Have you ever heard someone say, “Wow, I love using Microsoft products!” Maybe, maybe not, but for years the company’s productivity tools have powered the majority of businesses across the country. While familiar Office 365 applications such as Word and Excel have been used for decades, only recently have video, chat and file sharing become key components of day-to-day productivity software. With Microsoft Teams, companies now have a digital “hub for teamwork,” with tools that go beyond the spreadsheet.
With the announcement that Microsoft will phase out Skype for Business by July 2021, Microsoft Teams now becomes the only video and chat platform for Microsoft Enterprise users. Microsoft Teams offers native video conferencing and collaboration within the Office 365 suite, with capabilities comparable to those offered in Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, or GoToMeeting. Microsoft describes Teams as a “digital translation of an open office space.” If your business already uses Office 365 Business Premium or Enterprise E3, the addition of Teams provides Office 365 integration out of the box and a reasonably priced all-in-one collaboration platform.
Teams creates a shared workspace combining video and audio, meetings, chat, file sharing, and business apps. Microsoft Teams is designed to suit every kind of business or organization. Here’s a quick overview:
- Robust features: Scheduling assistance, note taking, desktop sharing, and file uploading make web conferences, teleconferences and video meetings interesting and productive. Teams integrates with numerous third-party project management platforms and applications such as Google Analytics, GitHub, Trello, Smartsheet and Wrike.
- Chat: Teams supports both group chat rooms with threaded conversations and private messages. Switch from instant messaging to a video call at the push of a button. Take advantage of open chat space and the ability to easily break out into smaller groups — even a “water cooler” chat to keep long-term remote employees connected on a personal level.·
- Collaboration tools: Access and work on files within Office 365 apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint via OneDrive.
- Live broadcasts: Use Microsoft Teams live events to reach a wide audience. Host team-wide meetings, webinars and presentations with up to 10,000 internal or external attendees.
- Streamlined virtual meeting spaces: Join all your meetings spaces in one tap or click with Microsoft Teams Rooms. Teams partners with Logitech, Crestron, Polycom, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Yealink.
- Cloud video interoperability: Seamlessly connect H.323 compatible videoconferencing hardware to Microsoft Teams with BlueJeans, Pexip and Polycom.
- Audio conferencing: Meetings include global dial-in numbers, making it easier for mobile users and those without a reliable internet connection.
- Multi-platform entry: Access Teams across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems, as well as Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2 digital whiteboards and the forthcoming Surface Neo and Duo.
- Support: Available via phone and online help desk.
Depending on your business’s needs, however, Teams is not without its challenges, which include the following:
- To make full use of the product, including helpful integrations, you have to be running Office 365. If you use a primary platform like G-Suite from Google, the Hangouts/Meet platform may be the tool of choice.
- While Teams is highly organized, some users may find the experience hyper-compartmentalized. When a user creates a Team, it creates a new directory with a hidden shared inbox and calendar in Exchange, a team site and document library in SharePoint, a OneNote notebook and a chat workspace.
- Unlike Slack, another popular enterprise chat and productivity tool, you can’t use more than one organization’s Teams account at the same time. You have to log out of one and into the other.
Microsoft Teams is free to download, and the complimentary version offers partial functionality and no commitments. To unlock the full range of features, Teams is available as part of Office 365 Business Premium for $12.50 per user per month or Office 365 Enterprise E3 for $20 per user per month.
Business still runs on meetings and email, but the rise of robust messaging tools and video conferencing is changing the workforce communication landscape. If your business is accustomed to Microsoft solutions, Teams should be easy to understand and use. It offers one platform for all forms of communications, and businesses of every size looking for an all-in-one platform could be well served by Teams. Functionality can be as simple as going from tab to tab in the Teams experience with further integration to familiar Office tools such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint.
That being said, there are standalone platforms in some areas that offer a superior user experience to what is offered within Teams, like Zoom for video conferencing experience. Many of these tools, including Zoom, offer a free trial. If you’re already using Teams you can try out both platforms to see what best fits your organization.
To learn how Microsoft Teams can integrate into your overall technology and video conferencing strategy, contact DGI today.