MS Teams: From Corporate Messenger to Digital Workplace

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Over the past few months, Microsoft Teams has helped many companies to switch to remote work. Such functions as video conferencing, chats and team collaboration are essential while working remotely. At Digital Design, we try to test the most interesting solutions ourselves, so some of our teammates have been using MS Teams for more than a year. Today, Teams is a platform where over 400 employees exchange thousands of messages and hold hundreds of meetings every month. But we want to showcase a broader view on platform’s capabilities and ways for every employee to use it for different purposes.

A Flashback

Andrey Shumilov,
Head of Portal Solutions Department

What Microsoft products do you use and which are most in-demand?

Well, it is mainly MS Office, Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, Power Apps. Teams and Outlook are the most often used now because communication is more important than ever during this self-isolation period. We use them regularly for discussions and meetings on projects and presales.

Why have you chosen MS Teams over other alternatives?

We’ve tried many different products, but none of them have met the requirements. Some of the options were too costly, or didn’t have enough functionality, or did not have cross-platform support. Teams turned out to be a perfect choice with many connectors and a wide range of application: from discussion boards to automation of internal processes. But I think the most important features are UI user-friendliness, quick access to data, cross-platform compatibility, team collaboration and extensive customization opportunities.

How did you switch to Teams?

Firstly, we’ve let a small group of employees to test it and try out its basic functions. We’ve collected the feedback, noted positive and negative issues. After this stage, we decided to expand the number of users. We’ve connected several departments to Teams and realized that we have just found an optimal solution. Then, all our employees have been connected to the platform. Now we are working tightly with several departments to identify the processes that can be automated in Teams.

The Main Communication Tool

Natalia Kolkhidashvili,
HR Director

How can the platform help the HR department?

The first advantage for an HR person is that our employees can be reached anytime, in any convenient way. We all got used to messengers, so Teams allows to reach a person quickly. And the cloud model helps to switch between devices easily. This is great when you can decide if you work remotely or not today. And in an extraordinary situation, the company can move all its employees to remote work in a moment. In either case, everyone remains in the same communication network.

The HR Department has different communication channels. But we started using Teams for announcements and surveys because it’s easier for our employees to notice messages and respond. This helps us understand if an activity or an event is interesting for employees.

Surveys in Teams help our HR Department get instant feedback from all the company.

Surveys in Teams help our HR Department get instant feedback from all the company.

The second advantage is how easy it is to set up a meeting. Sometimes our meetings gather employees from over ten cities. For example, at our regular “A Cup of Tea with HR” meetings, we share knowledge, discuss internal processes or such issues as dealing with anxiety during the pandemic. It’s easier to join this online meeting than to go to the meeting room in the office. So, it is easier for us to attract employees and help our management communicate with them.

Online education is one more new thing for us. We run classes in Teams. It means that we do not have to take our employees away from work and we are able to see their reactions immediately. It helps us maintain emotional connection.

What adjustments have been made and what do you plan to make?

We’ve created the Ideas & Proposals Bank in Teams. Our employees can submit a form and share their business ideas or potential development areas they see.

Our employees have already submitted over 100 ideas and some of them have already enhanced our products.

Our employees have already submitted over 100 ideas and some of them have already enhanced our products.

We have a chatbot which helps an employee to apply for a business trip remotely and we plan to launch several more in the future. At HR Department, we often get such questions as “What should I do when my internship ends?” and “Where should I go if my chair breaks”. So, chatbots will allow us to optimize this part of work and help employees navigate through our tools and activities. Chatbots are especially important for employees during an adaption process, but it would also be helpful for others to have a quick access to information on almost any issue.

This Teams-based chatbot has simplified applying for a business trip for over 15 managers.

This Teams-based chatbot has simplified applying for a business trip for over 15 managers.

Teamwork

Alisa Panenko,
Marketing Analytics Team Lead

What do you mainly use Teams for? How has it affected your work?

For the marketing team, MS Teams is a tool for holding meetings, planning, teamwork, discussing marketing materials and sharing ideas for marketing initiatives. We’ve noticed that the more of our colleagues start using Teams, the more convenient platform it becomes. In case of our company, this coincided with our transition to remote work. Before, we had to ask a colleague which way to communicate would be the most preferable, but now Teams has become the main tool.

The distance between people has decreased. Marketing initiatives start being processed faster, and we need only one platform for that. After approval, documents are always easy to find due to embedded storage.

We use channels to discuss and collaborate with other team members.

We use channels to discuss and collaborate with other team members.

Mobile and Convenient Communication

Olga Gordeyeva,
Sales Director

How does Teams meet the needs of the Sales Department? What do you use it for mainly?

The Sales Department is usually very mobile. We are often off on business trips or at meetings with customers, so we all like using the mobile app. I’m always in touch with my team, I can respond and access documents.

Due to remote work, we now communicate with customers via audio or video conferencing systems. I try to hold meetings in Teams because it doesn’t require to share passwords and IDs. A customer doesn’t need to install an app and we’re not limited in time and available devices for communication. From my experience, even if a person hasn’t used the platform before, he has no difficulties with connection. I like that every participant of a meeting gets automatically joined to a chat, where we can share materials. I like using the screen sharing function as it makes it easier to discuss and collaborate on a document.

Also, it is very easy to communicate with project teams. The platform has even replaced messengers for us, and it provides a sufficient level of information security.

Project and Communication Management

Dmitry Dorofeyev,
Project Manager

How does the platform help project managers?

