Become a Microsoft Teams Hall of Famer
Microsoft Teams provides the toolset necessary to enable more seamless organizational communication and collaboration, our cockpit of the digital workplace. At first glance, Microsoft Teams (Teams) may appear as a straightforward chat platform, and although it may take only minutes for an end user to join the conversation online, much more power awaits those interested in learning all of the features Teams has to offer.
Joining the Teams Hall of Fame at your organization does not happen overnight. The following is our strategy to help you go from rookie to Hall of Famer. Follow our guide, and you’ll be swinging for the fences in no time.
Rookie Season – End Users
Besides your basic introduction to Teams, such as posting simple messages, there are a few key recommendations you should embrace on your way to becoming a Teams power user.
Control your notifications
As Teams adoption grows, you’ll likely join more teams and actively participate and monitor a larger array of channels. It’s imperative that you utilize the notification technology within Teams to assist so you know when your attention is needed. A common complaint we hear with Teams and other similar chat/posting platforms, is that there’s too much chatter—too much unrelated information, or simply too much to follow. Help yourself by configuring Teams to notify you when your attention is truly needed.
You can control how you are notified such as via a banner on your desktop, a notification on your smartphone, an email message, within your feed, as well as with sound notification. You can also follow channels to get more options specific to that channel.
Learn more on configuring notifications and maintain control of the volume of chatter to find the right balance for you.
@mentioning: Get a person’s, channel’s, or team’s attention
Related to notifications, if you want to get a specific person, an entire channel, or an entire team’s attention, you’ll @mention that entity. Common use cases include:
Within a particular channel, or within a group chat, you might want to call out a specific user or user’s attention, so they receive a notification that they were mentioned. At PixelMill we have a Company team and a Knowledge Sharing channel. If I want to share an exciting design concept with our company, I might @mention our senior UI/UX leader, @Kunaal so that he knows that my post is related to him.
Say within the Knowledge Sharing example above, I want to call out a particular post for the entire channel, even if a specific member is not following the channel. In this case, I could @mention the entire channel, i.e., “@Knowledge Sharing,” to get that channel’s attention.
Similar to @mention a channel, I can also @mention an entire team, in our case “@PixelMill” in the example above to get the whole team’s attention.
Learn more on how @mention can work for you. https://support.office.com/en-us/article/get-attention-with-mentions-b2ffb135-7069-4880-84ee-5b27f402418b
Find your recent posts by using “My Activity”
Teams includes two types of Activity feeds. You’ll always want to start your day and in general live within your Teams Activity feed. This feed shows you an ordered list of activity that is relevant and related to you. The Activity window also includes a “My Activity” feed that allows you to quickly see all of your posts.
Why might you do this? Possibly you need to look up something you sent to someone a few days back. Maybe there is an important link you want to remember. By reviewing your “My Activity” feed, you can quickly find the post.
If your “My Activity” feed is too long or possibly you don’t quite remember how long ago you posted the message, don’t fret, Teams has your back. Simply filter your “My Activity” feed by clicking on the Filter icon which looks like a little funnel to the right of the “My Activity” title.
Utilize “My Activity” to access your recent posts and messages, https://support.office.com/article/filter-your-activity-feed-02b9ece4-6086-4daa-b4c0-627beeacbf08.
Send an email to a channel
You’re not limited to communicating with a channel via the Teams application, Teams website, or mobile app. You can also quickly and easily email the entire channel as well. The basic steps include getting the channel email address, drafting the email you want to send to the channel, and hitting send.
Here at PixelMill we have done away with nearly all internal email as Teams empowers all internal communication and collaboration we need. I personally see many more organizations following suit as overall utilization and adoption grows. That being said, many organizations live by email thus emailing channels may be an onramp to Teams adoption.
Further, there are times when you may want to share an email with a channel. Forwarding an email, with permission when necessary of course, may be a quick way to start a threaded conversation around an email without endless forwards.
Learn how to send an email to a Teams channel: https://support.office.com/article/tip-send-email-to-a-channel-2c17dbae-acdf-4209-a761-b463bdaaa4ca.
