Microsoft Teams at Ignite 2020

Microsoft offered a ton of information around Microsoft Teams on the first day in a couple of different sessions, which I will link to at the end of this blog post. I won’t be covering every single news part, but I will try to make a point for that huge news or things I think are especially interesting! All the information is gathered from the past Microsoft sessions and the Tech Community.

This post is split into four parts. We will start with the most exciting part – Meetings, followed by webinar features, Microsoft Teams Rooms, and finally, collaboration!

Microsoft Teams Meetings

Microsoft made clear that they pushed and will be pushing a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into developing an even more enhanced meeting experience within Teams. With the ongoing pandemic, this is a step we all can align with because online meetings have become one of the most used tools in Teams for most of us, I guess. I will split the news into three parts, before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting.

Preparing a meeting

Honestly, there is not much to talk about here, but one thing should be mentioned for sure. If you want to bring your meetings to the next level, whether it is a workshop or any other meeting, you want to check out the newly available customized meetings experience! This will become available in the next weeks or so and offers some interesting capabilities when working with ServiceNow for instance. More information.

During a meeting

First of all, we will get some more background sceneries for the beloved together mode in meetings! But there is even more. When using together mode, you may have noticed that people’s arrangements can end up a little bit weird due to different camera positions and angles. Therefore, the team behind Microsoft Teams is working on a machine learning pattern to properly resize images and position faces in an equal manner.

Within a meeting, you will soon be able to pin presenters when they are sharing content or spotlight users who are really important to see for everyone, like key stakeholders or decision-makers. These features will integrate with the new content sharing experience offering even more capabilities like being display in front of it! This will empower people to present their ideas, thoughts, or general content, even more, inclusive and personal. In addition to that, when content is shared, the meeting attendees’ pictures will move from the bottom of the screen to the right-hand side, allowing a better view, in my opinion, and moving our own eyes more towards the camera height, which will be great.

Many of you – and me too – are waiting for the breakout rooms within meetings. I managed to gather some nice screenshots which will give you an idea of how this will look and what you can expect from it. The general idea is to split a meeting in a couple of meetings and distribute all attendees to one of these. After some time, you can then pull them back into the main meeting and start to discuss/present your outcomes. This will be really cool for digital workshops and collaborative work and especially education!

When being in a meeting, chat, and content shared in the chat can be overlooked fast. Therefore, Microsoft is introducing new ways of displaying notifications during meetings. Like in a comic book, there will be chat bubbles, and content notifications direct in the meeting view displayed. This can either be distracting, but in most cases, a relief to overlooking what is going on in the chat, I think!

Coming also this fall, a new feature that will polish up your packet loss during bad connections and make everyone with a not so highspeed internet connection more understandable, at least from an audio perspective. The rest is up to you 😉 at least for now!

After a meeting

With meeting recaps, the whole “after meeting experience” will be much more inclusive and structured even for people who couldn’t make it. Within this recap, the potential recording, the transcript, the meeting notes, associated files, and the attendance report will be shared, and even more meeting insights will be displayed here (most of these we already know). Of course, this only helps if people use the recording and transcript features, but especially when some people can’t make it, those capabilities are so useful in my opinion that you have to give it a try!

Microsoft Teams Webcasts

Rolling out during the next months, Microsoft Teams will offer some great capabilities for everyone who wants to set up, organize, and host webcasts for their organization. Again I tried to get some nice screenshots from the session, which will give you a pretty good idea of the look and feel. In general – you will be able to set up a webcast with details about the event, speakers, speaker bios, and even (custom) information you want to gather from the potential attendees! After signing up, the attendee receives an auto-mail from Teams with a “join” link and a file to add to his calendar.

After the webcast, you can access some really deep insights about the time when someone joined, left, and how long people attended. There is probably even more information! Up to now, there is not much more information on how the production of a webcast will look like and stuff like that.

Microsoft Teams Rooms

In addition to all these new capabilities, Microsoft announced some new categories of devices are also on their way. Microsoft Teams Panels will offer you insights into a meeting room right in front of the door with a convenient screen. You can see if a room is free and what capacity it has. Due to the device tracking with Microsoft Teams, each meeting room can also notify people if the max capacity is reached – especially in our times, a handy feature!

