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 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!

How to manage third-party app usage for Microsoft Teams

There is a great number of third-party apps out there and the numbers are still rising rapidly. The problem with those third-party apps is the governance you want or GDPR you have to meet when running a business, especially in the cloud. Of course, you can now get a mail out with caution on not using third-party apps but do you really think users will take note of that? Maybe a few weeks but after that, there will be more than one third-party app you do not want to run in your environment.

Shame on the users? I do not think it is their fault! Especially the users with a lower affinity for tech and software are not aware of this thing called “third-party” they use them but they often not even know! So please take care of them and their data because they often do not even know what could happen.

With this have been said let´s dive right in!

To manage the provided apps move from your general admin center to the “Services & add-ins” tab. Scroll down to Microsoft Teams and open up the options. As you may see there are already some warnings things are moving to the Teams admin center.

If you open up the “Apps” dropdown you will see a greater choice of settings before we go on let´s get some definitions done:

Default Apps – these are the ones Microsoft provides to you such as Microsoft Planner, Flow and so on

External Apps – these are third-party apps which are available to you and your users through the Appstore

Sideloading – in case you turned this on, for example, team owners are able to build in third-party apps even if you turned off third-party apps in general

As you can see there are plenty of Microsoft apps below the default apps tab, you can make them available by checking the box or the other way around. For some of you, this might be interesting in case there are apps you do not want your users to use.

Getting back to the third-party apps you can now work with the slider to allow or deny these external ones. Again you might check some facts out before enabling one of these apps regarding data privacy and so on. By denying sideloading you can affect the right of team owners to load external apps in their teams tabs etc.

As you can imagine by sliding the sliders both to “Off” external apps are no longer available in your tenant. Sliding only the first one to “Off” and the second one to “On” there will be the possibility to load apps for team owners.

If external apps are allowed you can see a list of all apps below the sliders. In this list, you can use checkboxes to pick out apps you want to allow in your tenant. If this is the option you want to go for please be aware of the last slider hiding below your app list. With this one, you can decide if new external apps should be enabled by default or not.

When it comes down to decisions like this it is always a grade hike not to frustrate the end-users by limiting their opportunities but to be aware of your data. In case you have the possibility to ask your end-users for apps they would like to use to take their wishes and try to find out if the app is fitting your compliance and governance. In case it does allow external apps, decline sideloading and only check the one you researched on. For researching please check out the link at the very end of this post as it can help you out with information for apps.

There is already a feature announced where you can edit the policy right from the Teams admin center, but this feature is still in development as I am writing this post. In case Microsoft already published it you will find this setting below the “Teams apps” tab you already know

In case you need a overview of some common apps please see the following link

Customize your users App interface in desktop and mobile client

Update: With one of the latest update Microsoft offers every user the possibility to edit the interface like the user wants to. You just need to click on the “…” on the left hand side app bar. A right click will provide you a “pin” button which pins the chosen app to your app bar! Nevertheless there are still possibilities for admins to set up default policies!

For some companies, the out of the box app interface won´t fit the use of Microsoft Teams. Therefore Microsoft added the possibility to edit the standard interface to some preferences. In this short guide, I will show you, how you can optimize your user’s usability and support them in getting work done faster!

You will have to have the admin privilege to access the needed areas and a rudimentary understanding of policies.

First of as always when it comes down to customizing for end users, go and ask what they really need! Maybe grab a slot in their Team meetings or something like that and show them what you can edit for them and ask them what they really need instead of deciding on your own what they have to like.

After you gathered this information you can head over to the Teams admin center. In the user’s Tab, you can then pick a random user and have a look which “App setup policy” is assigned to them at the moment. In case you never edited anything there it will look pretty much the same as in the screenshot below.

In case all your users want the same app interface in Teams you will only need to edit the global policy as this one is assigned to the users (again in case you didn´t do any changes to your tenant yet). You can now head over to the Teams apps dropdown menu on the left-hand side and click on it. There you should see the “Setup policies” tab.

As you recognize there is your global policy again! Now simply click on the name and you should see the pinned apps in the sequence you can see them in your Microsoft Teams app too. You now have different options to choose from, based on the user input you hopefully(!) gathered before starting.

