Collaborating with Microsoft Teams

Posted 5 December 2016 12:00 AM by Miguel Angel Garcia, Senior Developer @ ClearPeople

Microsoft Teams, more ways to collaborate in the Digital Workspace

Earlier this month, Microsoft revealed a new player in its digital workspace line of products, Microsoft Teams. Heavily focused on group communication, the new app seeks to refresh the way your organisation works as departmental teams or in smaller more goal driven task forces. Being integrated with a host of existing Office 365 apps already, Teams enables people to collaborate through a streamlined and seamless application experience.

Microsoft Teams is currently in Beta and will be available on Windows, Mac, Android, IOS and web platforms for Office365 commercial customers with Enterprise or Business plans in early 2017. 

Now that we’ve hopefully got you excited, let’s take a closer look at what you can do…
 
Microsoft Teams

Creating your Team

"Teams", as the application's name suggests, is the core of the experience and should be thought of as the grouping of individuals working towards a common purpose, goal or interest, either in the short or long term. By this definition, a “team” could be a department of your organisation or the people organising your Christmas party!

Creating a team is as simple as clicking the “create a team” link in the application and applying a name in the popup dialog box that appears. At this point you’ll also be given an option to enable teams for an already existing private group on Office 365 (if you own that group), meaning there is no need to create another separate siloed group for those already existing.

 Microsoft Teams

While every Team is independently customisable, it will by default contain:

Channels

Channels exist in your team to allow a way to organise information by topics your team may talk about or work towards. All members can share meetings, conversations, notes and files with each other regardless of which channel they have currently opened.

While each channel will contain all the team members, the content inside will be independent and relevant to that channel only.

Microsoft Teams
 
Teams and Channels sitting underneath

When we click on a Channel, you can find by default three tabs existing inside it; Conversations, Files and Notes. We can also add more tabs, but more on that later.

Conversations

Conversations can be public - individual comments or group chats that will be stored and visible for every Team member in the Conversations Tab - or Private chats, that will be only visible for all the participants and will be available in the Chat area (the main panel on the right). 

The conversations can be text, audio or video (only from the desktop client, the browser clients don't support it) and users can share documents, make presentations, post cat memes, office cartoons etc.

This tab will also show any announcements, comments, meetings, files uploaded and when they are posted with a timestamp. As we mentioned before, Microsoft Teams is oriented to chat and communication between team mates, we could consider Conversations as the ‘main’ tab. 

Microsoft Teams
 
Sample of conversations tab. We see how it’s possible to post messages, reply to previously posted ones, start a meeting, review the comments made during a meeting...

One of the key advantages of making Microsoft Teams your conversation hub is that it will provide you instant access to the files that you have stored in your One Drive, SharePoint Synced folders, or your Device in one location. You can easily share or discuss documents with the team members across all the different teams you are part of.

If you upload a document to the Conversations tab, it will automatically will be stored with the other Teams files, making it accessible later also from the Files tab (All the files are stored in a shared documents library within a folder for that channel in SharePoint).

Microsoft Teams
 
Uploading a file from the Conversations tab. Three sources available, One Drive, Microsoft Teams or using the Upload button, your Device

Once we have uploaded a document and it's posted, users can open it from inside Microsoft Teams. If they want, they can have a discussion around it while viewing the document. All those comments will be stored too!

Microsoft Teams

Comments in the Chat window related with a recently uploaded file

As the number of comments and notifications could rise in a channel quite quickly, there is an option to save a message/discussion. This will make it easily accessible from your profile at any point.

Microsoft Teams
 

Connectors

Another feature which has us quite excited is how we can add connectors to our Channels to interface with other applications such as Twitter, Visual Studio Team Services, Yammer and more. Microsoft provides an API to create a custom connection too which you can read more about here (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/connectors).

Those connectors will provide a link between those data sources and our channel, publishing messages in the Conversations tab in the Team Applications.

Microsoft Teams

Files

From this tab, we have access to the Channel’s SharePoint documents library folder, created when this team was made. We can find any file uploaded or shared within the Channel by clicking into this tab.

We can create new Folders and Word, Excel, PowerPoint presentations, edit them from SharePoint online or from our client app, upload others from your device, rename or delete files and it will all of it be synced together and represented in the Teams ‘File’ tab.

However, bear in mind that it’s not possible to manage file permissions from the Teams application. It would be possible if an owner did it through SharePoint though.

Microsoft Teams
Tab Files from General Channel


Microsoft Teams
Same location in SharePoint

Microsoft Teams
Removing permissions of Test Team Members

Microsoft TeamsA user of Test members doesn't have access to Estimates.xlsx

Adding Other tabs to your channel

By default, every channel has a Notes tab that will display a shared OneNote section but others tab could be added.

 Microsoft Teams

Any member can add a tab pointing directly to an Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint or Word to make them more accessible.

Other tabs available are:
  • SharePoint: Allows you to configure a SharePoint library from your Tenant to show in a tab. It's not required to be from the same Team site, but you do need to ensure that the users have access to that library.
 Microsoft Teams

  • Team Services: Allows you to configure a tab to connect to Visual Studio Team Services and retrieve the information from a Project showing the task board.
Microsoft TeamsTask board

  • Planner: Allows you to create a Microsoft Planner site and display the team tasks in a tab (however, at the moment, the task assignments do not notify users in anyway).
Microsoft Teams

  • PowerBI: Allows you to connect with a PowerBI workspace within O365 to show your data in attractive and visually stimulating ways in Teams.
Microsoft Teams

Custom tabs

Microsoft Teams allows you to make your own tabs and upload them to Teams!

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/tabs

An example like below features a Google Map tab, though theoretically any content linked to a https page can be surfaced through onto a tab.

Microsoft Teams
Google Maps embed in Microsoft Teams

Even a tab specifically for a Yammer group can be made and added to a channel

Microsoft Teams
Yammer tab showing the Development group in Yammer

Bots

Microsoft Teams contains a help bot with the intention to give answers about Teams through a chat like it was a real user. 

Microsoft has provided a framework to extend Teams adding new custom bots that could provide a whole host of different interactive information a user could literally request from the text channel.

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/bots

Main areas

My Profile

Allows you to see your activity and saved messages from the different Teams. You can also modify your picture, status (Your status is independent from the Skype for Business status)

Microsoft Teams

Activity

Shows your mentions, replies and likes

Microsoft Teams
 

Chats

As we mentioned before, this is a Chat-based application, so of course, has an area where you could start private conversations, calls and share information that is not related with any specific Team site as you would do with Skype for Business.

Microsoft Teams
 

Teams

It's the main area allowing you to Add or Remove a Team from favourites, add channels, add members, remove or edit a team if you are one of the owners... Be careful, if you remove a Team, you won't be able to recover it.
 
Microsoft Teams

Meetings

Retrieves all our meetings from Exchange and give us the option to create Teams Meetings that will be scheduled and posted in a specific Team's channel.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

Files

From this area we will have instant access to all the files in our Microsoft Teams and OneDrive. This will make us the things easier and won't make us to navigate through all the Teams sites or connect to our OneDrive to get the information that we want to find.

Microsoft Teams

In Conclusion…

A game changer? We think so. 

Since so much functionality does step on the toes of existing Microsoft applications, the question of redundancy does arise. The Team experience though is what makes it unique offering— a multi device, multi-purpose application that brings together the previously siloed experiences— is going to bring in a lot of convenient opportunities to collaborate.

Want to find out more about how Teams could be used in your Organisation? Want to try out the Beta? Get in contact with us and we’d be happy to give you a more in depth look.

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