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On the Move to Teams... Slow & Steady or Full-Steam Ahead

As Microsoft has been making crystal clear at Ignite, its annual user conference taking place this week, Teams will one day become the only communications client available in Office 365. If you're supporting a Skype for Business Online implementation, the thought of having to migrate your users to Teams might not be something you relish -- no matter the added collaborative capabilities, integrations, and intelligent tools that would come along with such a move (read related article, "Microsoft Envisions Future of 'Intelligent Communications'").

But really, it's not so bad, two enterprise IT professionals shared during a presentation on Skype for Business and Teams. Their approaches differed drastically, but users at both organizations were highly receptive to Teams, each reported.

Brian Gillespie, Cerner (at left), and Jason Warnke, Accenture

Accenture on Slow Acceleration

Global consulting firm Accenture took the studied approach so often favored by large enterprises -- it started with IT, and moved outwards from there. "We took a very structured, governed approach to turning on pieces of the platform," said Jason Warnke, global social enterprise lead, at the company.

Moving with caution was a necessity given how ingrained Skype for Business is at Accenture. For example, Accenture runs about 320 million audio conferencing minutes per month through the UC client. "Skype for Business isn't just part of our day but part of almost every hour of every day," Warnke said.

By starting with IT, Accenture could turn functions on and off to see what was working and what wasn't, as well as gather feedback from users along the way. "As we saw how Teams worked, we rolled more and more features out to a larger and larger group of people," Warnke said.

To date, Accenture has about 11,000 employees, in 4,000 teams, using Teams, Warnke said. Within the next month it plans on rolling Teams out to the rest of the company, he added.

Teams is doing away with the "swivel chair" effect required when working with a bunch of different tools and business applications, Warnke said. "What we're seeing changing now is we're building these things into the conversation platform. We're enabling people to use Teams as their cockpit ... and bring their applications into their team spaces."

This is what's driving the move from Skype for Business to Teams. "That's the big transition," he said.

No Holds Barred at Cerner

In a polar opposite approach, Cerner, a leading healthcare technology provider, took one look at Teams when Microsoft released the app in preview, and ran with it. "We saw it was secure and compliant, and that it fit with our organization from an operational standpoint, so we decided to just turn it on," said Brian Gillespie, director of technology analysis and alignment, at the company.

Cerner literally enabled Teams on day one of preview availability, and then reached out to key influencers... "'Hey, go to, download it, and have a good time,'" Gillespie recounted telling those users. Word of mouth took over, and Cerner quickly saw "huge organic growth," he added.

As Microsoft got ready to push Teams into general availability, Cerner officially announced Teams as a part of its communications and collaboration tools portfolio.

In its approach, Cerner wants to provide guidance, not governance, Gillespie said. "So we took a good set of use cases we thought summed up collaboration at Cerner, and aligned the tools we thought best to use for each of those -- so if you're doing one-on-one communications, use Skype for Business. If you're going to have a meeting, use these tools."

Three use cases have surfaced around Teams, Gillespie said.

The first is team collaboration -- which is the point of Teams, after all, he added. In some instances, he said, Cerner has even seen people go as far as using Teams completely, for all internal communications, and backing away from using email and instant messaging.

The persistency of team collaboration is proving particularly beneficial for international teams with far-flung participants. "IM doesn't work well when people aren't in the office at the same times," he quipped.

The second use case is for ad hoc projects. As one example, he pointed to the large work effort involved in hosting an internal engineering conference at Cerner. Planners previously relied on email, IM, and spreadsheets on file shares. Now they're using Teams, integrated with Microsoft Planner task management software and other Office 365 programs to keep the project on track, Gillespie said.

The third use case involves incident response. While the process for responding to incidents hasn't changed, the teams now essentially transcribe the reports in Teams. This allows others in the organization to learn from what happened and -- hopefully -- come up with ways to prevent that in the future. Additionally, the conversational record within Teams helps to smooth the handoff of incidents from one shift of workers to the next, he added. "Now they have this transcribed work they can pick up on."

Clearly how and when to add Teams depends on an organization's readiness. But add it you'll need to do if you're planning on sticking with Microsoft's communications and collaboration agenda.

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