Hello readers. Hope you’re well.
I’ve had this as a draft post since February this year. I’ve been adding to it here and there as the product has evolved. And with recent announcements, now seems like a good time to finally publish it.
What I want to do is give you my take on what Teams is, what it does, how it is/could be used, who will/should use it and how to get it. Enjoy.
What is Teams?
A New Vision for Communications and Collaboration
Microsoft has a new vision for communications and collaboration that they call Intelligent Communications. Intelligent Communications is using the full set of capabilities and power of a joined-up platform to surface new, smarter ways of communicating and collaborating. It is no longer about peer to peer or multi-party single or multi-media communications.
If all of that sounds like science fiction, it really isn’t.
What can you do with Teams?
The files list gives you the file type, name, when it was last modified and the location (such as OneDrive or the team and channel name. It is also possible to edit and co-author Office documents, either in Teams, from Office Online or Office which is locally installed.
This is currently limited to Power BI and a web page, but I would imagine this list will grow over time.
Teams in Teams
With the correct permissions, it is possible to delete a comment or an entire conversation from within a Channel. If something is deleted, it says that it has been deleted and has an Undo link next to it. Anything that is deleted in Teams (files, conversations and comments) go to a recycle bin in the Team SharePoint site. It is also possible for a user to edit a comment they made within the Team if, for instance, they made a typo or said something they wanted to change. Once text has been edited, it says Edited next to it.
It is also possible to save a conversation or a comment which pins them to a save items list. It is also possible to un-save something.
For fans of social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), it has a “Like” function that increments up with the likes and collects a list of who liked it.
In addition to text, Emoji and memes, a user can add a file to a conversation. There are also @ mentions. You can mention someone in a conversation and they will be notified that you mentioned them and send a link back to the conversation (as long as they have access to it). This is similar to the Ego feed in Persistent Chat in Lync and Skype for Business. You can also @ mention specific Teams and Channels. Once you type the @, the next letter will start to search for valid target. Keep in mind that you can only @ mention teams, channels and members of the team you’re in. i.e. If you’re in a conversation in a Channel called New Business in the Sales team and the only members besides you are Ted, Ralph and Sally, you can only @ mention Sales, New Business, Ted, Ralph and Sally. You can’t @ mention across teams or to people that don’t have access to the Team.
This is really just a connector that links the Channel to a cloud storage provider. Once you have added the provider, it will add a folder to the Channel. As it says in the popup (see below), once you add a cloud storage provider, everyone with access to the Team will have access to the files.
When you click on one of the providers, you’ll be asked to authenticate and grant Teams access to the provider.
Once a file is added to a conversation it uploads it to the file store within the Channel and Team, which is SharePoint Online on the back end. Once there it can be edited in Office, Office online or directly in Teams. It can also be co-authored if the user clicks Share and invites someone. Files can be downloaded, edited, copied, moved between Channels (within the same Team only) or deleted (again to the recycle bin).
It is also possible to make a file a Tab within the Team. The file Tab is basically an opened version of the file. For instance, a price list. It is also possible to click edit on a file to make changes. This edits the underlying file (in SharePoint) and displays the changes in the tab once it has been saved.
There is a Notes tab which is a OneNote notebook where users in the Team can build up notes and pages relevant to the Channel. This is also saved in SharePoint.
Last, but not least, you can add Connectors to a channel.
A Connector is used to bring external services into a Channel or Team. There are connectors from Microsoft, of course, for services like Visual Studio Team Services, Dynamics 365 and Yammer as well as 3rd party services like Trello, Salesforce, Wunderlist and Twitter to name a few. In fact, there are dozens of Connectors. So many, in fact, you can filter by category to make it easy to find what you’re after.
Meetings in Teams is a lot like meetings in Skype for Business. It has it’s own tab and links to your Exchange calendar, showing you all of your meetings for the day whether they are Teams meetings, Skype for Business meetings, or just appointments.
You can schedule meetings from Teams
or using the new Outlook button.
It the meeting is a Teams meeting, you can join and attend the meeting, in Teams. If the meeting is a Skype for Business meeting, you still get a join button in Teams, however, the join button starts the meeting in the Skype for Business client rather than directly in Teams.
