Microsoft recently announced the date Teams will replace Skype for Business Online—July 31, 2021. To many people, the switch may appear to be inconsequential, especially since it’s seemingly so far in the future.
But that date is indeed significant—it means you have a little less than two years to prepare yourself for an entirely new way of working.
Teams is a relatively new application—Microsoft released it in March 2017—that serves as a hub for workplace chat (voice, video and text), meetings, notes, and attachments. Teams enables collaborative editing and seamless sharing of applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, plus calendars, files and email. With Teams’ “Channels,” you can use artificial intelligence applications (“Bots”) to complete tasks with chat-based commands, as well as integrations (“Connectors”) to communicate with third-party apps like Salesforce and Evernote.
Although Teams is designed to simplify group work, it does have a learning curve. And while your organization will likely help you with training and other support, you also bear some of the responsibility. Here are three steps you can take now to ensure you are fully prepared for the transition:
1. Understand how it all works
Teams includes several key features to help you stay organized and productive. Learn what they are, how they work, and how you can use them to improve your own work processes. Here are the basics:
- Teams: Collections of people, content, and tools created for project-based or ongoing collaborative work. Teams can be public or private, small or large.
- Channels: Sections within a team to keep conversations organized by topics, projects or departments.
- Tabs: “Canvases” within Channels where members can work directly with tools and data and have conversations about them within the Channel’s context. Examples include a Power BI report, a dashboard, a website, a PowerPoint presentation, and more.
- Connectors: This feature enables you to use third-party software and services—like Yammer, Trello, Salesforce, Google Analytics, and more—to post content inside a Channel.
- Bots: Built-in or custom automated programs that respond to questions or provide updates and notifications—all within Teams. Examples include an Adobe Creative Cloud bot that enables you to find, view, and share assets; a SurveyMonkey bot that allows you to share, collect, and collaborate on surveys; and more.
2. Work on your foundation
Teams may be a new platform, but it’s not entirely unfamiliar. It brings together the Microsoft applications and services you already use, integrates them, and adds capabilities like chat, artificial intelligence, and more.
Take time to learn the features you will rely on. Set up a meeting, for example, and learn how to create shared meeting notes, share screens, share files, co-author documents, and chat. Pay special attention to Notifications, which are critical to Teams. Learn where to look to for notifications, how to respond to them, how to send private messages, and how to use @mentions to get the attention of an individual or an entire team.
3. Experiment with more advanced features
Once you have the basics, direct your focus on more advanced and specific ways to use Teams. Think about your regular tasks and use them to create individual and departmental business scenarios. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your current process for creating and sharing information?
- What challenges do you currently face regarding communication and collaboration?
- What are some specific tasks or projects that could benefit from an application like Teams?
have shown that only about 34 percent of users are willing to use new
technology rollouts within an organization.
Make sure you are a part of that group—take steps to learn how to use Teams
 Source: CEB, now a subsidiary of Gartner Research, www.gartner.com.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.