MS Teams: Physically Distant, but Still Connected

Bluejeans. Zoom. Google Hangout. With the dominance of the home office over the last few months, the options available for online collaboration have come to the forefront as well. And, while every platform has its superfans, most people mostly care about one thing: is it easy to use, and does it just work?

If you’re one of the 1.2 billion people who use the Microsoft suite, then you’re in luck. Microsoft has one of the most well-developed and well-supported integrated program suites on the market, and that includes their capability to collaborate remotely. While many people might think of Teams as just another option for video calling, the native integration with the rest of Microsoft’s offerings actually makes it a top-tier choice for companies that are serious about security and efficiency. If you’re on the fence about what software to use – or if you already use Microsoft Teams, and haven’t delved too deeply into its features – here are some blazing-hot tips to make the most out of it (and a couple more that we didn’t have room for).

Smooth your communication with email-to-chat

While copy-and-paste is a hugely helpful shortcut in itself, sometimes it’s impractical – if there are formatting differences, graphics, embedded HTML, and so on. If you have email communications in Outlook that need to be shared with the rest of your team, such as vendor contracts or long multi-part discussions, it’s easy to quickly send it to the group. Click the ellipses to the right of the channel name, select “Get email address”, and copy that into the address bar of your email. Hit “Send”, and you’re done! All the text and attachments are available, and can be accessed from the Files tab in the channel.

Work on shared documents inside Teams

One of the huge bonuses of Teams is its integrated program suite. You can pull any file from Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, or OneNote (the list goes on and on), and collaborate on it in real-time, directly within the Teams channel. You can also sync with OneDrive or SharePoint, meaning you don’t have to worry about emailing versions back and forth, or finding the latest updates to an important document. To work on a document inside the program, simply go to the Files (or other customized) tab in the channel, click the ellipses next to the document you want, and choose “Edit file directly within Teams”.

Create polls for quick responses

Need the whole company’s opinion on a party venue? Looking for the best time and date for a meeting that includes the entire team? Skip the manual tedium by setting up a poll and automatically gathering data. Not only does it simplify your workload, but it’s easy to use, too: just click the ellipses that you would use to start a new conversation, and select the app “Polly” instead. Follow the instructions to build and send out your options, and wait for the feedback to roll in.

Combine with Microsoft Planner to manage tasks easily

If your company isn’t big enough to justify spending huge amounts on app integrations or time trackers, Microsoft’s Planner tool is a great solution. You can pin it into any channel for easy accessibility, add, monitor, and follow up on tasks, and of course, it plays nicely with all the other Office apps that you’re likely using. As IT professionals, we can independently verify that sometimes, it’s beautiful when things just work together.

Use the built-in immersive reader

There are times where you wish you could just sit back and close your eyes while still getting through your task list. The immersive reader feature can help with that! If you’re slogging through long messages and finding it hard to focus, give this one a go. It will expand the Teams channel to full screen and read the highlighted message out loud for you. Just click the ellipses next to a message and choose “Immersive Reader” to make it happen.

Get secured guest access for people outside your organization

One of the most misunderstood aspects of teams is the membership roles required. If you’re collaborating with contractors, people from other companies, or anyone else outside your office, you can enable guest access to bring them in to the conversation. All the user needs is an email address. The confusion stems from the fact that guest access is usually off by default, for security reasons – but it can be configured in the settings. Once it’s in place, it makes collaboration a painless experience, no matter who needs to be involved.

How many of these features did you already know about and use? Are there any big ones that we missed? (Trick question – the features list goes on and on!) As the realities of working from home continue to set in, we expect to see a lot more people get familiar with the capabilities of remote collaboration software. Of course, there are bound to be some hiccups as we go – so when your webcam refuses to work, your shared folders won’t sync, or you get the endless dreaded loops of Error 404s, your managed service providers at Fully Managed are here to help!