Unless you lived in a cave for the last year, I am sure you heard about the new Office 365 darling – Microsoft Teams. Even if you did not read any news on it, I am sure you noticed a new tile appearing in Office 365 app launcher. Just like Planner and Yammer, Teams is the new offering that is part of Office 365 subscription. With this post, I would like to highlight several features that, in my opinion, give Teams advantage over classical communication methods, like email and SharePoint team sites.
What is Microsoft Teams?
Teams is a chat-based collaboration product that is part of Office 365 suite. It allows organizing chats by teams (projects) and various channels (different topics and audiences within a team).
What are the major features of Microsoft Teams?
Channels themselves are a great and innovative feature. It is almost like a dedicated distribution list for a subset of members within a team. At the moment (as of the writing of this post), all channels share same security as the team, but private channels (with unique security) could be there in not too distant future. Channels minimize silos within team communication as well as improve transparency.
By default, each Team has one Channel called General. But you can create additional channels as you wish.
While chats themselves occur within channels, Teams also allows you to add Tabs to other properties and URLs. You can connect (Add a Tab) to different things – a document, some SharePoint Site, external website, Power BI Report, etc.
Once added, Tabs are prominently displayed in the top navigation of each Channel. In other words, different channels have different navigation/tabs.
Unlike Tabs, Connectors allow you to connect to other 3rd party software and bring in the content inside of the Channel! Since there will be a direct interface between Teams and that other software, when you add a Connector, you have to authenticate and provide software credentials to connect the two.
For example, say you wanted to bring in the tweets with hashtag #sharepoint from my Twitter account @gregoryzelfond into a Management Channel for a SharePoint Migration Team, so the members can stay up to date with all the SharePoint tweets/news. So you would just add Twitter, authenticate /configure communication and then enjoy the tweets right inside of the channel.
Another cool and innovating feature of Microsoft Teams is an ability to communicate with Bots. Bots are artificial intelligence applications which can complete tasks using chat-based commands.
You can access Bots via built-in Bot directory. For example, you can add a Kayak bot to a Team and inquire about ticket prices right within a channel, without leaving Teams and going to a Kayak site to search for airfare.
A screenshot of Bot Directory in Microsoft Teams
An example of a query/chat with Kayak Bot within a channel in Microsoft Team
Of course, lots of communication these days takes place on mobile devices. As such, Teams has its own Mobile App. Moreover, it also has a separate desktop app as well.