Launched in 2017 to go head-to-head with Slack, Microsoft Teams is a hub for collaborative teamwork, workplace conversations, document sharing, video chats, and other features that boost worker productivity within Microsoft 365/Office 365.
Microsoft Teams had seen a surge in usage as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, ballooning to 75 million daily active users according to stats Microsoft released in April 2020.
Since its inception, and driven by a shift to work-from-home connectivity, Teams has stepped further into the forefront as a central part of Microsoft’s workplace productivity and collaboration strategy.
This article is a guide on how to use Microsoft Teams for your video conferencing and collaboration needs to help you get a quick start. We’ll highlight the main features and to help you decide whether it’s best suited to your team.
How to Use Microsoft Teams
Teams can be accessed from a web browser, a desktop application, or a mobile app. The total number of users who can use Teams’ full features is dependent on the number of approved users in the organization. Guest access is permitted, which ensures that users from other Office 365 tenants can be welcomed to the Teams hub of the organization without the need for additional licenses.
With Teams, you can make one-on-one or group audio and video calls. You can share your screens during video conferencing, schedule meetings, and record meetings. In addition, each user has up to 1TB of storage capacity.
Sign Up for Microsoft Teams
To get started with Teams, browse the Microsoft Teams web page and sign up for an account. Here, you can compare the free option to the paid plan and make your final decision before you sign up.
Set Up Your Teams Account
You would need to enter an email address to use for your account. In order to work, this must be linked to a Microsoft Account. Continue the registration process by entering the password and the name of the organization you are affiliated with. You will also have the option of using the Teams Windows app or sticking to the mobile version.
On the left side, you can navigate to different areas inside Teams, such as Chats, Meetings, Files, and Activity. Most of these are very self-explanatory:
- Activities: Displays the last activities of the groups that you are part of.
- Chat: This houses your Skype for Business chats, giving you a full chat history. However, for a team chat, you should use the Teams menu and have a group chat in ‘Conversation.’
- Teams: an overview of all the Teams that you are part of and it helps you to drill down into each Channel within the Teams. This is where you can create Teams, too.
- Meetings: The Meetings tab extracts your meetings from Outlook and also helps you to schedule meetings inside the Meetings tab that are sent to the Team. If you wish to schedule other meetings with external users or individuals, you will still need to use Outlook, since the Teams Meeting tab is only to schedule a team meeting. (Remember that the target is team collaboration, not calendar management).
- Files: Inside Files, you can easily search and access files from OneNote, OneDrive, and Teams (stored in their own SharePoint sites). There’s also a very handy ‘Recent’ page, so you can easily view the new documents you’ve been working on, as well as a shortcut to your downloads.
Teams and Channels
You need a team to start working together. Setting up Teams is simple and accomplished with a few clicks, requiring the name of the team and a description; this will allow the team members to be added. As described above, a new Team will build a corresponding Office 365 Group, OneNote, SharePoint Site, and Plan—so this has to be handled with some care.
Each team has subsections called Channels, and a General Channel would be generated automatically. You may have multiple Channels within a team; for example, you might have a ‘Marketing’ team and then channels like ‘Social Media,’ ‘Product Launch,’ ‘Blogs,’ etc. Or a company may be a Team, and Channels can relate to departments. You can pick whatever the way the organization operates. If there is a new message or action, the Channel will turn bold.
Each Channel has its own tabs on the top. Conversation (group chat), Files (shared documents), and Notes (shared OneNote) are created automatically, and you can then add your own tabs.
Conversations are one of the main features of Teams, allowing each Team to have a centralized conversation that is saved and conveniently searchable. Conversations are the core aspect where all communication is recorded—from file sharing to video calling.
Using @mentions helps you to tag members or even entire teams to notify others. Users looking at Discussions can quickly see where they have been mentioned through the red @ sign to emphasize areas of importance to them. Your desktop app will notify you as well. As well as tagging, users can ‘like’ content and post emoticons or GIFs.
In your Teams window, you can execute a number of activities directly inside the window or browser, so you can prevent switching between multiple programs. These activities include the ability to remove, import, transfer files, open, copy, edit, or connect to share with others – giving you all the core functionality you’d get with your native apps.
You can also start a Group chat alongside the file to encourage team conversations when working on the files-and this talk will appear in your conversation thread.
Notes will take you to the Team shared OneNote. Inside Teams, you can access and edit your OneNote (directly inside the Teams window) or you can click to Edit in the OneNote app.
As well as these three default tabs, you can add your own, which currently includes Planner, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, Power BI dashboards, and more.
Microsoft products can be quickly added now, but there are still more integrations at Teams, such as Asana integration. With system integration being so critical to collaboration, we should hope to see even more partnerships and out-of-box integrations!
Microsoft Teams is already a fantastic product and it allows a lot of versatility and offers you a lot of possibilities. However, getting with Teams can also have some knock-on consequences that can induce admin headaches. Luckily, under Office 365 Admin, you can monitor Team settings within the Groups control panel.
In Admin settings, you can manage who can create teams, what features are or are not enabled, such as video meetings, screen sharing, or animated images, or whether extensions can be included. This gives you the power you need to enable governance in accordance with your organization’s policies and guarantees that you can retain control of the app.
Remote work isn’t always a piece of cake, especially if you’re not used to it. However, it’s a lot more comfortable with the right tools!
Now that you know how to set up and use Microsoft Teams, your team can collaborate effortlessly with its powerful features. And if Microsoft Teams doesn’t seem to be the best match for your needs, you can always try out alternatives like Skype for Business, Zoom, and Slack!