An Introduction to Microsoft Teams

For the last year or so, my team has been utilizing Slack as a productivity and team engagement tool since most the team works remotely and we rarely can all be in once place at the same time for team building.  With the introduction of Microsoft Teams, we are looking at how this may be able to replace Slack with an application that is integrated with the rest of our productivity solutions in Office 365.  So far, after about a week of use, there are a LOT of pros and cons about the solution in regards to how my team might be able to utilize in our day to day work lives.  Here is a short listing that our team has come up with in regards to this new productivity tool:

Pros Cons
Included with Office 365 E1,3 and 5 plans In Preview
Integrates with existing Office 365 group Logging in and out has been buggy for a few
Allows for multiple channels of real-time collaboration No Integrated Teams / Skype status
Mobile apps for all needed platforms No “slash” commands
Mobile app doesn’t require “live sign-in” for notifications Inconsistent app experience with external videos / images
Integration with Planner, Power BI, Connectors No external user participation available yet
Mention Individual, Channel or Team No hashtag support

For those that haven’t played with it yet, to enable Microsoft Teams for your existing Office 365 tenant, you need to have a Global Administrator go to Settings > Services & add-ins > Microsoft Teams.  From here simply turn on Microsoft teams and choose to enable or disable the other associated settings related to your Organizational Chart, Video and Screen sharing in Meetings, Dealing with images in messaging and extensibility features with tabs and bots.  There currently are no PowerShell commands to modify Microsoft Teams settings.

Enable Microsoft Teams in Office 365

Enable Microsoft Teams in Office 365

After Microsoft Teams, has been enabled in your tenant, you will notice there is no new tile in the App launcher so you may wonder how do I get started?  Teams is available through the web browser (https://teams.microsoft.com) and through apps available across multiple platforms for use either on a full desktop or mobile.  Here are the following app links:

From the desktop or web client you will notice a few separate tabs on the left:

Profile

From the profile tab, you can quickly change your picture (which is the same picture used throughout the rest of Office 365 services), change your Teams status and view your personal activity or saved messaged to jump back to a specific point in a conversation.

Profile Tab

Profile Tab

Activity

This tab will show you all notifications such as replies, likes and mentions as well as recent activity across your team channels and personal chats.

Activity Tab

Activity Tab

Chat

These are private chat conversations with individuals or bots that have been enabled for your environment.  When looking at a chat with an individual or group of individuals there are separate tabs at the top.  The main Conversation tab will show the entire conversation with that individual.  The Files tab accesses all files shared with the individual through Microsoft Teams which are saved to OneDrive and automatically shared with the individual or group of individuals from the Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder.  The Notes tab is supposed to provision a shared OneNote notebook which I haven’t successfully been able to get working yet.  The Organization tab will show information about the individual such as Title, Department, Location, and Phone Number in addition to where they are in your organizational chart based on information published to Office 365.  Lastly the Activity tab shows all their activity in teams that you both belong to.  Remember, chats don’t just have to be with a single individual, you also can add others to the conversation, start a video and an audio call as well.  If you are chatting with a Bot, such as T-Bot, that will surface separate tabs for other reasons specific for that bot (e.g. Help, FAQ, etc.).

Chat Tab

Chat Tab

Teams

Now for the fun part of the tool Teams.  Teams are directly linked to Office 365 groups.  If you already have an Office 365 group, and you are the owner, you can create a team hooked up to that group, otherwise when you provision a new Team it will also create an associated Office 365 group.  If you are creating a new team based on an Office 365 group, all members from that existing group will automatically be added to the team and receive an email notification letting them know it’s ready.  As soon as your team is provisioned you will notice a “General” channel, but additional channels can be created to segment activity.  In each channel, there are three tabs out of the box Conversations, Files and Notes.  Conversations is mostly self-explanatory with one main exception; these conversations are NOT integrated into the main conversation stream in your Office 365 group.  You will notice per conversation you can Like and Save any part of the conversation or utilize the mention functionality for an individual, the channel or the entire team. 

Teams Tab

Teams Tab

The Files tab accesses files that are automatically uploaded to the Office 365 group library in a sub folder named for the channel.  The Notes tab accesses OneNote Online notebook which creates a section in the Office 365 group notebook named for the channel.  Additionally, you can also add other tabs for Planner, Power BI, SharePoint and more.  Currently during the preview, you cannot add the out of the box Plan that comes with your Office 365 group, however when you do create a new Plan, it looks like a “minimal” plan as the tasks created don’t look to be able to have conversations, files, or links attached.  When adding a Power BI tab, you can only specify an existing workspace instead of creating a new one.  While adding a SharePoint tab, you can only link to a SharePoint Online library to browse its content.

Much like Office 365 Groups, another great feature integrated into each channel are Connectors.  Connectors can add information to your channel through external systems / processes.  Some sample connectors our team has integrated into channels are Twitter, RSS Feeds, and the Incoming Webhooks which creates an endpoint that you can send information to the channel through this endpoint.  One great example of this is through your automated PowerShell scripts or a Microsoft Flow by utilizing an HTTP Post command.  For more information on the Webhook connector with Microsoft Teams view the following MSDN article https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/connectors.

Meetings

The meetings interface is very intriguing for its direct integration with Exchange and Skype as it will show you all upcoming meetings with the meeting details, attendees and even a Join button for those that are Skype meetings.  In addition to existing meetings available through Outlook, you can also create singular Microsoft Teams online meetings (no recurrence).  This will post the meeting in a channel of your choosing and the conversations going on inside the meeting are available in that channel.  Additionally, while the meeting is in progress you can see the individuals currently in the meeting and join directly from the channel regardless if you were invited or not as there is a video icon next to the channel where the meeting is taking place.  After the meeting has completed, the channel will show all members who attended the meeting as well as the duration.  One word of warning, when you join a Teams meeting video will be enabled by default and you may need to adjust your audio and video settings as they picked up different devices than we were expecting during our testing.

Teams Meeting

Teams Meeting

Files

By integrating with the rest of Office 365 the Files tab brings much more information to life than just files throughout Teams.  It allows you to access all files that you have recently accessed through Teams, OneDrive and your Office clients regardless of their location if you are using Office Pro Plus from installed as part of your Office 365 subscription.  Specifically, it also lets you directly access OneDrive and interact by creating, moving and editing content on the fly.

OneDrive File Access

OneDrive File Access

Microsoft is already starting to throw a lot of good information out on about this new productivity solution and Microsoft Virtual Academy has already posted a few videos to get people up to speed on Microsoft Teams where they provide a high-level overview on some features and guidance on management and deployment of the new feature.  The two-part course is available at http://aka.ms/microsoft-teams/readiness.  The Tech community has already been setup for ongoing support and questions for the platform at https://aka.ms/msteamscommunity.

After a week with working with this new product, I’m starting to like where it’s going, and am looking for even more improvements in the future.  What are your initial thoughts of Microsoft Teams?

[“Brian”]

Categories: Business Productivity.