Remote work is increasing more than ever. According to a survey conducted by ConnectSolutions, 77% of remote workers report high productivity and 52% are less likely to take time off. This has led to tremendous growth in the usage of tools and platforms that enable people to connect across the globe by the companies.

Microsoft Teams is one such collaboration tool. Launched in 2017, MS teams recently saw a surge of 200% from the 900 million meeting minutes per day to 2.7 billion meeting minutes on 16th March amidst the lockdown caused by the pandemic in various parts of the world.

Surge in usage of MS Teams in the recent times, Source

To call MS Teams just another video call app would be a massive understatement. Microsoft Office is an extremely interactive and powerful remote collaboration tool that helps businesses boost teamwork. MS Teams has been built keeping in mind the requirements of a modern workplace where only productivity is under the spotlight.

MS Teams is around 2 years old and within this short span, it has been adapted by more than 50,000 organizations around the globe including 91 out of Fortune 100 companies. Teams is available to Office 365 customers across 181 markets worldwide and in 53 languages. Now that’s some success story.

Since both Teams and Skype are owned by Microsoft, what is the difference between the two?

On 31st July 2021 Skype for Business will be retiring and will be completely taken over by MS Teams. Both Skype and MS teams can be classified under video conferencing apps, but the latter offers countless other features. The best part is the users get to enjoy built-in access to other office 365 tools such as SharePoint, OneNote, Yammer and to Skype for Business itself.

Overview of MS Teams, Source

Using MS teams you can work on the documents right in the app and can even share them directly with other users. As soon as you create a team, it creates a new office 365 group, a SharePoint site, a shared mailbox and calendar, a notebook and a planner. All you have to do is create channels and get started.

On the other hand, Skype’s functionality is restricted to making audio and video calls; both free and paid on landlines and cellphones. It also allows you to stay in the loop with instant messaging, voice messaging and texts. Typeform, Starbucks, and PedidosYa are some of the popular companies that use Skype, whereas Microsoft Teams is used by Macy's, Heimdal Security, and Sainsbury's.

What are the Features of Microsoft Teams?

Unlike other remote collaboration tools, MS teams is capable of taking your user experience to another level. It is specifically built keeping in mind the requirements of a modern day’s diverse workforce scattered all across the globe. It provides a seamless and transparent environment to make the collaborative effort more integrated, visible and accessible across the boards.

Now let’s try and understand the features of MS Teams.

The Teams

Just as there are different departments in an organisation, MS teams has different Teams. Members from different departments can be added to their respective team. One member can be a part of more than one team. Team collaborations on shared files and documents is one of the key features of MS Teams.

A team can be created by selecting the ‘Teams’ tab on the left side and then clicking on ‘Join or Create a Team’. You can limit the number of people that can view or join a team by making it private. Public teams can be viewed and joined by anyone.

Creating a team in MS teams, Source

Channels

Channels are a group of members where interactions and communications happen. All channels by default are public but you can make them private as well. But default, with the creation of Teams, a channel named General is created.

Members of the same channel can chat with each other using text, voice, video, emojis and even memes. You can create more channels containing people working in different departments, projects or initiatives.

Different channels in MS teams, Source

Tabs

Tabs feature allows users to add tabs to different things such as documents, SharePoint site, URLs, Analytics report, etc. Tabs are shown at the top navigation of each channel, implying, different channels have different tabs.

Tabs in MS teams, Source

Chat

MS Teams allows users to have one on one chats as well as group chats. In a private chat, whatever you write to them is for their eyes only. You can even create a new private group containing people you frequently talk to. This enables the concept of socializing even in a remote work setup.

Chats in MS teams, Source

Tips and Tricks to Use Microsoft Teams

Since MS Teams is such a comprehensive tool, it is normal for a first time user to get overwhelmed by it. But by using some tips and tricks you can ensure that you not just learn it quickly but also save time and boost productivity.

1. Use Immersive Reader To Have Text Narrated To You

One of the most underrated features of MS teams, immersive reader allows you to read out the text aloud at varying speeds. This feature proves useful when your eyeballs are occupied elsewhere but still you need to grab the textual information sent to you.

MS Teams immersive reader, Source

To start immersive reader, Click on the 3 dots on any message and select the reader from your drop-down menu.

2. Find Relevant Information By Cutting Through Clutter By Using @Mentions

When there is a barrage of communication going on in different channels, you can cut through the clutter and filter the content you see with @Mentions. It will separate your personal texts and to-do lists from the other conversations.

Filtering activities using @mentions

3. Visit Specific Content Later By Using Bookmark Option

MS Teams allows you to bookmark specific content that you can revisit later. This way you’d spend less time looking for crucial data amidst less relevant information when you need it.

