This blog comes about after a session with a client where they had their information all over the place. Much of it was duplicated which is a recipe for disaster as one document gets changed, the other one doesn’t and you no longer know which is correct. They even had sticky notes on the wall! The team had grown quickly and the ad hoc way of working was no longer working well.
After an initial chat with them we decide that being able to access all the shared documents, communication, plans and thoughts directly from teams was the way forward. This would be the new, consistent way of working with documentation informing new starters how the company wanted things to be done. It is often overlooked that people who join the company may have been working with Teams already but their old company may have been working with it in a different way and consistent use of the software is vital to collaborate effectively.
Teams and Channels overview
Just to clarify how teams and channels work here is a brief overview.
People who need to collaborate with each other become members of a team. Within the team there is always a general channel that all members of the team can access. Other channels can be produced to subdivide the content. Some of these channels may be private so only certain members of the team can access them. They can also be standard so every team member has access or shared where individuals outside the organisation can also be added if this is permitted by the teams administrator.
Files can be added to a channel on the file tab and everyone with access to the channel has access to the files. This means everyone is working on the same version of the file so avoids the issue of duplicate copies containing different information. We sometime call this our 1 version of the truth. If the online version of Word, Excel or PowerPoint are used instead of the desktop app then multiple people can even work on the file at the same time.
There is also an option to share the files outside the channel members. Depending on the settings this could be editable or locked for editing. You can even prevent the file being downloaded as a copy if required.
The Posts tab is where all communication with the whole of the channel should take place. This ensures that everyone sees every strand of the conversation thread without the multiple emails that clog up your Outlook inbox. Each conversation topic should have a new conversation thread so all related information is accessible together in one place. Adding a subject to the conversation makes it easier to find topics and can be added to the start of each conversation by using the Format icon.
If your team are working on some sort of project together then planner is great additional app to use. It can be added to the channel by using the ‘+’ option at the end of the tabs. In fact this allows you to integrate a huge range of apps (many that are not produced by Microsoft) that could be useful to your team and can then be accessed directly from teams without having to exit the application.
Planner allows you to add tasks to buckets and then assign people to these tasks. Start and due dates can be set. This allows you to see the workload of your team and mark tasks as completed when they have been finished. Again, all members of the channel can see what is going on which leads to transparency amongst the channel members.
This is another app that would need to be added. OneNote is a digital notebook and is a great place to dump ideas. In this case my client had a number of new projects coming up and they could each have their own page or section to store text, photos, web links and much more.
Again this would need to be added. Many companies use SharePoint to create Sites where useful information can be quickly accessed. If this is added as a tab then leaving teams to access it is unnecessary.
Obviously every team in every company is different but creating this structure was a gamechanger for my client. They felt less flustered and overwhelmed with confidence that they were no longer duplicating content which could lead to mistakes. The apps added may vary depending on your needs and the software that you work with but this general principle detailed here will still hold true.