Microsoft Teams – Don’t run with it before you have walked with it

Microsoft Teams is a fantastic tool; this can be seen by the success that Microsoft have had with it. They claim it is used daily by 13 million users and 19 million weekly active users. It is also used by 91 of the Fortune 100 companies – not bad for a product that is just over two years old. It is also claimed by some it is the fastest adopted product in Microsoft history after SharePoint, the product it is closely linked to.

Caution tape – Photo by Marvin Esteve on Unsplash

However, I see many organisations who rush to deploy it without first taking into consideration what it is going to be used for or how it is going to be used, and what security and compliance implications there are. It is not just a Skype for Business replacement.

By adopting Teams, a business can provide a fantastic collaboration experience for the organisation and in addition with partners and third parties external to the organisation. However, the deployment of Microsoft Teams is a journey that should start not from a technical aspect but from a user viewpoint.

What is deployed within your organisation will depend on where you start with Teams. For example, if you’re running a greenfield project, one that is deploying Office 365, there are many things you have to deal with as part of the Microsoft 365 stack of technologies before you use Teams. Security and compliance are the main considerations.

Obviously, to allow users to use Microsoft Teams they must have a license to access it. The app is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and also via a compatible web browser. Most of the features and functionality across Windows and Mac are similar if not the same, functionality through a browser and through a mobile device are less feature-rich.

If you’re going through a project that is to implement/adopt Microsoft Teams, consider breaking down the adoption into phases. At a basic level, I usually like to split adoption into three main areas:

  • Form
  • Practice
  • Engage

These phases can be aligned to a sporting team.

Form

Think of Form as a phase where a team would be put together. You need to know who’s going to be part of it and how you are going to tackle your opponents; in the case of Microsoft Teams, the better way of communicating and collaborating.

Practice

In this phase you want to work with your players to understand their strengths and weaknesses. How they can benefit from the collaboration functionality within Microsoft Teams over and above that of just the communication tools they may have used within Skype alone. Once used for a set period of time, at the end of it gather their feedback and potential additional requirements of the tool so that you can enhance the further adoption throughout the organisation.

Engage

For this phase you need to decide how rapidly you want to grow Microsoft Teams within the organisation. You may want to slow down the adoption to re-evaluate its use, don’t be afraid to do this. Whether you continue to deploy to another department or even a region, you will need to take into consideration feedback from the Form phase.

Summary

We just discussed the adoption phase, and in the early stages of using Microsoft Teams there is a lot to consider. Microsoft Teams is an interface to access content within Microsoft SharePoint Online, and it is worth considering the security implications of the files stored within SharePoint. Also, Microsoft Teams, like SharePoint, has the ability to invite guests from external sources into the environment to collaborate together. However, in some cases this would need to be blocked altogether. In other cases, users need to be given the option whether they want to invite guests or not. Managing this can be a challenge. The tools available out of the box are not very granular and thus don’t given the flexibility most organisations want.

To be able to manage the role out of Microsoft Teams in a managed way, or even SharePoint and Office 365 Groups, you could use a provisioning tool. Provisioning tools give you the ability to create a template for Microsoft Teams defining what channels and tabs you want. For example, I could create a Microsoft Team for a project with an associated SharePoint that has a predefined set of Document Libraries.