The times when we exclusively worked in the office with our colleagues are over. Lars Martens, Business Manager at Microsoft 365 specialist ShareOne, thinks the coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we work for good. ‘We are now in a transition phase. There used to be a sort of taboo on working from home, but remote working has now proved to be successful in many industries, nevertheless. As a result of that, I feel this taboo will permanently change. Due to the coronavirus, physically collaborating in an office was no longer possible. Organizations and employees were suddenly forced to collaborate digitally. Many organizations have jumped into the deep end, and that has worked out pretty well for most’, Martens recaps. He does not expect us to return to the old situation any time: ‘Teams is here to stay!’
At the start of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, Microsoft Teams saw their daily active users grow exponentially by no less than seventy percent: from 32 million to 75 million users. ShareOne, based in The Netherlands, also saw this enormous increase in the use of Teams. ‘And there wasn’t any time for a well-structured, phased implementation,’ Martens explains. As a result, the benefits of working with Teams became palpable to many organizations overnight.
The most significant advantage to Teams isn’t only the chat and call functionality, which many people were already familiar with from Skype for Business. According to Martens, the ability to create so-called teams and collaborate digitally on documents within Microsoft Teams is what makes Teams such a powerful platform. This simultaneous collaboration within a single document disposes of the need to email the same documents to co-workers, as was still common practice for many people. A single central repository is created, where everyone can find the most recent version of a document. This makes collaborating profoundly and efficiently easier, even in ‘normal’ times.
Despite the strong foundation of Microsoft Teams, Martens still witnesses things going south in various organizations: ‘Teams can lead to an, as I like to call it, ‘information spaghetti’. Rampant growth of channels soon arises if a company does not establish clear rules for the use of Teams. ‘Organizations often don’t set up any rules regarding what happens to a team once the project on which they’ve been working has been completed. Will the channel exist in all eternity, or will you archive it, delete it, or only store the documents somewhere? Moreover, many organizations use other storage locations in addition to Microsoft Teams, which in turn undermines a central structure.
Information management is essential, likewise. ‘Organizations are best off if they create a single central structure. Whatever storage medium you choose, within that medium, you build up your complete information structure. For example, at ShareOne, we use SharePoint. We combine it with Teams, and vice versa. This way, from a user’s point of view, it doesn’t matter where I search for a document – whether I search within either SharePoint or Teams, I always end up finding the same single document. In doing so, we provide a single document. But as an organization, we offer that document to our employees via multiple platforms. This gives us the highest chances of avoiding that so-called information spaghetti.
Microsoft Teams is in constant development. New features are regularly added: adapted backgrounds, more participants, and the possibility to raise your hand virtually during video calls. These new features literally help to image everyone and make everyone’s voice audible. At least, for employees with direct access to Microsoft Teams. Employees such as drivers or factory workers (so-called non-desk employees), who, due to the nature of their work, don’t have constant access to a laptop or a smartphone, will still be out of the picture.
Moreover, it is idealistic to assume every employee will automatically notice a message in Microsoft Teams – nowadays, there are so many different employees such as fulltime and part-time employees, flex workers and non-desk workers, as well as varying working hours and work locations. Add to that the number of documents, messages, and mentions that are transferred via Teams daily and a powerful platform like Teams will still lead to information overload. As a result, employees will lose the overview in a tidal wave of information and messages.
‘If you’re able to repeat the most important messages or draw extra attention to them, that will help the information to stick’, Martens says. ‘A good solution would be to show highlights from a Teams channel through alternative communication channels. I imagine publishing important Teams channels directly through digital signage screens in your dining hall, or through the screensaver on your employees’ laptops. This way, the information is shown via the SharePoint connection I mentioned, there is a repetition of the message in the original Teams channel, and it’s displayed on digital signage screens or screensavers. Anyone who then still misses a message, hasn’t been paying attention’, he laughs.
At Netpresenter, we are innovating on a daily basis. We’re continually looking for new ways to take internal communication within organizations to a higher level. For example, we previously brought Power BI and Microsoft SharePoint to all screens within an organization. Behind the scenes, we’re currently finalizing a unique integration of Netpresenter with Microsoft Teams. Would you like to find out more about this and be the first to know about these exciting developments? Sign up for our newsletter, and we will tell you more soon!