To leverage the earlier announced transcript’s possibilities to its fullest, a new generation of smart speakers got announced. These will ask you to start your meeting with a quick and easy setup, and from that point, it will recognize who sits where and says what, so your transcript makes sense even when joining with more than two people from a meeting room!

Also, starting this day, you can equip two of your meeting rooms with devices at no charge, thanks to Microsoft Teams Rooms being now a part of the Fastrack program. Of course, you have to be eligible, and conditions apply. Check out if you can!

In addition to that, you can start your meetings touchless using Cortana on Teams Rooms devices and the power of your voice! There will be more commands to speak about, but there is only a “start/end meeting” for now.

There is also a new feature coming to the Teams smartphone app offering the possibility to operate it like a remote control for room devices!

Collaboration

As you can imagine, even though meetings play a big role these days, online collaboration does, for sure too! That’s why Microsoft is constantly innovating in this area. In the sessions on the first day, the speakers made clear that there is no other platform combining these enhanced collaboration features and meeting capabilities in one application! Microsoft Teams will not only be there for meetings. In the future, Teams will more and more become the platform for work.

Starting his session, Jeff Teper announced customized templates for your team creation process to be available soon. The Teams channel page will also get a makeover, featuring information pain on the right-hand side showing information like the channel name, description, and contributors. Also, you can soon pin channels, as you can see in the screenshot!
By the end of this year, the limit of users in a team will be expanded from 10.000 to 25.000 users, that’s a lot!

With more and more users collaborating together, finding messages and documents can become more difficult, that’s why even the Teams search will get some great upgrades featuring Microsoft Search capabilities!


To drive employee engagement, even when working remotely, Microsoft will make your intranet on SharePoint Online available in Teams on the left menu bar. This way, you can surf your intranet and find your latest news just with the click of a button across devices!

This is only the beginning!

These are just some announcements and pictures from the sessions on the first day, and there is more to come! Keep an eye on the Microsoft Teams Blog on the TechCommunity or watch some sessions live at Microsoft Ignite which is still going on!

My information is gathered from these sessions:

  • The Future of Work
  • Creating a resilient, inclusive, and hybrid workplace with Microsoft Teams
  • Enabling collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing with Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Project Cortex, and more

Rockstar Meetings in Microsoft Teams

Meetings in Microsoft Teams are probably something you spend a lot of time with, right?

Maybe you are new to online meetings? You try to improve how you participate in them or even lead some online meetings in general?

Microsoft MVP Matt Wade wrote a great ebook that touches on some good tips in general and also some related to Microsoft Teams. It clears out all the confusion about meetings, channel meetings, live events, and “Meet now” meetings.

Why am I sharing this? Well, I had the chance to work with Matt on this special project, and I could contribute some tips as well, please make sure to check it out, and if you like it, spread the word!

You can find this ebook here!

There is also a German version which you can find right here!

Inspire 2020 – Book of News Abstract

After some exciting days with the people of Microsoft at the Inspire online event, I wanted to share my favorite announcements from the Book of news. It’s definitely worth some of your time to go through the Book of News in more detail, but here is my small conclusion!

As you probably knew from following me around, I am focusing on the Microsoft 365 part, especially our beloved #microsoftteams.

Microsoft Teams – Next Level Meetings

Just a couple of days after we reimagined our meetings (😉), Microsoft is again improving the impact of meetings, which is so important right now.

Starting in late July, developers will be available not only to bring apps to life within Teams but also to impact the user’s meeting experience. Developers will be available to provide solutions to be integrated into a meeting as a new tab and as a side panel. I see some really cool ways app integrations like these can positively impact our meetings or even longer online workshops.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a way to bring real-time information up in a meeting based on what the current topic is.

If you want to see some pictures of the new experience jump to my LinkedIn post on that, and feel free to join the discussion! Here you go!

Microsoft Teams – Bringing Data to the Hub.

