Are You Ready to Handle Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft early this fall announced that 125,000 organizations in 181 markets use Teams, its group chat tool that competes against Slack. That's up from 30,000 organizations in 145 markets at the beginning of this year.

Clearly, Teams is making inroads with the enterprise. And it's doing so because it offers a new approach of communicating and collaborating within Office 365, enabling organizations to work faster and more effectively than ever by pivoting the communications experience by project and topic, instead of by people and meetings.

Not only does Teams add persistent chat -- an extremely helpful capability when working on projects or discussing certain topics among team members, as anybody who has ever used Slack or another team chat tool knows -- it allows you to aggregate related content from other sources for inclusion in your Teams channel. And instead of forcing you to move your SharePoint document libraries, OneNote notes, OneDrive files, or other Office 365 content, Teams allows you to just add a pointer to it from within the team channel -- and likewise for content accessed through third-party applications like Asana for project/task management.

With real-time voice/video calling and online meetings via Skype for Business integrated into the Teams experience, you can instantly start a scheduled or ad-hoc video conference, online meeting, or 1:1 call with others actively working on the same project/topic. Real-time communications in the context of the project or topic, where most people spend a great deal of their time, is a great way to change the paradigm for success and team productivity.

Using Teams requires a new way of thinking and organizing, and I've personally now created all my teams and topic channels in Teams for product launches, campaigns, content project teams, and more. I've also added all the related supporting content like project plans, document libraries, meeting notes, action lists, etc. Adding the virtual team meetings that we have several times per week, plus ad-hoc virtual discussions with people I see in the project space, has definitely resulted in a more productive way to work.

Remember the Network

But adding Teams isn't so easy for everyone. Organizations just aren't prepared for the increased demand on the network that comes with Teams and other tools that make real-time communications super easy to use. If everyone in your organization is suddenly connecting on Teams, which is a cloud-based service, your network may not be able to handle the load. If it can't, everyone stands to have a poor experience. The challenge of delivering a great user experience has long existed in UC, but gets worse with team chat by putting user productivity and broad adoption in jeopardy.

Today's new collaboration tools like Teams can be highly effective, yes. But they require a robust network and Wi-Fi to deliver optimal performance everyone will expect, as well as provide the ability to respond to a problem quickly and identify the root cause immediately. And, unfortunately, many organizations are still operating with makeshift legacy networks and using monitoring and troubleshooting tools cobbled together over a period of many years.

Does that describe your organization? Don't lose hope. You can implement a leading-edge UC tool like Teams as long as you take the proper steps to prepare first. Before you deploy a new full-featured UC and collaboration solution, you must ensure that your network is optimized to cope with the demands of vigorous, real-time communications.

In other words, you must prepare. Sounds obvious. But many organizations still fail to assess their network environment prior to rollout and adoption. Only after the rollout do they discover that their network can't handle the new demands.

They've got their shiny new collaboration tool, but they've also got a poor user experience. They've got jitter, echo, and latency. They've got dropped calls, garbled communications, and speakers who sound like they're six feet underwater.

You can do better. You can do your pre-assessment to evaluate your infrastructure thoroughly and find those potential performance issues for voice, video, and desktop sharing before users have a bad experience. With Teams, users are connecting to the cloud. So, you must test your network connections between sites and up to the cloud edge points to ensure readiness and quality for successful user adoption. Network assessments also provide you the visibility you need to quickly identify the weak points and trouble spots in your already-complicated network configurations.

Be Proactive

But your work isn't done. After you roll out a tool like Teams, continuous monitoring and assessment of your infrastructure is vital, as is managing the user experience all day, every day. Proactive monitoring and assessment after deployment and throughout the lifecycle of your new solution is critical, because your network is always evolving just like user collaboration and communications.

When you're proactively monitoring the quality and performance of your communications, you're in a position to troubleshoot issues and isolate problems before they can impact the user experience. Your workers and teams are more efficient and your company is more productive across the board.

Every great structure rests on a solid foundation. Before you deploy your new UC tool, whether Teams or some other solution, you must make sure that your network can support it. And you must constantly monitor your network to ensure the efficient functioning of your UC tool. Do these things and you'll put your organization on the path to a prosperous digital transformation.