In many companies, employees engage in collaborative projects frequently. They attend multiple meetings, hold numerous conversations, move around a lot of documents, follow several processes, and end up using a variety of tools from different places.
This complexity takes a lot of time and effort, resources that should be focused on actually completing the tasks.
To solve this problem, engineers at Microsoft got to work and built a promising solution - Microsoft Teams. Now you can get rid of all the chaotic side of collaboration and help your team focus their efforts on the work.
Microsoft Teams simplifies collaboration by accomplishing two things: bringing the 4 essentials of collaboration in one place, and making each of them easier and quicker to do.
The 4 essentials of collaboration are the fundamental activities needed for a team to work together and achieve a goal. They are:
- Sharing ideas
- Sharing documents
- Sharing workflows
- And sharing workspaces
Let’s look into each element. Later, we’ll explore how the new Office 365 application simplifies them.
The 4 essentials of collaboration
At VisualSP, we went through our own project which required massive collaboration. After laying out a plan to launch the Walk-Thru bubbles, a VisualSP® Help System feature that guides users through the steps inside Office 365 applications, we had to bring everyone's expertise and coordinate inputs to the project. These 4 essentials of collaboration surely were at the center of successful planning and execution.
Every round of work needs suggestions and feedback.
There will always be multiple ways of achieving a goal. And, no one person is able to think of them all in order to opt for the best option. Different perspectives are always helpful to a project success. Any of the following activities is part of sharing ideas:
- Engaging in a conversation about a project
- Suggesting better ways and better tools
- Highlighting the pros and cons of an idea
- Giving feedback
A short description of how Microsoft Teams simplifies this activity follows later in this article.
A productive collaboration demands a well structured flow of information. This information may be carried by different kind of files. There is always something that your members need to know before plunging into their tasks.
No collaboration is functional if you have no way of listing for your colleagues files that contain information useful to the project. Files may contain text, image, audio, or video.
A Microsoft Teams feature has solved the common problem that comes with sharing documents using emails. More on that later.
Every time you use a set of tools to complete a task, a workflow emerges. Every combination of tools determines a particular workflow. For example, a team that uses Microsoft Word and emails to create user manuals will not deploy the same workflow as a team that uses Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat, and Google Drive.
To help everyone efforts head in the chosen direction, you have to coordinate tasks and standardize the tools used to complete those tasks. Furthermore, it is helpful to have all tools well integrated and accessible within a unified interface. Microsoft Teams brings many productivity tools in one workspace.
Sharing workflows is all about revealing processes and tools. Processes can also be found within the activities and conversations history threads. Microsoft Teams records these automatically so that anyone in a team can access them.
Think of sharing a workspace as having a common worksite.
A workspace is a place where everyone would come to work and find everything needed for the work.
For example, a restaurant kitchen is a workspace where chefs, bartenders, and waiters come to get access to all the kitchenware and deliver services. Building sites, laboratories, factories, etc. are all examples of workspaces.
At your office, you get access to your team members, telephones, user manuals, and all the things that help you get your job done. Similarly, to engage in a productive collaboration, you need to share a workspace, physical or digital.
Microsoft Teams gives you and your team members an online workspace for collaboration, a place where everyone can have access to everyone, ideas, tools, and workflows.
Let’s now look at the ways Microsoft Teams simplifies all these 4 building blocks of collaboration, making teamwork more productive.
How Microsoft Teams simplifies sharing ideas
Every collaborative work starts, progresses, and concludes with an exchange of ideas and feedback. Natural flow of information brings ideas to evolve freely. To ensure satisfactory outcomes, communication is paramount.
A team player who understands exactly what needs to be done is a faster one. Clear communication allows employees to get the work done with confidence and efficiency.
In one single solution, Microsoft Teams enables several types of communication. These include:
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
- And Kinesic communication
Let’s look at how different features help users engage in those ways of exchanging information.
Written communication in Microsoft Teams
This is a type of linguistic communication that happens when you use text to share thoughts.
There are times you and your team members need a quick exchange of words in real time. Emails are not practical for this purpose; that’s why instant messaging is used instead.
The market offers a range of solutions employees can use: Facebook Messenger, LiveChat, Skype for Business, Google Talk, etc.
But, with the Microsoft Teams chat feature, the capability has gone an extra mile beyond instant messaging. In addition to being able to connect and chat with your colleagues, you can use emoji, stickers, and animated GIFs. The history of your conversations is kept so that you can review it at later times.
With Microsoft Teams, written communication has been greatly enriched and simplified to allow for smooth two-way flows of ideas between team members.
Verbal communication in Microsoft Teams
Using spoken words to transmit information is the basic form of linguistic communication.
In your organization, you will find that a great number of people prefer to talk than to write emails. Even those who are happy with a keyboard find that certain moods and times call for hearing your teammate voice. Also, certain conversations simply need a phone call.
Skype for Business, TeamSpeak, and WeChat give you platforms for exchanging spoken words. You can use just audio or audio plus video.
The Microsoft Teams Calls feature helps you engage in a conversation with simplicity. It’s like telephony but smarter. With few clicks, you can join or schedule a group or one-on-one call with your colleagues and have phone conversation. All you need is a decent piece of headset.
