How to use Microsoft Teams to improve collaboration

Collaboration Tools Microsoft Teams

Microsoft 365 empowers teamwork and collaboration through a variety of tools and services. In this second installment of the Microsoft 365 collaboration tools series, dive into Microsoft Teams, including how to collaborate in Microsoft Teams and key features that make up the backbone of collaboration in the modern workplace.

Microsoft Teams is a communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent chat capabilities, video conferencing, files storage, and integration with many other Microsoft 365 apps.

But with all these features, how exactly do you collaborate in Microsoft Teams? Let’s look at how these features facilitate team collaboration using the well-known hypothetical company, Contoso Electronics, as our example.

Let’s delve into what Microsoft Teams is and how it enables team collaboration.

Main collaboration features in Microsoft Teams

You work for Contoso Electronics and are part of the launch team for the company’s flagship product, the X1050. You and your team members need a collaboration space in which to share and work on content. This is where Microsoft Teams leaps into action. As a day-to-day hub for teamwork, Teams has a variety of features that can benefit the X1050 team, such as:

  • Instant messaging and audio/video chat that facilitates communication and file sharing
  • Live meetings and on-demand recordings
  • Integrations with Microsoft 365 apps such as Planner as well as third-party services
  • Mobile app for on-the-go teamwork

With all these features, it’s no question why the Microsoft modern workplace is the go-to solution when you want to promote effective collaboration within your organization, especially in remote environments.

File sharing, channels, and chat 

You open Teams at the start of your workday and browse to your favorite channel:

Channel view in Microsoft Teams

Use channels for focused conversations and collaboration surrounding a given topic. In this scenario, we’re concerned with the go-to-market plan for the XT1050. Emily, your manager, put you in charge of delivering the XT1050 go-to-market presentation. You’ve already created the presentation with the help of your colleague Joni in OneDrive. Now it’s ready to be shared with the rest of the team.

How to share a file in a channel in Teams

There are a couple of ways to share a file in a channel in Teams.

Method 1: Share the file directly within the chat. Click the paperclip icon and upload a direct copy of the presentation. However, I advise against this method because it creates a duplicate of the presentation, making it hard to keep track of changes.

Sharing a file in Microsoft Teams by uploading a copy

Method 2: By moving the file from your OneDrive to Teams. In my opinion, this is the best option, as it doesn’t produce any duplicates.

Sharing a file in Microsoft Teams without creating a duplicate

Now that you’ve shared the presentation in Teams, it’s time to collaborate on it with your colleagues. You open the go-to-market plan channel and click on Files. From there, you select the presentation and click on Make this a tab:

Creating a new tab in a Microsoft Teams channel

The newly created tab is immediately visible to all your team members:

Microsoft Teams tab view

You want to ask others for feedback, so you open the right-hand chat panel to start a new conversation:

Conversation pane in Microsoft Teams tab

Use the @channel function to send a notification will be sent to all the team members who are following the channel. You can also use the @team function to send a notification to everyone on the team. Pick your mention wisely!

After posting your message, your colleague Joni leaves a reply:

Discussing file changes in Teams

That’s the power of Teams in action. No emails—just a simple chat with all the modern communication features you expect:

  • Likes
  • @ mentions
  • Emoji
  • Gifs
  • Stickers

The chat window contains an advanced editor with a lot of formatting options:

Discussing reviews in Teams

Your team members can open the presentation in Teams, in Office Online, or through the desktop Office client; co-authoring is available within all these options. You can use Microsoft 365’s built-in chat feature to discuss reviews with your team in real-time, preventing potential content and versioning issues and setting clear expectations:

Real-time collaboration in Teams

How to set up a meeting in Microsoft Teams

Your team members have reviewed the presentation and you’re now ready to present the final version. Through the integration with Exchange Online, you can quickly set up a meeting and invite your colleagues:

Setting up a meeting in Microsoft Teams

The Select a channel to meet in option allows you to pick a channel related to the meeting. Once the meeting is scheduled, it becomes accessible within the channel:

Choosing a channel for the meeting

The meeting will automatically be added to your calendar because you’re the organizer, but other attendees will have to do this manually via the clickable option in the event view. Easy! Since the meeting was created in Teams, that’s where it’ll be held:

Video chat in Teams

Not ready to show off your home office quite yet? Teams lets you blur or disguise the background of your video feed.

