What is Microsoft Teams?
If you follow Microsoft and their ecosystem, you’ll have noticed there is a lot of buzz around Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is the latest service within the Office 365 suite to collaborate with the different teams in your company. Microsoft is also collaborating with other organizations, allowing the ability to integrate Microsoft Teams with cloud services. Like with any new, shiny service within Office 365, you must ask yourself if this is something you need as an organization, and why it is so different from what you have today?
Why Microsoft Teams vs Slack or other collaboration systems?
Why Microsoft Teams? Most everyone can agree that collaboration is the key to success within any organization. Sharing knowledge, working together, and putting the right resources together increases the chances for the desired outcome on whatever the project may be. So why is Microsoft Teams so different than any other collaboration system, like say Slack? Well, actually, it isn’t. To explain that statement a bit better, let us take a closer look at what the approach is for Microsoft Teams to collaboration and, more importantly, what is under the hood of this new service.
Chat for today’s teams. Microsoft Teams allows you to spin up threaded and persistent group chats. This is functionality Microsoft tried already with Yammer and was proven to customers and their end-users. However, instead of relying on Yammer, Microsoft decided to go with one of their most successful core services, Exchange Online, to store personal and group conversations. Additionally, Microsoft decided to bring a modern approach to conversations. Microsoft Teams allows you to add another level of communication to your collaboration by adding memes, stickers and emojis. This persistent threading functionality is a huge benefit for teams because it allows new members to come in and read up on existing threads, catch up on conversations and discussions that happened in that past. This is a huge improvement on the traditional use of distribution lists.
Working together on the right information, quickly and easily. For a long time, documents and document management systems have been considered to be the beating heart of collaboration. Microsoft has invested lots of time and energy to bring the SharePoint platform to a level where everyone can agree that its capabilities are amazing. However, during the process, SharePoint became a system that caused mixed emotions with its users; both loved and hated at the same time. People love it for its robust capabilities around record and document management, the ability to share documents and coauthor documents on the fly. However, end-users didn’t like the result. People weren’t able to find information on the platform, or weren’t using it because it wasn’t set up intuitively. You had to be an expert to use to the system, hence the popularity of SharePoint conferences and SharePoint community events. Microsoft tried to make it easier by introducing Delve, an intelligent service that should be able to provide you with all the information you needed based on meetings, connections with coworkers, etc. Ultimately, I think Microsoft may have finally realized that SharePoint was not the tool for collaboration, however, SharePoint was the perfect platform to enable collaboration as long as the application on top is easy and intuitive to use. That is exactly what Microsoft Teams brings to the table, in addition to the flexibility of a potential Microsoft Teams SharePoint integration.
Built-in voice and video. The world has become a smaller place thanks to cloud services focusing on voice and video. You need to set up a meeting with somebody from Johannesburg, Atlanta, Melbourne, and Paris? No worries, with Skype for Business, we already have a cloud service able to connect all these people in a heartbeat. Well, Teams takes that same service to the next level. Do you want to keep a recording in your team files? You want allow later discussion around the meeting content through a group chat? You want your team to have access to meeting calendar with direct connections to the Skype Bridge? Done, done and done. Microsoft is so convinced of the added value of the Teams functionality that they announced the deprecation of Skype For Business in favor of Microsoft Teams.
Collaboration Hub. Microsoft wants Teams to be the application where all collaboration starts. Within a specific team, you can add different applications in tabular view. Is your team using Salesforce, Kanban, an online time management service, etc.? Teams can visually integrate all these applications. Teams can be used as your collaboration and application hub allowing you a centralized location where everyone in your team exactly knows how to get to all their line of business applications.
Enjoy the security of Office 365. As you can see, Microsoft Teams is built on top of Microsoft’s most established cloud services like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Skype for Business. Besides the stability and value, they also guarantee that your data is safe and secure. Finally, Microsoft Teams provides the advanced security and compliance capabilities that Office 365 customers expect. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest. Like the other services in Office 365, Microsoft has a transparent operational model with no standing access to customer data. Microsoft Teams supports key compliance standards including EU Model Clauses, ISO 27001, SOC 2, HIPAA and more. And, as customers would expect, Microsoft Teams is served out of our hyper-scale global network of data centers, automatically provisioned within Office 365 and managed centrally, just as any other Office 365 service.
Integrate Microsoft Teams with cloud services
Integration of Microsoft Teams with cloud services. As most of you know, there are other cloud services used in the workforce that people like to use for multiple reasons. To name just a few of them, Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, etc. are familiar and well-liked names in the industry. Is there a way to make Teams play nicely with those services or not? Yes – there is capability to integrate Microsoft Teams with cloud services as their storage. OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, ShareFile and Google Drive are the ones Microsoft support natively in the application. How does it work? Just go into the files section of Microsoft Teams, click on add cloud storage and select the cloud storage service you want to use. The application will redirect you to a login screen where you provide a username and password. Additionally, you can add a directory to a specific Team or a Channel in a Team. This cloud service storage will be represented as a virtual folder in your files section.
Where is my latest document? Integrate Microsoft Teams with cloud services as the perfect way to combine its core functionality abilities. Seems too good to be true? Probably – you might want to look at the challenges this integration brings to the table. Confusion caused by two storage systems is by far the main one. Let’s illustrate this with a few examples. When you create a Team, the systems responsible to store the conversation and files are still there. When you add a Box account to a Team or Channel you will still be able to upload documents in Microsoft OneDrive attached to the Team. If you want to upload files in your Box account through collaboration within Microsoft Teams, you need to make sure you are in the virtual folder otherwise it will be uploaded to the OneDrive attached to the Team. Imagine the fallback when people realize that their new and updated data is not on their Box account but rather on OneDrive, a service that might be completely new to them. Additionally, one of the strengths of Microsoft Teams is the ability to have conversations around specific documents. When you, however, accidentally upload the document instead of using a link to a document from Box, again that document will be on OneDrive and all the changes made to that document will not be reflected to the Box account. Lastly, you can only attach one account of each cloud service to a Team or Channel. It is the owner of that Team or Channel that will decide what account is attached to it. If you have documents over multiple accounts that you want to use in a Team or Channel, this will require a consolidation of data into one account. That might not be necessarily the route you want to take.
But I really love the functionality of Teams! When you are really set integrate Microsoft Teams with cloud services, you will have to check out tools that support a bidirectional synchronization. SkySync can help you overcome the problems the native integration brings to your organization. With their Enterprise Content Integration platform, you can use Microsoft Teams and enjoy its full feature set. Behind the scenes, your data will be kept up-to-date with the master storage, whatever service or services that may be. When your data changes on the master storage, an update will be triggered to update your data in Microsoft Teams, making sure your data is also up-to-date in whatever service or application you might use to access it.