eBooks, Guides, & Reports • 15 MIN READ

Better workplace collaboration with Microsoft Teams tools

IR Media

Written by IR Media

info@ir.com

Since March 2020, the number of workplaces who now have access to Microsoft Teams has increased exponentially. The number of daily active users has increased from 32 million users in March 2019 to 115 million as of the end of October 2020.

No surprises that this increase is due mainly to the impact of COVID-19 and the growing worldwide adoption of out-of-office working, and video conferencing. But Microsoft Teams, built around the behemoth Microsoft 365 suite of applications, was already experiencing a huge increase in usage due to its flexibility as a meeting app, and value as a premier hub for meetings and collaboration within teams. Organizations who already rely on Microsoft 365 apps inevitably find it more intuitive and seamless from a users' point of view.

With Microsoft Teams, organizations can create a ‘team’ for each project, business unit, staff team members or other relevant group. Teams then use 'channels' to conduct focused online conversations, collaborate on tasks and communicate with one another. Channels are dedicated sections within a team to keep conversations organized by specific topics and projects. Files that you share in a channel are stored in SharePoint. 

What's so great about Microsoft Teams?

One of the many advantages of Microsoft Teams is its ability to allow the integration of new capabilities and functions. Through Teams, Microsoft has created a way for organizations to cater for and support the multiple working scenarios and routines of their individual teams and departments as needed. The diversity of apps that Microsoft Teams provides to enhance the complete user workflow experience is impressive - and means you don’t have to leave Teams to keep getting things done.

Teams is more than a meeting app - it's very intuitive, and the learning curve is quite small compared to more complicated collaboration apps, particularly when organizations are already using Microsoft Office 365 as their core office application. Microsoft Teams apps, tools and channels allow for enhanced productivity and communication through video meetings, screen sharing, 3rd party app integration, and easy content and information sharing. Microsoft Teams also allows you to keep track of who has joined a meeting, or who has left a meeting. Here are some of the benefits in a nutshell:

Enriched productivity and communication capabilities

Teams channels help to enhance team collaboration and productivity by making conversations, meetings, shared files and tasks available within a shared interface. Whilst it's an all-in-one solution, the breadth of collaboration apps offered in Office 365 can sometimes leave users a little confused. Teams increases productivity by making everything easy to use. The Microsoft Teams app makes all your collaboration, including conversations, chats, online meetings shared files, tasks, etc. available in one single app and one single interface. In addition to the widely used apps available from within Microsoft, there are a wide range of third party tools that integrate into Teams. Users can then get all their work done without leaving the app.

Keeping everyone in the loop

A big challenge for many organizations is to make sure everyone is kept up to speed. Teams makes it easier for team members to know what's going on. Teams makes this a great deal easier. Things like CC-ing team members in an email or inviting them to a meeting are a thing of the past. With Teams, you post your message in the relevant channel, @-mention the people you want to notify and leave it for everyone else to read if they want. By having meetings visible to everyone in the channel you increase transparency, enabling everyone in the channel to “pop-in”.

Easy knowledge sharing

With Microsoft Teams, employees can share content from the Office 365 built-in tools that they’re familiar with, like Microsoft Word and Excel. In 2019, Microsoft introduced Project Cortex, powered by AI and human expertise, empowering everyone to make more informed decisions, take actions faster, and contribute their knowledge while respecting security and privacy at every step. Another great benefit of Teams is that workers in multilingual organizations can benefit from automatic translations of conversations.

Security and privacy

Microsoft Teams was built from the ground-up, for enterprise users. This means that organizations can be assured that they’ll get the right features and solutions within teams for security and privacy, which is built into their file-sharing and communication tools. Microsoft Teams protects identity and account identification using a number of variable criteria like multi-factor authentication (MFA), conditional access and secure guest access. Cyber security is important too; Teams data is encrypted in transit and at rest in Microsoft datacenters. To comply with global, national, regional, and industry-specific regulations, Teams supports more than 90 regulatory standards and laws, including SOCHIPAAGDPRFedRAMP,  and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for the security of students and children.

