Microsoft Teams: How to use it, and how it stacks up to Slack and Zoom

    Microsoft Teams is a collaborative workspace inside Microsoft 365/Office 365 that acts as a central hub for office conversations, collaborative teamwork, video chats and doc sharing, all designed to assist employee productiveness in a unified suite of instruments.Launched in 2017 as a rival to collaboration pioneer Slack, Microsoft noticed use of Teams rocket to 75 million day by day lively customers because the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, in response to stats launched by Microsoft in April. The firm known as Teams the quickest rising enterprise app in its historical past.Since launch — and spurred on by the push for work-from-home connectivity — Teams has moved additional into the highlight as a key a part of Microsoft’s office productiveness and collaboration technique.“Teams has emerged as a star product rather than an add-on that is bundled within a larger productivity suite,” stated Raul Castanon, senior analyst at 451 Research / S&P Global Market Intelligence.Teams can function an alternative choice to — and even change — e mail communications completely, but it surely additionally acts extra broadly to attach employees and their apps, notably for distant employees. Think of it as a “digital translation of an open office space,” as a Microsoft spokesperson put it.The collaborative workspace serves because the connective tissue that joins Microsoft 365 apps filling a “critical void” for Microsoft, stated Dux Raymond Sy, chief model officer, Microsoft MVP and regional director at Microsoft accomplice AvePoint. “Microsoft saw early on that an integrated hub bringing together persistent chat, files and videoconferencing was going to be the future of enterprise collaboration,” stated Sy.Teams is offered as a desktop app, by way of net browser, and as a cellular app. It’s supported throughout all main working methods, corresponding to Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.How to make use of Microsoft Teams: Channels, groups and messagingTeams consists of a number of, effectively, “teams” — primarily teams of workers inside a company, corresponding to advertising or design division workers. Teams can vary in measurement and scope from a complete enterprise all the way down to a extra centered shared-interest group.When a crew is first arrange, a Microsoft 365 Group is routinely created, together with associated companies corresponding to a SharePoint website and OneWord entry. In a way, Teams goes a step additional than Groups, appearing as a extra tangible thread connecting customers and apps throughout the group. “It’s still the behind-the-scenes backbone of Office 365. But now, Microsoft can center their productivity and integration story around Teams rather than Groups,” stated Sy.Microsoft
    Users can work together with apps within the Teams message stream, including polls or leaping straight right into a video assembly.
    Each crew consists of particular person “channels” that are inclined to have a extra outlined focus, corresponding to a piece challenge or matter. Channels are group chat rooms which can be higher suited to fast-paced conversations than asynchronous communications like e mail.There are two principal sorts of channels: personal channels are suited to confidential conversations, which will be notably helpful for authorized or finance groups, whereas “standard” channels let anybody inside a workspace see what has been written and entry shared recordsdata.A “general” channel is enabled by default and admins can then add extra to suit their crew’s necessities. Each channel accommodates tabs with shared recordsdata and apps to get work achieved with out switching screens. Teams can cut back app switching considerably, in response to a Forrester report, saving every employee an estimated 15 to 25 minutes per day.In addition to utilizing group chats inside a channel, employees can ship direct messages to colleagues in personal, or add others to an ad-hoc group dialog.Teams accommodates the same old on the spot messaging options anticipated of a enterprise chat app, together with emojis, GIFs, rich-text enhancing, @mentions, threaded conversations, bots, and the flexibility to share recordsdata. When mandatory, customers can leap from messaging to a video name on the click on of a button. Discussions will be muted to cease notifications, or an necessary dialog will be pinned to the highest of the chat checklist.Microsoft
    Teams search lets customers find messages, recordsdata and other people.
