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!

Microsoft Teams private channels – the good, the bad, the ugly!

It is pretty straightforward, right now the Microsoft Teams UserVoice post “Support for Private Channels“ has 23.592 upvotes which is by far the most in the whole Microsoft Teams UserVoice list. It is pretty clear that the people really want this feature to be released! Microsoft is taking their time releasing it, but it should be there soon. Back at the Collaboration Summit in Wiesbaden, we saw Microsoft employees were already using it and it seems like there were only some last screws to be tightened.

You can look up the UserVoice request here!

Wait, what are private channels?

In case you missed out on that, the demand behind this feature request is to give granular control over who can see and interact with which channel in a Teams team. According to the initial request, there are plenty of channels needed by the users.

Five types of public/privacy that is being asked for by users:
– Public-Open (visible anywhere including outside the org and anyone can join)
– Public-Invitation (visible anywhere including outside the org, must be invited)
– Company-Open (only visible inside the org and anyone in the org can join; outside the org must be invited)
– Company-Invitation (only visible inside the org, must be invited)
– Secret (invisible to everyone except existing members, must be invited)

source: Uservoice

I have to admit for some of the categories the goal is not yet clear to me, but I am sure there are use-cases that have produced these requirements. Perhaps, however, something was misunderstood about a team and a channel during the preparation by the requestor. We will never know!

Nevertheless, there are some use- cases where I would make use of the functionality, especially the last one „invisible for everyone except existing members“. But more on that later.

In my opinion, the basis of the idea is to have one team created with different channels that have only a part of the team participants as channel members. For example, when working with confidential stuff this totally makes sense to me.

During the Keynote at the ECS 2019, there was a sneak peek of what private channels may look like in the user’s interface. You can watch the recording right here https://aka.ms/EC2019. If you pay attention you can see a teams channel with a lock behind it at 05:52 minutes – or in the screenshot below ;).

Also, you can see the new upcoming „New conversation“ button at the bottom of the recording that we are also waiting for! But more on that in another post.

As you can imagine, there are many arguments for this function but also counterarguments. So let’s look at the most important arguments together and dive right in!

 A little fun fact, by the way, you can already search for help on creating private channels on the Microsoft Docs page. Which means they are already updating their resources! Have a look 

Why you should want them

I think there are several reasons for the demand for this feature and at least in Germany there is a special one added to the demands from other regions.

From my perspective, there is still kind of an inhibition threshold when it comes to sharing knowledge and information in an organisation or a department. Especially when people have to share their opinion/knowledge/information with a bunch of people, sometimes there is kind of “anxiety” to be vulnerable to others. It is quite hard to write this feeling down (which you get when talking to people with this anxiety). Maybe it is that hard because I can´t comprehend it quite well. But I hope you get an idea of what I want to express. Again, this is a totally personal assumption from my experience as a consultant talking to users.

As I already mentioned above, with private channels, you will be able to edit the members of a private channel and do not have to let every team member watch your stuff. This is another upside of this feature because by using it in the right way, you can reduce the number of teams significantly! Recently I talked to someone about building a basic structure for implementing Teams in their organisation. It turned out that every department wanted to have one team for department stuff. In addition to that, every department leader wanted to have a team for further development of this department with only a handful of team members in it.

See where is leading to? With this new feature, the customer would be able to shut these „development“ teams down and move everything from there to one specific channel in the original department team. This would lead to less muddle in the user’s interface. Then all the data, communication, and information for that department is stored in one place.

I am sure there are a lot of other use- cases out there, and please feel free to share them with me. I am curious about what you got for me!

Why you could struggle with using them

The main aspect of Teams is to collaborate in a lean and agile way. Simple, quick, fast, but also reliable and binding. When cutting through these streams of communication you are taking a step back towards the information silos many of us are coming from! Right now you have the „key“ to every information stored in the team you are participating which is a huge win in my opinion, and it is great for transparency from an employee perspective. With shutting down some channels there will be a line some employees could not cross.

As I mentioned earlier, I think that the hiding and bunkering of information is something many people, especially in Germany, are performing. This new feature can possibly support this way of working again.

In addition to that, it can also create additional confusion when introducing teams. From my experience, I can tell you many people are overwhelmed by the new features and possibilities they get when implementing Teams. At this point it is even right now hard not to lose the people when introducing Teams teams, channels, members, owners, all the new stuff! It is really important to keep that in mind!

Another point is that the lean and agile tool gets more an more swells up. I mean there are already plenty of options to get in touch with people like normal chats, group chats and teams. Again, more options often refer to more confusion when implementing.

