Remote work and remote learning are methods that we have known for a long time. However, due to the current pandemic situation, these methods have become particularly popular and important in the effective performance of daily work.
If you want to start working remotely, you must take into account three basic elements:
I Technical preparation of the organization (rights, service availability)
II The organization’s readiness for such work (change of mindset, trust in employees, appropriate procedures)
III Technical platform
This article focuses on the last element, this is the technical platform. Let us remember, however, that the other aspects are also important and affect the decision to use the third element – the technical platform.
Microsoft Teams is one of the Office 365 services that is used for communication (following Skype for Business) and collaboration between employees. It is a universal service that can be integrated with others and extended with additional functions. It includes a dedicated desktop application, a browser version and an iOS/Android version. It is perfect as the BASIS for building an environment for remote work.
This is one of the core features of Teams. As a successor to Skype for Business, it covers all its functionalities and adds a lot of new ones. What does it offer to us?
A basic function of each messenger. In addition to sending text messages, you can also send files and pictures, format messages, and edit the messages sent.
What is very important is the function of categorization of messages as ‘Important’ and ‘Urgent’. With this function, ‘Important’ information will not be lost among other information, and ‘Urgent’ information will be read by you because of the notifications sent for 20 minutes.
You can invite more than one person to the chat and thus create your own groups. You can give such a group its own name and use it for the next conversations (the group and the history are save together).
All your messages are archived. You can return to them and look for them at any time.
Audio / Video
You can attach audio and/or video to a conversation with one or more people. During such a conversation you have access to the chat all the time and you can send text messages or files.
If you use the camera, a very useful function is background blurring – the background in the camera’s range will not be visible (our room, a board with a project sketch, etc.).
When you hold a conversation, you can send any file as an attachment. Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) can be opened and edited directly from the chat window after sending.
In addition, all the files sent can be found in the conversation history and you can search for them just like in the case of a chat.
When you hold a conversation, you can also share your desktop or application. After sharing, you can discuss the issue by showing the application. You can also give rights for a specific person to control the application and to help to solve a problem.
The Teams software is equipped with dedicated functions that improve the organization of online meetings.
- Teams is integrated with the Outlook calendar and all the meetings scheduled are automatically found in both tools. You can use both of these tools to plan meetings and send invitations.
When creating a meeting, you can select the option to generate a link to such a meeting (when you click on the link, the Teams application will open).
- During the meeting, you can share the screen, a specific application or a PowerPoint file. In the case of a presentation, a special presenter mode will be launched- each participant will be able to independently go to any slide or return to the presenter’s presentation.
- During the meeting, you can also create notes as a OneNote file that will be saved with the meeting.
- You can record the meeting and share it with participants or people who could not take part in it. All content, conversations and presentations will be recorded and made available in the form of a link to a dedicated portal with recordings. The presenter can manage the access rights to such recordings.
- Live events – this is a special type of meeting in which a person or group of people presents information for a large audience (up to 10,000 people!). Such events can also be recorded.
Teams are dedicated workspaces for group work (e.g. on a project or in a team). Each team is equipped with a place to exchange information (in the form of a public group chat), a place to store information and work on files, as well as additional tools for a given work (e.g. PowerBI report, connection with JIRA or a Trello board). The team has a dedicated authorization model and you decide who has access to it and to what extent.
Channels provide order in the team. They make it possible to divide the exchange of information and files into individual categories (e.g. Main, Settlements, Scrum Meetings, etc.). Each channel has space for chats, files, and additional tools.
If you need a channel with limited rights (e.g. for storing financial information), you can use the Private Channel. It is a special channel with dedicated permissions – both for calls and for files.
- Notice board
The main point of each channel – group chat. It is used for quick text information exchange. You can share files or exchange design information. All information is recorded for a given Team.
Each channel has dedicated storage space for files. However, the file storage itself is not everything you have because you can work on files in the Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) without leaving Teams. It is a very convenient and practical solution. This application allows you to view and edit such files. People from the Team can work on one file at the same time. The changes you make in the file are visible in real time to other people viewing or editing the file. In addition, you have the option of automatic file versioning, content preview, quick sharing and file synchronization with OneDrive.
- Additional Office 365 services
You can embed other applications or services from Office 365 in the form of tabs in the Channel. It is a very practical solution – you can attach an important report or presentation and access it without having to go through files and folders. Tabs can also be used with other Office 365 applications such as PowerBI report, Forms, Planner board, list from SharePoint Online.
- External services
The use of tabs is not limited to Office 365 applications. The Teams application give you a number of ready-made third-party applications such as JIRA, Trello, Zoho, Zendesk, WEBCON BPS, Confluence, GitHub.
Based on the tools provided by Teams, you can quite freely build your own comfortable place to work. However, if the ready-made components are not enough, then you have two options for expanding Teams:
1) use of Power Automate/Power Apps services to extend functions (e.g. by automating the creation of teams, embedding the business application in the team, etc.),
2) develop additional functions – you can create the missing connection with our internal system, use Azure components or another cloud to build new functionalities or create a bot that will help you at work.
When developing your own applications, you don’t have to worry about the availability of Teams and the process of implementation of the application – installation of the application does not affect the operation of Teams. After completion, the application will just be available on the list of applications.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until you build your dream team to start working. You should start working with the simplest version of the software and add new functions when you learn more about the software and need new applications.
COOPERATION WITH PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE COMPANY
The Teams software allows you to work with people from outside your organization. You can invite, for example, a contractor or partner to your Teams meeting. The person will receive an email invitation with a link to log in as a guest. You can also invite the person to your team – the person will be able to talk with you on the channel, work with any application and exchange information.
A particularly important topic in the era of cloud services! How to control your data and access to the data if it is not on your local server? The Teams software supports many functions that previously worked in Office 365 and allow you to control information. These include:
- Data loss preventions – protection against leakage of sensitive information (e.g. PESEL numbers) in messages and documents (depends on the type of license).
- Sensitivity labels – labels based on which you can classify information (e.g. confidential information, open-access information). You can encrypt documents or include watermarks.
- Data encryption – Teams provides data encryption for the files.
- Access policies – you decide on the terms of access to documents and files by external users.
Chats, file exchange, group work, meetings, integration with external services, extensions … Microsoft Teams is an extensive tool and it takes some time to learn all its possibilities. Its greatest feature is the number of functionalities that provide environment for work! A very big advantage is the fact that, because it is a cloud-based tool, you have access to it from anywhere – all we need is access to the Internet (please remember about security settings).
Based on my experience and active use of Teams for over 3 years, I can say that it is an extremely practical tool that changes our habits and expectations. I am not tied to a desk, I can work from anywhere and have all the necessary information at hand. Even while traveling, thanks to the mobile application, I can take part in meetings. Remember, it is also not worth waiting until you build a superb team – the sooner you start (even with a simple team), the sooner you will see the results 🙂
Marcin Siewnicki, ISCG Office 365 Consultant & Architect
Want to learn more or download a free trial of Teams? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org