Rolling out Microsoft Teams – What did we learn?

Rolling out Microsoft Teams - What did we learn blog post

During March 2018, we were visited by the ‘Beast from the East’ which brought treacherous weather conditions and the potential to play havoc on our ability to function as a business. Bibby Financial Services (BFS) responded quickly, deciding to put its investment in digital tech to use and more specifically, its Office 365 subscription. Overnight, our IT department was able to roll-out and pilot the use of Microsoft Teams, allowing us to continue to operate, communicate and collaborate effectively, even though most of us were stuck at home.

By the end of November 2018, BFS had successfully rolled out MS Teams to the remainder of its 1000 staff – in Asia, NAM and Europe. As part of its contingency planning, BFS is now much better prepared to deal with catastrophic incidents or failures. No longer will adverse weather, acts of terrorism or even a global pandemic prevent BFS staff from working and operating effectively.

With the IT systems in place, BFS can now take advantage of colleagues being able to operate remotely, reducing the risk of reduced productivity as a result of a potentially difficult commute to and from work.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a new chat-based digital workspace for Office 365 that is designed to make collaboration and group work easier and more efficient. Microsoft Teams allows you to instantly chat, schedule calls and meetings within your own teams across our organisation. BFS has introduced Teams as:

  • A hub for teamwork.
  • A modern chat experience for our teams.
  • A customisable workspace.

Teams is often referred to as a “hub” for groups collaboration because the Office 365 Groups services can easily be accessed through tabs on the Teams interface.

Microsoft Teams features

  • Information sharing, all in one location
  • Microsoft Teams helps colleagues easily collaborate and co-author documents? via a highly visible central location where all files and notes are stored. Application integration also allows external information into this work space and contributes content and conversations around your line of work (not sure what that means. Are we saying that it integrates with other 365 apps or something else?.
  • It’s easy to access too: via desktop app (Windows and Mac OS), mobile app (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), and web app.
  • Flexible messaging and meeting
  • Team conversations are visible to all members, prompting quick responses and collaboration. Teams also enables chat, voice or video communications with one or multiple team members. (Does it definitely offer all this functionality to everyone?

Lessons learned from rolling-out Microsoft Teams

Although Teams was introduced within the IT department during March 2018, when we started to plan its wider roll-out to the entire company in early September, we felt it pertinent to pilot a trial with the Communications and L&D team. The intention of this approach was to facilitate ‘user adoption’, and to encourage better understanding of the platform’s capability.

It’s not been plain sailing and although we provided staff with interactive wiki guides and signposted them to lots of online training, many of our colleagues are not using the platform to its full capability. In my capacity as a Programme Manager, I’ve observed a few challenges during the past few months. Here are my top five lessons learned…

1. Monitoring and policing: code of conduct

With the introduction of Teams, BFS faces new challenges to the traditional conversation models and ways of working. There is no single ‘right way’ to use Microsoft Teams in this context, and any documented best practice is written with barely-dry ink. YES!

Recommendation: Consider extending BFS’s code of conduct (do we have a code of conduct?), as it relates to speech to Microsoft Teams. Ensure that our users are aware of these standards and how they are applied on Teams. I would’ve thought the same rules of engagement apply on Teams as they would in the social media space. We do have a social media policy. To be honest, I think we just need to remind people to observe good behaviour and that Teams space is just another work space and same behaviours and consequences apply.

2. Governance – naming convention – Teams sprawl

It’s so easy to set up a new ‘Team’, and everyone has been encouraged to do so, which is great. The downside is that it can end up being very confusing and, with so many Teams and channels, it’s difficult to determine which team belongs to who?

Recommendation: Teams should not be people-specific but rather products, business unit, projects or activity-specific. We are keen to promote its value and key features and ultimately, encourage the applications ‘user adoption’. Even though there is a wide audience (I appreciate that some are more listening than active), we still want to reach out to our staff to ensure that they are informed and importantly have a voice should they have any concerns, ideas or general feedback. I was a little unclear what we mean here

There is only one out-of-the-box method to create a Microsoft Team, and that is from the Teams application itself. This is the opposite of Office 365 Groups (which sits underneath Microsoft Teams) – in that almost any service in Office 365 can create a Group, such as: Planner, SharePoint, Outlook, Staff Hub, Power BI, Yammer, Stream, and probably others in the future. I think we need to distill this down. Not everyone knows what ‘stream’ or ‘BI’ is.

The limitation of this approach is that it drives the user behaviour towards using the Teams interface to create the Team, as that is the only way we know how. By creating a team in this way, it creates other integrated resources such as a SharePoint site, document library, One Note notebook, mailbox, and others.

The ability to challenge users and require information from them is limited, and unfortunately can become frustrating for IT teams and the business. There is also another pressing issue at play: who should be able to create a Team? Should users or managers be allowed to create a Team whenever they want? Are they creating it for the right reasons? How do the users know if a Team already exists for their purpose if they’re not already a member of it? Allowing anyone to create a Team at any time can lead to ‘Teams sprawl;’ effectively an outbreak of Teams/Groups spread everywhere – potentially creating significant governance challenges. My recommendation is that BFS needs to control this by determining and enforcing a naming policy.

3. Too many channels.

Once we add more channels into one Team, there is much more noise. I think we need to explain upfront what we mean by channels and the difference between Teams and Channels.

Recommendation: I recommend that we implement channel naming conventions. An example of this would be to pre-pend the channel name with the product, i.e. [Product X] Team X. Following the department, we add a label, i.e. [Product Y] Project — Project Name Z. It’s a good way to organise and structure the Teams and channels. Can we give examples and perhaps include screenshots.

4. Missing important information due to the synchronous nature of chat.

Recommendation: recognise the limits of persistent chat and that email still has a place. Teams chat is great for real-time conversation about certain things or broadcasting quick notices. If something needs real consideration or focus on a single topic, then use email.

5. Lack of visibility that a channel exists.

Recommendation: when creating a new channel, always @mention all key stakeholders and relevant people. When getting started, it’s important to set out the purpose of the channel, any rules of engagement, what you hope to achieve from it and provide an introduction summary and possibly a lifespan. It’s useful to be able to manage your user’s expectation. More importantly, it’s useful to guide new users to the Teams on-boarding tool-tips and fun-bot features to show them around.

Next steps

I’m sure there are more challenges ahead, but these are my initial observations.

By implementing policy, collaborative systems and processes, BFS can build a more resilient business. Pulling together, whether in a crisis or during a routine day, can bond our teams, increase collaboration and deepen our business relationships.

If you are interested to learn more about Microsoft Teams and it’s user adoption, please get in touch.

HYPATIA Smart Technologies will be running a free one hour ‘lunch and learn’ webinar on Wednesday 25th March – “Empower yourself with Microsoft Teams”.