Taking on the likes of Slack, Microsoft describe Teams as a ‘chat-based workspace in Office 365’ allowing teams to work together within one window to enhance teamwork. It's important to note that Microsoft Teams will be replacing Skype for Business (which will be retired 31st July 2021).
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What does Teams do?
Within one window, users can call upon a variety of key Office 365 apps and tools to help them work more effectively, such as:
- Calendars and meetings (Outlook)
- Create, share, edit and find content (SharePoint, OneDrive and OneNote)
- Call and meet team members (Skype)
- Chat and instant messaging (Skype)
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, Office 365 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.
Once your organisation has access to Teams, you can: download the desktop application, access Teams through your browser or download the mobile app.
Teams and Channels
To start your teamwork collaboration, you need a team. Setting up Teams is easy and done in a few clicks, requiring a Team name and a description; this then allows team members to be added. As mentioned above, a new Team will create a matching Office 365 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 will automatically be created. You can have multiple Channels within a Team; for example, you could have a '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 @mentions 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, your 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 your Skype for Business conversations, providing a 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 individuals, 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 can 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 settings, 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 organisation's policy and ensures you can keep control over the app. Find out more here.
End User Adoption Guides
To find out how you can use Microsoft Teams Live Events to easily stream live events such as webinars, product demos or corporate presentations to external and internal audiences, read our 'How to use Microsoft Teams Live Events' guide.
For organisations with employees working on shift patterns, Shifts in Microsoft Teams provides shift scheduling and management capabilities. Find out more with our 'How to use Shifts in Microsoft Teams' guide.
There are also some great end-user adoption guides available online from Microsoft.
To learn how to use the meetings and calls functionality of Teams, you can take a look at these Meeting and Calling How-Tos.
A Microsoft Teams End User Quick Start Guide is also available to download and share with users.
Is Teams available now? Yes - Teams is generally available.
Which Office 365 Plans include Teams? Teams is available to Business Essentials, Business Premium, F1, E1, E3, E4 (retired) and E5 customers. It's also available for Education and Non-profit plans but not yet Government.
What is on the Teams roadmap? You can view the full Teams roadmap here.
What about Skype for Business? Teams will be replacing Skype for Business! Find out more here.
Does Teams work with those outside your organisation? Yes - this feature was added and can be turned on or off. Guest access is included with all Office 365 Business Premium, Office 365 Enterprise, and Office 365 Education subscriptions. No additional Office 365 license is necessary. Guest access is a tenant-level setting in Microsoft Teams and is turned off by default. Find out more here.
Microsoft Teams is already a robust offering and is benefiting from lots of new features and integrations. Even better, since Microsoft’s new direction under Satya Nadella, feedback and reviews on 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. These requests and other features can then be seen on the public Office 365 Roadmap. This really shows a commitment to making a product aimed at user needs, so we have a great feeling about Microsoft Teams. What's more, seeing as Teams will be replacing Skype for Business we are sure that it will become well used!
Media coverage and reception has also been very positive with many Slack comparisons. Within these comparisons, Microsoft Teams is 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 not using Office 365, then you can sign up for an Office 365 E3 trial (which includes Teams).