Create meetings for a channel, a group of people, or specific individuals
A face to face meeting can often alleviate delays and Teams can help with those situations as well. Voice based meetings, with optional video and/or screensharing, between two individuals, an ad hoc group of people, or even an entire channel may be scheduled or created and attended on the fly. We’ll soon be able to screenshare without the need for voice or video as well, as recently announced at Microsoft Ignite 2018.
Beyond threaded discussions, hosting meetings within Teams is where this platform can truly shine. Learn more about planning for and running meetings within Teams.
- Meetings overview: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/tutorial-meetings-in-teams
- Meeting types: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/tutorial-meetings-in-teams?tutorial-step=2
Record important meetings
Many of us sit in multiple meetings throughout our day, and remembering all that was said, discussed, and decided upon can be challenging—recordings to the rescue! You can record any voice or video chat, assuming you have everyone’s permission. Recordings can be saved to the cloud and added to Microsoft Stream, which allows for quick playback with closed captioning. Not only that, as announced at Microsoft Ignite 2018, soon you’ll be able to search and @mention search with the audio transcripts.
There are some caveats and prerequisites required for Teams recording that your Teams or tenant administrator may have to address for you.
Learn much more on how Teams recordings work at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/cloud-recording
Not all communication and collaboration with Teams must be between two or more people. Teams is integrated with bots to enable even more functionality, often making processes such as hosting polls or scheduling reports an automated breeze. The following bots are a great starting point for leveraging smart agents.
- T-Bot – T-Bot (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/t-bot) is provided by default and gives you answers to basic and frequently asked questions about Teams. Go to your “Chat” window or start a chat with “T-Bot”. From there you can ask questions, or if you prefer a hierarchy of information, check out bot’s “help” and “FAQ” tabs. T-Bot even includes videos and also provides multi-lingual language support.
- Polly – One of the more popular 3rd party bots used is Polly (https://www.polly.ai/microsoft-teams), which provides a quick and easy way to create polls for your organization, quickly share them, and process results.
- Statsbot –(https://statsbot.co/?ref=msteams) is a powerful analytics bot that integrates with Teams we well.
- Others – Many other bots exist such as ones that help you connect to SalesForce, Google Analytics, and Growbot which allows for the exchange of kudos with your co-workers.
Bots within Teams help provide another window of communication and collaboration all within one cockpit of the digital workplace. Learn more about adding bots now: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/add-bots
Never stop learning
These tips and tricks will get you out of the minors and through much of your rookie session, but don’t stop there. Keep learning about how best to use Teams to facilitate communication and collaboration within your organization. There are countless resources on Teams, I recommend the following as a starting point for on-going training: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/enduser-training
Becoming an All Star – Administrator
You made it through your rookie season and you’re looking to join the All Stars. To reach this goal, you are going to be taking on more roles within Teams such as owning Teams, becoming an Administrator, installing new features, and expanding the role of Teams within your organization.
Here are some of our tips to get more out of Teams.
Create an organization-wide team
One of the other exciting announcements related to Teams at Microsoft Ignite 2018 included the ability to create an organization-wide team. As of the post date of this article, this feature has not yet been rolled out to 100% of the worldwide tenants, although rest assured if you do not yet have this functionality, you will soon.
An organization-wide team is a special type of team that automatically includes every user within your organization. This could help take the place of other communication tools you may be using to enable one-to-many communications.
There are a few caveats that you must consider when creating an organization-wide team. Currently, teams are limited to 1000 users, thus if your organization has more than 1000 accounts, this will not work for you. Microsoft may increase this limit over time, we will have to wait and see.
I have heard it argued many times, “Do you really want a team with 1000+ users? Do you know how hard that is to follow?” I counter that with, well Facebook groups, Yammer Groups, and other similar platforms offer similar features, why would it not work for Teams? Now, organization-wide teams do offer assistance here, for instance, you can limit posting to only owners of the team.
Organization-wide teams offer an outstanding opportunity for a senior leadership team. Now they can disseminate information to the entire organization. End-users can interact with the content (I.e. like or comment), but only the top leadership may post messages. Of course, many other possible use-cases exist, such as for HR, Corporate Communications, and many others.
Before you create your first organization-wide tenant, read up on the caveats and have a plan.
Add a Tab to a channel
Channels allow threaded conversations and by default also include a few tabs including a Files tabs for shared channel storage, and a Wiki tab that provides a place for team owners to articulate rules, guidance, purpose, and much more regarding the channel in question.
