5 Basic Tips for Enriching Your Experience Using Microsoft Teams

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Dell Technologies has fully embraced a flexible work culture to promote better work-life balance and be more inclusive of a diverse workforce. My role in the Services organization, focused on workforce transformation solutions, gives me a unique perspective for how to enrich employee experiences with productivity apps.

There are a variety of Dell ‘Connected Workplace’ programs and technology investments that help make this possible, but today I want to discuss one of the most critical and successful enablers: Microsoft Teams. In the past I have been a heavy user of collaboration technologies, but Microsoft Teams is the first platform to significantly change the way I work. It’s made collaborating truly more productive whether working remotely, on-the-go or in the office!

At Dell Technologies we now have 100,000+ people using Microsoft Teams for a large variety of use cases. Examples include basic team meetings, collaboration on projects, department management, ideation sessions, business process automation with Power Platform apps, external collaboration with our partners and customers, town halls, communities of practice and many more!

As Teams has become the main productivity ‘cockpit’ for many of our people, I’ve noticed some patterns that makes Teams successful. So, in that spirit here are five basic best practices I think everyone should embrace when working from anywhere with Microsoft Teams.

Getting the Basic Best Practices Right

1 – Turn Your Video On!

Figure 1: Matt Roberts blissfully working in Teams remotely from his home office.

It’s not just because I like showing off the artsy, geeky Star Wars posters in my home office 😊. Turning your video/webcam on in Teams makes collaboration more personal because of the obvious human connections involved. It helps you ‘read the room’ when presenting to a group in a Teams meeting and allows you to adjust accordingly – just like you would in person. People will better recognize you, your personality and mannerisms. It works wonders when you meet up later in-person as people easily recognize you and are more likely to engage in further conversations.

2 – Live Captions Are Like Movie Subtitles for Your Meeting

If you’re one of those people that turns subtitles on when you watch movies – the Live Captions feature in Teams is for you! But seriously – turn on this feature during your Teams meetings to see a text-based version of the conversation. This helps ensure you don’t miss anything that is said in near-real-time. It’s especially helpful in cases when you’ve had an audio hiccup, got distracted while multi-tasking, believe you mis-heard someone, have participants with differing levels of language proficiency or perhaps have participants in your meeting who are hearing impaired. This feature can help bring more certainty and confidence to your meeting and ensure participants are absorbing what’s being discussed, so turn it on!

Figure 2: Live Captions feature in action in Microsoft Teams.

3 – Persistent, Contextual Chat Makes Teams the Champ

Teams chat allows participants to have ‘side conversations’ without interrupting the audio/video conversation and flow of the main Teams meeting. Chat is particularly helpful in larger group meetings like town halls and community of practice meetings because it gives confidence to people to interact and participate when they otherwise might have stayed silent. In any Teams meeting though where someone is formally presenting, giving a demo or monopolizing the conversation, chat allows participants to ask questions that non-presenters can answer without disrupting the speaker. These conversations and any files shared during a Teams meeting are available afterward and searchable so that people who couldn’t attend the meeting live can still benefit from seeing the content and interactions.

Teams really shines with its persistent contextual chat interactions and file sharing – both immensely useful. Co-authoring and in-line comments within documents is essential for easy collaboration. Chat makes file-centric interactions and everything else within Teams absorbable, understandable and actionable, which is why it’s ‘the Champ’! So, don’t be shy, use those chat features and encourage your colleagues to get out of their email and move their conversations to Teams.

Figure 4: Using Chat in Teams meetings.

4 – Use Planner to Keep Members Aligned to Goals

Planner is a lightweight task tracking application presented in a simple card-based visual “board” with the ability to visualize chart-based and schedule-based views. We use the Planner app within many of our Teams workspaces to keep all members aligned on goals, outcomes, schedules and action items.

An example use case is how we use it to manage schedules, agendas and speakers for our community practice sessions. Another is using Planner as a decision tracking tool in our Teams workspace that’s focused on leadership and strategy initiatives. The goal is to reduce time spent in ‘status’ meetings on mundane items and increase time spent on the business function they’re running. Tasks in Planner can trigger notifications to keep everyone on track.

Figure 5: Using Planner to track tasks and decisions in Teams.

5 – Personalize Each Teams Workspace to Reflect Its Membership and Focus

Naming conventions certainly are your friend here, but one technique I’ve found particularly helpful is the use of the personalization features within Teams.

Simple changes to the Teams workspace such as uploading a “picture” to replace the generic icon and giving it a unique name make it stand out. It’s small but can make the difference between immediate vs. delayed recognition of who the Teams workspace includes and what it’s focused on. The picture can be a product name, a business unit logo, a picture of an office building, or really anything that your members will instantly recognize.

Also – don’t be shy about allowing the use of some of the more ‘fun’ capabilities such as Giphy, stickers and memes. While some Teams owners may choose to turn these things off to reduce clutter, I’ve found that most people won’t abuse these features and will instead only leverage them to add some levity to conversations.

Figure 6: Having some fun with posts in Teams.

So, go ahead, turn those sticker and meme features on, add a team photo, give your Teams workspace a name that people will understand, and have a little fun!

Crank Up Productivity, Have Fun and Just Get Work Done!

I find myself on lots of teams – ideating, collaborating and making progress on our joint goals. I know somehow the work got done in the old world, but I accomplish a whole lot more and am much happier doing it with Teams. The basic best practices I’ve shared will hopefully help you maximize your employees’ experiences with Teams, no matter where they work.

Understand Teams Considerations from Our Services Experts

Dell Technologies Services Teams panel discussion video.

One final thought for those organizations new to Teams or who are starting to leverage Microsoft’s 6-month free subscription, check out the panel discussion with my colleagues where we discuss Teams considerations or read our Teams eBook.

What’s your favorite feature in Teams?

About the Author: Matthew Roberts

Matt Roberts has been with Consulting Services since 2006. Collaborating with customers for so many years to enable their employees to just get work done, he has a unique perspective on how best to leverage technology that spans Dell’s strategically aligned businesses, the Microsoft ecosystem, and other third party software to achieve real workforce transformations for clients. Matt is passionate about digital transformation, modernizing digital app experiences and developing solutions that make the digital workplace as productive, engaged, and connected as possible. With 20+ years of software and consulting experience, his career has focused on Digital and Web/App Development. He has broad digital strategy, solution and technology architecture expertise; with specific depth in portal, collaboration, digital/web, content mgmt., search, and ITSM solutions.
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