Collaboration in Office 365: What is Microsoft Teams?

How often do you get caught up in a long email thread with a group of co-workers? Is your team communication difficult to document and spread across multiple programs? How can your workgroup more easily collaborate, chat, and share important files and resources? Your solution is Microsoft Teams. Teams is a cloud-based collaboration tool that is part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of applications. Microsoft Teams core features include:

  • Create and manage workgroups
  • Communication via chat/instant messaging
  • Connect to audio calls
  • Start spontaneous or scheduled video conferences
  • Sharing files and links
  • Documenting work and resources
  • Simplified access to other Office apps

Teams allows workgroups within an organization to collaborate on content across devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) and platforms, including Windows and Mac. In addition, with Microsoft Teams, a team can also invite external partners such as vendors, service providers, and consultants to join the collaboration and conversations and resource sharing. This is a big plus for productivity and project management.

Better than Slack and Google Hangouts

At its core, Teams is a chat-based workspace that offers group and private/instant messaging with ongoing and persistent conversations. Although Teams competes with similar products like Slack and Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams is more robust, included with Office 365, and connects to other Office 365 applications like Excel, Word, OneNote, Planner, and SharePoint. This integration with other Microsoft Office programs creates a smoother, more seamless portal and experience.

Note: If your organization currently uses Skype for Business for instant messaging, you will likely see a move to Teams as Skype for Business has an expiration (end of life) date in 2020.

Customize with channels

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Teams are made up of channels that can be organized by topic, project, or department. Channels are very flexible as they store meeting history, chat, shared files or resources, and other communications that can be easily searched. Additionally, each channel can be customized with tabs for apps like SharePoint, Planner, OneNote, as well as Files and other shared resources. Planner is an easy-to-use Office 365 application for creating tasks or action items for members of a workgroup and then tracking the progress of each action for a project or team.

Communicating with a specific channel member or even the entire team is also easy with @mentions. Luckily, the Activity tab in Teams makes it easy to catch up on all your unread messages, @mentions, replies, and more. Like other messaging services, Teams communications may contain emojis and GIFs, an essential part of any business communication .

Video and voice meetings

Within a team-based messaging thread, you can easily schedule voice and video conferences, or start a quick impromptu meeting with little effort. Teams meetings can even be scheduled from Microsoft Outlook. Regardless of the method used to schedule meetings, they sync with Outlook to keep you in the loop. Video meetings can be started with specific contacts or within a channel, and it’s easy to create a recording of the meeting. Microsoft Teams includes a cool artificial intelligence (AI) feature called Blur Background. With such a mobile and remote workforce, this tool allows you to eliminate a cluttered or unprofessional background to a call while still interacting with each participant in the call.

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Microsoft Teams resources

To save time when working with Microsoft Teams, get a handout of Teams keyboard shortcuts at