Without additional costs, Microsoft will include a new service called Dataflex into Teams. It is somewhat like the Common Data Service we originally know from the Power Platform. 

This will make you able to create simple low code solutions directly in Microsoft Teams relying on services like Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents. 

From my point of view, this will have a huge impact because once you made the shift towards Microsoft Teams, you should really try to get those loose processes every organization has into a platform where your users are – just like Teams! This way, you can expand your “chat solution,” as many organizations refer to it as a tool for business processes to get even more value from your investment.

Microsoft Teams – Getting better insights.

With the updated Power BI app, we are getting a more streamlined information flow from our Power BI dashboards to our hub for teamwork, Microsoft Teams. 

Through the app, it will be easier to access your dashboards, work within them, and even collaborate with your colleagues. You can also find some training resources there!

The app will be available in August, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft Teams – Gone to one’s head.

I think this is not something adding value to every organization right now, but I think of it as a really cool solution. Bringing Teams to head-mounted devices for first-line workers.

Imagine someone in the field having a problem with repairing a machine or stuff like that, not being able to figure out what is wrong. With a few gestures or voice commands, an expert from a whole different continent can join him and help him out. This could be cool for many organizations shortly, not only because of the ongoing pandemic with its restrictions regarding traveling.

The app for RealWear HMT-1 head-mounted devices can be downloaded now.

Yammer – Spruced up!

Probably something everyone was expecting; nevertheless, it feels like a really good “remake” of the Yammer we used to know. Based on the fluent design, it has a much more modern look and feel, in my opinion.

In addition to the design, there are a few new features as well. “Featured conversations” seem to be something like trending conversations that can be shown to more people giving them the opportunity to take part in a discussion or just to be informed. A deepened Azure B2B integration is providing more capabilities for external Yammer communities and compliance benefits. Also, the sharing capabilities have been improved across the whole Microsoft 365 platform.

You can configure the access to the new design by opt-in through the Yammer admin center.

Microsoft Lists – Making lists more appealing.

We all like lists, don’t we? I really love SharePoint Lists and their capabilities – but they are not that intuitive to find, use, and maintain. That’s why I am really excited about Microsoft Lists. 

Rolling out in August, Microsoft Lists will bring those capabilities to a separate app reducing clutter and distraction for end users. Coming with 8 templates, you will be ready to fill those lists! 

A separate app for iOs is expected later in 2020. The integration into Teams is planned for the next month.

Communication Compliance – Protecting Employees

Unfortunately, issues such as threats and harassment in the workplace are still far too often an issue with which employees are confronted—Communication Compliance ist here to help to find those issues and to help those affected. It helps organizations identify violations of the code of conduct and protect their employees in Microsoft Teams and 3rd party solutions.

Summary

As we can see, Microsoft keeps pushing on releasing new features for all of its products and even new ones like Lists. Teams is becoming more than just the hub for collaboration, and more business processes can be included with every release.

The Power Platform gets a really strong integration with Dataflex, and Teams gets more tied to the Power Platform with this feature. It is a better together situation, and you can make some great stuff combining both of them!

Meetings are incredibly important in the current situation, and we can see some really cool stuff coming there too. I am looking forward to seeing those integrations coming to life with apps and extensions for even better and more productive meetings!

Overall there are some really exciting things coming up in the next days to months. If you are curious about how meetings in Microsoft Teams will change, make sure to check out my blog post on that!

Reimagine your Online Meetings

Microsoft has published a blog post announcing several new features for Microsoft Teams! I would like to go into some of them one more time! I think most of you will have already seen it last week when Microsoft posted the official blog post, but let me summarize briefly what was announced, what I think and what I found on social media. Microsoft has published a blog post announcing several new features for Microsoft Teams! I would like to go into some of them one more time!

Reimaging virtual collaboration for the future of work and learning.”
I think it could not have been more appropriately titled!

