Microsoft Teams Review: Office 365 Collaboration
Your guide to Microsoft's flagship collaboration product
Microsoft’s flagship collaboration and communication hub, Microsoft Teams, is the toolset to replace Skype for Business in the office environment. The question for most companies is whether this constantly-evolving tool will provide the right productivity suite for their needs.
Released on the 2nd of November 2016 during an event in New York City, Microsoft Teams emerged as an exciting new chat-based workspace located within the Office 365 portfolio. According to Microsoft, the platform was built to support the emerging popularity of communication and collaboration products within a world of increasingly mobile workforces.
Teams is a platform which aims to make communication more streamlined for business groups. In this review, we’re going to take a closer look at the benefits of the latest Microsoft collaboration solution, and what it could mean for businesses.
The Features of Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is the flagship solution for intelligent communication and collaboration from Microsoft. Designed to replace Skype for Business and compete against solutions like Slack, Microsoft Teams simplifies and enhances work in virtually any office environment. Though the list of capabilities associated with Teams continues to evolve, current features at the time of writing include:
- Threaded conversations
- Instant messaging/Chat
- Video and voice conferencing
- Team chat and private messaging
- Virtual assistant bots
- Customisation features for each team
- Open API for integrations
- Conversation search and contact search
- Real-time chat history across devices
- Customisable alerts
- File and document sharing
- Multi-factor authentication
- Internal and external communication
- In-Field scheduling support
Rather than having to use different collections of apps and services for productivity and communication, Microsoft Office 365 hopes to provide a more comprehensive service to its users through Teams, which will connect seamlessly to a host of Microsoft services, for easier collaboration when dealing with various documents and work-based solutions.
Additionally, Microsoft provides users with a way to customise and extend their collaborative experience through bots, connectors, tabs, and more. You can even reach out to people outside of your company by adding them as a guest to your channel or team.
The Benefits of Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams was designed to make collaboration and communication a more accessible opportunity from within the product portfolio that Office 365 already offers. Fundamentally, it gives cloud-users the chance to enter a central hub of communication where everything you need to work on a project can be organised effectively and quickly. You can incorporate all the apps that you already use into a single place, and you can work on team projects together in a format that everyone’s familiar with. Benefits include:
- Full Office 365 Integration: When Microsoft first launched Teams, one of it’s most significant selling points was its native integration with the Microsoft Office 365 platform. The tool allows companies to quickly access tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, from within their collaboration and communication experience. This means that it’s quicker and simpler to collaborate and communicate over shared documents, calendars, and files
- Advanced Meeting and Scheduling Tools: Meetings have never been better with Microsoft Teams. Not only does the application sync with your Office 365 calendar and track your appointments, but it also makes suggestions for conversation times and dates based on the availability of other team members. Recently, Microsoft introduced the arrival of a new “Microsoft Teams Rooms” system to replace the old Skype for Business strategy, complete with enhanced video-conferencing and meetings settings
- Smart conversations via bots: Microsoft Teams stands out in the collaboration space by not only enabling communication but making it smarter too. Microsoft Teams users can download and use a variety of advanced bots that help them to complete tasks efficiently. Polly helps with polling and voting among colleagues, while the Stats Bot generates detailed reports using data from Google Analytics and Microsoft Dynamics 365. What’s more, with an open API, endless additional third-party integrations are possible
- Outstanding Security: Users access Microsoft Teams in the same way they would their Office 365 system – through two-factor authentication. Additionally, when it comes to keeping data safe within Teams itself, there’s a huge amount of in-built protection available. The Microsoft Teams app is supported by the Microsoft Hyper-Scale Cloud, which supports local data residency for compliance purposes. Microsoft Teams and the rest of the Office 365 portfolio also meet with the compliance standards of ISO 27001, HIPAA, ISO 27018, and more
- Streamlined collaboration: Microsoft Teams gives employees to collaborate in the way that works best for them. Whether it’s annotating documents on a Microsoft Surface Hub whiteboard, or editing and co-authoring files from Microsoft Office within Teams, it’s easier to get work done
- Constant Communication: Along with fantastic collaboration opportunities, Microsoft also supports a range of communication features including video conferencing, voice calls, instant messaging and more. You can customise the notifications that you get about certain projects, @mention people to get their attention, and check the availability of your team members through Presence chat panes
Though it’s fair to say that Teams is best suited for those who already know and love the Microsoft Office suite, it also represents an incredible opportunity for streamlining operations for those who already enjoy a host of Office features.
Migrating from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams
Microsoft created their Teams experience to eliminate the complexity associated with communicating via a patchwork of video, email, and voice services. Teams is designed to eliminate the problem of lost files and productivity, and it will soon replace the Microsoft Skype for Business platform for online meetings. In 2017, Microsoft began rolling out support for advanced call features, including full-featured dialling, call history, hold/resume, transfer, call forwarding, voicemail and more. Eventually, Microsoft announced “Feature Parity” between Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business in 2018, in an attempt to reassure Skype users that they wouldn’t lose any functionality by switching to Teams.
