Office 365 collaboration tools: Microsoft Teams

Image of dark green background with illustrated Teams logos. Image of dark green background with illustrated Teams logos.

Office 365 empowers teamwork and content collaboration through a variety of services. In this series, I’ll be focusing on the three Office 365 services that make up the backbone of content collaboration in the modern workplace.

In this second installment of the series, we’ll be diving into the purpose and features of Microsoft Teams.

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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 (Teams) steps into action. As a day-to-day hub for teamwork, Teams has a variety of features that can benefit the X1050 team, such as:

  • Communication driven by instant messaging and audio/video chat
  • Live meetings and on-demand recordings
  • Integrations with Office 365 apps such as Planner as well as third-party services
  • Mobile app for on-the-go teamwork

Sharing, channels, and chat 

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

Channel view in Microsoft Teams

Channels are used for focused conversations and collaboration surrounding a given topic, which, in this scenario, is 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, and it's ready to be shared with the rest of the team. There are a couple ways to share a file in a channel in Teams.

Method 1: Directly within the chat, by clicking the paperclip icon and uploading a direct copy of the presentation. 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

Because you used the @channel function, 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
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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 Office 365’s built-in chat feature to discuss reviews with your team in real time:

Real-time collaboration in Teams

This prevents potential content issues and sets clear expectations. One of your team members leaves an interesting comment:

Microsoft Teams and Planner

Planner! This lightweight task management tool is a separate service within Office 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 connect content 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 his or her task. Be warned: you can’t upload a file within this window; this currently only works in Planner.

Setting up a meeting in Microsoft Teams

Back to 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 set up a meeting:

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. The event view contains a clickable option. Easy! Since the meeting was created in Teams, that’s where it’ll be held:

Video chat in Teams

Teams lets you blur the background of your video feed as well as record the meeting for other team members to watch at a later time. Such recordings are stored in Microsoft Stream. Do you have a private team? No worries, permissions carry over from Teams to Stream.

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.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a sharing option available within the Files tab. You’ll need to send an invitation to the external consultant, who’ll get access to the whole Team space—private channels don’t exist yet in Teams. This isn’t an ideal scenario; in the next part of this series, we’ll discuss how to use SharePoint as an alternative in situations like these.

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.

To collaborate with guests, the correct settings have to be activated. If you aren’t able to invite guests, contact your Office 365 administrators; they play an important role in governing external sharing in Teams and should always be included in your strategy.

Governance for content collaboration in Teams

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

  • An Exchange Online inbox and calendar. These aren’t automatically visible in Outlook. You open the inbox and calendar by going to the SharePoint team site and clicking on Conversations.
  • A SharePoint Online team site
  • A OneNote notebook
  • A PowerBI workspace
  • A Stream group. This could take a while; the group won’t immediately be available.

To manage the impact on your modern workplace, a governance strategy is crucial. 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 Office 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

Microsoft Teams adoption and training

Teams is aimed at business users. Its user-friendly interface and integration with other Office 365 services results 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; you need to explain how Teams fits into their existing collaboration process. My advice is to speak with a group of business users who want to collaborate. Gather their requirements and compare them with the features in Teams. Use hands-on demonstrations to show the value Teams can offer. 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. These are 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 and allows them to move the file to Teams in a couple of clicks once it’s ready to be collaborated on. This is the kind of content collaboration that the modern world is looking for.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, where we'll be discussing all things collaboration in SharePoint!

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