Tag Archives: digital comms news

Microsoft Teams review

Rumour has it that Microsoft seriously considered buying out Slack – the most notable operator in the chat-based workplace market which has a staggering three million daily users.

It was only Bill Gates’ intervention and current CEO, Satya Nadella’s scepticism that curtailed a potential eye-watering $8 billion takeover bid.

Instead, Microsoft decided that it would take Slack head on, building a competitor from the ground up.

The result is Microsoft Teams.

Why Teams?

According to Microsoft, Teams is built around four key components.

The largest, and most important, component is threaded chat. Hailed as the solution to everyone’s overstuffed inboxes, chats allow team members to communicate as a team, chronologically and visible for all members.

The second core component is Teams’ ability to act as a hub for teamwork. On top of persistent and threaded conversations, Office 365 integration means that almost all work documents play nicely with the platform.

The third aspect is how customisable Teams is. Each team can have multiple channels to help make sure chats are appropriately assigned to ongoing projects or sub-teams, etc.

There is one glaring emission though… Teams doesn’t allow guest users to register.
That means that if your company regularly uses freelancers to help out with projects, you will have to purchase a 365 Enterprise subscription for them if you want them to be involved in the team’s chat – a mind-boggling decision.

The fourth, and final, core component of Teams is the level of security that Microsoft has baked into the service. All data sent to the cloud is encrypted and separated from customer data – something that will put safety-conscious companies at ease.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is also available on almost every platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone and a web-based client – everyone in the business should be able to access Teams, regardless of what device they use for work.

But none of this is new. Competitors offer this exact same service, for free. So why would you chose to go with Microsoft Teams?

It’s all about Office 365

The most interesting selling point for Teams is its deep integration with Office 365. If your business already uses Office (which, let’s face it, it probably does) all meetings, files, notes, video calls – everything will work in Teams. That means Word, PowerPoint, Outlook calendar, Skype, OneNote – all the heavy hitters are baked right into Teams.

Have a meeting scheduled with a few team members? With Teams, all documents can be shared with attendees before the meeting, and with Skype they can automatically video or audio call them. It really is simple, and in reality it works extremely well.

Even better, if your business is an Office 365 Enterprise user, Teams is included for free.

So, what’s it like in practice?

If you’ve ever used Slack, you’ll find Teams remarkably similar. In fact, it’s strikingly similar and it’s not hard to imagine where Microsoft pulled most of its ‘inspiration’ from. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

On the whole, it’s easy to find your way around and jump between conversations.

The ‘Notifications’ tab does a really great job of helping you keep track of all your conversations. But I can imagine it getting a bit out of control if you’re a member of a few different teams and conversations.

Where Microsoft Teams truly excels is as a less formal comms channel for colleagues. A library of emojis, GIFs, stickers – even memes, are only a click away.

This might sound like it’s frivolous and distracting (which it definitely can be), but providing colleagues with a virtual ‘water cooler’ where they can communicate instinctively like they aren’t in work has myriad benefits.

Helping colleagues express personality does absolute wonders for team spirit.

If you work as part of a team that is spread across different locations (even countries), Teams is amazing at enabling collaboration to happen in real time, involving every team member. Another great feature is the ability to message specific members of the team one-on-one.

The deep-rooted Office integration is really where Teams becomes less of communication platform and more of a genuine work platform. Being able to quickly upload and share documents for everyone to view and comment on is incredibly helpful.

It does away with the endless string of edited documents, all saved with slightly different names that you usually have to contend with when multiple people are working from one document.

Mobile apps

One of the greatest things about the new wave of workplace chat apps is how they play nice with mobile devices. And Microsoft Teams is no different, its mobile apps are light, intelligently laid out and supremely easy to use.

The experience neatly mirrors its full-size desktop brother, putting chats first and foremost in the layout:

Microsoft Teams screenshot

That means remote workers really will feel like they are intimately involved with any team conversations, even if they have to be out and about for most of their working day.

But where the app falls short is its concerning lack of features that are present in the fully fledged desktop apps, things like video calling, scheduling meetings and uploading files from OneDrive.

I think you can be pretty confident that Microsoft will introduce these features later down the line through app updates, but their omission at the moment is more than a little confusing.

How does it compare to its competitors?

Honestly? It depends how invested your company is in Microsoft’s ecosystem. If you’re already an Office 365 Enterprise subscriber, then Teams makes a lot of sense. After all, it won’t cost you anything to implement and will play nicely with all of Office 365’s tools.

But at the moment, Teams isn’t bringing anything ground breaking or revolutionary to the table. In fact, it’s faithfully copied much of what Slack innovated in the first place – except Slack’s freemium model means that anyone can download it and start using it straight away.

So, is it worth it? Microsoft Teams is a pretty neat solution and if your company hasn’t implemented a chat-based system for working, it’s got plenty to like.

And if you already subscribe to Office as a business then it’s a no-brainer to at least try out. But Teams doesn’t offer much that Slack doesn’t already do – very well.

Overall score: 3/5.

Guest blog: Employees need to be brand advocates in a digital world

Julia Brook, Director of PR Services at Lea Barn Consultancy, explains why embracing digital means businesses must safeguard their reputation with employees – not just external customers.

In today’s social media-driven world, organisations are more exposed than ever before.

Gone are the days when bad news could be buried and unethical corporate behaviour swept under the carpet. In the digital economy, businesses face higher levels of scrutiny from customers, colleagues, prospective employees, shareholders and stakeholders alike.

Companies of all sizes – and in every industry – have to be accountable for what they say and do, with instances of unethical or unjust behaviour managed proactively rather than reactively. Just ask Donald Trump.

So while there is a huge opportunity and, indeed, imperative for organisations to invest in and benefit from new communication platforms, a focus on reputational risk must be a priority.

This has obvious implications for internal communications and employee relations. Research from Accenture Strategy found that 60 per cent of employees publicly share information about their rewards, salaries and opinions of their manager’s performance on social media sites.

Similarly, websites like glassdoor.co.uk have risen to prominence, enabling professionals to share reviews on the best and worst companies to work for, as well as compare salaries and experiences.

Such sites have the potential to impact your brand not only with potential employees but also customers whom are likely to make purchase decisions based on reputation. The media furore over zero-hours contracts and backlash again Sports Direct springs to mind.

Internal communications takes on new importance in this environment. If organisations truly care about attracting and retaining the top talent, it’s vital they:

• Are in tune with their workforce
• Communicate relevant and honest information on a regular basis
• Have the overall aim of ensuring employees become brand advocates in the same way as external customers.

It’s also important that the workforce is your first port of call when crisis hits. Bearing in mind the speed of social media, internal communications have a key role to play in keeping employees informed about what has happened and what is happening.

When corporate reputation is on the line, speedy internal communications are now as important as preparing external statements. Employees should not have to read about bad news on social media before receiving the official (and honest) version of events from the senior team.

So while digital provides exciting opportunities for all organisations, we shouldn’t forget that it also needs careful management.

Companies aren’t able to hide, so they have to be open and honest with their employees – great internal process and dedicated communications platforms will mean an external crisis or threat to corporate reputation need not also be an internal one.