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Are you using Microsoft Teams in the most productive way possible?

setup tips to make your workflow more effective

Barrett Dilger

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Microsoft Teams Productivity

Microsoft is known for a lot of productivity tools, and MS Teams does not fall short of that list. In fact, one could argue that it is an essential tool for every aspect of your business because it does so many things.

The fact that it can handle so many tasks, and do them well, is a prominent reason why the application has been so widely adopted. True, its inclusion with Microsoft 365 Business (formerly Office 365) is probably the bigger influence in its adoption, since it was essentially added “free” to a service that businesses were already using, but the actual integration of the office suite with Teams is what really made it shine.

Throw in a little pandemic lockdown, and you got to see MS Teams growth of 894% from February to June 2020. It outclassed and outshined its competition which had previously been the market leaders. Before this time, I myself preferred Slack for team messaging and Zoom for video calls. But Microsoft refined the Teams application…and with a little hands-on it became a true powerhouse of a daily business driver.

While Teams is known for its messaging and video call features, and it does those both undeniably well, it can do so much more – because it acts as a hub to a host of your applications and data.  While Teams is a flexible application and there is no one size fits all for implementing it, this is a very productive way to set up and manage Teams for most SMBs.

Here are our tips to set up your Microsoft Teams to squeeze the most productivity out of it.

Integrate VoIP

You’re probably already using Teams for Video Conferencing, but are you using it as your phone?  If you have a VoIP Phone System, you can add it to Teams so that you (and your entire team) can access their phone via the Teams app.  For some, this is a huge convenience of having access to all communications right from their computer.

Teams handles it tremendously well too. So much in fact that despite us having our own video conferencing application for our VoIP service we still recommend using Teams as it has better functionality.

Administration of Team Roles

The first consideration before moving forward is to limit who has the authority to create teams and channels. While it’s very nice for anybody to be able to create a team for quick communication, it’s not recommended practice, or your Teams list will get cluttered and disorganized very quickly.

On the topic of organization, think out how you want your teams organized and come up with a naming convention or structure to avoid duplicates. This is my biggest complaint when it comes to the functionality of Teams. It allows duplicate names. While it shouldn’t be much of a problem with smaller teams, as groups grow and scale it will start to rear its head. Snuff that issue now with role restrictions and a clear naming convention.

Create Project Channels

You’ve already broken out your organization into teams, now it’s time to set those groups up with project sub-teams. Using Channels to create projects, allows everyone up to date access to everything to do with that project – all navigable from the tabs list.

The Tabs list is where things can get very interesting. By default, Teams will populate a tab for Posts and Files. The Posts tab is for project specific chat, so it all remains in one place. The Files tab likewise is a place to share relevant files for the project.

Teams Channels

Don’t File Share (directly)

However, I want to caution you about sharing files in Teams (or similar platforms).  We have written about this before, where the common use for Chat Platforms is to use them to share files – but there is a significant amount of message errors and personal devices in use that it becomes a security risk.

Top that off with the fact that Teams is not backed up, so there is no permanent storage of your business files. Another risk that can result in you losing your data.

Integrate M365 Apps

To rectify these shortcomings (with exception of backups – you need a backup solution!), we recommend integrating Office Apps. This will not only maintain the convenience of Teams but will also increase your productivity by bringing all your apps and keeping all team resources in a single place of access. Just click the Plus Sign on the top bar and add as needed.

Of course, your mileage may vary depending on what is most relevant to your business, but I love to integrate SharePoint, OneNote, and Planner all in each Team Channel. SharePoint will replace “Files” and give you a place to have all your stored files regarding the project. Likewise, OneNote is easy access to any relevant notes for the project. Planner makes simple project management a breeze by bringing it all into Teams. I initially didn’t like using Planner as a stand-alone application. Once I integrated it into teams and accessed it there, it made the experience so much smoother.

Another hot tip, once you connect your other Microsoft Apps to Teams, you can right click the name on the tab and select “rename” to give it a more relevant name if needed. Simple things like changing every notes tab in every project to be titled “Notes”. That way there is always consistency between projects and team members can navigate fluidly.

Teams Tab Bar

Integrate 3rd Party Apps

If you have bigger projects on hand and utilize a separate Project Management Software, most likely you can integrate that too. Using something like Asana or Monday.com? There’s a Teams integration for that. Just bring it in as a new tab to manage your project all from one pane of glass.

Teams 3rd Party Apps

Another cool use of 3rd party applications in Teams are Chat Bots. While I haven’t had any hands-on experience with it myself, I love the fact that it’s available to incorporate and use in your business. Be it a conventional chat bot, a virtual assistant, or even internal communication directing it’s a clever way to bring external applications into your business.

Conclusion

Microsoft Teams is clearly a very powerful tool. No, it’s not perfect (nothing from Microsoft ever is) but it is an extremely useful way to manage your workflow and increase your productivity. With these tips on setting up and streamlining its use, you should start to see the efficiencies pay off with your team quickly.

If you have any questions on how to make your Teams better fit your business, get in touch.