Microsoft Teams is having a moment. The tool has seen an incredible uptick in usage over the last 18 months as teams look for more nimble ways to keep their organizations connected and productive in an evolving work environment.
In its most recent earnings call, Microsoft announced nearly 250 million monthly Teams users — I expect that number will only continue to climb. But while Microsoft Teams has helped organizations optimize remote and hybrid work in the last year and a half, new data reveals that 97% of companies have yet to take full advantage of its capabilities.
As a Microsoft MVP and regional director, I'd like to offer a handful of best practices that may help organizations not only quickly adopt, but also more effectively use Microsoft Teams capabilities so they can work smarter, not just harder.
Go Beyond the Teams Calling Feature
Many companies are stuck only using Teams for its basic telephony capabilities. While this was critical to initial business continuity and survival at the onset of the pandemic, companies cannot afford to uphold such an archaic practice — especially as hybrid work is here to stay. Teams offers a number of other ways to collaborate, from file sharing to hosting webinars, to note-taking and specific channel creation. The fact that all of this can be done within the Teams app reduces the task switching nightmare many employees find themselves in.
With Teams, for example, folks can collaborate in a Word Document, Excel Spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation — in addition to more advanced dashboards like Power BI — without ever leaving the app. This streamlines productivity and helps make work more efficient.
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Inspire Brainstorms and Collaborative Work With Added Functionality
When it’s time to develop the next big idea, most organizations stick to video calls to facilitate their conversations. But to go beyond that verbal communication and occasional screen share, Microsoft Teams offers both native and third-party applications for white-boarding. In lieu of folks sitting around a physical white board with office coffee, this is the next best thing — and arguably even better with notes more easily transferrable in their digital state, and the ability to include more voices.
And even though a white-boarding session may not be required everyday, companies should increase their usage of communal conversations. According to data from SWOOP Analytics, over 98% of chat- and call-based communication occurs between just two people. While one-on-one chat is fast and convenient, it keeps information siloed, ultimately preventing the potential for diverse opinions. Instead, leveraging channels — which can be made private or can include external agencies or consultants based on the level of sensitive information — facilitates more open, beneficial dialogue. And when they’re ready to act on the next big idea, companies can even assign tasks from channel conversations, create workback timelines using the Planner feature within Teams, and more.
Related Article: 'Make Work in Threads, Play in Chat' Your Mantra
Make Teams the Hub for Company Updates and Informal Conversations Too
In addition to fostering project-based collaboration, Teams can also keep employees connected to the business and their colleagues as a whole. Because SharePoint is the backbone of Teams, it’s easy to embed intranet access within the app. Rather than having another web link for employees to navigate to, they can access SharePoint content and preview files without leaving Teams. Employees can also search for content stored on the intranet — such as benefits, brand resources or IT support — directly in Teams. That way, employees remain connected to organization updates and values without disrupting their digital workspace or workflow.
Companies may also experiment with creating interest groups via channels that promote cross-functional communication. Without the proverbial water cooler conversations happening as frequently, Teams can become a place for informal chats with colleagues to help generate new ideas, strengthen the company culture and make folks feel connected, supported and valued.
Related Article: Intranet Alternatives to SharePoint
Ensure Your Teams Are Secure
As companies enhance their usage of Teams, the risk of oversharing and exposure looms large. That’s because although increasing Teams adoption and encouraging employees to tap into its advanced features is critical, it can also create a viral, content-sharing situation. So first understand where sensitive data exists and how to prevent that data from being circulated or stored incorrectly.
From there, companies can better implement automated policies to govern their data. But that’s only one part of the equation. Backup and restore capabilities are vital too, given a growing wave of ransomware attacks and the possibility of user or administrator error within Teams. Microsoft only enables Team restoration after 30 days, so companies need a stronger plan for mitigating the financial, operational and reputational damage that could occur if a company lost its data.
Ultimately, the hybrid workplace is shifting how companies operate all together and platforms like Microsoft Teams are crucial to reimagining work. High-growth companies must keep scaling their usage of Teams to facilitate employee productivity, promote business continuity and spark innovation.