MWA Mythbusters: There is no ‘right way’ to use Microsoft Teams

If there is one question that the members of the Modern Workplace Alliance (MWA) have heard a hundred times, this would be it. ‘What is the right way to use Microsoft Teams?’ This is a logical question for anyone who hasn’t used the app to ask. The problem is, it’s the wrong question.

According to Paul Woods, Founder at Adopt & Embrace, one of the five MWA partners, it is not possible to know a best way of using Microsoft Teams until you understand what your goals are. According to Paul, a better question to ask would be, “What is the best way for my team to streamline their processes, reduce risk and increase productivity?”

“There seems to be an idea out there that Microsoft Teams solves organisational issues. But on its own, it isn’t a solution to an existing problem. You need to take a good look at your team, how they are working, how they could work and what they need to enable that,” says Paul.

Instead of rushing to migrate your team to Microsoft Teams, Paul’s advice is to spend time looking at the team in question and seeing what is and isn’t working. Identifying where your pain points are will help you understand what solutions you need to implement to remove these. Additionally, you need to clearly identify what your team goals are and what you want to achieve.

So, is there a best practice when to comes to Microsoft Teams?

There is. Sort of. Paul believes that the dynamic customisation offered by Microsoft Teams means that the best practice is defined by the best practice for your organisation, there is no universal right way.

“Microsoft Teams is only three years old so there really isn’t enough evidence yet to identify a definitive best practice. But we do have evidence to show that there are lots of great ways to use the app but this depends on your specific challenges and goals,” says Paul.

That said, Paul concedes that there are some emerging best practice for users that are worth noting. One example of this is managing notifications. A common bad habit in Microsoft Teams is for users to tag contacts unnecessarily. This behaviour reduces the impact of a notification and can be overwhelming and annoying for users.

According to Paul, users should only use @mention when an action is required. If no action is required, putting a message in the correct channel will allow staff to read and triage in their own time.

Where do you start?

If you are new to Microsoft Teams, once you have identified your goals, you need to identify a champion. By finding an internal Teams fan who can demonstrate the benefits of the app, you can provide proof points which in turn will increase adoption.

With Microsoft Teams, a great starting point is the 10 Ps, which helps businesses to identify the problem, the purpose, the people, the priorities and much more. You need to do this to understand what IP you move to which channels, what you should archive or delete, are your channels private or open. There is a lot to work out before you invite staff onto the app to try it out,” notes Paul.

Is there a wrong way to use Microsoft Teams?

Yes, several in fact. Although the majority come back to the same root cause. The MWA meet a lot of customers on a Modern Workplace journey who are making or have made the same mistake. They try to replicate the way they were working in a traditional workplace, or try to recreate their organisational hierarchy in Microsoft Teams.

“This just doesn’t work. Often when businesses try and do this they just end up transferring bad behaviours into a new platform without considering how to improve processes. Microsoft Teams is effective when you consider who needs to work with who within your team. Creating purpose based teams is much more collaborative and productive than trying to follow an old org chart,” Paul adds.

The three most important things to remember when looking for your right way with Microsoft Teams

  1. Embrace the collaboration functions and make the experience as close to in-person as possible. This means keep your camera on for meetings!
  2. Set user service level agreements for your team to curb any bad habits that may try to sneak in. If you identify any productivity blocks remove them as quickly as possible.
  3. Be clear about your expectations, how and where staff should post, when they should check notifications.

But regardless of where you start or why, ultimately, you need to understand your organisation more than you need to understand Microsoft Teams.

The one right way to use Microsoft Teams, is the best way that suits your business. Remember that next time you start to google ‘the best way to use Teams’.

Paul Woods and the Adopt & Embrace team have compiled all their Microsoft Teams wisdom into Adopt & Embrace Microsoft Teams: A manager’s guide to communication, collaboration, and coordination with Microsoft Teams.

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