Employee engagement across the entire organization

Engaging with employees is critical for building and maintaining a resilient organization. Microsoft Teams has features that give employees the opportunity to connect from the top floor to the shop floor. Microsoft Teams and its integrated solutions acts as a key tool to leverage employee engagement. Using Teams enables team-based chat in Channels, threaded conversations and video communication. This drives a feeling of inclusion and social belonging. Integrations with solutions like Planner, OneNote and ToDo ensure accountability and productivity tracking. SharePoint powers your intranet and information sharing, Yammer connects and engages people across organizational silos, and Microsoft Stream utilizes video as a powerful tool for communication and training. These apps all work together to facilitate employee engagement, which leads to more productive, incentivized teams.

Extendibility and integration

One of the main reasons why the Microsoft Teams meeting app stands out as one of the best collaboration and communication tools today is its willingness to get straight to work with other brands. Using Teams lets you integrate seamlessly with Cisco WebEx, Slack and Zoom, to ensure that businesses could continue to use those endpoints for Microsoft Teams meetings. As well as working well with Cisco and Zoom, there are dozens of plugins, apps, and software vendors that let Microsoft team up with other 3rd part apps to enhance business users, communications, collaboration, productivity and customer service.

Migrating to Microsoft Teams from other collaboration platforms

Everyone has heard the news that Microsoft will retire Skype for Business Online, the predecessor to Microsoft Teams, by July 2021. The decision to retire the app originally left some organizations a little confused as to where to go next. But any business previously using the Skype for Business application could soon see that Microsoft Teams is a much further advanced UCC and meeting tool. More and more organizations are realizing that cloud migration is inevitable. Since Teams is a fully cloud-based solution, the move to the cloud becomes seamless. Being able to search for and access any information they want, from anywhere on any device is a huge benefit for any business, allowing those who use Teams to work smarter.

As a meeting, collaboration and chat app, Microsoft Teams is now at the core of the Microsoft vision for efficient, intelligent communications - both in the office and for those working remotely. It brings together so many features; conversations, meetings, chat, files, Microsoft Office 365 apps, and third-party integrations, providing a single hub for teamwork. With added features like enhanced file sharing, wide search capabilities, recording and sharing meetings, auto-transcription, improved security and more, Microsoft Teams communication tools help businesses with better management of their everyday UC demands. But for those organizations still transitioning from Skype for Business Online, or other collaboration platforms into Teams, there are steps you can take to ensure a successful deployment.

Teams is people-friendly

One of the most important considerations for businesses is the people aspect. Many employees are still resistant to the use of new technology, or the time it takes to get familiar with it. Some may already be comfortable with other conferencing facilities. One of the great features of this team app is that Microsoft has taken significant steps in simplifying and improving the people aspect, and in particular, the user experience with Teams. As we've mentioned earlier, Microsoft Teams integrates well with other apps but there is still plenty to consider. Fast, seamless user adoption ensures rapid return on investment, but to achieve it, IT departments must plan well and be in control every step of the way.

The right tools for a seamless transition

Managing a communications system transition is always complex. IT teams need to make allowances for the numerous components, often in a multi-vendor environment – to ensure they’re all compatible and can work seamlessly together. A Teams meeting can include chat, video, content exchange and file sharing. It can involve users from many locations, on various networks, using multiple devices. To support this complexity, you need the right monitoring tools to make your whole UC environment visible. You need to have the capacity to view each meeting component in detail, and understand the relationship between components, as well as end users. Having these tools in place is not a ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ decision. Businesses need these tools to proactively anticipate and resolve issues, collect data and analytics, plan precisely for upgrades, migrations and changeovers – and ultimately to protect their whole UC investment.

