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How to Collaborate effectively with Your Team using Microsoft

July 29, 2020 0 Comments

How managers can collaborate effectively with their colleagues using Microsoft Teams.

One of the things that was probably most unanticipated during and before the Covid19 pandemic was the impact of it on businesses both new ones, already established ones, the ones growing, the ones been there for decades and any other category of business that you can imagine. One thing that became evident is the saying that “one thing that is constant in the world, is change, embrace it!” 

A Leader’s Role 

If you think of a leader, what will you use to describe this role? And what will the definition be when it comes to a generic description of the role vs your personal experience with various leaders and manager through the years? In general, terms a good manager and leader is considered to be a person who leads by example. The one carrying the flag and leading the troops in the right direction. The same person can be described as the general that is encouraging the troops and keeping the morale high through any circumstances and conditions. Probably one of the most important jobs of a good leader is to make sure that the entire team succeeds and that no one is left behind. It is also the leader’s responsibility to make sure that the employee’s interest is taken care of and that an employee’s desire for challenges is met in their daily work.  

Need for Teamwork 

Why is teamwork so important is a question which might have different answers depending on whom you may ask and what position they might be in. But with respect to business, teamwork is key to success. Consider a team of engineers developing some software, a team of salesmen trying to achieve their sales targets or goal, consider a team of teachers, factory workers producing something or whatever scenario where more than one person is involved in producing or delivering a product or a service! As soon as more than a single person is involved in work, the teamwork becomes crucial. One component must deliver so that the other component depending on the first can continue to be developed/delivered to the right person being the customer in this case. 

Manager’s Toolkit   

In traditional terms a manager might have had a limited arsenal of tools, however, in the modern era, a plethora of tools are available just waiting to be used. The challenge is no longer if there are any tools that are suited for the needs, and has rather become how to identify the available and relevant tools. Let’s explore a modern manager’s toolkit that can be utilized during the Covid19 pandemic. We will also spend some time exploring available options. 

I) Available Tools for Teamwork 

A large number of tools, both paid and free versions are available. The functionality greatly differs from product to product depending on the service type, region availability along with competing for availability in your area. To use one of the available tools as an example, you might choose to utilize, Google Meet, Teams, Lync, Slack or Zoom. All the products mentioned here can be used to collaborate between teams, however, each and every one has its benefits and drawbacks. Hence, the question for a manager becomes what to use and what not to use?  

ii) Choosing the Right Tools 

 While choosing the tools, it is very important to consider the needs of your workforce. Who better understands the needs of their workforce than a very engaged leader? The tools selected must be easy to use and must fulfil all the needs and functionality that is required by your team to complete the job in hand. More than often, it is difficult to find a single tool which fulfils all the requirements and you end up choosing a number of tools making the life of those who you care about most (at work) a living nightmare. When several tools have the same functionality the choice of tool falls on the mercy of the employee’s preference. The preference falls normally down on ease of use and end user-friendliness. Therefore it is quite important to consider these factors before the acquisition of new technology and products. 

Tools in Desperate Times 

The tips provided in the previous sections are valid in the time of peace, I.e. in the time of normal operation. What do you do in the time of chaos and the time of Covid19 pandemic? You can definitely not start procuring new tools. You are surely dependent on using the existing tools. Office 365 is used by more than 180 million customers around the world. If you have a business that has an online presence or you use computers at your workplace the chances are high for you being one of these 180 million customers. By the way, these 180 Million customers are not numbers of active users, each of these 180 million have a varying number of active users ranging from 1 to several thousand or even hundreds of thousands.  

If you are so lucky that your business is using office 365, the next section applies specifically to you. Even if you are not a paying customer and using Office 365, there still all tools that can be utilized free of charge.  

Using Office 365 as a Collaboration Tool 

Office 365 is a complete suite of different products consisting of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Sharepoint, PowerApps, PowerAutomate, Planner, Teams and several others. The most important tools are the tools for collaboration. We can write a blog post on each of these tools but we are not specifically focusing on the technology here and rather on the employer’s options so let’s keep our focus on the Office 365 collaboration tools and how these tools can be used to increase employee’s productivity and help the business grow.  

1) Use of Outlook 

Reaching individual by email is still 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. This is a powerful statistic and should not be ignored in talent acquisition. Receiving a text or a call with a job offer can come across as intense, invasive, or spammy. This doesn’t mean that emails coming from recruiters or your future employer won’t come off as spammy, but we do know that emails are generally perceived as the more formal and official way to communicate something as important as a career move.  

If you use email, you might be familiar with Outlook it is the second most used email client in the world after Gmail. A lot of paper working has been replaced with email communication. During the day, employees communicate with each other using email. The email is also quite an important tool to communicate with external resources as clients and customers. The email client is used by individual users or can be utilized by several users by utilizing the shared mailbox functionality. By utilizing shared mailbox functionality, save mailbox is available for a team of employees. This approach works well but is quite a traditional approach for collaborating with your team.  

2) Use of Sharepoint 

Sharepoint is a document handling and management system, a system providing processes to create, manage and update documents during their entire lifecycle. It is a bit unfair to describe Sharepoint as only a document handling system, as it offers so much more. You can create libraries, create blogs, internal wikis, create collaboration sites etc. Automated processes can be created, emails can be sent directly to rooms (project folders), RSS feeds can be enabled and utilized, tasks can be created and assigned by utilizing integration with a planner. Sharepoint also provides RBAC (role-based access control) which enables creating of virtual teams. This teams can be projects or departments or something as simple as job roles. As Sharepoint retains the data indefinitely, it is a good archive solution. In order to use Sharepoint, it is important to create good processes to define the flow and to define the structure in advance. Not properly planning and just starting to use Sharepoint will surely cause creation of a lot of unstructured data, which might become difficult to process. However, predefined Sharepoint roles as author, contributor, reader and visitors to make life a bit easier.

3) Use of Teams 

Microsoft’s latest addition to the collaboration family is Teams. Teams simply put is the recommended tool for collaboration. Teams provide a lot of functionality that Sharepoint provides, but with an even more modern touch. In addition, in Teams, Channels can be created and users can be added to these channels. Both internal and external workers/users can be added to these channels. Teams also provide a very rich platform for online meeting, Chat, and file and screen sharing. Teams have also officially replaced Lync, but with added functionality. Collaboration is made easy as you easily can differentiate based on individual users or teams/channels. Teams have a rich integration with other applications which can directly integrate with teams. As with Sharepoint, it is imperative to have a good structure within Teams. It is wise to invest some time in planning the exact use of Teams. A more systematic adaption approach is better than using every available functionality. In many SMB organizations, internal employee start using Teams for it has officially been adopted by the organization. This means, you no longer can have a planned structure or deployment. However, there is still possible to create a structure that works.  

As with most the products, there is no one size fits all solution. The solution must be designed according to your organization and your employee team requirements. If you have not started to use Teams, it might be the collaboration tool that you were missing. If you only want it to be used for internal communication, or for it to become a tool for collaboration or whatever use, make sure to access it properly and deploy it gradually.