In the scramble to become work-from-home ready, we’ve seen a huge number of businesses rushing to deploy Microsoft Teams as a quick-fix video conferencing solution. This makes perfect sense: after all, most of these businesses are already paying for Teams functionality via their Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Why add the cost of a third-party solution (or risk a free solution with questionable security) when you already have an equivalent Microsoft option available, right?
One of the biggest misconceptions that we see around Teams is that it’s just Microsoft’s version of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, rather than the comprehensive collaboration platform that it is. As a result, a lot of businesses are deploying it in the same way they would a point solution, giving rise to two main issues:
- By not tying Teams into their wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem, these businesses are making 90% of its functionality unusable.
- Without sensible controls and conventions in place, Teams can quickly sprawl out of control.
In both cases, the effect on the end users’ experience is the same: it sucks.
Here’s 5 tips to achieve Teams success in your enterprise:
1. Don’t view Teams as an online meetings-only deal
While meetings will likely always have a place in a business environment, minimising unnecessary ones has become a big trend in modern workplaces. Not only are they time-consuming, they’ve also been proven to stifle effective collaboration and drain the energy of participants, too (hello, meeting fatigue!).
Unfortunately, meetings-only collaboration platforms don’t exactly give you many alternatives. Opting into one of these is almost like taking a step back to the days when nothing could be achieved without the boardroom table’s participation.
Teams, on the other hand, has collaboration options galore, from chat to scheduling, file sharing, simultaneous document editing and more. The options are expanding on a daily basis. It’s a connection-enabler, rather than just a meeting enabler, facilitating the kind of modern, organic teamwork that lets people play off each other’s strengths without requiring constant face time.
2. Get to grips with the wider potential
To really understand the power of Teams, it needs to be deployed as part of the team – the Microsoft team. It’s only by integrating it into your wider Microsoft 365 deployment that you are able to unleash its potential as a collaboration and productivity tool.
Instead of being one more place to lose documents and conversations, an intelligently deployed Teams environment becomes a secure, central hub and easy-to-navigate home for content. It enables employees to access, share, discuss and collaborate on literally anything relating to a specific project, workflow or subject in one place. That’s something no third-party solution can do.
That said, the very thing that makes Teams such a powerful tool – that is, its integration with the greater Microsoft 365 environment – can also make it a challenging solution to deploy. It affects, and is affected by, processes and policies in a variety of other areas. As such, it requires some fairly significant inter-departmental collaboration to set it up right – it’s not something IT can do on their own, or without significant forethought.
3. Support intentional workflows
There are instances where a “freeform” Teams deployment (one with no standards or controls over workflows, naming conventions, retention policies etc.) is acceptable. We know of at least one university, for example, that uses this approach very successfully.
However, in most corporate environments, the lack of control created by the resulting sprawl is not just undesirable, it’s also potentially dangerous from a security and compliance perspective.
For this reason, we always recommend businesses ensure their Teams is work-flowed with intention. In other words, provide rules and policies that guide users on how, when, where and why they create, share, delete etc. in Teams. These rules can be applied retroactively in some instances, using compliance tools like labelling, but it’s always better to introduce them from the outset if possible.
As for what rules to use, there are standard practices and conventions for Teams that have developed over time, but these don’t suit every environment equally. It’s always better to have a proactive conversation around the specifics that apply within your own context, and figure out what’s going to work best for you from there.
Once again, a partner can be an invaluable ally in this process, assisting in knowledge transfer and the creation of strategies that support your existing security, compliance and governance stance.
4. Have the right conversations
Getting the conversation flowing between IT and other business units (e.g. Compliance and Data Governance) is frequently a challenge. IT teams are often firmly entrenched in a reactive, problem-solving workflow that doesn’t allow for much big-picture business thinking, while business teams forget how tightly interwoven IT is in their policies and processes.
As a result, we highly recommend bringing in a partner to guide the conversation and help everyone step back and get their heads above the trees. Having an advisor on hand with a deep understanding of Teams and Microsoft 365 (as well as best practices for content management, data retention and disposition, security, governance and more) can be invaluable in speeding up the decision-making process and making sure you cover all the necessary bases.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to be a long or a painful process. It does, however, need to happen.
5. Encourage proper user adoption
Even the best Teams deployment is only as good as its users, which is why we encourage businesses to invest in familiarising their staff with both the Teams environment and the rules they need to follow when using it.
Thankfully, when properly set up, Teams is both user-friendly and intuitive – a far cry from the restrictive experience it delivers when used out of context as a standalone point solution.