Addressing the Needs of Mobile and Multi-Generational Teams
The days when we collaborated using e-mail with attachments or stored our working documents on a file share are long gone. Today we have a whole set of new tools, ways and channels to collaborate faster, easier and more secure. But not only the tools have changed, our workforce has changed as well, perhaps even more than the tools. Requirements of the Digital Workplace by Millennials are way different than those of Baby Boomers. We no longer always sit together in our cubicles; our teams are distributed all over the world in different time zones and many times we’re working from home or other locations rather than in the traditional office. There is no longer one single tool for collaboration that fits all sizes. Until now.
Today, Microsoft announced a brand-new product and service for team collaboration called Microsoft Teams. The initial focus for Microsoft Teams is to enable more efficient collaboration between static and dynamic teams, based on a persistent chat experience. Covering an area that has been somewhat missing between instant messaging (Skype for Business), e-mail (Outlook/Exchange) and enterprise social networks (Yammer), and at the same time having enough overlap on these services to accommodate for personal, cultural, generational and workstyle preferences.
Integration with Existing MS Products a Top Benefit
Microsoft has been building this product on top of Office 365, which has huge benefits over acquiring a third-party service. The basis of Microsoft Teams, and why it has the potential to succeed, is its seamless interoperability into Office 365 and all its services through the three G’s; Group, Graph and Governance. Each Office 365 Group can be a Team in Microsoft Teams. So, any investments you have made in Office 365 are valid and should be reused.
Microsoft Teams is built using the Microsoft Graph to access and share the data, intelligence and insights you need to get your job done. It is built from day one to meet the governance that an enterprise grade product of this type requires; such as authentication using Azure AD, compliant to data sovereignty laws, scalable and leveraging already existing operations.
The core of Microsoft Teams is an IRC-style persistent chat experience through threaded conversations, which make it very easy to understand the context you are in. The conversations and chats you have will be stored in a secure and company compliant way, it is searchable within Microsoft Teams, and it will be there for new members to go back in history to see what’s been discussed. The chat experience supports mentions of persons, attaching images and links, and even a direct integration to some funny animated GIFs.
Each Team has one or more “channels”. A channel can be seen as a conversation context where you might discuss a specific topic, share files, integrate to other internal and/or external services or even integrate with services such as Power BI, Planner and SharePoint for that specific channel. Microsoft Teams inherits the Connectors from Office 365 Groups. The Connectors allows for light-weight integrations to systems and services not necessarily in Office 365 and there are already almost 100 out of the box.
How does this relate to the already existing Office 365 Groups Conversations view or even Yammer discussions? These options are a still a viable option and will continue to thrive. Office 365 Groups Conversations are the Office 365 “shared mailbox” and the classic e-mail distribution list. Yammer has a different focus than Teams. Where Teams is designed for core Team collaboration, Yammer is designed enterprise-wide, cross-team and group communication, as well as for external networks. Microsoft Teams has been in our experience something you use when you want to ask or discuss something within a Team in a conversational format. And Yammer is more about knowledge and information sharing cross your organization, or asking for help in a broader context. Microsoft Teams allows for a much faster and direct communication channel than the others, with a great desktop and mobile app for you to interact with your Teams anytime and anywhere.
Leveraging New Technologies into Microsoft Teams
To make the chat experience even greater there’s an extensibility option for Microsoft Teams that allows you to create “chat bots” using the Microsoft Bot Framework and interact with them in Microsoft Teams. Avanade has worked with clients to deliver intelligent workplace applications utilizing Microsoft’s Bot Framework and LUIS. As more smart technologies enter the workforce, an enormous amount of value to the business can be added from automated, intelligent machines. If you want to learn more, Avanade has several demos to showcase how artificial intelligence can help your organization.
Avanade’s Expertise in Collaboration Technologies
At Avanade, we had the opportunity to participate in the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for Microsoft Teams. We have evaluated this service over the last few months extensively for Team collaboration and found it extremely valuable and empowering for communication, discussions and projects. We’ve provided critical feedback, reported bugs and recommended feature requests that have been implemented into the product. We have rolled it out to multiple teams already using Office 365 Groups. It’s been a long time since we saw this kind of genuine excitement from our colleagues from a new Microsoft collaboration tool.
Microsoft Teams is a completely fresh take on team collaboration from Microsoft, leaning on the popularity of similar services, but governed and controlled as organizations should require from such a service. My job is about helping our Avanade customers on their Digital Employee Experience journey and I know that this new service will be very welcomed by those organizations that want to enable collaboration and innovation by embracing digital. Microsoft Teams is only available in preview now with an expected general availability in early 2017, but has proven to be a very usable and secure product in its current state. I’m sure Microsoft will keep innovating this service to further improve it as the ideal hub for team collaboration in Office 365.