The real power of Teams is the ability to customize channels by adding new tabs as well as creating custom tabs for your channels. This is one of the primary pillars that truly makes Teams the cockpit of the digital workplace.
Teams includes many components that may be added as tabs, such as linking to a Planner, a SharePoint page, OneNote, PowerBi, Stream, PowerApps, BitBucket, Jira, GitHub, HootSuite, LMS365, Polly, Zendesk, and many more. Don’t forget you can also create your own.
Learning to add and create tabs is a valuable lesson that will enhance you and your organization’s Teams experience.
Successfully run a live event
Teams may be used to run live events that go far beyond simple chat meetings. Teams live events is similar to Skype Meeting Broadcast and will provide live video streaming to a larger online audience with features for before, during, and after any given event. Live events may be created using Teams, Microsoft Stream, or Yammer even.
During a live meeting, meant for one-to-many communication, hosts can broadcast video, share their screen, and lead interactions and audience participation via embedded chat. Live events may be recorded and provide hosts post-production assistance before the recording are made available.
Live events will take planning and guidance to get it right for your organization. Familiarize yourself with live events before making them available to your organization: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/teams-live-events/what-are-teams-live-events
Enable guest access to expand your reach
Teams does not limit your teams reach to only your organization, external users can join your teams as well. This feature is very useful for me as Teams has become the central window to my digital workplace. There are some factors to consider, although, you’ll find many teams benefit when external members have access as well.
Set up a Flow to post to a channel
Those singles, sacrifice flies, and solid defense will only get you so far, now it’s time to start swinging for the doubles, triples, and making those double plays.
A great way to up your game is using Microsoft Flow to post messages to your channels. For a while now we have been able to integrate Flow with Teams, such as having Flow monitor channels for specific actions. You can also use Flow to post messages to a channel as well.
Why might you do this? Let’s say you have a PowerApp that your organization uses to allow end users to submit IT related requests, such as a request for a new laptop. The PowerApp may post data to a SharePoint list, which in turn may be connected to a Flow. Traditionally Flow may be set to notify someone of a new request via email or the like, but you can speed up the process by having Flow post a message directly in a channel, for example, a channel for the IT team. Now the IT Team has a centralized place for threaded discussions around a given request.
Creating a Flow that posts to a channel is not overly difficult although there are a few steps that may be outside the range of many Administrators. You might need assistance here, and our good friend, Ryan Schouten penned an outstanding resource that I think you will find helpful.
- Post to Microsoft Team from Flow – https://www.sharepointknight.com/2017/02/06/post-to-microsoft-team-from-flow/
- Using Flow to post to Microsoft Team – https://flow.microsoft.com/fr-fr/blog/flow-to-team/
How can you drive user adoption without knowing utilization and trends? Teams activity reports can provide insights into who is using Teams, where active conversations are happening, as well as what devices are used to access your Teams tenant.
Tenant accounts that have been granted at least one of the following roles: Office 365 global admin role, Teams admin role, or Reports reader role, have access to activity reports. Using the reports, you can see if groups or individuals are not yet using Teams. You can use this information to help them get started, provide targeted training, or more to help increase productivity and collaboration.
Teams activity reports are found within the Office 365 admin center, alongside other product activity reports.
I find the user activity report the most valuable as this report provides insights into how many people interact in channel chats, how many people are utilizing private/not channel based chat, as well as how many people are utilizing Teams calling and meeting features. Reports are available at both the tenant and user level.
Utilize activity reports to get insights into how Teams is being used and use the reports to find possible gaps. Learn more about activity reports: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/teams-activity-reports
Learn what actions are available to Administrators and how to use them
As an All-Star, you will be taking on more Administrative roles, so be prepared with the knowledge of not only what you currently use, also consider all possibilities that Teams has to offer. Use this breadth of knowledge to help shape your organization’s utilization and adoption strategy of Teams.
Keep on top of administrative opportunities at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/itadmin-readiness
Provide training to your end users!
