While Microsoft Teams had reached 19 million active users at the end of 2019, for many people like me, it was that pesky app that loaded up with Microsoft 365 when I started my PC but I never got around to using. Then along came COVID-19, forcing many businesses to send their staff home to work and we all looked for ways of maintaining or generating communication with colleagues and customers.
Zoom, Teams and Jitsi were all products that I started to play around with to meet my busines and personal communication needs. Zoom was the go-to product for many with the free version allowing 40-minute meetings with some decent features, but the need to get everyone to drop out of one session and join another was a little disruptive to our lockdown football fitness sessions! Jitsi plugged that gap and being open source, had the benefit of being free to use rather than paying £11.99 per month for Zoom.
When it came to business, I joined millions of others and realised the benefits of Microsoft Teams. The app that came free with my £3.80 Microsoft 365 Standard subscription was hard to resist. Like many new users, it was the ability to video call and use chat that was initially appealing, but the more I used Teams, the more I functions I found, such as:
Document sharing or co-authoring documents
The built-in SharePoint functionality allows documents to be shared between individuals or to a team so we can all work on documents at the same time. With an update due before ethe end of the year, you will even be able to set permissions on the shared documents and edit these within Teams.
Organise teams and break down projects into channels
The teams tab allows you to bring workgroups together to chat, share documents and jump into a meeting. You can break down projects into multiple channels as well to ensure that workgroups are focussed on their task.
The Whiteboard app lets Teams meeting participants draw, sketch and write together on a shared digital canvas.
You can keep people informed with news and announcements by creating compelling communication with integrated video and content that looks great across all devices.
Live events are an extension of a meeting, enabling users to broadcast video and meeting content to a large online audience of up to 100,000 people. Q & As can also be incorporated to enable the audience to interact.
If that was not enough, you can embed thousands of apps into Teams to improve its functionality. You can even use your own custom-made apps.
In the past year, Microsoft has improved the basic tools in Teams too. When I started using Teams, we were limited to just four video feeds on a screen. That increased to seven and now it’s at 49!
As a presenter, I can mute all participants, pin my feed and even remove a participant. A lobby has been introduced that keeps participants isolated in a lobby until the presenter is ready to start. With a feature release expected before the end of the year, I will even be able to overlay my image over a presentation, effectively making my presentation the background of my feed.
Microsoft is also planning to introduce AI-based noise suppression to the platform to automatically remove unwanted background noise during meetings to further improve the meeting experience.
All of the above is included in ‘a single pane of glass’ within Microsoft Teams. It has made it very easy for me, my colleagues and other business users to keep on top of communication, information, tasks, business performance and processes throughout both lockdowns and socially distanced life in between.
If you want to find out more, please do not hesitate to contact me.