First of all, it’s about the meeting experience as we know it, the “Together mode” brings us even closer together in meetings and integrates us into a view, so to speak. I am curious how this will look like! The release will probably be in September 2020.*

An update that I am personally looking forward to is the “Dynamic view.” I have often caught myself jumping back and forth between the person’s view and the shared content. With this feature, this should be over, and I can decide which content should be displayed and combine them. The rollout will probably be in September 2020.*

It is not easy to design meetings in such a way that participants are included, but with two updates, it will be a lot easier! “Live reactions” brings the reactions we already know from the chat into our meeting in an animated version. In addition, the conversation will be more present in “Chat bubbles,” and it will no longer be so easy to miss messages. Both features will be released most likely in December 2020.*

Furthermore, the number of participants in meetings is drastically increased. From 300 participants up to now, we jump up to 1.000 active participants. Active participants? No, don’t worry – the silent attendees are not automatically kicked out! Nevertheless, in the future, it will be possible to invite additional passive participants into the meeting and thus welcome up to 20,000 participants in view-only mode. This makes the classic team meetings interesting for webcasts and larger company-wide meetings. I’m really looking forward to testing this; the view-only mode could be interesting for smaller meetings, it remains to be seen if this will be an option that the organizer can use without the overflow. This feature will be released in December 2020.*

One thing that I have been struggling with personally lately was the digital whiteboard. In remote workshops, it’s simply not to be imagined without it, but I was still missing a few functions. Whiteboard now gets a complete update with new features but also a faster performance. Beside sticky notes, there are more texts and drag and drop possibilities. The updates to Microsoft Whiteboard may be released in September 2020.*

I personally think this is going to bring a lot of value to the meetings people are using day to day. Even though these are just announcements, it does show that Microsoft is really taking on its competitors in the online meeting sector. I am really looking forward to both, using it in my daily work but also to present these to customers and users!

If you can not wait to improve your online meetings right away take a look at Matt Wade’s Definitive Guide To: Rockstar Meetings in Microsoft Teams where I contributed as well! You can find it here!

*All release dates are crawled from the Microsoft Roadmap, LinkedIn posts and TechCommunity posts – these are not confirmed dates!

Outlook on the web news!

Outlook on the web gets some worthwhile features again! While many people still work in the classic client, some have already realized how valuable the smart little features of the online world can be! With the latest updates, Outlook on the web gets a few standard features that you might have missed already, which makes the changeover even easier. I have summarized the functions, and in the end, I have linked to my manual and other reasons for Outlook on the web.

Adding personal calendars

Starting in May, users will be able to add personal calendars to their Office 365 OWA experience. This is a really handy feature in case you have to arrange meetings and time with different accounts!

Suggested text answers / Suggested replies

If your tenant lives in North America, you can use text suggestions when writing e-mails from May on. I did not have the chance to test or see this feature yet but I will update this post once I could find more information.

There is also a new announcement introducing French and Italian language support for suggested replies for customers in Europe. Those replies are pretty much the same as we now them from LinkedIn!

Send later

If you want to fake late night work you will now be able to do so with Outlook on the web too! Just kidding! 😄

Admittedly it’s more of a basic function, but that’s why it’s worth mentioning: the “send later” function will be rolled out for Outlook on the web in May!

Once implemented you will find a drop down menu beside your send button when writing a new mail.

End Meetings early

Are you currently jumping from one meeting to the next? I have heard from many people that this function should help to avoid exactly that. “End appointments early” helps to automatically cut off a few minutes at the end of the meeting to have a little more time for preparation and follow-up between meetings. Also, this function will be added to Outlook on the web in May! I haven’t used it yet, but I’ll have a look at it now!

You will find this setting in the Outlook on the web seetings > calendar > Events and invitations. If it is not there yet don`t panic – it is still rolling out.

Try it out!

As you can see, there is a lot going on in the Outlook on the web world. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should really have a look! The installation as a Web App gets rid of the browser interface, and you have the feeling to work in Outlook – just better!

Click here for my instructions and some nice features you can use online! 

3 quick Tips for Microsoft Teams

So, I have seen a bunch of home office setup photos with an open Microsoft Teams client in the last couple of days, and on nearly every picture I have seen something where I thought: “I wonder if the person knows this little tip or that little nugget!”