Preparing your network for Microsoft Teams

Many organizations fall flat by failing to assess their network environment prior to rolling out and adopting new collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. Often, it's only after the rollout that they discover their network is unable to cope with the new demands and integrations. Problems like dropped calls, network latency, jitter, echo, packet loss and poor video connectivity can derail a teams channel, impede the ability to share files, and send a meeting into chaos.. The Microsoft Teams Roadmap allows IT staff to plan for new Microsoft launches, get updates, applications in development and previously released apps for general updates.  Pre-assessing and testing your UC infrastructure is the best way to find potential Teams performance issues before they result in a bad user experience. Network assessments are the best way to see weak points and trouble areas in your complex network configurations.

Optimizing Microsoft Teams Performance

We’ve mentioned the massive increase in usage of Microsoft  Teams tools for meetings, making it somewhat of a lifeblood for many organizations worldwide. This huge uptick has put big strains on organizations using the Teams app with potentially less-than-optimized paths from the endpoint to the Microsoft Teams service.

Internal IT is always under pressure to deliver a good user experience, but there are complexities to consider. Internal network routing that can include proxies, security services, central internet bandwidth, backhaul, Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) circuits, network address translations, and more. When users work remotely, Microsoft Teams, and Office 365 users may lack access to support for one or more Teams features in the event of a performance issue. IT teams need to first understand the scope of the problem, then consider its origins before they can act. For example:      

  • Is it only one user having issues?     
  • Can you see the root cause of the problem…?    
  • Is it the internal network?    
  • Could it be because an employee is using home wi-fi?     
  • Is it because of a mobile device?   
  • Is the problem related to the user’s laptop?     
  • Is it the VPN?    
  • Or is it something to do with the Microsoft 365 environment?

Keep track of Teams usage problems with monitoring

With the rapid surge in the usage of Microsoft Teams, organizations are realizing that there is no ‘set it and forget it ’ default for their Teams deployment. Sometimes, Teams could be stuck loading, or your video webcam or microphone might not be working properly when on a call, or you may not be receiving notifications. With any UC tool within your communications environment there are bound to be issues. A third party performance management tool like IR's Collaborate suite of monitoring solutions features enterprise grade performance management across voice, video and collaboration ecosystems, which you can access in real time.

Microsoft Teams security

With its powerful integrations, the ability to share files and content, and to view and use Microsoft Office 365 seamlessly within Teams, Microsoft Teams is a leader in supporting cross-functional and cross-organizational collaboration. Its openness, however, raises concerns about security. Unrestricted content and data sharing between an unlimited number of users can present IT professionals with security challenges. Microsoft Teams' open permissions model means that users can add and include apps, tabs, bots, or use connectors that potentially open the door to improper transfer of sensitive information to external third parties.

While Microsoft Teams does have its own built-in security features, data leakage, data life cycle management and other issues can – and do still happen. IR’s solutions’ provide world-class third-party monitoring and troubleshooting to proactively address these issues in real time. Consistent monitoring provides real time analytics and data that can help keep your Teams experience secure.

IR’s next-generation solutions can help get the most from Microsoft Teams

Having the right monitoring and troubleshooting tools in place is like having a 'right hand man' to help make things run smoothly. Constant monitoring is not just about creating an alert when something goes wrong. Monitoring across your existing platform and your Teams environment, creates a window that gives you full view of your UC environment to identify, troubleshoot and resolve issues as they occur. This is the best way to reduce down time, increase user satisfaction and ensure business continuity.

We can help you migrate seamlessly to Teams by:

  • Bringing better insights to your collaboration environment
  • Improving productivity through seamless collaboration
  • Proactively solving problems to enhance employee engagement

Through proactive monitoring, IR’s solutions can assess, test, troubleshoot, and use metrics to resolve problems and view the health of your network across all your platforms before, during and after deployment. IR’s solutions can collate data from multi-vendor technologies, right across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. This means you gain end-to-end visibility of your ecosystem in real time, with the ability to drill down and identify issues from a single pane of glass.

Click here to find out more about how IR can help support Microsoft Teams.

Topics: Multi-Technology Communications Customer experience Performance management UCaaS management Microsoft - Teams - Skype Cloud and hybrid UC eBooks, Guides & Reports MS Teams Microsoft Teams

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