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Getting More Out of Microsoft Teams: User Training Remains Key

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With new features being added to Microsoft Teams every month and a host of third party apps and capabilities available, keeping track of it all can be a lot for any Teams user — let alone an IT professional responsible for supporting those users — to handle. To help make sense of the over 300 features added to Teams last year alone, Kevin Kieller, co-founder of EnableUC, shared how enterprises can get more out of their Teams service in an Enterprise Connect session today.
 
At the beginning of the latest installment of his annual “Taming Teams” series, Kieller started with a look at Teams' growth in recent years and shared statistics on Teams growth and the features that were being added. Teams monthly active users reached 270 million, and daily active users were just above 200 million, as of January 2022, per Microsoft statistics. Even as Microsoft has grown its Teams user base, it has continued to add new features, most recently around hybrid work. In addition to the over 300 updates made last year, 25 new features were added last month, with 125 features currently in development, Kieller shared.
 
While not able to cover all these features in-depth, Kieller highlighted a handful of ones that IT professionals should be aware of, breaking them down into the following four categories.
 
  1. Built-in capabilities: One way that users can boost workplace productivity is by leveraging the existing built-in capabilities of Teams, Kieller said. For example, some of the newer Teams capabilities include the ability to change chat density, disabling or mirroring a video stream, and casting from Windows and macOS directly to Teams Meeting Rooms. For messaging and Outlook, users can now share Teams messages to specific recipients in Outlook, and they can reply to the message via email or Teams chat. To explore the latest Teams features, users can click on "Help" in the lower corner of Teams and select "What's new” to see the newest Teams features. IT admins also have access to the Message center, and everyone can access the Office 365 roadmap and the "What's New in Teams" blog post to stay up to date with new Teams features.
  2. First-party extensions: Another way users can boost productivity is by leveraging first-party extensions with apps like Microsoft Forms, which allows users to create surveys, quizzes, and polls for channels, meetings, and as a tab. Additionally, users can add a planner to a channel tab, where they can create and assign tasks to people and set reminders for upcoming and overdue tasks. Also, users can create lists with different templates to track tasks and issues.
  3. Third-party extensions: Currently, Microsoft's AppSource has 1,329 apps that can add new features to the Teams experience. To ensure that users are making the most out of third-party apps, IT professionals should review their Teams Admin Center, understand how to whitelist an app, and educate users on they can get an app whitelisted.
  4. Custom extension with low-code platforms: In addition to these capabilities, enterprises have the option to use any one of several platforms to create their own tools to address their specific business processes. For instance, enterprises can create reports and analytics with Power BI, business apps with Power Apps, workflow and process automation with Power Automation, and chatbots with Power Virtual Agents.
User Training: Key to Unlocking Potential
Despite the Teams growth and new features rolling out, Kieller explained that not many users are fully utilizing their unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platform. In a study done in conjunction with Blair Pleasant of BC Strategies last fall, Kieller found that 65% of users from over 100 organizations didn't feel like they had a good understanding of all the features offered to them.
 
To address this, Kieller added that training can improve employee engagement with Teams. The BC Strategies study support this, with 72% of users saying they would be more effective with their UC&C platform if they had additional training
 
“Potential does not unlock increased productivity and results; more features does not necessarily – by itself – deliver faster and improved business outcomes,” Kieller said. “You need to do some work to understand the full capabilities of Teams, and then really to match these capabilities with your specific business needs.”
 
When it comes to seeing how well Teams users understand and utilize the platform, Kieller suggested two ways that IT can proactively monitor adoption: by surveying employees directly and by leveraging Teams analytics. “If you’re in IT, be courageous and gather feedback from your users with respect to training. Ask them if they have enough training. Do they need more training?” Kieller said. “Also, [use] the analytics that are based inside of Teams to get a better understanding of who’s using what, what’s working for your organization, and what’s not.”
 
But it’s not just on the IT professional to do the work of being informed on Teams, Kieller suggested that users should get active and brush up on their Teams knowledge as well. “I’d suggest you allocate 30 minutes of time, either once a week or once every other week, to keep up with the features of Teams,” Kieller said, noting that the investment in time will pay itself back many times over.

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