What I am scared of

Either I am struggling with private channels, or not there is a high demand for this feature which is not there for no reason. Nevertheless there are a few things that can go wrong and you should be aware of.

One thing we as more or less end users can not act on is the way it gets implemented and how good the usability is. Because hands down it is hell of a task to implement this feature! When we review what happens when we create a team it is truly impressive.

After you created your team in the backend, there are many things happening in a short amount of time. Planner, SharePoint, Stream, Outlook – all these apps will be included. Every app gets kind of an individual „branding“ for the created office 365 group, so when subdividing the channels, this easy and intuitive membership can get lost pretty fast. In the end I am glad Microsoft takes their time, and I am sure that the feature will be great to use.

I personally hope that the people implementing Teams get the adoption and education part right for this feature. In case this feature gets used in the wrong way there are many things that can cause problems. In general users often tend to create channels where they don´t need to. After working in these channels for a few days and creating content in there they notice that. Now imagine private channels where not everyone is seeing their existence – you see where this leads to?

Which chances I can see

In many use-cases, private channels can be the answer to resolve the problems, and it can also help to reduce the number of teams created on the same or similar topics.

In environments where the users do not already reach the stage of „working out loud“ and feel more comfortable with, let’s call them soft-silos, it can also help to boost adoption if implemented right!

All in all, I am very excited for this new feature, and I hope they will release it soon because there is a lot of confusion out there and rumours are called from the rooftops more and more.

What do you think of private channels and how do you plan to use it? Let me know I am stoked for your messages!

Teams Message delivery options explained

This week Microsoft updated Teams and introduced more different delivery options to the 1:1 and group chat. Right, you will not get these options when chatting in channels! The new delivery options mainly divide with the notification the recipient will get when receiving one of these messages. I am not quite sure how this will take off when everybody notices these new capabilities . . . Nevertheless, it is something you should mention when training Teams and where you, as an organization, need to decide how to handle this! But first of all, let’s have a look at what we get here.

I will start by covering the end-user experience of this new feature. After that, we head over to the admin settings and how we can take over control of urgent and important messages. At the very end, we will have a look at the differences in the licensing models.

The agony of choice

You have now three different options when kicking off a new message in a 1:1 or group chat. Standard, Important, and Urgent.

In case you send a standard message, everything will act like before, and the user will get notified based on the settings he made. If you or your colleagues need help on setting their notifications right, please check out my blog post on that!
In case you decide to choose the important option, the message gets flagged with an exclamation mark for the recipients and the sender of the word.

In case you decide to choose the urgent one flagging will be pretty much the same with a ringing bell instead of the exclamation mark. But the receiver will also get a notification as you can see in the screenshot.

If he does not switch to the “urgent chat” he will get this pop up for the next 20 minutes every 2 minutes. Now things are getting annoying when this feature is misused!

As if that wasn’t enough, the receiver will also get an e-mail with a notification for that specific message.

Of course, the recipient will also get notifications on his mobile devices! And in addition to that, he will get windows notifications too.

Manage these notification settings

Up until now, there is no option for the user to manage how, when, and where he wants to get notified regarding urgent or important messages. From my point of view, there won’t be any chance to edit this in the future. Just because of the reliability, knowing the receiver will get notified as much as possible would be gone.

From an Admin perspective

There is not much we can do on managing this setting. In your Teams admin center, you turn off the ability to send urgent notifications. But you can not edit how urgent notifications behave to make it a more comfortable fit for your needs.

My advice is to check back with your users how they are using this feature. After that you can decide if this is a feature for everyone. It can make sense to make a global policy with urgent messages turned off, and another one with urgent messages turned on for people who need this feature. In case you need more information please head over to the Microsoft docs and have a look.

All-time favorite – licensing!

With adding this feature, Microsoft decided to make an additional difference between their licenses. The differences occur in all three segments Enterprise, Education, and SMB, as you can see in the screenshot or read in the Microsoft docs.

Microsoft decided to let everyone get a taste of whats possible with urgent capabilities and is giving away unlimited urgent notifications for every license until December 31 this year. You do need to make any changes to get these!

Update: Microsoft just announced the promotion for unlimited urgent notifications for every license to be extended to the first of april 2020.

My opinion on urgent notifications

I personally can not imagine that many usecases for my day to day job where I could make use of this feature. Nevertheless, there will be thousands of people using it every day – I am sure about that one!

But with this possibility of sending “endless” notifications for one message, there comes great responsibility. It needs the right amount of discipline and some rules when to use it and when not. I think maybe this is one reason why Microsoft decided to limit the capabilities too. That way, Microsoft/the admins force the users to think if this one message is that urgent or maybe not.

The future will show how users will adopt this feature!