    Navigation must be acquainted to anybody who has beforehand used a collaboration software, although customers making the swap from e mail for the primary time would possibly want a bit time to get used to the UI.The high bar accommodates navigation arrows, a search software for locating messages, recordsdata and other people inside a company, and a method of launching apps. The menu on the highest right-hand nook offers entry to varied settings, together with availability standing.A sidebar to the left (of the desktop app) accommodates shortcuts to components of Teams that customers work together with most regularly. Chat, Calls, Teams and Files apps sit alongside an Activity information feed for mentions, replies and different notifications. There’s additionally a shortcut to the Teams app retailer, the place accredited Microsoft and third-party software program will be perused and added to the sidebar for fast entry. Third-party and Microsoft 365 apps will be additionally added to customise the left-hand bar.How to make use of Microsoft Teams: Productivity Teams isn’t simply centered on real-time messaging; customers can work collaboratively on paperwork throughout the app. This is the place the energy of Microsoft’s suite of productiveness apps offers a key benefit over rivals, serving as a hub or connector to the broader portfolio of Microsoft 365 instruments. Microsoft
    Teams customers can collaborate in real-time utilizing apps such Microsoft Office instruments or brainstorm concepts in Microsoft Whiteboard with out switching between screens.
    Without leaving Teams, customers can co-edit Word, Excel, PowerLevel and different file sorts in real-time.  Documents within the “files” part are saved on OneDrive  with the flexibility to retailer and entry recordsdata. (There are choices to make use of Box and Egnyte, too.)Teams syncs with Outlook calendars to offer prepared entry to schedules and arrange conferences. There’s additionally deep integration with enterprise social networking app Yammer due to the Communities app for Teams, and entry to SharePoint content material inside Teams.Microsoft this 12 months has additionally launched new functions designed to be used inside Teams.“Tasks” was launched earlier this 12 months as a Teams-dedicated substitute for Planner inside Teams, combining performance of each the Planner and To Do apps. Tasks (which remains to be known as Planner for now) helps customers observe particular person and team-based work, with the flexibility to assign duties and monitor progress utilizing quite a lot of views, together with Kanban-style playing cards.Another current addition is Lists, which mixes database and spreadsheet options to handle info to plan occasions, observe recruitment or assist on-board new workers.Teams isn’t just for office-based employees. So-called “first-line workers,” corresponding to area technicians, retail workers and hospital employees, have change into a rising focus for Microsoft previously couple of years. Microsoft
    Microsoft Teams is built-in with Real Wear smartglasses to attach area technicians with distant help workers by way of the collaboration utility.
    Quite a lot of capabilities have been launched for employees who are inclined to depend on a cellular system slightly than sit at a desk. These embrace Shifts, a schedule administration app to handle employee shifts, and Kaizala, which offers a easy messaging app akin to WhatsApp, although with enterprise security measures.   How to make use of Microsoft Teams: Video and voice conferencesVideo and audio conferencing are an more and more necessary a part of Teams, which has successfully changed Microsoft’s extensively used Skype for Business Online app.This has been notably true throughout the pandemic as companies rushed to facilitate digital conferences between staffers working remotely. Microsoft reported a 1000% improve in video conferences throughout March as firms shut down and despatched employees residence, alongside an enormous leap in total day by day lively Teams customers, from 32 million at first of March to 75 million by the top of April.“The most relevant benefit of Microsoft Teams today is that it basically enables work from home,” stated Sy. “Features like videoconferencing, screen-sharing and easily collaborating and co-working on files are helping businesses and employees be even more productive than they were pre-pandemic in many ways.”Microsoft
    Teams allows as much as 59 contributors to hitch a video name at one time.
    To capitalize on the speedy swap in work habits — and assist ease videoconference fatigue — Microsoft has shortly added new options to enhance distant working capabilities, with video calls a key focus.One of the main improvements was the introduction of Together mode this summer season; it  creates a digital surroundings corresponding to a convention room or café, cropping consumer video feeds and accumulating them in a extra life like surroundings (a minimum of, in comparison with Brady Bunch-style squares) to create a shared house that’s extra conducive to conversations. Microsoft added extra such scenes and customized layouts in September. Microsoft
    Together mode has quite a few digital “scenes” to create a extra pure really feel to video conferences.
