Goodbye Skype for Business? Hello Microsoft Teams!
A little over a year old, Microsoft Teams has quickly eclipsed the tech giant's other chat-based workspace, Skype for Business. Initially launched in November of 2017, Teams was introduced as an eventual replacement for Skype, integrating much of the application's functionality and infrastructure, to provide Office 365 subscribers a more intuitive collaboration experience. Teams is basically a platform that combines workplace chat, meetings, notes, and attachments. As part of the launch, Microsoft also released the first of their "Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams" roadmaps - a transition guide for companies looking to capitalize on Teams' more expansive offerings. Since then, Microsoft has continued to publish updates, pushing for the full integration of Teams by the end of 2018.
As part of the Office 365 suite, which continues its upward growth in user adoption, Microsoft Teams represents the best of collaborative cloud services. Teams is a next-generation calling and meeting experience, built on Office 365's hyper-scale, enterprise-grade cloud. As per Microsoft contributors, Teams is designed to support "efficient bandwidth consumption, provide a more robust telemetry, and enable maintenance and upgrades with minimal disruption." This translates to a faster, more efficient experience, allowing users to conduct meetings alongside chats, files, notes, and project boards.
Because Teams is part of the Office 365 suite, it also delivers the latest in advanced security for employees and clients. Teams enforces two-factor authentication on both group, and organization-wide levels. The application also features single sign-on through Azure Active Directory, which provides access and identity management for users of cloud-based applications. From an information standpoint, Teams encrypts data both in transit and at rest, and all files are stored through Microsoft SharePoint.
Of course, SharePoint is only one of many integrated features. Teams brings together chat, meetings, notes, Office, Planner, Power BI, and a variety of extensions, for a distinctly person-centric user experience. Microsoft has emphasized that Teams was designed to consciously leverage the communication methods "teams use to collaborate every day, alongside AI, Microsoft Graph, LinkedIn, and other data and cognitive services." For example, Teams uses both archiving and eDiscovery, which fall under Office 365 Information Protection tools. Through these resources, employees can easily trace their chat history, pull client information, and review content.
Another essential feature of this application, is the treatment of employee groups. A team created in Teams will automatically generate an Office 365 Group, a SharePoint Online site (and document library), and an Exchange Online group mailbox. Teams also allows for the integration of extant employee groups, that have been created in other Office 365 applications. These existing memberships, and SharePoint content, will be automatically transferred to Teams to avoid redundancy and lost time.
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Image courtesy of Microsoft
Creating the Perfect Meeting
In addition to Teams' vast Office 365 resources, the application also has a number of unique interior features, designed to improve both audio and visual collaboration.
- Audio conferencing - this low-cost resource can be enabled for any Office 365 user. Audio conferencing allows people to connect over the phone, and provides dial-in instructions for those looking to join a call.
- Anonymous join - allows users to schedule meetings with people outside of their organization. As long as external users can provide a valid email address, they can be invited to Teams-based meetings, and will be provided instructions to join.
- Virtual lobby - any meeting attendees who are out of organization will be placed in a virtual lobby, until admitted by in-organization staff. Not only does this feature enhance privacy, it allows for last minute adjustments or preparations before all parties join.
- Mute options - help reduce background noise, by muting specific conference members. Teams will alert an attendant, or multiple, that they have been muted, and provide instructions for unmuting.
- Plug-in free calls - through Edge and Chrome, users do not need to download plug-ins to join meetings or initiate calls. Even if users can not access the Teams app through their desktop or mobile device, they will be able to connect through Edge and Chrome. Support for other browsers is currently being developed, and slotted for future release.
- Application sharing - when screen sharing, users can select the specific windows they want to be made public. This way, their desktop and notifications remain private.
- Desktop control - collaborators can request control over one another's screens, allowing for delegated focus and response.
- Interactive troubleshooting - proactively detects and advises users when productivity issues arise.
- Call analytics - Teams provides easily traceable call metrics, including logs, client information, and issues that necessitated troubleshooting.
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New to Teams
As of January, Microsoft has rolled out a number of new features on the application, including:
- Expanded chat options - users have the ability to like or hide chats.
- Improved sharing - custom hyperlinks can be included in the body of chat messages.
- OneNote notebooks - can be included as tabs in a channel.
- Refined calling - Teams supports broader calling functionality, including a complete record of call history, contacts, and voicemails. Users can now hold, transfer, and forward calls. ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, and text telephone support are also available.
- Broader contact - users can call people outside Teams or Skype for Business.
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As Teams continues to develop, more companies are transitioning away from Skype for Business. In response, Microsoft has created the Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams Capabilities Roadmap. This roadmap is essentially a deployment guide, outlining the steps in a successful Teams implementation, or transition. It also features a tentative schedule for new Teams features, which will be released throughout the year.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
Informed by the latest in collaborative technology, Teams has proven itself the singular hub for teamwork, refining workplace efficiency through intelligent communication. As with any cloud-based resource, extracting Teams' complete, long-term value requires expertise. iCorps' staff can ensure that your Teams' integration is seamless for both staff and clientele. Contact an expert for more information.