Basics for creating polls in Microsoft Forms

When it comes to creating surveys or polls, there is just one thing to head out too in the Office 365 universe – Microsoft Forms! It is the tool you want to use for easy to medium complex surveys. As you will learn in this post, it is pretty easy to start using Forms in your day to day life, and the benefit of Microsoft AI implemented in it. I want to explain to you some basic knowledge and some bumps you do not want to run into.

When opening Forms for the first time, you will see a pretty decent and clean interface. There is not much to talk about. On the top, you can see “My forms” which will display all forms belonging to you personally. Clicking on “Shared with me” you can see all forms someone shared with you and last, but not least you can see “Group forms” based on the Office 365 Groups you are a part of!

You now have two different options, where we focus on the first one, creating a new form. You can give your first form a personal name which also is the display name in case other people are going to fill it out. I would highly recommend writing a short description in which you pick up the peoples minds on the goal of these questions and why you want them to answer it. For yourself, it might be obvious but trust me. Some people won’t even know what is the goal after filling everything in if they not already left the form before doing this!

Microsoft AI is helping you out…

… well, most of the time. Depending on how you name your form, there are different recommendations by Microsoft AI for your questions, as you can see in the screenshot! I love this feature because it can save you a couple of minutes and provide you some ideas on how you can ask and what information you may want to get. In addition to the questions provided by Microsoft AI, it also helps you out with theme ideas customized to the title of your form, which is pretty cool too.

As you can see in your interface, you can edit and add questions on the left and also view your responses on this specific form on the right. Forms takes care of the answers and shows some – most of the time – pretty good graphics and first insights to you within this tab. Of course, you can also open all the answers in Excel and do your magic to them!

First things first

I highly recommend you to take care of some “global” form settings at the very beginning of designing a new form. You can find them in the black bar on the top. Besides a preview option showing the computer and mobile version, you can change the theme, share and click on those magic three dots.

This is where you want to start every new form to make sure the “framework” for the form is right. You now have basically two tabs to make changes to. Starting with “Settings”, you get why it is that important to set up this framework because otherwise your results can be messed up pretty fast, good luck digging through the excel sheet and sort things out – been there, done that, not much fun!

In the first part, you can now decide who you want to take that survey, everyone getting the link or just people in your organization. Also, you can set if the names should be recorded and if there should only be one answer per person. This option is only available in case you have chosen to ask only people in your organization.

In the second part, you can set up some different things around your survey and also determine what you want to get notifications for. In case you only want people to answer the poll in a specific time range, you can set the start and end time here. Also, you can choose to shuffle the questions and customize the “thank you message”, which will appear after someone filled out the form. For example, you can add some information about the further procedure and avoid queries.

As already mentioned, you can manage some notifications regarding this specific form. Due to the limitations of these notifications settings, you can use Microsoft Flow to get more particular notifications if you have questions on that feel free to reach out to me!

After you set up your “Settings” area, you can hop over to “Branching”. Over there you can bring some more logic in your questions and add jumps and leaps in case one specific answer is given. For example, if the customer says he is extremely satisfied the survey ends just right here because you won’t bother him with more questions because he is already extremely satisfied. Practically this branching options are not possible to set in the beginning, and you should come back here at the end of the creation process again.

Enter your questions

After you set up the “framework”, you can start entering your questions or select the ones Microsoft AI is providing you. In case all suggested items do not fit your needs, you have to add yours manually. To do so, click on “+Add new”. You then have some options regarding the style of your question or rather the style of answer you look for. When clicking on those three magic dots again, you can get even more options

Share your survey

After you finished setting up your survey, it is time to get your poll among the people!

You can do that by clicking “Share” in the top black bar. To be honest, it is maybe a bit misleading — you then have again some options on how and what for you want to share your survey.

Again it splits up in a kind of different sections. The top is about sharing your poll to ask people to answer it, the bottom part is about to collaborate on that specific survey with a colleague, and in the middle, you can use your form as a template for yourself or a colleague to create another one based on this one.

When it comes down to sharing your survey to ask for answers, you can again edit if you want everyone to answer it or only people of your organization. In addition to this, you can select one out of four options how you want to share it (link, QR-Code, embed, and mail)!

Watch the outcomes

After the first answers are dropping in, you can see the counter in your Microsoft Forms home going up.

In case you want to have a look at your responses, you have to click on your form card again and then switch to the responses tab.

On the top, you can see some essential information about your form speaking of the numbers of responses, the average time to complete, and the status. In case you want to share this summary, you can find that option again behind the three magic dots. For a more in-depth analysis – or in case you messed up your framework – you can open your responses in excel and brush them up manually!

