Here is why Microsoft Teams is vital to cut down a cacophony of Collaboration Tools

March 15, 2017

With the announcement on March 14th of the general availability of Microsoft Teams, a new way of wrapping up Collaboration Tools became available for all enterprise Office 365 subscribers.

So why is this vital?

There are many, many different articles on why there are too many Collaboration Tools and the impact that this is having on employees. Give everyone too many tools and they have no idea where to start, they become clouded by confusion on where to go. However, as I noted in my last post, you need to consider everyone in your plans. There will also be those who know what they want and want to have access to They are happy with chatting to their teams on one social network, updating their tasks in tool, reviewing their CRM data in a third service. What owners of an organisation needs is a way to work for these different groups.

Hubs and spokes

So do you stop the spread of tools by having fewer? You could but you then restrict choice and ability for people to have the right tool for the right job. Ben Niaulin and Christian Buckley spoke at the European SharePoint Conference in Vienna last November about the need to make sure that you understand what the business wants and deliver the appropriate tools to meet that need (you can view the full speech here but you will need to register - I would highly recommend registering as the ESPC team regularly produce some great content and will put on a great conference in Dublin this year). This means that you do not just have a single home where everything runs out of. You won't fit everything that people want in one place. Instead, you have a home area to share key organisational information and news which is then a hub to the rest of the other connected hubs.

Each hub is a relevant collection of information for a specific purpose that connects to the other hubs.

  • Working on a project? Connect to your project hub to see the latest status updates, project artefacts and tasks for all team members.
  • Interested in client experience? Connect to the client experience community hub to share ideas and work on initiatives together.
  • Team meeting coming up? Connect to your team hub to discuss the agenda and make the most of the time.

How does this make things simpler for people? While the diagram below talks about Teams and CRM and others, the reality is that these hubs will be relevant to what people are doing. The focus shifts away from tools to what people are themselves doing. I don't care that much about Slack but I do care about what the Ghost development community are up to - that's why I signed up.

The digital hubs and spokes

So how does Microsoft Teams fit in to this picture?

OK, firstly, whether we're talking about Teams, Slack, Hipchat or something else, the key is how it connects together different services for a specific purpose. What Teams does well is to bring together in one place all the relevant info for a team. If you are a dedicated Microsoft junkie then you probably already have files in OneDrive and SharePoint and possibly some tasks in Planner. What Teams has done well is to allow you to extend that to other services like Trello and SAP using bots (conversations with a service), tabs (views of other content in your applications) and connectors (embed notifications within your team feed). This isn't limited to third party applications, you can connect up to your own in-house hosted of developed services as well.

But isn't Microsoft Teams all about chat?

Chat is a mechanism to connect with people and Teams definitely empowers that. It helps to silo your conversations and get to the right people at the right time, whether through text chat (and those animated gifs that are much loved/loathed) as well as realtime voice and video utilising Skype for Business. But it doesn't stop there as it allows you to work together as well with the files you need and the tasks together in one place.

The best example I saw on this was at last year's Future Decoded event in London where a team presented on the power of O365 Groups - Teams was announced later that day and I believe much of what they showed was using Teams but they couldn't announce that yet. The group of four people had not met face-to-face before the conference and pulled together a 45 minute presentation using the Teams tools with the single presentation shared and updated directly, meetings organised through the team and ongoing conversations throughout. Many small teams spring up like this and the tools are geared to support this focussed collaborative effort.

Let's be honest though...this is the final nail in the coffin for Yammer?

When Teams was first announced, Microsoft were very clear that there was still a path for Yammer. The picture above shows Teams working together and they have a common task, a reason to focus on. Whether that is a project team with a specific deadline, a product team that works together to continuously improve on a product or a hierarchical team that sits in an organisation, there is an aim for the team.

Team - A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.

A community is a group of people with a common interest. The big difference in most organisations is that a community may not know each other before they start and will evolve as people become interested. This was a lot harder to organise and discover in the pre-digital workplace times but with social networks, the ability to search for groups of people with the same interest has become easier. My first day of a job, I asked on our social network if anyone was interested in mud runs and quickly found out that there was a group that had done Tough Mudder and ran a weekly boot camp. I joined the first week and gained a new network of people outside of my main work.

What does this have to do with Yammer? Well it fits best with this latter group, where there is not a specific goal but a set of people interested in the same thing. They may evolve a goal or goals that require a more focused team but more often they are a loose knit collection. Yammer is currently Microsoft's answer to supporting these needs and it has affirmed this with the recent update that creates an Office 365 group for each Yammer group. This allows organisations to neatly segregate their open public communities in to Yammer and keep the focused goal-driven teams in Microsoft Teams.

However, the line has been blurred now with Teams now announcing public teams as part of the March 14th general availability. Should you keep Yammer and Teams and have them separate? Well, that is entirely up to you! If you think your organisation is comfortable working across different platforms for different usages, go for it. If you think it will seed confusion, stick to one (and I'd certainly recommend Teams if you pick one at this stage). The choice is yours.

Has that quietened the cacophony?

Sounds simple, right? Use Microsoft Teams and all your dreams will come true. Obviously it's not as easy as that. What is needed is to develop a structure that meets the needs. There isn't a magic bullet. However, Teams provides a compelling service to pull together different needs. More importantly, it highlights a model of wrapping together multiple services in to one single connected package to help guide people to the right place to do things. Let's hope that this is the start of something beautiful.

Credit to Emmanuel Huybrechts for use of the cogs image -

March 15, 2017 in Digital Workplace Microsoft Teams