Launched in 2017, Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform with the capability to be customised. This means you and your team can add your favourite Microsoft apps and third party services (from the Adobe Creative Suite to Zendesk) to fine-tune it to the needs of your business.

By combining workplace chat, online video meetings, web conferencing, collaborative file storage and usage, as well as application integration, it can help your team-work flexibly and together toward common goals.

Microsoft Teams also integrates with the company’s Office 365 subscription productivity suite, so enabling you to utilise all the software you’re probably already familiar with such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint.

And with end-to-end security, administrative control and compliance – all powered by Office 365 – your team can all be working on the same page with confidence and peace of mind.

We’ve put together this blog post to clarify what London-based businesses should know about Microsoft Teams to help you decide whether this collaborative platform is the right choice for your organisation.

Below you’ll discover:

Why Microsoft Teams was launched

Microsoft Teams was an important launch for the company because, prior to its introduction, Microsoft had only enjoyed limited success in establishing a collaboration tool beyond email.

Sure, there was SharePoint fr document collaboration, Microsoft Lync for real-time communication and meetings (re-branded in 2012 as Skype for Business) and Yammer, acquired by Microsoft in 2012, which is a business social networking tool.

Although these services were far from failures, they didn’t meet the business community’s need for an easy to use real-time collaboration tool. As a result, many businesses – including London businesses – went looking for alternatives and discovered Slack, which is why this corporate messaging service now has over 10 million users worldwide.

So, Microsoft Teams is the company’s solution, pulling many of their most popular Office 365 environment services together. It is broadly based on Office 365 Groups (sometimes referred to as modern groups) that, no doubt, make Teams a more powerful platform.

Get the Microsoft Teams option that works best for your business

Microsoft Teams has been designed and developed to offer a solution that fits every kind of collaborative group, including small to medium-sized businesses, in a wide range of sectors.

The good news is that you and your team can get started with the free, no-commitment version. Then, if you’d prefer a more holistic solution, you can upgrade to Microsoft Teams as part of the best-in-class suite of productivity tools with Office 365 Business Premium or Office 365 Enterprise E3.

However, despite the impressive features and benefits of Microsoft Teams (the company claims over half a million organisations are already using Teams and that it now has over 13 million daily users), there still seems to be some hesitancy and, indeed, confusion around up-take here amongst London enterprises.

That confusion is almost certainly caused by people not knowing the difference between Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Office 365 Groups, as they latter can already enable colleagues to collaborate when writing documents, creating spreadsheets, working on project plans, scheduling meetings or sending e-mail.

Understanding the differences between Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams

While integrating many of the same Office 365 features, Groups and Microsoft Teams have several integration differences that can create operational ‘oddities.’ Here’s are just a couple of examples:

*because both solutions are built on Groups, Microsoft Teams by necessity creates a Group BUT the reverse is not true,

*when creating a Team based on an existing Group, the original Group files won’t port to the new Team unless a SharePoint tab is added,

*if you create a new Team without porting an existing Group, Office 365 automatically creates another Group. This can result in redundant Groups floating around in your cloud, which is never an ideal situation.

 So when is best to use Groups and best to use Teams?

Much depends on the size, purpose and longevity of the collaborative team you’re trying to establish. Using Groups may be a great way for one project or group of users to work and communicate together, whereas Teams may provide a better engagement experience for another.

It can get a little confusing because whenever you use Teams, you’re invariably using Groups as well. There are cases, however, where using Groups without Teams makes sense.

For example, Groups can already function in a multitude of environments, using multiple tools, without needing Teams integration. On the other hand, Teams is built for, and particularly well-suited to, fast, floor-wide communication around your office, but is not so good for setting up, say, a major meeting with a department head.

Groups, with the advantage of having a shared calendar, e-mail address, notebook and cloud integration for document storage, can create as robust a collaborative environment as your team might need. Which is why it’s often considered most suitable for long-term collaborative use across, say, a marketing group or a big-picture situation.

On the other hand, Teams is often best used in short-term, immediate contexts because as chat software it does not integrate mailboxes the same way a Group does.

Why effective management, administration and governance is essential

Whether you’re using Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Office 365 Groups or both, the technologies make it easy for end users to simply press a button and get going. As a result all users can, by default, create new Groups or Teams and retire non-active collaborations. So we recommend clear, effective and easily understood controls for your staff that don’t stifle their need to get on with the job in hand. Consider these factors, for example:

  • Naming conventions

Set up some sensible rules for naming Groups or Teams and avoid strange or long variations because they become part of the Group e-mail address. And implement a system of versioning so you don’t run the risk of duplication.

  • Visibility

Decide whether your groups are going to be visible to all users, public or private.

  • Members

If you add or remove members to or from the Team, you add or remove them from the Group at the same time.

  • Caution

When you delete a Group or Team, you delete all components of that Group or Team.

  • Functionality

You can add a Team’s functionality to a pre-existing Group

 Why Microsoft Teams goes way beyond a chat tool

Teams is less just a chat tool and more a hub for communication, offering users centralised collaboration in the form of tabs. By default, there are tabs for conversations, a wiki and files. Beyond the basics, you can also add other Microsoft apps like Excel, Word, Power BI and new Office 365 tools like Planner.

When working on a file within Teams, your people can maintain a persistent chat around a particular document, while Team owners can create channels that are more specific to a particular topic. In fact, Team’s ability to locate multiple workspaces into a seamless communication hub is one of the strongest features of the platform.

Teams and Groups – the same but different

At first glance, the Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams solutions may seem the same but they differ in many ways. The key thing to remember is that they are NOT competing technologies; rather they both work hand-in-hand.

Groups acts as a platform that allows Azure Active Directory users to collaborate and share files, while Microsoft Teams helps in organising these files and communicating in different ways.

And as we said earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which to choose. Both offer different functionalities depending on your specific needs at any given time. In some cases, you may even want to integrate both into your team, department or businesses’s communications for different purposes.

There’s little doubt that Teams is best used in hot-button, immediate and time sensitive scenarios. Groups, on the other hand, offers a large-scale solution for data integration. While not as time-efficient a solution as Teams, Groups certainly offers the broad functionality many users require for their projects.

The bottom line is that both Microsoft Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams allow you and your employees to achieve far more flexibility and better team performance than were possible just a few years ago.

If you’d like to know more about the business benefits of using Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Office 365 Groups (or both!), please just call the go to IT support team for London, totality services, for a confidential, no obligation discussion. We’ll help you cut through the confusion to the solution that’s right for your business, now and in the future.

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COVID-19 Update: Face-to-face IT meetings have been temporarily replaced with Microsoft Teams sessions, and our engineers will be able to carry out IT assessments remotely.