Microsoft Teams is already GDPR compliant. It can be used to communicate sensitive data without compromising the school’s responsibilities.
So how has our testing of Microsoft Teams gone? As you can probably guess, we’re very happy with it. The email traffic has died down as internal communication moved over there. Yet Teams doesn’t feel bloated like email does. The separation of Teams and Channels means things sit in their own little bubble and makes everything seem manageable. One useful feature was when new staff joined our team. With email these new staff would have a history of communications which are unavailable to them. In Teams they just have to scroll up. It is there and searchable for them.
All this may have you thinking you’d like to try Microsoft Teams. If you do, please get in touch with us by calling (01902) 555555 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to helping you move forward with this.