MS Teams bookmark

4. Use Slash Commands To Get Work Done Swiftly

To get work done quickly, agile navigation is a must. MS Teams makes this possible by giving the option of using slash commands. For example, to check out if you have not missed out on anything new, you can do so by using /WhatsNew. This command will take you to Release Notes Tab on the T-bot channel. Some of the most commonly used slash commands in MS Teams are:

  • /Files – you can see the recent files shared with you
  • /GoTo – you can straight to a channel
  • /Call – starts a call with other members on Teams
  • /Help – allows you to seek assistance via T-bot
  • /Saved – Takes you to your saved messages

5. Create A Unique Work Environment By Using Personalized View Of Apps And Contacts

Every employee has a bunch of preferred apps they use to get work done. Using MS Teams, you can create a unique work environment just for you.
By accessing Personal App Space, you can see the tasks and items assigned to you from the planner, Jira cloud, etc.

Personalized view on MS Teams

6. Use Hide And Show Function In Teams To Stay Organized

When you have a sorted list of channels to work through, it gets easier to get work done. MS Teams allows you to choose the channels and teams that you want to hide and see. Click on the three dots next to a team or channel, click on more options. You can hide that team or channel by clicking on hide.

Hide and show in MS Teams

7. Have Company Wikis At One Place To Enhance Collaboration

Wikis within MS teams is a great feature that enhances collaboration. Click on the three dots on the left-hand menu, select the Wiki option. This will take you to the Wiki homepage where you can take notes. You can also get the summary of all wikis concerning you by clicking on the All tab.

MS Teams wiki

8. Use Inline Message Translation For To Translate Non English Communication

This feature allows you to convert any message sent to you in any language other than English.

MS Teams inline translation

9. Give Guest Access To Communicate With People Outside Your Organization

If you want to connect with a member outside your organization, you can give them secure guest access using MS teams. Guests can even participate in meetings and view documents.

10. MS App Studio To Get Apps Tailor Made For Your Needs

You can use MS App Studio to get the apps specific to your needs. This allows businesses to develop their own tools using Teams language.

MS Teams App studio

11. Use MS Teams Bots For To Enhance Work By Using Some Automation

To get work done quickly, MS teams has certain pre-made bots. Some of the commonly used ones are:

  • Polly: this bot allows you to poll members and keep track of employee engagement.
  • WhoBot: this bot will provide you information about your colleagues.
  • Grow Bot: this bot allows you to exchange kudos with team members
  • Stats Bot: this bot provides scheduled reports via sources like Google Analytics.

12. Analyze the Usage of MS Teams By Team members By Using Analytics and Reports

You can use the option of reports to see how your employees are using MS Teams. This will give you better insights into the most used features and apps of the tool. You can view reports by visiting the Teams’ admin center. Click on Analytics and Reports and select the report you want to see. Only service admins can pull reports in Teams.

MS Teams analytics and reports

13. Record Meetings To Access Them Later Or Share On All Groups At Once

MS Teams gives the option of recording meetings and screen sharing activities. You can save the recorded meetings on MS Stream. Recording can be done by clicking on the three dots in the channel and choosing Start Recording.

MS Teams meeting stream

14. Prioritise Shifts By Managing First-Line Workers using Shift Feature

Shifts feature allows managers to address work shift issues. Using this feature, they can plan where the support of a specific team is required in excess. This feature can be accessed by clicking on the three dots and selecting Shifts.

Managing Shift Requests using MS Teams

15. Use Proximity Sensing To Join A Collaboration Meeting

This option will detect MS teams room systems within the Bluetooth range of your device. This way you’d be able to find a place to get on a conference collaboration quickly. You can do so by going through available room systems near you after launching a teams meeting.

Using proximity sensing

Microsoft Teams Integration With Fireflies

Collaborative efforts can be enhanced in MS Teams by using third party apps. The simplest way to integrate a third party app is by using Connectors.

App integration using connectors in MS teams

Using connectors, you can integrate apps such as Twitter, Dropbox, and even Github and Dynamics. Simply put, connectors are API wrappers that enable MS teams to interact with another app to extract and transfer information out of it. They generate cards that show a summary of activities and post them on the group feed whenever there is an activity on the app.

Use Fireflies with Teams to get the best out of your meetings

But to integrate FireFlies with MS Teams, you don’t even require connectors. All you have to do is add fred@fireflies.ai, on the calendar invite of the meeting containing the URL of the teams conference. Our virtual assistant Fred will join you at the start of the meeting to transcribe and record everything for you. You can later go through the transcription and keep a record of the deadlines, action items and deliverables.

MS teams is an amazing collaboration and communication tool that will soon dictate the rules of remote work culture. By integrating third party apps on it, the user experience can only be further elevated. Due to its versatile nature, MS teams has seen a huge surge in its usage. But how permanent these shifts are, we will get to know only after the coronavirus crisis ends.