What is Microsoft Teams?

by | 3rd February 2017

Chat, instant messaging and collaboration in general are a staple part of everyday lives in today’s society. In keeping with that trend, it is important that this also be true of the office environment. Hence Microsoft introducing their latest offering in Office 365 – Teams.

Teams is Microsoft’s answer to a chat-based workspace completely integrated within the cloud platform that many of us are already using today, Office 365. Unlike Yammer (Microsoft’s current social media platform), Teams is much more akin to workspace solutions such as Slack and HipChat – giving users the opportunity to chat, conference call, share documents and collaborate from a simple user interface which is more likened to a conversation than a message board.

So why would you we use it? If nothing else Teams breathes a little bit of fun in the workplace but let’s start with the business aspects first. Firstly, you can access Teams from the website, the desktop app or a mobile app. For those who prefer a full-blown desktop applications over a browser-based application this may offer an advantage over applications such as Yammer. Teams is not only a great document sharing utility but also gives order and meaning to group chats.

Creating your first team is simple and only requires a few clicks, from inception to the addition of users. Once created, this automatically provisions a “site” in your company SharePoint for the team. You’re immediately presented with a conversation tab to discuss ideas in chat format, a files tab to upload any potential shared documents, and a notes tab for, well, making notes. This uses OneNote which is the unsung hero of Office 365 and something that will be covered in more detail in subsequent blogs.

Microsoft Teams screenshot

If you require different conversation streams for the same Team, subsequent ‘channels’ can be created to keep conversation segmented and on point. Connectors for other applications can also be added on a per-team basis to ensure the correct accounts for items such as Twitter are kept to the correct teams and managed properly.

Microsoft Teams screenshot

As this is all integrated with office online, any files created from the Office suite that are uploaded from the ‘files’ tab are able to be opened via Office online or the desktop app. For simple viewing of files there is even the option to add an additional tab which produces the document read-only for ease.

Microsoft Teams screenshot

Another nice feature of the software is its ability to schedule and host meetings, these of course will be automatically updated into outlook and scheduled into personal calendars. Whilst all being viewable from a separate Meeting tab from the left-hand pane within the app.

The chat feature whilst similar to conversations adds Skype capabilities to enable voice and video calls. The main difference with chat is that any files uploaded to the conversation are saved directly to users’ OneDrives rather than SharePoint as the feature is not designed to be the collaborative tool as the actual Teams are.

Personally, my favourite part of teams stems from its chat function. Coming fully loaded with Emoji’s, GIFs and even its own built-in meme generator – this is one user that is sad enough to get hours of enjoyment out of making these types of pictures…

Business cat meme

Overall, I think it’s a good tool for those of us keyboard warriors from the MSN Messenger era that like chatrooms and message-boards as it’s very familiar and easy to use. The essentials are all at your fingertips and it gives things a much less ‘formal’ feel, especially the ability help team camaraderie whilst providing a platform for collaboration. I would highly recommend anyone to try it out for themselves and see how it works as a great team-tool for your organisation.

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