However, Microsoft hasn’t stopped innovating at the point of feature parity. In their quest to deliver the best possible communication and collaboration experience, Microsoft continues to equip Teams with new features. In 2018, the company introduced support for Direct Routing, helping customers reliant on their existing telephony infrastructure to use it with Teams for a comprehensive voice service. Additionally, Teams is now available with a range of meeting room setups, including the recently-announced Microsoft Teams Rooms system.
Since it’s launch, Microsoft has integrated a wide variety of features and tools with Teams, both in-house with their Office 265 integrations, and through select partners ranging from Trello, to InVision and beyond. Increasingly, Microsoft is pursuing their strategy to give users a comprehensive communication and collaboration experience within a single pane of glass. What’s more, disruptive new features are beginning to show themselves too. For instance, Microsoft recently integrated Teams with their HoloLens augmented reality headsets, to enable “remote assistant” features for forward-thinking companies. Imagine a field worker being able to share what they’re looking at with an expert back at the office in real-time, that’s what Microsoft Teams is offering.
When Microsoft Teams began, it’s trump card was the ability to integrate with Microsoft Office 365 productivity solutions. Now, Teams has gone far beyond Office 365 integration alone. For those who need help moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, there are various transition and adoption plans available on the Microsoft website.
Target Market & Regional Availability
Microsoft Teams is available to virtually all subscribers on the Office 365 platform – although you do need the Office 365 suite to use it. Currently, Microsoft Teams is provided around the world, in 26 languages. Initially, the service was best-suited for larger enterprise teams with complex projects to address as part of their collaboration strategy. However, since it’s initial launch, Microsoft Teams has been adapted and expanded to reach a wide variety of new customers.
In 2017, Microsoft Announced the delivery of an Educational version of Teams to Replace Microsoft Classroom. Additionally, for smaller companies and freelancers alike, Microsoft announced the arrival of a “freemium” version of Microsoft Teams in July 2018. The free option provides many of the major communication capabilities of Microsoft Teams free of charge, but with limited storage capabilities and user access.
There has also been a Firstline Workers update for Microsoft Teams to help support interoperability between different devices for retail and on-the-move employees.
How to Buy & Pricing
Microsoft Teams is a crucial component of the Office 365 productivity suite. This means that to get official Microsoft Teams, you’ll need to pay for an Office 365 license. Although some people consider the pricing structure to be a little more complicated than with some other collaboration tools, it’s something you’ll feel comfortable with if you’re used to Microsoft services. Teams comes as a free addition to the Office 365 solution, alongside other tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Until recently, Microsoft had struggled to contend with other providers of collaboration and communication tools that supported small businesses and freelancers due to a lack of a “Freemium” offering. However, in July 2018, Microsoft introduced a new tier of Teams for no cost, demonstrating their ability to contend with competitors like Slack.
When you move onto the “premium” versions of Teams, the cheapest small-business plan starts at £17.60 per user per month (With an annual commitment). The basic version comes with all Office 365 applications, plus access to Teams, SharePoint, Stream, Yammer, Exchange, and OneDrive. There are also extra security and compliance tools available like legal hold and data loss prevention.
The upgraded version of Microsoft Office 365 (with Teams) for the Enterprise starts at £30.80 per user per month, with all the features of Office 365, plus advanced analytics, security, and voice capabilities.
Finishing Thoughts and FAQ
Microsoft Teams is easily one of the most competitive tools for collaboration and communication on the market today. What began as a simple but convenient addition to the Office 365 roadmap has evolved into something far more compelling. While you can certainly benefit from the accessibility and communication features of Microsoft Teams if you’re already an Office 365 user, the offering is also highly compelling for people looking to transition from an alternative platform.
Not only is Microsoft Teams packed with some of the latest communication and collaboration features on the market, but it’s also incredibly secure and easy-to-use. It’s a fantastic option for a range of businesses, whether you’re a forward-thinking school, a small business, or a diverse enterprise.
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Q: What Software is Microsoft Teams Compatible With?
A: Internally, Microsoft Teams is compatible with all Office 365 applications, as well as tools like Stream, SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, and Exchange. Outside of the Microsoft portfolio, the list of integrations available with Microsoft Teams is quickly growing. Options like HootSuite, Wrike, SmartSheet, and many more are available.
Q: Which Devices will Microsoft Teams Work with?
A: Microsoft Teams is a cross-platform collaboration and communication system with clients for Android, iOS, the web, Windows, and MacOS.
Q: Is Microsoft Teams Available for Guest Use?
A: In 2018, Microsoft answered the rising demand for cross-company collaboration to be made available within the Teams platform, with the delivery of guest access for users without corporate accounts. It’s now possible to communicate with people both inside and outside of your business.
Q: What Kind of Security Does Microsoft Teams Offer?
A: Microsoft Teams, along with the rest of the Office 365 portfolio, meet with the compliance standards of ISO 27001, ISO 27018, SSAE 16 SOC 1 and 2, and HIPAA BAA. Users will also log in via multi-factor authentication.
Are you using Microsoft Teams? Let us know how you feel about the platform, and how it’s been adopted by you, or your business group. At the same time, why not share this review with your colleagues and friends through social media, and invite them to join the discussion?
Microsoft Teams Alternatives
If you’re researching Team Collaboration Software vendors, then you may want to look at these Microsoft Teams alternatives:
What’s Microsoft been up to lately? Get more Microsoft Teams News here!