With Microsoft Teams deployed on your desktop or mobile, you can talk to any member of your team without having to gather around a table.
Kinesic communication in Microsoft Teams
This non-linguistic way of communication is also commonly called body language.
For example, when your colleague lifts their eyebrows, what they are expressing is a lack of confidence in what you've just said.
A good number of researchers have found that, although ambiguous, non-linguistic communication accounts for the majority of information exchanged during interpersonal interactions.
Kinesic communication is best played out in a face-to-face meeting. But with video chat, you can still pick up a lot of information from your interlocutor’s hands gestures, body posture, facial expressions, etc.
The Microsoft Teams Meetings feature removes the distance between you and your colleagues. You get to achieve kinesic communication right from your desk. Having a video chat in Microsoft Teams feels like engaging in a face-to-face conversation; you can see them move and hear them speak.
The solution simply gives you a way to understand your team members better.
However, Microsoft Teams is a technology. It cannot duplicate face-to-face meeting nor deliver other forms of communication such as haptic (use of touch like handshake), chronemic (use of time), and proxemic (use of space). For this reason, highly significant collaborative projects still need face-to-face meetings for optimal communication and thorough exchange of ideas.
Despite these limitations, Microsoft Teams gives you a workspace that enables the most important forms of communication and greatly simplifies the process of sharing ideas.
The platform does okay on communication but it does much better on documents sharing.
How Microsoft Teams simplifies sharing documents
Microsoft Teams enables easy sending, receiving, and listing of files useful to a project.
Other solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, and ShareFile do the same but Microsoft Teams has the advantage of integrating with a multitude of other most commonly used solutions.
File sharing in Microsoft Teams integrates well with SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. Any file that you share remains accessible by your team members.
If you want a file to be accessible in more than one conversation, you can copy the link and paste it to other conversations. Files that have been created using Office applications are editable within the interface.
Several popular cloud files hosting services can also be used in Microsoft Teams.
With a clean interface and an abundance of capabilities, Microsoft Teams simplifies the task of sharing documents during collaboration, making teamwork a little more enjoyable and effortless.
How Microsoft Teams simplifies sharing workflows
Many processes in your team’s daily tasks use many different tools. Microsoft Teams gives you the ability to connect the processes and integrate the tools.
A number of solutions on the market facilitate this task quite effectively. Some popular options include: Slack, SharePoint, and Google Apps for Business.
In Microsoft Teams, the first capability that enables sharing workflows is Activity Feed. Easily view conversations threads, activities history, and updates from you or your entire team. Get an idea of what is happening on every task.
The second capability that gives way to sharing workflows is the integration of different apps and services. Team players can easily share processes and external tools. Team players have the option to install additional applications and add additional services. These third-party solutions are deployed right within your conversations.
In Microsoft Teams, new integrations are being added regularly. Here are a few that are already available: Dropbox, Excel, Google Drive, Hootsuite, Intercom, OneNote, PDF, Planner, Polyscribe, Power BI, PowerApps, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Smartsheet, Trello, Visual Studio, Wrike, YouTube, and Zendesk.
To present ideas, documents, and workflows to your team members, you need a place to put them. Workspaces come in handy.
How Microsoft Teams simplifies sharing workspaces
When engaged in a project with your colleagues, you would usually use several applications separately, and fetch documents from different places. You may not even have a thread of activities you may use for reference. This disorganized aggregation of items usually leads to confusion, waste of time, and even project failure.
As an application, Microsoft Teams is basically a set of digital workspaces, shared places where your team members can get access to all the conversations, files, applications, and activity threads relating to a project.
Workspaces in Microsoft Teams are called "Teams" and "Channels". Each Team is dedicated to a specific project within a company. And, each Channel is dedicated to a specific conversation.
Anyone among your colleagues can create a Team or a Channel.
Setting up a team or channel and adding members are just a few clicks away. You can even add guests from outside your company to your team. Guests can also participate in conversations; join meetings; access documents; and more.
If you need a place where you can find all the people, ideas, documents, and workflows for your project, this Microsoft Teams capability will help. It is a feature that will greatly simplify collaboration for your employees.
Why your employees should try Microsoft Teams sooner
Not all collaborative works are productive: some produce positive outcomes while others simply hold great players back.
For a collaboration to be a great success, first, the 4 essentials have to reign. And second, each essential has to be simplified. By making it easier and faster for team members to share ideas, share documents, share workflows, and share workspaces, the entire collaboration is made enjoyable. And, as you may know, simplification leads to improved productivity.
By adopting Microsoft Teams, you will definitely lead your team towards more productive collaborations for many years to come. Go ahead, give it a try!
Clearly, Microsoft Teams needs improvement. More work is needed to beef up features and expand integration with the many other popular applications that companies are already using. In any case, the platform deep integration with Office 365 applications already gives users greater advantages compare to those using competing solutions such as Slack.
Other advantages include: mobile device management, support for 18 different languages, and data loss prevention capabilities. With bot frameworks and publicly available APIs, Microsoft Teams has been readied for further customizations and extensions.
In short, Microsoft Teams is a place to hangout for teamwork. With the observable commitment from the developers, this chat-based collaboration workspace will just get better.