  • You can stay with the apps shown already in the interfaces and just switch the sequence they are going to be displayed by just clicking on that hook and then on “Move down” or “Move up”
  • You can delete apps in case users might not use them by again checking that hook and click remove
  • You can add apps from broad range users might use daily by just hitting “Add apps”

After, for example, adding an app like Microsoft flow to your Teams interface it will appear there after a few hours as you can see in the Screenshot.

Of course, you can mix these options up and delete one, add one and work on that sequence! You will find pretty much every app you may already youse in a team or a chat.

Please be aware, that this is just deleting the apps from the user’s interface, by clicking the three dots (see screenshot above) below the apps they can access the other apps as well. If you want to prevent users from using specific apps just read my blog post on that topic!

Will there still be Mail with Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is still rocking the market and in the last 2 years, the user counts are going up continuously. According to Microsoft these days there are more than 500.000 companies worldwide using Microsoft Teams! But where does this lead to? In many customer session I got asked several times “will there still be mail with Microsoft Teams?” and I think this is a really interesting question to think about. Is it just a hype or the next big bang after fax and mail (even if it is technical similar)? To answer this question we have to take a look behind the scenes and think about the reasons why teams is as successful as it is today and try to determine how these reasons are going to behave in the feature.

From my point of view, there are many reasons playing a role in this complex change in corporate communication but I am going to focus on the following three reasons because I think these are the “big players” in this game.

#1 Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Z; growing up using Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and so on they are using mail in their free time mostly to receive their receipts of online shops and signing in for new messengers or social media pages. Okay, you´re right, by the time the older generations hopped on the train of fast communication and are using now messengers too, but these young generations are exploring and adopting these things first! And they have been growing up using them. Yet all generations have a strange habit. When they try to meet up with friends they spin up a  group chat and within minutes (most of the time) there is a place and time arranged. Even if they are not within the same country they call each other via video chat or things like that. But when they cross the threshold and step into the office it´s like there has been a switch flipped – from this second everything has to be mail (or a phone call). Where is the fast communication left behind and why is that? Of course, the generation Z is not that present in the market at the moment, but they will be here in a few years and they will ask for a smart solution just like the Y´s do.

#2 Moving closer together while being more apart than ever. Companies are working in larger areas with employees working from home, the car or on the go while running to the next meeting. The younger generations tend to work in a different style than the ones before. Speaking of Generation Y there is a strong need for an autonomous and independent mode of operation on the job. They are flexible and adaptable but they are asking for a workplace and tools which equal these characteristics. Generation Y is focused on working in teams and projects rather than doing their own thing from 9 to 5. By 2020 Generation Y is going to contribute approximately 50% of the workforce in many companies. The generation Z is different in many facets but they are truly digital natives, asking for collaboration solutions like they are using in their free time. With the new generations, we are facing several changes regarding the modern workplace, which is nowadays a buzzword itself! Besides the workforce, there are more things to think about. Globalization has made us work with people on the other side of the planet and we do not want to travel there every few weeks, video chats are an adequate solution to keep in touch in a more personal way.

#3 The change in communication and I am not only speaking of written communication, is another reason for the success of Microsoft Teams. People just don´t like to play mail ping-pong over and over to find a consensus on a problem. And because many of them do not work side by side anymore scheduling a face to face meeting can be a difficult and time-consuming thing for all attendees. To be honest, the previously described reasons for the success of Microsoft Teams are paying in on this one very much, the change of communication is kind of the outcome of the #1 and #2. The internal communication is maybe a bit more affected as it is hit by several developments like globalization, homeoffice and working while traveling. There has to be a solution for everyone to keep in touch with their co-workers while working in a place that fits the demands of the current task best.

But what is wrong with mail, you are asking now?

Well, there are a few things that we are facing using e-mail. As I already mentioned in the #3 there is this cool thing called mail ping-pong, I think everyone knows these one-line emails where the disclaimer is longer than the whole conversation. The automatic signatures are filling up everyone’s mailbox with useless information we will barely make use of.

Another bad thing is spam and malware coming in through emails and “fake” documents infiltrating companies and get on everybody´s nerves! Speaking of spam, who does not know this never-ending pour off “CC-Mails”, it is waves hitting the beach over and over. It seems like there is an unwritten rule “If you are not sure, put them in CC”!