    To assist cut back distractions, real-time noise suppression has been added. It makes use of deep-learning algorithms to filter out undesirable background noise and retain solely the speech sign.Teams additionally has primary video name options corresponding to customized backgrounds, display screen sharing, hand elevating, recording, and dwell captions. Another extremely requested function — breakout rooms — is because of arrive by the top of 2020.Aside from group video calls, prospects can use Teams for company-wide broadcasts, live-streaming video for as much as 10,000 workers (or 20,000 with the Advanced Communications license add-on).Audio name performance contains cloud voicemail, name queues, direct routing to present telecoms suppliers, and audio conferencing.Microsoft Teams: Integrations and automationsMicrosoft’s core focus is on integration with its personal apps; not surprisingly, it lags Slack by way of the sheer breadth of external-app integrations. That stated, Microsoft has additionally constructed out a formidable vary of third-party integrations and launched its app listing in 2018.The app retailer encompasses a vary of choices: private apps, bots, tabs, connectors and messaging. These are deployed and interacted with in several methods. For instance, “tabs” apps are put in in channels, whereas connectors submit info from an exterior service right into a channel.  Popular apps embrace challenge administration instruments corresponding to Trello, Smartsheet and Wrike; mind-mapping and artistic planning apps corresponding to Mindmeister and Mural; and IT and developer-focused instruments corresponding to ServiceDesk, Bitbucket and PagerDuty.Developers can even create and combine their very own inside apps, bots and tabs, utilizing Teams’ developer platform. Microsoft can also be letting third-party app builders combine their very own software program into the Teams assembly expertise earlier than, throughout and after a video name. There are less complicated methods to create apps and customised workflows in Teams, as effectively,  with no-code and low code choices.Custom enterprise apps constructed with Microsoft’s low-code Power Apps software will be integrated into Teams, whereas Project Oakdale lets customers “build, deploy, share, use and administer Power Apps solutions” — with out leaving Teams. And Power Virtual Agents lets customers construct no-code chatbots.Power Automate permits for the creation of workflow automation capabilities, letting customers create “flows” to automate duties, corresponding to approvals, from inside Teams.Microsoft
    Users can create a sequence of triggers and actions to automate workflows inside Teams.
    Microsoft Teams: Feature roadmapMicrosoft has an internet site — UserVoice — devoted to gathering buyer suggestions and options for brand new options. Teams customers submit their concepts, and Microsoft offers a sign of the standing of function improvement, corresponding to whether or not it’s actively being labored, on the backlog, or about to be launched.The most requested adjustments as of late 2020 embrace:Replies to a particular message in chat on the Teams desktop app (29,674 votes)
    Simultaneous entry to a number of Teams accounts (27,915)
    The capacity to maneuver a challenge or channel from one crew to a different (24,985)
    The inclusion of group calendars in Teams (19,340)
    There’s additionally a roadmap website that particulars options in improvement. Currently within the pipeline for launch are a brand new file sharing expertise, integration with RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 sensible glasses, and the flexibility to pin messages inside a channel.Microsoft Teams vs. Slack (and different opponents)Slack is taken into account the principle rival to Teams. Microsoft reportedly thought-about an $8 billion buy of Slack in 2016, earlier than founder Bill Gates and CEO Satya Nadella vetoed these plans in favor of Microsoft constructing its personal utility.While there are definitely overlapping areas of performance, the main focus of the 2 apps diverges in some important methods.Although Slack has video and voice capabilities, it largely depends on companions right here, conserving its concentrate on chat in addition to connecting the assorted communication and enterprise apps that companies depend on routinely. CEO Stewart Butterfield just lately described the software program as a “lightweight integration fabric” for use throughout organizations.

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