Being able to collaborate online with your teams and clients has become more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic with people around the world urged to work from home wherever possible. Fortunately, there are a lot of different online tools and technology solutions that have made it much easier for people to work from home, while still working as part of a team.
One of the most popular online tools for communicating across teams is Microsoft Teams, a solution that was launched in 2017. Microsoft is such a popular software provider, with most PC users using their applications, or at least being familiar with how they work, so Microsoft Teams was introduced to bring these users even more features to help them to work more efficiently.
Here are some of the top features that you can use in Microsoft Teams:
Sometimes you just want to ask someone a quick question and an email takes too long, while a phone call can end up taking too long as well when you feel the need to make small talk that wastes time. The Chat feature within Microsoft Teams allows instant messaging between team members. Chats are displayed as threaded conversations, which means you can easily keep track of the conversation and refer back to previous messages quickly. You receive notifications to make you aware that someone has messaged you and within Chat you can easily switch to video call or voice call.
One of the most powerful features of Teams is the video call functionality. As well as being able to have one-to-one video calls, you can hold virtual meetings with up to 350 people on the same video call. If the video call is started in Chat, then the maximum number of participants is 20. Teams records calls and you are then able to download the calls for up to 20 days, so you can share with people that miss the meeting so they do not miss out on important updates or other information.
This feature allows people to deliver presentations in the place of being able to attend live events like conferences or workshops. Up to 10,000 attendees is possible with many people using this feature for things like sales pitches, or industry conferences. Throughout 2020, the majority of conferences and workshops had to get cancelled due to the health pandemic, but the live events feature enabled people to find a solution, which helped with activities such as training, introducing new products and a whole host of other essential events for businesses.
Integrate third party apps
Another key feature of Teams is that you are able to integrate a long list of third party apps including project management tools such as Asana and other apps that you may use within your business. In 2020, Microsoft expanded the possibilities by allowing apps to be pulled into live calls, instead of relying on screen sharing for walking through details in the business apps.
There are so many great apps you can select to integrate into Teams including Zoom, Slack, Lucidchart, Hive and many, many more business, productivity, communications and other types of useful apps.
Within the video call feature, you also have the option to share screens with participants. This is perfect for running through an aspect of training, sharing data that you want to discuss as a team or anything else that you might need to share while on the call.
Screen sharing is so powerful, especially if you are trying to describe an action or how something looks, all you need to do is share your screen and you can show your team members exactly what you are talking about.
Another aspect of screen sharing that is useful is using it for IT assistance when there is a technical problem that the IT support team needs to have a look at. Historically, many IT issues required people to send screenshots of the problem but that is a thing of the past with Teams screen sharing.
Filter activity with @mentions
If you have ever worked on a team where people like to CC everyone into every email and ‘reply to all’ with irrelevant updates that waste your time, then you will love the @ function where you will only see the information that you have been tagged in with the @ symbol.
You can still scroll through conversations if you want to, but you will only get the notifications for the ones that require your response or are directed at you. When compared to the ‘email all’ and ‘reply to all’ approach, this will save every member of your team a huge amount of time and help them to concentrate on the most important work without distraction.
Some of the most creative ideas all start off on a whiteboard and online meetings do not usually lend themselves to the process of sketching ideas together as a team. The meeting whiteboards within Teams has changed all of that, enabling more creative collaboration, as close to being in the same room throwing some ideas around, as you can possibly get.
You can choose different coloured pens, and there are also graph options which really enhance the possibilities of visual collaboration. You can draw and easily erase sketches, create flowcharts, and all kinds of other typical whiteboard content.
Inline message translation
For companies with employees or clients from different parts of the world, the inline message translation feature enables fast and accurate communications even when there are language barriers. This helps to reduce misunderstandings and is much cheaper than paying for a translator, or spending time finding translations for the conversations you are having.
One of the biggest barriers of working from home for many companies is that they do not have access to the company’s shared file storage, especially if the IT infrastructure has not been upgraded for a while and they have not introduced Cloud technology.
With Teams, you can easily save, share and collaborate on documents with people who have access to your shared files. Integrated apps like Word and Powerpoint make it easy to start new work without even leaving Teams.
The instant, automatic syncing of files means that there will never be any confusion over which version of document you are working from, or what the latest version is, and you won’t have to go through the long-winded and painful process of emailing documents out and bringing different comments and updates together from a range of email responses.
It is also very easy to control who can view, access or edit files, which ensures security and privacy much easier than many older file sharing options.
Get help from Bots
There are a number of Bots within Teams that can make life a lot easier for you. From providing answers to questions you have about using Teams, to Zoom.ai which automates meeting scheduling and a lot of the activity that is involved in arranging meetings. Polly is another useful tool that allows you to send out polls to your team. So, you can use this for a bit of fun to boost engagement or just to get a quick check of how people are feeling at that point in time.
It is definitely worth exploring all of the Bots that are available within Teams to see which ones will benefit your team the most. If you are a team manager looking to motivate your team members and have some fun, Growbot allows you to send kudos to people, which is really essential to keep team morale going while people are working at home in isolation from the rest of the team.
These are just 10 features that are really useful within Microsoft Teams but there are plenty more, and new features and enhancements are getting added all of the time. If you have Microsoft Teams installed but you have not had the chance to explore all of the capabilities, try and put some time aside to take a tour or watch some demo videos. You are likely to find that there are multiple opportunities for you to boost productivity and work more efficiently when your team is working on Microsoft Teams.
If you are looking for any assistance on getting started with Microsoft Teams or any other type of software, Contrac IT will be happy to discuss your business requirements and find the best solutions to drive your company forward with increased productivity and better collaboration.