And like this would not be enough you probably get a notification for everything I just mentioned. In the worst case, not one thing is relevant for your current task but interrupting it. Well, you may say, then turn them off, but how about topics I want to stay up to date in? There is no easy and workable way to do this with mail.

The younger generations just do not like mail that much. They have been using fast-paced chats and thread based conversation all the time and now you tell them to step back a decade in communication? A colleague of mine often comes up with this metaphor of the analog letter, because when you think of mail, it is just that old thing turned digital. When you think about writing a letter, copying it and then send all the copies to the people (receiver, cc, bcc) it is getting obscene, but kind off clearer. That´s not the best way to do this kind of stuff.

Of course, there are some bad things about Microsoft Teams too, aren´t there?

Yes, there are, even if I think most of these daily bad things are coming with bad planning and a lag of understanding of the product itself these things are counting!

The biggest problem is the struggle with deciding on spinning up a team or just a group chat. I get this question a lot even from users already using Microsoft Teams for a while and there is not the “one go to rule” on that problem. It depends on the situation of the project, the behavior in the company itself and of course on the people who contribute! Nevertheless, there is a lot of confusion about this, leading to misunderstanding and a lag of information flow..

The next big thing is about etiquette while using Microsoft Teams. And to be fair these are pretty close to the last subsection. For some reason, people tend to forget about everything as soon as they see a chat window, but just like in emails the receiver of the message will thank you complete sentences, a structure and maybe even a title!

People using a crazy amount of smileys to express their feelings the way it suits them is definitely one thing to mention here. And the nightmare of every Teams fanboy people who are answering in a team on a conversation by creating a new conversation and messing up the whole idea behind conversations. There are plenty more of these user-made complications, but most of them will vanish with using and adopting Teams or can be overcome by Admins with training documents.

In the end, there are some pretty good reasons to stick with Microsoft Teams!

Teams is really speeding up communication in agile project teams and it is speeding things up even more in case there are members from different companies collaborating on the same project. In a fast working environment, this is a really good thing!

Even simultaneously editing and collaboration on office documents is possible for people from different companies. This feature is great as you do not blow up your exchange mailbox with 65 versions of a document, but even more important, there are not 65 versions anymore! There is one version everybody is working with. Consolidating documents? – Not anymore!

Finally, maybe the biggest reason people stick with Teams, you got all you need in one app on any device you own. This is not just about your latest data and documents but every possible way to communicate (well, besides mail – you are right) with co-workers.

Do you need to meet with a colleague working from home?
Great – make a video call and talk face to face!

Do you need to talk to a colleague on the go?
Great – make a phone call via Microsoft Teams!

Do you need a fast answer while sitting in a meeting?
Great – shoot your colleague a message!

Things to think about when you are trying to make the move from your outlook inbox to Microsoft Teams

There are many things to figure out before transitioning to Office 365 / Microsoft Teams I do not want to talk about in this article but there are a few issues which appear to have a direct impact on the question we are talking about! While communication in Teams can be channeled through a Teams team, there is personal communication too. Now how do you solve this issue with personal chats you can not open up to third-party aKa your colleague when you are on vacation?

When you are working as much as possible in Teams, how do you handle the personal OneDrive for business storage while you are on vacation in case your colleague needs access? All these things lead to a good strategy and a plan to make before migrating and opening up Teams for the end users in your company.

Let´s get back to that initial question – “Will there still be mail with Microsoft Teams?”

Long story short, yes there will be mail beside teams. To be honest, companies cannot live without mail at the moment but they can exist without Teams. Mail is still the best solution for formal outbound communication, facing partners or customers in most of the situation. Nevertheless, there can be a situation in which you can benefit from Teams even in outbound communication like this.

I think companies can complement their emails with Microsoft Teams very well. It can replace the mail in the inner loop, these guys you are working with on a daily basis and work closely with. You do not need a third party file share and you do not have to wait for the right permissions after kicking off a project. Time-saving will be great!

Even if it is “only” a complementing solution at the moment please do not make this mistake and ignore the need for alternative communication solutions like Teams! If you do not offer your employees a solution to get their job done the fast way they will head off searching a third party solution without your advice and things like data governance won’t be a point on their checklist.