I will cover three quick tips in this blog post and give you instructions on how you can implement them! I will share my thoughts around those three tips:

  1. Pin a chat/group chat with a colleague to find it right away
  2. Reach your colleagues when writing something in a channel
  3. Sort your teams and hide channels you do not need

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

1. Pin a chat to find it right away

So, you may have moved to Microsoft Teams just a few days ago, or you started to use it more often for now. However, finding your way to the UI may be difficult – at least at the beginning!
This is why I suggest you pin your most used chats to the top, this way you don’t have to look for them every time you switch back to them!

You can do so by clicking on the three dots menu to the right of a chat or group chat. Then you just choose “Pin” and the chosen conversation will make its way to the top of your chat bar!

There you go! You pinned your first chat! You can undo this by clicking on those same three dots and select “Unpin” in case you don’t need this chat that often anymore.

2. Reach your colleagues when writing something in a channel

I got some messages through LinkedIn asking how people can set their notifications because they or their colleagues don’t get notified when someone made a post on a channel.
Of course, you can reach out to every team member in every team to figure out their notification settings, OR you just start to use the @ in Microsoft Teams! Come on. This guy feels lonely without all the mail addresses we don’t write anymore!

Whenever you write a post just think about who you want to reach out to:
Do you want to reach the whole channel? Write @channelname
Do you want to reach the whole team? Write @teamname
Do you want to reach a couple of members? Write @name of every member

This way, the people you mentioned get a separate notification and can see you really wanted them to take notice!

3. Sort your teams and hide channels you do not need

This is again more likely a housekeeping tip, but it removes confusion and clutter from your daily work in Microsoft Teams. I think most of us are members of a team where we do not really need a whole bunch of channels. In that case, I just hide those channels I do not need to see every day.

Don’t worry, as long as your colleagues keep using the @ you get notified anyways!

You can do so by clicking on those three dots to the right of the channel name you want to hide, then you pick “Hide” and the channels get hidden! You can undo this whenever you need to by clicking on “X hidden channels”, clicking the channel you want to show, and after that picking those three dots again and chose “Show”.

You can also sort your teams by click and hold on the teams name or picture. Doing so you can drag and drop each one around! Arrange them in a way you find it intuitive to pick them. Dont´t forget to add team pictures for fast visual orientation!

I hope those small tips help you throughout your daily work! In case you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I will be happy to answer your questions!

How to use shared lists in Microsoft To Do

Microsoft To Do is a great app to organize your day to day work and keep track of your tasks! If you have not checked it out yet, you should definitely do now! The only requirement is, you have to use an exchange online mailbox.

Microsoft To Do – What’s in it for you

The basic idea of To Do is to provide you a bucket where all your tasks are stored in. And by saying all I mean all – well almost. In To Do, you will find tasks assigned to you in a Planner board, flagged mails from your mailbox, and tasks you created yourself in the app. To Do also provides you some great options for organizing your tasks in lists and stuff like that.

When Planner is too big

Speaking of Shared lists, I think this is something many people do not use often, and I do not get why. A shared list is pretty much the same as a list you create for yourself, but as the name tells, you share it!

Often a planner board is too big for working with one or a few colleagues, and you may not want to have the whole office 365 group package coming with it. But you need a simple space to collect tasks for a group of people and keep track of them. If that’s the case, a shared list is what you are looking for!

Okay sold! – How does it work?

First, of all, you need to create a list if you do not have one yet. If you already have one which you want to share, you can skip this step! To create a list, you have to click on the text displaying “New list” and enter a name. Let’s call it “our first shared list”. You now have a basic list that is not shared and only open to you.

You then want to share this list with your colleagues. To do so, just click on the button showing to people in the top right-hand corner. Now you can copy the link or share the list via e-mail – it’s up to you. As I am using Microsoft Teams most of the time, I usually set it up using the link.

Now you can start adding tasks you want to share with the members of the list. You can add them just like you usually do. When clicking on an added task, the right information panel drops in, and you can provide further information and even assign the task to a person of your choice!

How I use Microsoft To Do

The way I use Microsoft To Do is like planning my whole day with it. At the beginning of the day, I open up To Do on my laptop or iPhone. I then scroll through my open tasks and decide which I want, well sometimes have to do today. After picking one task, I add it to the “My Day” list.

