As businesses look to provide integrated, seamless collaborative experiences for their users, many have chosen Microsoft Teams.
A Day in the Life
Here’s an example of the sort of seamless experience they can deliver via Teams. A user wakes up in the morning and decides where they feel like working that day — at home, a customer site, the office, or a coffee shop (this is post-pandemic, of course). Via Teams, they know they will have access to everything they need to be efficient and productive regardless of their location, so that takes the pain out of the decision (not to mention making the work more enjoyable).
They decide to work from home, so head to their desk, turn on their laptop, and log in using facial recognition — simple and secure. They have a second monitor, keyboard, and mouse connected to a laptop dock that makes their experience just that much better. Their system automatically uses their laptop authentication to log in to the corporate VPN and firewall. This will provide secure access to all of their applications and data — all with quality of service to ensure that performance is optimal. Their applications open, logging in using their laptops credentials; they are ready to start the day.
The first order of the day is a team video meeting in Teams, which launches with one click and shows all participants in a tile layout. Team members share screens and applications for the updates as they move through the agenda, and they have a great audio and visual experience using the 4K USB camera and a Bluetooth headset — all while enjoying that first coffee of the day.
The user then gets down to business, searching for documents needed to deal with the tasks of the day; collaborating on documents and text chat with co-workers; submitting requests for approval; and making voice and video calls with customers and suppliers. They do all this without ever leaving the Teams application — meaning they’re able to conduct their business quickly and efficiently.
Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some sort of crisis. The worker is alerted via a Teams message from a co-worker that a project has fallen behind schedule. They review the status of the project within Teams, and bring another colleague into the discussion. They escalate the discussion to a voice call without switching programs, and then to a video screen share to figure out how to get the project back on track. Never having to switch applications in the discussion significantly improves efficiency and their experience.
Wrapping things up with updates to the project plan and adding customer notes in the CRM, all within Teams, brings the day to a close — made easier by knowing they can continue to monitor the situation using the Teams app on their smartphone. This integrated process makes everyone’s experience more effective and enjoyable.
This may sound a bit utopian, but it is achievable today with planning and design
that accounts for the full suite of functions and related applications that users need to do their jobs efficiently. For many users this includes:
- Document access, creation, management, and version control
- Ability to share information via chat, email, voice, and video collaboration streams
- Forms, process, and workflow automation
- Task and project coordination and management
- Access to line-of-business (LoB) applications like CRM, ERP, and many others
Security is a consideration, too, but often comes with a trade-off on user experience. To optimize user experience, it’s essential that the user only be required to provide sign-in credentials once (usually with complex passwords and multifactor authentication) for access to all required tools. With cloud applications, this single sign-on experience is slightly more challenging but can be accomplished using newer authentication mechanisms like Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory for centralized authentication and identity management.
Application integration is important, too — and Teams provides a great start, since its part of the Microsoft 365 (recently rebranded
from Office 365) productivity suite. For document management, Teams uses SharePoint, enabling the ability to access, create, and manage most document types. This can be done from within Teams or natively in the application, where most users are already very comfortable.
Document collaboration takes many forms, including working simultaneously on a document, sharing a document with team members, or video/voice collaboration with shared screens. The advantage of Teams is that all of these modalities are possible. Users can start a document and post in Teams for review and editing. The collaboration can be escalated to working on that document simultaneously and seeing edits and comments in real-time. Further discussion can be added with a voice call and later video to get the document just right and meet critical timelines. This can all be done without changing applications within Teams.
Beyond the Microsoft productivity suite, Teams supports integrations to many LoB applications, including ServiceNow, GitHub, BitBucket, Jenkins, and Workday. Additionally, Microsoft allows businesses to embed applications into the Teams interface as a tab within a channel. This means Teams can be a single interface for all of the organization’s applications, further simplifying the user experience.
In addition, an integration from Teams to Microsoft Flow or Power Automate enables the automation and acceleration of standard workflows. This reduces errors and streamlines operations, creating efficiencies between teams.
Every organization has tasks and projects they need to track, share, and report on. Visibility of project and task status improves efficiency and success. Teams offers integrations with many project management tools, including Microsoft Planner. Planner is light project management tool that enables project owners to delegate and track status of tasks from within Teams. They can share outcomes via Teams, and this transparency can promote timely delivery of outcomes.
An integrated user experience provides significant business advantage. Although it is possible to create this experience by selecting best-of-breed applications, it is far simpler, with less risk, to have that integration already done.