One of your colleagues can’t make it to the meeting? With Teams, you can record the meeting for other team members to watch later. Such recordings are saved to OneDrive and SharePoint.

Concerned that a video from a private team will hit the whole company? No worries, the sharing permissions carry over from Teams.

Microsoft Teams, Planner, and third-party app integrations

Planner: This lightweight task management tool is a separate service within Microsoft 365, but it’s tightly integrated with Teams. You create a new tab within your channel and connect with Planner:

Creating a new Planner tab in Microsoft Teams

You quickly assign a series of tasks to yourself and team members:

Assigning tasks with Planner in Teams

Planner allows you to attach files, photos, and links to a task:

Attaching content to a Planner task in Teams

The assigned team member now knows which content—in this case, the presentation—to use for their task.

Teams also integrated with many third-party applications. Here are a few examples of Teams third-party app integrations to facilitate collaboration:

Collaborating with external users in Microsoft Teams

You and your team have finalized the presentation, but now you need to collaborate with an external marketing company, Easterfield, for the consumer launch of the X1050.

First, you’ll need to send an invitation to the external consultant, who’ll get access to the whole Team space. Then, the private channel owner can add any member, including guests like this external consultant, to the private channel.

The external consultant, who already uses Teams, sees the connection with Contoso like this:

Collaborating with external users in Teams

From my own experience, I know how difficult it can be to stay up-to-date while working in multiple external teams. I recommend asking your collaborators to @mention you on anything important so that you receive a notification.

The external consultant has a default set of options available. Microsoft has done an excellent job of documenting these features.

The correct settings have to be activated to collaborate with guests. Contact your Microsoft 365 administrators if you cannot invite guests. Administrators play an important role in governing external sharing in Teams and should always be included in your strategy.

Governance strategy for collaboration in Teams

The nature of Teams makes governance a bit tricky. Teams is connected with Microsoft 365 groups. Creating a team also creates:

  • A SharePoint Online team site and document library to store team files
  • An Exchange Online shared mailbox and calendar
  • A OneNote notebook
  • A PowerBI workspace
  • A Stream video portal

A governance strategy is crucial to managing the impact on your modern workplace. Make sure yours covers the following essentials (I’ve included links to relevant content in Microsoft’s documentation for each area of focus):

The Files section in Teams lets you connect with additional cloud-based file storage services (e.g. Dropbox). I recommend turning off this integration; otherwise, you won’t have any visibility over the content that moves in and out of your Microsoft 365 environment. In the previous article on OneDrive, I briefly discussed data classification, mobile device management, and mobile application management; the same advice applies to Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams central admin

Collaboration as a gateway for Microsoft Teams adoption and training

Teams is aimed at business users. Its user-friendly interface and integration with other Microsoft 365 services (like integrating Microsoft Teams with SharePoint sites) can result in a high level of adoption among first-time users.

That said, adoption is crucial. You can’t simply demo Teams, hand it over to a group of business users, and wave good luck from a distance. Instead, you need to explain how Teams fits into their existing collaboration process.

Don’t forget: technology is awesome, but apps and services need to have a clear business value to succeed.

Jasper Oosterveld (@jasoosterveld) Tweet this

My advice for better Teams adoption:

  1. Speak with a group of business users who want to collaborate.
  2. Gather their requirements and compare them with the features in Teams.
  3. Use hands-on demonstrations to show the value Teams can offer.
  4. When the organization decides to move forward, provide training sessions to cement the adoption process.

Microsoft has a wealth of content on this topic online. I recommend starting here:

Microsoft Teams and OneDrive, a match made in collaboration heaven

Teams is an intuitive, easy-to-use tool that’s ideal for content collaboration within a department or a project team. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Teams from the moment of its release.

The integration with OneDrive lets business users start working on their files within a private space. Then, once it’s ready to be collaborated on, you can move the file to Teams in a couple of clicks. This is the kind of content collaboration that the modern world is looking for.

As you can tell, Microsoft Teams is more than just a chat tool. Teams allows you to easily chat and meet, connect across apps, share documents, and co-author content in real-time. The service integrates with other Microsoft apps in the Microsoft 365 environment like Outlook, Word, and SharePoint to stimulate productivity across your teams.

In the third and final part of the series, we focus on SharePoint and its role as a collaboration tool in Microsoft 365.

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