Critical tasks I mark up as important clicking on the star symbol, this way I can make use of the intelligent lists provided by To Do!

Especially when there are a lot of tasks I want to achieve this day, I even block time in my Outlook, which works really great when using the online apps or even the progressive web app of Outlook. If you have not checked my blog post on that topic, you should definitely do it because it can give you a boost in productivity for sure!

How to use Outlook Web App like you are used to

Back a few days ago, Microsoft published the Outlook Web App as a progressive web app. Basically, it means you can now install the OWA app in any chromium based browser (e.g., Google Chrome) as an app and use it in a more commonly way.

Wait, why should I install a web app if I already use the client?

Well, that is an excellent question to ask, but it is pretty easy. Outlook on the web has some really cool features you don’t want to miss in your daily life!

Some OWA advantages over the classic one

You have the choice of using the directly integrated To Do features! You can, for example, click on the top right hand on the small icon with the well known To Do tick, and your “My Day schedule” pops up at the right of your calendar. From there, you can drag and drop tasks from different lists onto your calendar, and there will be auto-created events where you can achieve your To Do’s – how great is that?

Even though I don’t really recommend to use the whole To Do app because it takes some time to load, I think it is great to have it all together in case you need it.

I can’t tell you why but I think in some cases, it’s more intuitive to control than the classic experience even though I used it for many years now. The OWA controls fit better in the general operating concept we get with the other Office 365 apps and services. For example, I feel the overall design is more similar to the iOS App I use very often, and I can find myself navigating more straightforward in the OWA than in the classic experience. In addition to that, the usability is excellent! Even though we are still “in a browser app”.

Of course, things like “Charm” in the calendar is a really decisive thing. Just kidding, but I think those small features make a difference and are also pretty useful to stay on top of a busy schedule! Another useful feature is pining mails just like you pin channels in Microsoft Teams. You can pin emails to the top of the current folder, so you don’t have to search for them anymore. In addition to that there is an update rolling out which shows you room cards where you can discover additional information about the room you are about to book – check it out.

Also, there are some other smart features you will notice once starting to work with it – I promise! If you can’t wait you can also have a look at this video from Microsoft for some more features.

Okay, cool, you sold me on it. How can I get it?

First of all, you need a chromium-based browser like Chrome, for example. Then just go to your office.com page and log in as usual. After clicking on your Outlook app icon in the app launcher, your new tab pops up, and OWA is starting.

If you look closely, you will notice an additional icon in your browser’s address bar. It looks like a small circle with a + in it, as you can see in the screenshot down below.

After hitting the icon Chrome will prompt you with an install request. Just hit “Install” and let the magic happen – now you are good to go! In my case, there was also a desktop shortcut created, which I used to stick it to the taskbar.

What I think

In my opinion, it is somehow a bit slimmer and more modern in many ways. Personally, however, it has kept me from working in the browser environment for a long time, I know it sounds stupid, but it didn’t feel as enjoyable and productive as in the classic client. For a few days, I have replaced my client with the progressive web app, and I am really excited!

Of course, there are, for sure, features that are not supported in the OWA app yet. In case you are using those, you may want to stick with the classic experience for a bit longer. In my daily life, I barely switch back to the classic Outlook and stay most of the time in my progressive web app.

Just a small tip: If you really want to switch, replace your shortcuts in the taskbar with the alternative to the progressive web app. Humans are creatures of habit, and if you leave the classic Outlook sitting there, you will continue to use it!

The best thing? If you do not like it, you can get back to the classic version every time within the snap of a finger. But give it a chance!

Microsoft Teams and Yammer – better together or one fits all?

There is a lot of confusion around the use of Teams and Yammer, especially when it comes to the use of both in the same company. The initiative to write about this topic ignited after reading an exciting blog-post called “Yammer? I don’t need it – Teams is enough for me” published on LinkedIn. You can find the article and the discussion in the comments right here!

After reading the article, I wrote a comment with my point of view, which kind of triggered a conversation with multiple people. So I decided to dig deeper into this topic and give you a basic overview.