Teams is a good communication tool and it suits well for discussing projects with customers online. I’m not talking about video calls only, Teams is also good for collaborating on documents with customers. We use it for single documents exchange inside and outside the company, since all documents are stored in cloud and can always be sent as a link. Most of project documentation is stored here too, since it is easy to track teamwork and versions history, share access to files and store everything in cloud by default.

Are there any extra features of Teams you have already checked out?

I like using Planner to follow who is responsible for what in our team and track the status of tasks.

I use Planner to see who is responsible for any specific task and when it gets done.

I use Planner to see who is responsible for any specific task and when it gets done.

The Schedule View is perfect for checking the task status for any given day. It also helps to set deadlines for new tasks.

The Schedule View is perfect for checking the task status for any given day. It also helps to set deadlines for new tasks.

The Charts View in Planner is used to analyze our results and compare it to previous months.

The Charts View in Planner is used to analyze our results and compare it to previous months.

When I talk to the team I can address particular teammates or teams, or make my own tags, so that I wouldn’t bother those who isn’t involved in the issue and always keep others informed. It is also easy to send different types of messages in teams: announcements, conversations or urgent messages, design and publish them in several channels at the same time.

Online Meetings and Plans for the Future

Dmitriy Livshits,
CEO

How can Teams help the head of the company?

When we switched to remote work, we started holding regular meetings with all our employees to share news and plans and answer their questions. About 250 users (over a half of the company) have joined the first online meeting, and we plan to stick to this kind of meetings for the entire period of remote work.

Also, we hold briefings in Teams, read and edit documents and take part in team discussions. Teams helped us to improve our work on projects: now it is easy to track the project status and assign a responsible person. Even when a project is completed, all of its documentation is stored and structured in a relevant channel. It surely affects the discipline of project management.

In addition, Teams is easy to integrate with analytics tools, such as Power BI. We use its dashboards to track the status of leads in the sales funnel almost in real time. This is useful for employees as well: for example, our telemarketing team sees those who need to be called soon highlighted in red.

These PowerBI-based dashboards can be added as an extra tab in a Teams channel.

These PowerBI-based dashboards can be added as an extra tab in a Teams channel.

How do you plan to enhance Teams in the near future?

We have recently introduced commercial assessments in Teams. Our specialists have also moved the project registry to SharePoint Online, and the next step is to implement an interface to work with it in Teams. Before Teams, we’ve had the registry in one place, project documentation in another, and communication with a customer in the third place. Now we can communicate in a special team, store the documents, keep records and initiate processes in the same place. It creates a single information hub for a project.

Turning endless Excel tables into concise forms in Teams has made project assessment much easier for our managers.

Turning endless Excel tables into concise forms in Teams has made project assessment much easier for our managers.

The Specificity Of The Platform And Implementing The Digital Workplace

Alexander Pankov,
Senior Offer Development Manager

What is the main idea of Digital Workplace?

Digital Workplace is a single point of access to the company’s digital system, based on the principles of personalization, gamification, and accessibility. It is the main IT system in the company that can replace traditional portal and intranet solutions. It includes corporate services, gives access to documents, even from mobile devices. The platform is useful for HR services as a basic communication tool. Gamification helps to involve more employees in the working process, and Teams has a wide range of opportunities for this: from ‘like’ reactions to expressing gratitude and tracking employee achievements.

What is special about MS Teams as a Digital Workplace platform?

Microsoft offers a single ecosystem with great opportunities. Its main advantage is that you don’t have to build something from scratch. And it is flexible enough to be developed. For example, we are currently building a request system for one of our customers using the Microsoft Power Automate tool. This tool lets submit a request, set up a route for approval and send notifications.

You can add web applications as a separate tab in Teams (like this Manager's Workplace ARM).

You can add web applications as a separate tab in Teams (like this Manager’s Workplace ARM).

At Digital Design, we plan to automate internal requests, e.g. for issuing notes and certificates, technical support and minor repairs. Also, we plan to develop a corporate methodology for using various tools. It will help all employees understand, for example, where and how to post an urgent announcement, and where to store quarterly reports.

Have you noticed any remarkable ways to use Teams from your customers experience?

I’ve noticed that many production facilities can transfer their processes to Teams using mobile devices. For example, one of the customers uses the platform for accounting and monitoring its mobile teams, while the IT Department uses it for requests. By the way, Planner is also relevant for the industry. It helps to coordinate a project team and allows to keep track on a Kanban Board. The Shifts app lets you track employees’ schedules, vacations, and other kinds of presence and absence.

Now it can be useful for planning the work of office staff during a pandemic. For example, it can help to calculate if the number of employees in a room is above standard and, if so, how to place employees in certain premises.

How can companies benefit from using Teams in the future?

There will be a boom of chatbots. For example, we’ve set up a bot that publishes new candidates for certain positions in a channel for hiring. All information about recruitment (requests, candidates, discussions, and feedback) is now in one channel. Many processes can be organized this way.

We create new vacancies in Teams using a chatbot. When a person on our website applies for it, we get an instant reply from the chatbot.

We create new vacancies in Teams using a chatbot. When a person on our website applies for it, we get an instant reply from the chatbot.

Every month, Teams gets new features and the capabilities get expanded, the platform is evolving towards mobile devices, comfortable team interaction and a better engagement in discussions. Thanks to this, employees will interact better regardless of where they are.

 

We’ve described how useful Teams is for us, but every company has its own specifics. We will be glad to answer your questions about ways to solve your problems with this platform!

 

How Teams Can Enhance Your Business

Find out what Teams features provided by Digital Design can improve your business processes: chat extensions, task management, dashboards, chatbots, and more.