October was a big month for Microsoft with lots of exciting updates to software and hardware, but today brings the official announcement of Microsoft Teams – the much anticipated group chat workspace for Office 365 users. Microsoft Teams is a new experience that brings together people, conversations, and content in Office 365. Microsoft Teams is (are?) Microsoft’s answer to Slack. The cool thing about Microsoft Teams, however, is that while Microsoft may be a little late to the group chat party, it’s got all the elements needed to deliver a best-in-class solution – and these tools are the ones we already use every day.
Microsoft Teams (http://teams.microsoft.com) adds another dimension to the way teams can collaborate. As of November 2, 2016, Teams can be enabled for your Office 365 tenant on the following plans: Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3, and E5. It is available in preview in 181 countries and in 18 languages and is expected to be generally available by the end of the year. The Admin setting options for Teams are shown in the screen shot below. Most of the settings are off to start so each organization can make a decision about which features to enable.
As Satya Nadella mentioned in the announcement today, “Every individual is different and so is every team. Teamwork and collaboration is an art.” Nadella made the analogy between work teams and other teams – like an orchestra or a jazz ensemble. Both an orchestra and jazz ensemble have similar outcomes - creating music – but they do it in different ways. An orchestra typically has a more formal arrangement to follow but for a jazz ensemble, the score may be more of a suggestion. Work teams can definitely be like this as well – which is probably why so many IT teams have gravitated to Slack. Microsoft Teams is the jazz ensemble to SharePoint’s orchestra. But, what makes Teams so exciting for organizations is that Teams really bring together all the existing tools that people need and are already using – but Teams delivers them in an integrated experience combined with chat. For example, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Planner, Power BI, and Delve are all built into Microsoft Teams so people have all the information and tools they need. SharePoint provides the Files service for Teams, which makes me very, very happy from a governance perspective. This means that the documents that the cool jazz ensemble shares live in an organizationally controlled place – SharePoint – not outside the organization or without the controls needed to keep the security and compliance folks happy. Each Team gets a SharePoint document library and the documents for each channel live in a Folder within the document library. Each team shares a OneNote notebook as well – and each Channel gets a Section of the OneNote notebook. (This is a really intuitive design, by the way, and should be very easy to explain to users because it just makes sense!)
Conversations in Teams are automatically threaded, which is really important for context. (Slack conversations are not threaded and can get really hard to follow if your team shares a lot of content.) You can like or flag a specific post for easy access later. You can also edit posts after they go up, though as with Facebook and Slack, these posts will have an Edit icon to let people know that it’s been changed. Teams have standard text editing like bolding and bullets but they also let you attach fun stuff like stickers, GIFs, and, of course, emojis.
Teams have another context – Tabs. Tabs provide a dedicated place where different services are surfaced for the Team. Third-parties can create custom Tabs to provide a web experience inside the Team, allowing users to access the service in the right context and collaborate around its content. There are lots of opportunities for additional services in Teams – including Bots. (It won’t take long to win buzzword bingo if you watch the video announcing Teams. Listen for digital transformation, Bots, GIFs, meme, and emojis.)
Microsoft Teams is a welcome addition to the Office 365 family and provides a way for teams to connect in a fun and engaging way. What is important, however, is that the Teams service is still part of the family – and leverages the services provided by the other family members to deliver an engaging user experience – membership from Groups, files from SharePoint, tasks from Planner, meeting minutes in OneNote, and video meetings provided by Skype.
Learn more about Microsoft Teams from these Microsoft blog posts: