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Increase Microsoft Teams Benefits, Part 1: The Set Up

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Microsoft is going all-in on Teams, and it’s time your company reaps the benefits! So much is being left on the table, and more potential is waiting to be released. This blog series lays out the secrets to upgrade your team’s usage of MSFT Teams. Taking these steps will transform the tool from just another chat avenue to the foundation of work at your company.  

The first step is creating the Teams instance! Create Teams around an organization structure, project, or initiative. All three of those are appropriate and can apply to the rest of the blog series. Choose one that applies to you and use that for the rest of the steps. The remainder of our first discussion is how to set up that Teams instance for success.  

Create a structure 

We want to mirror the structure of how work is done in our Teams instance. This allows us to best plan how communication will happen within. A great way to conceptualize a team is by identifying who is responsible, accountable, informed and consulted (RACI) for all requirements the group has to the business. The goal is to identify high-level buckets the work falls into in order to create the most intuitive structure. 

Identify the Workstreams

Start by reflecting upon the different buckets of work for the group. We want to organize our communications, files, and meetings around those groups – they will become our channels. The forethought of how to organize communication is critical. This process is the equivalent of laying a strong foundation of a house. Investing the time in how to manage your communication upfront will save pain and more time later when working to catch teammates up, communicate decisions, or sending emails.  

Example: Creating Channels 

This is not each person has their own channel. The goal is #collaboration. Try to organize by the main efforts or aspects of the team or project. If you have trouble identifying what these groups should be, think about how your team talks about the work. For example, let’s say you’re on a development project. Do you usually start with technical architecture? Then transition to communicating those technical aspects? And, lastly how to report on the progress toward the overall goal? In that case, we would start with the following channel structure. Rest assured, the structure should adjust as time goes on and your organization changes. See the following examples of what would go into those channels. 

  1. Technical I ran into this error when trying to implement what we talked about on our standup. I’ve tried one thing and then another. Any other ideas?”
  2. OCM – “Can the team review this write up of the changes end users can expect in our next release?”
  3. Project Management – “Our status report is due end of the week. Could everyone add updates by end of day?”

The default General channel cannot be deleted. Use this channel if none of the topics doesn’t fit any others. If there is an active topic in the General channel, consider promoting to a dedicated channel.

Decide who needs to follow what & how to tag 

Once you have identified the channels the team is going to utilize, delete the others which may have been created. The goal of this planning is to take all randomness out of communication and plan how the team members will communicate. This will save people’s time when choosing how to communicate something and who need to receive it. If communications are always put in a certain spot, the benefit of using Microsoft Teams increases substantially because communications can be referenced and relied upon. In order to completely take out the randomness, talk through and set the following for your team.

An owner for each channel 

These people (ideally 2) are responsible for regulating the posts in their channel and making sure everything that gets posted there is resolved. The benefits of having channel owners are preventing ideas or questions from falling through the cracks, and having the guidelines set up reinforced so communication is planned. 

How to use tagging 

Let the team decide how they want to use tagging. The method my team found works best is if a response or specific action is neededthe specific teammate must be tagged. Otherwise, use channel tagging for informational posts that don’t require specific action.  The benefit of this is all teammates understand how to ask for what they need. 

Which channels members need to follow 

Have a conversation on who needs to follow which channels. This combats the pain point for Teams creating too many notifications & creating a lot of noise. Go through and determine specific channels members need to follow. This prevents teammates from missing important questions. The benefit is channel tags can be utilized, but are not limiting. That is because teammates should use direct tagging in channels to ask pointed questions. When going through this exercise, think about the “FYI” messages. In other words, decide which members need to stay informed on specific workstreams. If you are a smaller team, you may decide to skip this step for the time being.  

Try it out!

The way to create the best fit for the team is to work through this exercise with everyoneFirst, have the whole team go through this blog beforehand. Then, reserve some time to work through these exercises together. After that, your team will be on the way to having the foundations for more impactful communication, being a more productive team overall, and increasing Microsoft Teams’ benefits for your company. In part 2, we discuss best practices within channels to unlock even more benefits. 

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Venice Thacker, Business Consultant

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