At this point, most business users have had some experience with Microsoft Teams—after all, it’s not exactly a new app (Microsoft debuted Teams nearly three years ago). Yet many people still don’t know what to make of the application. Is it a Skype replacement? A chat app?
Perhaps that’s because Teams is different from any other Microsoft application. Indeed, it’s much more than conferencing and chat—it represents an entirely new way of working. It’s a hub for collaboration and communication, meetings, file and app sharing, and more. It’s designed to increase productivity and improve communication by making everything available in a single interface—chat, conversation, meetings, files, and tasks.
But to realize Teams’ potential, organizations and employees must prioritize learning and focus on building the skills they need to use the app effectively. While your employer should provide you with Teams training and support options, you can give yourself a head start in 2020 by learning a few basics. For example:
1. Use the Command Bar to find things quickly. So-called “slash commands” have been around since the early days of the internet, and it’s no wonder they have endured—they’re simple, powerful, and easy to use. They’re especially helpful for finding your way around Teams’ unfamiliar landscape. Simply type a slash (“/”) into the Command Bar at the top of the Teams window, and list of commands appears in a dropdown menu. Among the most useful: /files (shows you a list of your recent files), /goto (enables you to jump directly to a channel or team), /mentions (shows you a list of all your @mentions) , and dozens more.
Typing “@” in the Command Bar provides you with options such as @News, @Weather, and @Places, as well as the ability to start a chat with someone, search already-installed apps like Wikipedia, and find and install new apps.
2. Pin, bookmark/save, and filter. Despite our access to advanced technology, we still spend way too much time looking for documents, chats, emails, and more. These Teams capabilities promise to help employees take back their productivity and eliminate frustration.
Pin: Microsoft recently added the ability to pin a channel at the top of the Teams channel list. It helps you find your most important channels with minimal effort.
Bookmark/save: To save specific messages or files, use the bookmark/save feature. Saving a specific message or file is as simple as clicking the More option (…) on the upper right of an item and choosing “Save.” The item is marked with a flag and can easily be found via the /saved command.
Filter: Whether you are in the activity feed, in chat, or viewing your teams, the filter button at the top of the pane enables you to efficiently locate what you need in that particular section with a basic search.
3. Edit and collaborate on files. If you are working on Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, you can do so right within Teams—no need to switch to another application. You can also collaborate with colleagues in real-time, avoiding the frustrating document version overload of the not-too-distant past.
These features are just a tiny sample of Teams’ capabilities—and Microsoft will be adding more productivity- and collaboration-focused functionality with each software update. To take advantage of these features, and to be able to keep up as new ones are rolled out, you must take a proactive approach to Teams adoption. Here are three suggestions to get started:
- ASSESS YOUR PROCESSES Take some time to think about your own work process. How do you collaborate? How do you communicate? How do you keep track of tasks and project deadlines? Take note of processes that work well for you and those that cause frustration. Use this information to create your own “use case,” which can serve as a starting point for training.
- TAKE ACTION Sign up for training, and keep signing up for training.
- SUSTAIN YOUR MOMENTUM Keep a list of questions and investigate them when you have time. Revisit your work process and create additional use cases.
According to Microsoft, usage of Teams increased dramatically in 2019. Judging by the number of new features Microsoft plans to roll out this year, it will likely increase even more in 2020. Don’t fall behind—get started on Teams adoption now.
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.