Taking on the likes of Slack, Microsoft describe Teams as a ‘chat-based workspace in Office 365’ allowing teams (internal only at this stage) to work together within one window to enhance teamwork. At the moment, Microsoft Teams is only in preview but it should be generally released anytime in the first half of 2017 – so watch this space.
You can also download our Teams guide here to take away.
Within one window, users can call upon a variety of key Office 365 apps and tools to help them work more effectively, such as:
Before getting started it’s important to understand how Teams fits into the larger Office 365 picture, as creating Teams has some wider implications. Every Team created will automatically create a matching Plan (find out more on this in our Guide to Planner here), SharePoint Team Site, Group and shared OneNote. While this brings a number of great benefits, such as shared documents and centralised team information, it can cause some governance and admin headaches. Luckily the admin side of Teams allows this to be managed as we'll cover below - but it's worth being aware of before handing out Preview access.
Once your organisation has access to Teams you can download the desktop application, access Teams through your browser or download the mobile app.
To start your teamwork collaboration, you need a team. Setting up Teams are easy and done in a few clicks, requiring a Team name and a description and then allows team members to be added. As mentioned above, a new Team will create a matching Group, OneNote, SharePoint site and Plan so this does need to be done with some caution.
Each Team has subsections, which are called Channels and a General Channel is automatically created. You can have multiple Channels within a Team, for example, Marketing (Team) and then Channels such as Social Media, Product Launch, Blogs etc. Or a Company could be a Team and Channels can relate to departments - you can choose whatever suits your organisation's way of working. Whenever there is a new notification or activity, the Channel will become bold.
Each Channel all have their own tabs along the top. Conversation (group chat), Files (shared documents) and Notes (shared OneNote) are automatically created and you can then add your own tabs.
Conversations are one of the key features of Teams, allowing each Team to have a centralised discussion that is saved and easily searchable. Conversations are the central component where all teamwork is recorded - from file sharing to video calls.
The use of @ allows you to tag participants or even whole teams to notify others. Users that look at Conversations will easily see where they have been mentioned through the red @ symbol to highlight areas of importance to them. On top of this, you desktop app will notify you through an alert. As well as tagging, users can like content and share emoticons or GIFs.
In your Teams window, you can perform a variety of tasks directly within that window or browser, so that you avoid flicking between different applications. These tasks include the ability to delete, download, move files, open, copy, edit or get a link to share with others – giving you all the key features you would get in the native apps.
You can also start a Group chat alongside the file, to allow team discussions while all working on the files - and this conversation will appear in your Conversation thread.
View team files, edit, upload and create
Notes takes you to the Team shared OneNote. Within Teams you can view and edit your OneNotes (directly within the Teams window) or you can click to edit in the OneNote app.
Edit within Teams
Edit in OneNote
As mentioned, as well as these three automatic tabs you can also add your own, which currently include Planner, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, Power BI dashboards and more.
Microsoft products can easily be added now but there are also many future integrations coming to Teams, such as Asana integration. With integration between systems being so vital to teamwork we can expect to see many more partnerships and out-of-the-box integrations!
Along the left-hand side you can navigate to different areas within Teams, such as Chats, Meetings, Files and Activity. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory:
Activities: Shows you the last activities of the Teams that you are part of.
Chat: This holds you Skype for Business conversations giving complete chat history, however for a chat within a Team you should use the Teams menu and hold the group chat in 'Conversation'.
Teams: An overview of all your Teams that you are part of and allows you to drill-down into each Channel within the Teams. This is also where you can create Teams.
Meetings: The Meetings tab pulls your meetings in from Outlook and also allows you schedule meetings within the Meetings tab that are sent to a Team. If you want to schedule other meetings with external users or individual you will still need to use Outlook, as the Teams Meeting tab is only to schedule a meeting with a Team. (Remember the aim is team collaboration, not calendar management).
Files: Within Files you can quickly find and view files across OneNote, OneDrive and within Teams (stored in their own SharePoint sites). There’s also a very helpful ‘Recent’ tab so you can quickly access the latest documents you were working on, as well as a shortcut to your Downloads.
Microsoft Teams is a great product already as it allows great flexibility and gives you many possibilities. However, as mentioned earlier, getting started with Teams also bring some knock-on effects, which can cause admin headaches. Luckily within the Office 365 Admin you can control Teams settings within the Groups control panel. Within Admin setting you can control who can create teams, what features are or are not allowed, such as video meetings, screen sharing or animated images or if extensions can be used. This gives the control required to allow governance in line with your organisations policy and ensures you can keep control over the app. Find out more here.
Is Teams available now?
Teams is currently in Preview.
When will Teams be generally available?
Teams is expected to be generally released sometime between Jan – March 2017 but no exact date has been given. After this date, Teams will be turned on as default.
How do I access the Preview?
Office 365 customers can turn on Microsoft Teams Preview. To do this your IT admin needs to enable this through the Office 365 Admin Centre by navigating to Settings> Services & Add Ins > Microsoft Teams.
Which Office 365 Plans will include Teams?
Teams will be available to Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1, E3 and E5 customers.
What platforms are supported?
Microsoft Teams runs on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and web platforms.
Does Teams work with those outside your organisation?
Currently it does not, but this is already on the roadmap.
Microsoft Teams is already a robust offering and it is still only in Preview. Even better, since Microsoft’s new direction under Satya Nadella, feedback and reviews on Preview products have been well received with Microsoft actively acting upon public feedback. Microsoft Teams has a simple feedback program and you can go and view most popular suggestions, as well as see which ones are planned based on the number of up-votes. Examples include: external access and federation, drag and drop attachments and improved Planner integration. This really shows a commitment to making a product aimed at user needs, so we have a great feeling about Microsoft Teams.
Media coverage and reception has also been very positive with many Slack comparisons (such as this one). Within these comparisons, Microsoft Teams are often faring very well in terms of features, usability and offering but what makes it even more appealing is the fact that is it included with Office 365. For Office 365 users, this means that those who are already using other paid teamwork software can remove the licence expense, and those that aren't can gain access to a useful, new application that competitors might be using - at no extra cost.
If you are using Office 365 then we recommend using the Preview and providing your feedback to help shape the product that you would want to use.
You can see how Office 365 works for you with this
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