As part of my work for AvePoint, I made a short presentation at SharePoint Expo Boston earlier this month. The title of my presentation was “Top Five Microsoft Teams Challenges and How to Solve Them.”
Teams implementation and governance has been a constant topic for me this year, so I volunteered to speak. One of the challenges we highlight is adoption: assuming you get your Teams governance in place, how the heck do you get people to use Teams?
I used examples from what we’ve done at work, where we’ve been using Microsoft Teams for about a year. Here are the bullets from our own experience.
Because AvePoint is a Microsoft partner, we’re already consumers of Microsoft technologies like Office 365 and Skype for Business. For years, Skype has been our default instant-messaging and call conferencing tool, and OneNote is used by everyone for taking notes. To make that leap into Teams, a few things had to happen.
- Management mandated Teams. In the Engineering department at least, we created Teams for our various regional pods, and channels within them for specific topics – General, annual sales summit, managing our demo tenant, managing our on-premise demonstration environment.
- Leadership used Teams for weekly and quarterly meetings. They had been using Skype but started using Teams – which, by way of anecdata, has better call quality.
- Leadership worked with Management to devise a Team structure that made sense for our regional Sales organization: the Region gets a Team, and each executive gets a channel; departments like Engineering and Marketing got dedicated channels as well. The result:
- Every members of the regional sales team can get tagged into a persistent chat, in case accounts or opportunities change hands, or someone who worked on one opportunity can advise directly on something similar.
- Within the site collection for the regional sales Team, each executive gets their own sub-site for storing documents. We’re not losing documents in email, and we’re able to post in channels for collaboration.
- The Team OneNote was divided into a section for every executive, and each section included a page (or sub-pages) for each opportunity being worked on. Because it’s part of the Team OneNote, everyone has access – shared notes make it easier to cover for someone if they’re unexpectedly out of the office.
I touched on some of this above. The way Microsoft has constructed Teams is to take existing functionality and bundle it all together. However, old habits die hard: people still send document attachments via email while also complaining how tedious it is to upload documents.
So, what we did was use SharePoint Online’s existing ability to sync to a local folder. Remember:
- Every Team gets a site collection.
- Site collection libraries can be synced to local folders.
Voila. For those who hate using SharePoint or Teams for file management, they now had a folder they could save to, where all their changes would get synced to the Team’s files, and Teams files would get synced to their laptops for offline use.
We also started using Teams as the default instant messaging and conferencing app. This started with sending out internal invitations as “Teams Meeting” not “Skype Meeting”. Then, some of our executives started setting up customer-facing meetings as Teams meetings, not Skype meetings. and, nowadays, when I want to contact one of the executives I work with, I try a chat on Teams, and if that fails I @tag them in their channel. @you, let me know if you have a moment to discus the XYZ account.
We also made sure everyone knew that Teams had a mini word-processor feature, allowing composition of lengthy, detailed statements, as well as threading by topic. For example, in a given executive’s channel, we might have a thread on “Cloud Backup for Company X” with six people tagged in, sharing notes. Further down in the channel conversation might be a thread on “Governance Operation for Company Y” with some bulleted lists, and perhaps a screenshot of a diagram the customer showed us on a call. We also started using Teams’ bookmarking feature – being able to save a post or thread to review later.
Lastly, we made sure everyone had the Teams and OneNote mobile apps installed on their phones. Look, all your notes are available on the go! And you can join conference calls using the app! And share files! Make Teams the center of your collaboration universe.
Just Do It
What follows may sound dangerously close to “define requirements to meet the solution”, but that’s only because Teams, by leveraging so many existing collaboration services, does a great job of putting them all in one place.
In my department, every morning starts with a virtual standup – each engineer posts a summary of their expected activities for the day. Each day is a new subject, and we all reply in-thread. It’s become a routine, and gets us into Teams fast.
When we work with others – executives, the support teams, developers, etc – we always try Teams first. Instant messaging, a Teams call, using Teams to share files, inviting someone in to an existing Team or conversation.
The main hurdle to Teams is that it can seem like “one more thing” to do: another place to go, another app to install. Mentally, people think “now I’m looking in Outlook, and Skype, and my desktop, and SharePoint . . .I don’t need a fifth”.
What worked in our case was to integrate those places as much as possible. Outlook Groups are now Teams; Teams chat has largely replaced Skype, as well as conference calling; files that are saved “to desktop” or SharePoint are now “Teams”, because Teams has integrated those touch points.
If anything, Teams has reduced the number of places to look. Teams on mobile, desktop, and web are all looking at the same content. There’s no need to browse into SharePoint, and Skype has become the outlier “why do I still have this open” app.
Like any implementation, enabling Teams is as much a people problem as a technology problem. People have to want Teams in order to make it successful. That can be difficult when it seems like just another thing that Microsoft is rolling out. But, give people a reason to use it, demonstrate how it allows them to do what they’re already doing, but more easily, and they’re sure to adopt Teams as their primary collaboration application.