Many people say, Yammer and Teams cover the same part of our day to day work life and vary only in small sections. But if you look under the hood, you will notice very fast, there are many differences and even a different primary objective to both of them. Before facing the differences, let´s have a look at the definitions for both collaboration tools.

Enterprise Social Network – Yammer

Yammer fits into a category called Enterprise Social Network, and it is really as easy as it sounds. It is like a social network for organizations! It is here to connect to colleagues, building groups, and socialize with the organization itself. It is a place where the management can get in touch with the staff, and even your external partner/customers can be invited to separate sections.

Those ESN tools are more likely implemented to provide a central place where information can be gathered and shared with all employees. This way, organizations aim to harness synergies and endorse employees to contribute to work-related problems other colleagues might face at the moment.

From naked figures, ESN is also an exciting topic! Back in 2015, McKinsey Digital published a study in which 1.500 companies and their adoption and diffusion of social technologies have been tracked. It turned out, so-called power user organizations reported about 5 to 6,5 percent value-added in the years considered! And even in the company’s with a lower level of penetration, the value-added was increasing.

When facing innovations, social technologies are helping to spark innovative ideas inside an organization more than other tools. There are more interesting points covered in this study, and I really admit you to read the full story!

As you may have noticed, all mentioned use cases do not insist on knowing the people or even working closely with them. It´s more like running through a hallway and hearing colleagues talk about their work while passing them, just in a digital way.

Unified Communications – Teams

A unified communication platform combines different ways of digital communication in one place. Beside different possibilities for communicating, there are often more features supporting a comprehensive user experience.

Often the included communication options consist of chat, voice, video, and of course conferencing. Supporting features are, for example, desktop sharing, presence indicators, co-authoring, and file sharing. Of course, there are a lot of other features you can mention here, but let´s leave it that way.

If you also consider current studies, it shows off that an excellent unified communications platform is necessary to offer a modern workplace to the employees. In German research called „Arbeitsplatz der Zukunft“ which can be translated to „The future workplace“ organizations and employees are questioned on different topics. In one question, the employees have been asked, in a situation with entirely similar job opportunities which aspects are essential for the personal decision. Of the top 8 answers, 50% can be solved or at least supported with a unified communications platform. I think this fact, against the background of the struggle for talent in the labor market, shows how vital solutions like these are. You can read the complete study right here. Unfortunately, it is only available in german.

As you may notice, most of the described features Microsoft fitted in their product Teams and therefore created a textbook example of a unified communication platform! But to use this tool and to share and use information with colleagues, you need to know them or at least know a place where to get to find your information.

So what is the difference?

As I described in the last two chapters, there are a few differences in how both tools work and what they aim for. The article contained a really good quote at the beginning, the pretty perfect matching quote: „Yammer is the universe and Teams is your neighborhood “ – In my opinion, it is brilliantly broken down into the essential!

Working in Teams means working with specific people I know, and I work with continuously on a project or in longterm departments. The tasks and goals are precise, and we are working towards our objective. Obviously, when working on already determined tasks and goals, you are working more closely with those people and more often because you are working in the same department or things like that.

In Teams, you will never know what people in other departments are working on, and maybe they are facing similar problems? Perhaps a technique or method you are using can help them to fix their problems! – You and they will never know because both are working in their own Teams focusing on reaching their goal, working on their “own” issues.

That’s the crucial point where Yammer enters the room. In case both teams communicate their current problems and solutions on a platform like Yammer in a place, everyone can access those synergies will be exploited! That is one reason why McKinsey found out that tools like Yammer can help to add value to your business

We don’t need Yammer. We’re too small.

Fair enough – that´s a good point smaller organizations often come up with. I think it is totally okay when coming from a background without tools like Yammer and Teams not to see all the advantages from the beginning. It took some time for me too!

In case you think you do not need Yammer and this kind of social engagement across all departments, you can start with an org-wide Teams team. Build up some channels for frequent communication and add some useful Tabs. Watch how this Team is being used and how your employees behave. In many cases, after some time, people will recognize the scenarios when Yammer fits right in!

