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Evaluating Microsoft Teams as a business communication tool

Microsoft Teams offers a unique, robust solution when it comes to workplace communications with wide array built-in app integration and endless customizations to meet your needs.

Microsoft Teams Review

As Work-from-home becomes the norm rather than the exception, organizations and employees alike have found the need for a unified communication and collaboration platform that fits in perfectly with their respective workflows.

Yes, Slack is the omnipresent elephant in the room that we need to address but let’s first discuss new software in the space. Microsoft Teams, supported by the company’s burgeoning productivity software suite is an excellent alternative.

Although it has been around for more than three years now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread adoption among businesses with the help of microsoft teams support, with close to 50 million global users as of now. Here is our review of Microsoft’s challenger to Slack.

Microsoft teams review

Getting started

Teams allows employees, collaborators to join through a specific URL or by an invitation sent by the administrator. Within these teams, users can create channels, which are basically avenues to communicate with individual team members or groups – and replace email or group texting completely.

Users can also use VoIP, instant messaging, video conferencing to communicate with their co-workers. Teams also supports PSTN (public switched mobile network) conferencing to make phone calls from the client itself.

Meetings can also be created on the platform for users on a channel with a Microsoft Outlook extension allowing you to invite practically anyone to a Teams meeting.

The interface, in typical Microsoft fashion, is systematic and organized. Designed to be mostly used as a web app, Teams has a navigation rail on the left with a large central space left for conversations.

Split up into Activity, Chat, Teams, Calls and Files, Teams does a good job of compartmentalizing different aspects of communicating with your team. The Teams tab is where most of the communication and interaction happens. Nestled inside Teams is a list of people and groups that you have made. You can make teams for different function is a company. There could be a design team, a marketing team, an HR division and so on and so forth.

Dive down another layer and you will see channels which is a collection of the different conversations in the team. These conversations are grouped together into threads and this allows you to take a quick glance at all the conversations without scrolling through hundreds of messages that might be unnecessary for a member.

This structure results in something that is highly organized but also means that you have a dive three-four layers into the platform to have a conversation with someone. Key competitor and market leader Slack however albeit a simpler albeit messier approach and doesn’t have as many layers to it.

Customizing Teams

One of the best practices is to pay attention to Microsoft Teams Governance while implementing it the very first time. Microsoft offers a range of customization options with Teams that other workplace communication services simply do not. Whenever you create a new channel you can start with the basics – conversations, files and wiki – but you can add several tabs depending on your team’s workflow. You can find everything from OneNote, Excel, PDFs to even YouTube. And plus a few quizzes and learning tabs like Quizlet.

This structure opens possibilities unlike in any other workplace communications app. For instance, you could have a conversation with sales team members and have a tab for the Excel with the sales numbers from the preceding quarter, you could review the work of your video team with a YouTube tab to watch and take notes in real time. The possibilities are endless.

Notifications

Like all other messaging apps, you get a notification whenever someone uses @your name in a conversation, or when you receive a direct message. You can also opt to receive notifications for replies to threads you started, when someone becomes available or unavailable, activity in channels that you follow and more. Teams gives you the option of several notification types including, email and a banner on the screen, just a banner or simply just an update on the feed.

Ms Teams Review

App integrations

Teams is particularly noteworthy for its rich integration with several other third-party apps. Still, Teams is at its best when integrating with Microsoft’s suite of office productivity tools. With Office 365, Teams allows content created on Microsoft’s apps to be available in real-time on the platform itself. A number of Microsoft apps can be pulled into Teams as tabs and that can be especially useful. For instance, file sharing app OneNote integrates neatly with Teams for a seamless experience.

Teams Review

Calling

Teams offers good conferencing capabilities with a maximum of 250 participants who have the ability to join a video call, far greater than Slack’s 15. But Zoom offers a maximum of 1000 for enterprise accounts.

If video calling is important to you, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are the leaders. In MS Teams anyone in your Team can call you by just clicking on your name and then the call button. You can even opt to leave a voicemail like message if no one answers.

Price and Verdict

Overall, Microsoft Teams is a highly customizable and neatly organized workplace communications app with great app integration.

Ultimately, it is about personal preference and more importantly the other apps in your company or team’s workflow. Organizations are heavily reliant on Microsoft Apps should switch to Teams without a thought. The rich integrations themselves are worth the switch.

But if you are not, Slack’s stream of consciousness style of messaging could prove to be easier to follow and simpler to work with. However with MS Teams pricing being so inexpensive and ranging from $5/user per month to $35/user per month, Microsoft offers a wide range of options for everyone.

It must be noted though that this pricing includes Microsoft 365 and it is great value for an organization already using or intending to use Microsoft 365 apps.

You can download Microsoft Teams from the Play Store here and from the App Store here.

Author Bio –  Aaron Kaiser is the Business Director and one of the principal partners at EPC Group. Aaron works very closely with the development team on client projects to ensure clients are satisfied with the solutions provided. One of his favorite quotes is “No one ever fired an IT partner for over-communicating during projects.”

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