If needed, you can also click on “View result” to get through every response one by one and see the answers given by one responder.

That’s it! I hope this little “guide” helps you create your first forms and achieve the outcomes you are looking for! Microsoft Form is a little bit underestimated in my opinion because there are a lot of use cases where Forms can help you out in your daily work!

As always, feel free to reach out to me for questions!

How to manage your notifications in Microsoft Teams

When switching to Microsoft Teams from the classic Mail there are a few things you/your colleagues have to change regarding the way of working with this communication tool. While in Outlook you mainly have just one Inbox, comparable with “one stream” of information, you have plenty of them when using Microsoft Teams. At the beginning of using Microsoft Teams you won’t have any problems with these multiple streams but after you have been invited into more than just 3 or 4 teams things can get complicated. This is why you should take a few minutes to determine a few rules on how you want to manage these different kinds of information and how you want to be notified. With the latest update, we finally got the feature which I personally have eagerly awaited – “Channel Notifications” – this will help you to shape a much better flow of information in your daily work. Please keep in mind that every Pop-up will interrupt anything you are just working on so keep the pop-ups low and for the really important things!

General Notifications

So let´s move on with the general settings for notifications using your “personal” settings in the client itself.
(You can reach them by clicking on your profile picture in the upper right corner > Settings > Notifications)
From here you can manage pretty much the general notifications reaching you in Microsoft Teams. As you can see it is partitioned in four areas mentions, messages, other, and meetings. You can then dive deeper into every category and set the way you want to be notified in the drop-down menu. Below you can see how I set up my notifications for my daily work.

As you can see there is now E-Mail notification anywhere, just because I don´t want to mix up these both tools with notifications and I am mainly working in Teams anyways. Nevertheless, this feature can be useful when working in different tenants! I usually do it this way too. This way you do not have to switch to your tenants to stay up to date and you will just receive an E-Mail, e.g. when someone is @ mentioning you.

I could now explain to you in more detail why I set my notifications this way, but in my opinion, it is best to set it up by yourself and adapt it to your working habits over time. But in case you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask!

In the end, you can even follow a user´s status to keep up to date on their official status. This can be useful for Teams working and collaborate a lot over various locations!

Specific Channel Notifications

With June there were plenty of changes made to Microsoft Teams. For a quick overview of all these new features and my opinion on them check out this blog post!
Nevertheless, let´s move on to the channel notifications. With this new feature, we have the ability to adjust the style and trigger of notifications for any channel by itself and not just in general. To do so you click on the three dots to the right of the channel name and choose “Channel Notifications”.

From there on it simply splits into two categories, “All new posts” and “Channel mentions”. There you can set the way you want to be notified. Please keep in mind you already worked your way through the general settings above. In most cases I prefer to set “All new posts” to “off” and “Channel mentions” to “Only show in feed”. Please take your time with these settings, maybe you or your company is using communication in other ways which lead to other settings.

In case you messed up anything you can always press “Reset to default” in the lower left corner of your channel notification settings.

How to stay on top of information overload!

Let´s have a look at how you possibly could manage your notifications for the teams and channels you are participating in. Most of the people starting to work with Microsoft Teams keep all teams expanded and all channels on “show”.

As you can see in the screenshot this can end up in mess, especially when you are attending in more teams and you have to start scrolling!

My suggestions is to start of and take some minutes at this point to get your focus on the things that really matter. Let´s bring this down to a step to step guide:

  1. Take all of your teams and think about which is the most important one for your day to day work, start dragging and dropping them from the top (most important) to bottom (least important).
  2. Are you participating in the ones you now find at the bottom very frequently or just from time to time? From time to time? Great, let´s move them one more step. When clicking on the three dots beside the team name you can choose to “hide” the team. Those teams won’t show up directly anymore but you will still receive notifications. Just less clutter as promised! You can let the other teams sit just right there.

  3. After these two simple steps, there should be a clean list of teams/channels. As we learned channel notifications can help us to keep track with specific channels even if the team itself consists of more or less “uninteresting” channels. So, for now, move through your channels top to bottom and set the channel notification settings.
  4. Now move up to the very first team, the most important one. From here you move done channel by channel, team by team asking yourself, do I really need to see every action taken in that channel? If your answer is no, hide it and remove some more clutter. And again, you will get your notifications event if you that specific channel!
  5. Do these four steps from time to time as you will join new teams/channels and priorities may vary in a few weeks or months!

The outcome of those five pretty simple steps will be a clean and less cluttered view of your teams and you will thank yourself for taking this time later on. After a few months/years working with teams, you otherwise are going to have a hard time following the multiple streams of information.

Now it is your turn and let me know if this helped you with your daily work!