The way we work is changing quickly, with demands for greater flexibility and the need to collaborate more frequently with colleagues and partners around the world driving many IT investments.
Therefore, developing a more connected digital workspace will be a top priority for many businesses as the way we work changes. For instance, Gartner forecasts that spending on unified communications and collaboration tools is set to increase by nearly 25% in 2020 compared with the previous year.
Some of this will no doubt be down to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the research firm forecast that overall, this new way of working is here to stay, with in-person meetings set to account for just 25% of enterprise meetings by 2024 - down from 60% pre-pandemic.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of this is set to be Microsoft Teams. The tool had already been enjoying strong growth, and in late 2019 reportedly hit 20 million users, amounting to a 50% increase in just four months. With COVID-19 pushing it to over 44 million, it's clearly going to play a major part in the future of many firms.
Why choose Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams offers a wide range of options and opportunities for businesses. Unlike its predecessor Skype for Business, it provides a complete unified communications suite, including:
- Instant messaging services
- Close integration with Office 365
- File sharing
- Voice calling
- Video conferencing
At a time when workers are increasingly demanding flexibility in how they work, Teams provide a single service to keep employees connected and productive wherever they are, with access to all the tools they need in a single hub that also promotes social connections and increased engagement.
Six steps to deploy Microsoft Teams successfully
However, deploying such a wide-ranging technology that’ll impact almost every activity a business does is never to be taken lightly. If a rollout isn't planned properly or users aren't given the right training or encouragement, they won't use it and the investment will be wasted. So how can you ensure this doesn't happen to you? Here are a few things to keep in mind when deploying Microsoft Teams.
1. Prepare your IT environment
Make sure you have the right environment for Teams to be a success. This means evaluating your network architecture, locations and devices to ensure they’re compatible with the tools and can cope with the extra strain on resources. Microsoft offers guides to assessing these issues for both Office 365 and Teams itself.
2. Identify how it can benefit you
It's important not to see Teams as a quick cure for all your communication and collaboration issues. If your processes are poor and departments don't talk to each other already, Teams won't fix that. But by taking the time to identify where inefficiencies lie and exactly what features Teams has that can help with this, you'll be in a good position to make the most of it. This allows you to focus your user training in the right areas and pinpoint essential KPIs you can use to measure the impact of the tools, and make changes if necessary.
3. Involve the right people
As with any IT project, stakeholder buy-in is essential. While the IT team may have clear ideas about how the technology can be used to change the company's way of working, their experiences and enthusiasm for change may not match those of end-users. Talking to staff at all levels of the company and taking on board their input about how Teams can change business processes and what the real-world impact of this will be is vital. They can then set the tone and evangelize the new system to other users to increase takeup.
4. Have a transition and coexistence strategy
It's unlikely you'll be able to move the entire company to Teams all at once, so there’ll need to be a transition period where Teams coexists alongside legacy communication and collaboration solutions. For example, if you're moving to Teams from Skype for Business (SfB), there are five different coexistence modes, ranging from SfB only to Teams only to choose from. Understanding what these are and which will work best for the firm's unique needs is vital in ensuring the migration goes smoothly.
5. Take control of your Groups
How you manage your Groups will be key to success for many Teams functions - and this is an area that's especially tightly tied in to Office 365, as the settings you apply to Office 365 Groups at admin level will affect Microsoft Teams. This should start with simple steps such as establishing a clear naming convention for your Groups in order to reduce confusion and ensure everyone knows where to find their files and get in touch with colleagues. You should also encourage the use of informal Groups to encourage socialization between teams across the business and facilitate more frequent chats via IM or video.
6. Set out a clear governance policy
Finally, a clear governance policy is essential in ensuring that Teams isn’t only used productively, but also securely. This should set out what features individual users or groups have access to, who’s able to invite new users to groups and what your policies will be for saving, sharing and deleting files, among many other elements. This is especially important if you're collaborating with partners and suppliers outside the business.
Upfront planning will go a long way towards ensuring your Teams deployment is a success. It's also important to remember this is still a relatively new technology, having only been introduced in 2017. Therefore, new features are always being added and best practices refined as enterprises grow their understanding of what it has to offer. With digital workspaces set to be more important than ever, having access to tools like Microsoft Teams could be key to success in a more agile environment.