Teams – the new form of collaboration in a team

Perhaps one or two of you may have noticed that my blog profile has been rather quiescent recently. This was due not least to the fact that the festive season unfortunately turned out not to be all that peaceful and contemplative, and the new year, too, had a really hectic beginning. But today I’ve finally got round to delivering on my promise. Many of you will have read my article on mobile working, where I describe how to work with Skype for Business, but also already mention the new app from Microsoft namely Teams. And that’s precisely my topic for today.

So what exactly is Teams? Just another additional software package that I now use somehow? What about the other programs? When should I be using which communication channel? These questions and perhaps lots of others, too, are now preoccupying some of my colleagues – and perhaps staff in other companies as well. I hope I can shed a bit of light on this.

Teams is the central platform when it comes to collaborative working. Teamwork is a familiar concept: people are pursuing the same goal, and working together on a particular project or issue. The next step up is collaborative working, which means that a project can be tackled not only jointly, but simultaneously. For example, digital documents can all be processed at the same time. Collaborative working is gaining steadily in perceived importance, since the team of the future will be maximally diverse in its composition, in order to better harness the strengths of the individual staff involved and to cancel out any weaknesses – even though the individual team members are not often in the same location. What’s more, it’s immaterial whether the team is taken from inside the company or includes outside associates and service providers.

Here’s a brief overview covering the three cornerstones of Teams: chat, meeting/telephony and the Teams workspaces. I think the chat function is something that everyone can use immediately without much in the way of explanation. The major advantage in comparison with Skype for Business is that the chat is now permanent, like in WhatsApp, and that a chat history is stored in memory. Another convenient function is the presence display, where I can see immediately whether the chat partner I want is available, in a meeting, briefly absent, or not in the building.

The telephony capabilities currently subsume Teams-to-Teams telephone calls, plus audio and video conferences with internal or external participants. Here, too, operation and log-in are simple, and the speech and image quality is very good. I no longer have to know my colleagues’ phone numbers by heart, or look them up in the directory; I just click on the telephone receiver in the chat function, and it rings immediately. For anyone on a business trip abroad and with an opportunity to use a WLAN, this kind of telephony is completely free of charge – in contrast to conventional phone calls, where often roaming charges are incurred. Now, too, it’s child’s play to issue invitations to a telephone or video conference with external participants. When I dispatch the Outlook date, I simply use the “Plan Teams meeting” function, and a link is embedded automatically, through which the participants can then access the Teams meeting. If I want to share my screen with the person I’m talking to, then all it takes is a mouse-click.

In the telephony function, as from the year’s second quarter the next improvement will take effect: we are integrating our telephony (landline and mobile) in Teams. At present, I often find myself on the phone with Teams, and at the same time a call arrives on my landline number. I can then solve this satisfactorily by asking my colleague to take the call on the landline number. Sometimes, however, the opposite happens, and a call arrives through Teams while I’m talking on my landline phone. At present, unfortunately, I can’t accept the call through Teams. These scenarios, however, will soon be history. Every employee can decide whether Avaya – our telephony solution – or Teams is the leading system for them, and the existing telephone number is also retained. But Krones’ staff will in any case be learning even more about this soon.

The third and perhaps most revolutionary cornerstone is the Teams workspaces. This is where the actual collaborative working takes place. All team-relevant documents are shared here, instead of being dispatched by email, for example. This means the team is always working with the latest version, and simultaneous processing is likewise possible, since all documents are stored at a sharepoint in the background. It’s in the Teams workspaces that the app’s greatest potential lies – but also, of course, the biggest change in working methodology. In order to demonstrate some specific application cases, I shall be publishing some separate articles in the months ahead.

So when do I use Teams? Primarily when collaboration is involved, i.e. thematically or team-relevant communication, for Teams-to-Teams telephone calls, audio and video conferences, and for personal chats and group chats. The Teams app can also be used on a smartphone at any time while you’re on the road. This means I’m always up-to-date, since the app is synchronised on all devices.

At Krones, Outlook will remain the leading tool for our diary management. Emails are used for subjects that concern more than one person, and for which there is no workspace in Teams. Conversely, 1-to-1 conversations can often be better conducted in Teams than by email, since there you can at any time access the course of the conversations and view shared documents. It is also generally accepted that in the case of chat messages the urgency or priority of a message is normally higher compared to an email, and accordingly a response is expected more quickly.

Well, I hope that has proved tolerably illuminating, and you’re already looking forward to my next articles on this subject. If there’s something you’re particularly interested in, just write to me in the comments. Stay tuned.