The decision is not forever, you can also reassess the situation after a few months after the verdict against a tool. Both tools require a rethinking of your own way of working, so if the employees have adapted to the new way of working with one of the tools, the other tool may come across open arms!

Let´s bring it on – how can I decide?

My experience from conversations with customers has led me to the conclusion that many companies have underestimated the possibilities of both solutions for too long. Now they hope to cover everything with one tool and kill two birds with one stone. But please don’t fall for that idea!

To summarize the functions and objectives:

  • Teams: Build for working with a smaller circle of people you know on tasks and projects which are determined.
  • Yammer: Build for 1:many communication and org-wide announcements or greater groups of people to communicate and not to collaborate on specific projects/documents!

Of course, you can achieve each goal with the other tool using workarounds, but that is not the way we want to go!

Teams will not satisfy the needs for social collaboration beyond current projects. It is simply not made for that kind of collaboration. Yammer is not prepared to collaborate in those ways; Teams enables us to do.

The only decision is with which tool do you want to go first for – Yammer or Teams?

How to exceed your Microsoft Teams experience with polls and surveys!

Working with many people in a team can be very time-consuming when it comes to coordination. Microsoft Teams offers us super fast ways to work together and achieve our goals. Sometimes, however, the intent may not be clear yet, or there are still small open questions. Of course we can now ask a question in the chat and wait for the answers, count them, and announce the result… but you see yourself that is not fast and also not practical either!

This is one of the cases where a short survey is precisely the right thing to do. But before you pull out your browser and run over to Forms, stop! Wouldn’t it be even smoother to create, send and evaluate the survey directly in teams?

Where the Forms bot can be used

You can use a Microsoft Forms bot in every Teams team unless it is deactivated by the admin or owner itself. To use the bot, you just need to type @Forms and the bot will be suggested.

Clicking on the suggestion will lead you to your input space. When hitting on „What can I do“ you will be shown how to interact with the bot. To be honest, it is pretty straight forward!

How you use it and where you will find limits

As soon as you want to check back with your team to ask a question, just click into conversation space and type @Forms Which flight should we take? 11:15 am, 03:40 pm, 06:00 pm and hit enter. It can take a second and do not wonder when your command is displayed like a standard message.

Usually, the bot will immediately post a message with an interactive card into the chat. There everybody can vote for the option they prefer. Please take note, there is no multiple choice available! Also you can just provide six possible answers per poll.

Something that some of you may not like is that it is not possible to centrally review the surveys you have conducted in Teams, you have to switch to your Forms page and select the Group you posted the Form in.

Why I am a fan of Forms bot

I think the bot is pretty helpfull to create quick surveys and to take care of your team members opinions because let´s face it, we all like to get asked about how we think about something! 😊

Some of my colleagues and customers are using an app named Polly instead of the Forms bot, so there is a little dispute on why and when to use it. In general, Forms is quick, easy, and right there. That´s why I like it. For most of my questions, which I ask in a chat, it is good enough it does not bring any ballast with it.

How about Polly?

I think Polly takes the whole idea of quick polls an entire step further, but you are also losing the quick and easy way too. For sure even Polly is easy to use, but you have to sacrifice a tab space in each channel for the app to add. For some of you this might be okay because they need the extra features, but if you just want to ask simple questions I suggest you go with Forms bot!

After adding Polly, you will be able to make quick polls just like with Forms, but you can even create more complex polls using the integrated so-called Poll Builder. Using this you have even more choices on how you want to ask and in which way your members should answer, which is obviously really cool!

As I mentioned earlier, some of you won’t find it well, that you can´t access your conducted polls when using Forms bot directly in Teams. However with Polly you can do that by clicking on the tab the app created when you add it to your channel.

In my opinion, both tools are a helpful extension for your team, which one is more suitable for your needs can only be decided by you! Since both tools cost nothing, just try them out. For all those for whom it is relevant, Polly is also GDPR compliant! You can find more information here.

As a guardrail:
Few and simple questions – go with Forms bot!


More frequent, complicated questions, and the need for later evaluation – use Polly!