Meeting in Teams is quite an experience. For a start, you get a full screen, 2 x 2 gallery view if you add video. When I say full screen, I mean full bleed, full screen. The meeting controls are hidden by default and appear, over the video feed when you move the mouse to the area. This is very much like Skype for Business on a Mac.
This is a stark contrast to the 5 in a row gallery view for a Skype for Business meeting.
There is also a dedicated device button in the meeting and you can switch devices (audio and video) on the fly.
You can switch audio devices mid call in Skype for Business, however, not video. You can switch video if you go in to video settings and change the default device. Once you switch and click OK, video stops, you then have to start video again.
In Teams, you can switch using the Cameras drop down list to choose another device and it switches live, during the call. There is also a dedicated camera switching button.
Pressing this button switches the video to the next device in the list. This is great if you have cameras set up to focus on the meeting ahead of time.
Camera 1, Camera 2, Camera 1, Camera 2.
Not so good if you’re using a laptop in a docking station and you have front and rear cameras AND connected USB cameras. Would be nice if you could select the cameras not to use.
Alongside the full screen video, you can chat with the attendees. You get all the same chat options including formatting, Gif’s, stickers and memes.
You can also attach a file to the chat. Attendees can open the file online (in a browser, not in the meeting) or download.
Unfortunately, the only presenter option is screen sharing for now. I can imagine this will get better over time.
I’d love there to be a revamped whiteboard app in Teams meetings. Perhaps the one from the updated Surface Hub. We’d also need the ability to present PowerPoint and do Q&A and Polls. These will probably come with federation, if they come at all.
When you share in a Teams meeting, the Teams the interface minimises and you’re left with the call progress box along with the call controls.
Meetings are set to get even better in Teams with features like Cloud Record. Users can attend meetings after the meeting finishes and it plays the whole meeting back as though they were there live.
Workspace of the Future
Who could use Teams?
Anyone that works with one or more people in a company and needs to be able to access information and collaborate about it. I can see it being used by Sales, Marketing, Project Management, Engineering or Support, among others.
I have a Team with no members that I use to quickly get to stuff I need to access frequently. This includes documents, RSS feeds, a Twitter tab, a few web pages and a couple of YouTube channels. And that works fine for me.
Crossover with other applications
The most obvious crossover is with Skype for Business. In Teams, you can do one to one and multi-party instant messaging (Chat), Persistent Chat (conversations in channels), internal voice and video calls, screen sharing and meetings.
You’ll have heard some recent announcements that Microsoft is further enhancing Teams by adding the features and functionality of Skype for Business Online, Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX) and Audio Conferencing (formerly PSTN Conferencing) into Teams. The plan will be to allow companies to run Teams and Skype for Business Online side-by-side for a period of time and eventually get rid of Skype for Business Online. A controversial topic to be sure. One for another day.
I’ve seen a couple of posts recently (One by Richard Bryteson and another by Tom Arbuthnot) where they suggest disabling features that are also in Skype for Business, such as chat, calling and meetings. This would ostensibly force users to carry on using Skype for Business for those features rather than have two places for the same thing.
One advantage of this is that if your company is using archiving in Skype for Business for IM’s, that stays as it is until there is shared archiving for Skype and Teams.
Personally, I like having the choice to decide what I use. What do you think?
What about Skype for Business Server and Teams?
There are plans to enhance the interop between Teams and Skype for Business Server, however, we don’t yet know to what extent. The possibilities are quite exciting, especially in a hybrid scenario.
I’d love the ability to use the Teams client as the interface for Skype for Business Server. Chats in Teams could be the interface for Skype for Business IM’s going forward. Same with calling. The calls tab in Teams could just leverage the calling capability from your Skype for Business Server deployment.
Most importantly, I’d love to have the choice of which client to use and if possible, use both at the same time. For instance, if I’m in a meeting with an external party in Teams, I’d like the ability to have a private chat window open in Skype for Business so I could chat privately with someone about the meeting, or even to answer an incoming question from someone else. I can do that currently in Skype for Business. If I only used the Teams client and I wanted to chat, I’d have to click away from the meetings tab and into the chat tab to have a conversation, taking my focus completely off the meeting.
Time will tell, but if I had to bet, the interop will come with Skype for Business Server 2019 late next year.
How do you get Teams?
I hope you found this useful. Thank you for reading.
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