My final recommendation to help prepare you in your new role as a Teams power user or Administrator is be a leader. Help your end users learn and understand your Teams strategy. Provide adequate end-user training and help encourage your end users to learn at least the basics at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/enduser-training
Join your organization’s Teams Hall of Fame – Super Admins
It is time to consistently swing for the fences and lead the charge to completely integrate Teams into your organizations processes and culture. You will begin automating processes and management, creating custom connectors and components that will drive Teams utilization and adoption.
Create teams and channels via PowerShell or custom code
Automation is the cornerstone of any successful IT Pro and in the world of Office 365, this often falls to PowerShell. Microsoft released a PowerShell module for Microsoft Teams management. Currently this is in beta and the command set is not complete, yet you will find many useful options are available.
Get started with Microsoft Teams PowerShell Module: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/skypehybridguy/2017/11/07/microsoft-teams-powershell-support/
One of the first Super Admin tasks is a governed Teams team creation policy that depends on what type of team a person or group of people want to use, and based on requests, different types of teams with pre-defined channels should then be created.
For example, you can automate this process by utilizing a combination of say a PowerApp that provides the form to a SharePoint list to store new team requests, followed by Flow that will handle the approval process. Upon approval, the flow could trigger an Azure Function that then utilizes the Teams PowerShell module to create a team and add default channels.
The heart of this problem is addressed by the following two PowerShell commendlets.
- New-Team – create a new team and set primary properties.
- New-TeamChannel – add a channel to an existing team.
By utilizing PowerShell scripts and the Microsoft Teams PowerShell module, much of your organization’s team provisioning process can finally gain a consistency necessary for overall management.
Assign / add members and manage teams and channels via PowerShell
Not only can you add teams and channels via PowerShell, you can manage members, existing teams, and channels.
By utilizing PowerShell commandlets and your own custom scripts, take control of your Teams tenant before it becomes overrun with no ownership and too many unknowns.
Add a connector
Teams includes a feature called “connectors” that allows channels to receive updates from common services such as Twitter, Github, and VSTS. Once a connector has been configured, these updates can appear right within a chat stream.
If you are new to connectors, learn more at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/office-365-custom-connectors
What makes connectors even more useful for your organization is that ability to create custom connectors that work directly with your existing line of business (LoE) applications. Custom connectors can utilize the existing “Incoming Webhook” corrector. This connector will create a webhook endpoint for a given channel.
Utilizing this webhook endpoint, your custom LoB’s can now post data using simple JSON, which in turn will allow Teams to display the posted message in a visible object called a “Connector Card” message.
The ability to push your own LoB messages into Teams channels open many doors to possibilities. There are guides, example code, tips, and tricks already available to help you get started today:
- Getting started with Office 365 Connectors for Microsoft Teams
- Creating Office 365 Connectors for Microsoft Teams
Create a team from an existing group
Every Team’s team is backed by an Office 365 group, yet every Office 365 group is not necessarily enhanced by a Team’s team. For those of you who are starting to adopt Teams now, there is likely a growing need to teamify an existing Office 365 group.
There are two primary ways to do this. First is via the browser, and the second is with PowerShell.
- If you would like to create a Team’s team for an existing Office 365 group using a browser, follow the simple instructions available on docs.micorosft.com. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/enhance-office-365-groups
- If you would prefer a structured, repeatable approach, look no further than PowerShell and the Microsoft Teams PowerShell module.When you utilize the “New-Team” commandlet, one of the parameters, “-Group”, allows you to specify the group id of an existing Office 365 group you would like tied to the new team.
Simply provide this group id during the new team creation process and your Office 365 group will now be connected to a new team.Learn more at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/teams/New-Team?view=teams-ps
Recapping the season
We detailed a list of tips, tricks, recommendations, and advise to help you use Microsoft Teams more effectively and efficiently, whether you’re an end user, a power user, a team administrator, or a tenant administer, super admin, or developer.
This is by no means all you need to learn or know to utilize Teams within your organization. There will always be more to learn; your go to resource starts at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/Microsoft-Teams.
Stick with it! With training and practice you too can join your organization’s Teams Hall of Fame.
Are you looking for guidance, training, and support for your organization’s Teams adoption? PixelMill is your trusted partner on all aspects of Microsoft Teams. Let us help you determine how Teams can work best for your organization including how to integrate Teams into your organizational culture and how to integrate your processes into Teams. If you’re ready to take collaboration and communication to the next level, contact us today to get started on your Teams journey!