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Tired of Juggling Collaboration Apps? – Consolidate into Microsoft Teams (Part 2)

In early 2020, the Covid pandemic forced many of us to adapt to remote work, often for the first time. This dramatic shift in work culture saw many organizations adopt cloud-hosted platforms designed to give remote workers the tools and resources they need to work effectively. Chief among these platforms was Microsoft Teams, which has grown to become the globe’s leading workplace communication and collaboration platform.


Situated at the center of the Microsoft 365 product line, Teams offers a rich assortment of productivity-enhancing features, plus an unrivalled number of third-party integrations, making it a true, all-in-one business communication solution. It’s not hard to see why it’s the communication platform of choice for over 1 million organizations worldwide.


In our last blog, we looked at the way Teams delivers structure to group collaboration and explored some of the platforms most helpful app integrations. Building on our previous blog post, we’re now going to take a closer look at Teams’ value as a communication platform and explore the components that make it a truly comprehensive tool for business communication.


Microsoft Teams Chat


Instant messaging is fundamental to the Microsoft Teams experience. Chats can either take place within Teams channels, or as standalone threads that exist outside of your collaboration structures: Teams chat lets you start a live conversation with anyone in your organization, at any time.


Instant messaging is hardly unique to Microsoft Teams however, so what capabilities and features does Teams chat provide to deliver a richer workplace collaboration experience?...


Chat Formatting


Teams chat allows you to craft visually impactful posts that are bound to grab the attention of your group thanks to a range of formatting options. Highlight text, embolden it to make it stand out, use bullet points, change the font color and more. Messages can also be marked as ‘important’ or ‘urgent’ to ensure all group members are made aware of vital updates.




The chat interface allows you to do more than simple send massages, however.


Users can use the chat feature as a channel for sharing files and collaborating on documents in real-time. Once a file is sent into a chat thread, it’s automatically saved in the chat’s files tab at the top of the window. This ensures everything you send into the chat is retained for easy retrieval in the future.





Microsoft Teams provides numerous ways to schedule video meetings with your team, and one of these is located right here in the chat interface. The chat box can even be personalized with app integrations, with helpful apps like PowerBI and Microsoft Forms allowing you to send key data and surveys straight into your chat thread for maximum engagement.





Lastly, for those situations where a visual demonstration is better than a written explanation, Teams chat allows you to share your screen into the chat thread. To do so, simply locate and click the screen share button located in the top right of the Teams client, and your screen will be shared with the chat’s participants.





Chat Search


While chat is a great way to conduct informal group discussions and keep your team informed, it can present challenges when it comes to tracking information and important correspondence. Thankfully, Teams chat incorporates a capable search function that makes it quick and easy to relocate those elusive messages, or the chat threads that hold the vital information you’re looking for. This is located at the top of the chat interface, allowing you to find messages and threads using keywords and the names of chat participants.


If that alone doesn’t help you find what you’re looking for, there’s also a filtering tool. This lets you narrow down your search by defining date ranges, narrowing the focus to specific teams or channels, or filtering for messages you’ve been tagged in or that feature attachments.





Bring Email and Chat Together


It’s widely known that Teams is deeply integrated with Microsoft 365’s email service, Outlook. However, many users remain unaware that Teams allows you to make your chat threads a destination for email correspondence. To activate this feature, navigate to the desired channel, locate the ‘more options’ menu in the top left, and select ‘Get Email Address’ from the drop-down menu. This will provide you with and autogenerated email address that you can use to route emails and their attachments directly into the channel’s chat thread.




Virtual Meetings


With the ability to host up to 1000 active attendees, and a passive audience of up to 10,000, Teams’ virtual meeting capabilities and features are one of the biggest draws for many users. So why should you adopt Teams as your business’s virtual meetings platform?


Invite Anyone You Choose


Teams lets you send meeting invites to individuals outside your organization: and they don’t even have to be Microsoft 365 users. All you have to do is provide their email address, and Teams will send a viewing link.


When it comes to scheduling meetings, Teams provides several options.


Located at the side of the Teams window you’ll find the calendar app, which lets you schedule meetings at precise times, specify the attendees you require to attend, and add additional information so that participants understand the content that’s to be discussed. The calendar app also features a tool called the ‘scheduling assistant,’ which avoids time conflicts by highlighting slots when all participants are free to attend.


You can also choose to launch meetings immediately with the ‘meet now’ button, which appears at the top left of the window both within Teams Channels and the Chat application.


Chat, share your screen, distribute files and use ‘virtual whiteboards’ to collaborate.


Video meetings can be tedious if you don’t have the right tools to keep your audience engaged.


Teams Meetings are far from dull, thanks to additional features designed to promote engagement and encourage participants to actively participate in the conversation.


For starters, as soon as you initiate a meeting, attendees are given access to a live chat interface. This is ideal for contributing ideas and sharing relevant files without disrupting the speaker.


The meeting space also incorporates a screen share feature, that the active speaker can use to share their desktop or a PowerPoint presentation with the meeting’s attendees. This helpful feature can be activated from the top right of the meeting window as depicted below.





Meeting attendees can also share their thoughts and brainstorm ideas by making use of the virtual whiteboard feature. This is exactly what it sounds like: a digital imitation of a whiteboard that provides a free form canvas for users to visualize concepts, demonstrate strategies and collaborate more effectively.





Revisit and Review Meetings with ‘Meeting Recap’


Teams makes it easy to review meeting data and revisit shared files, notes, transcripts, and recordings, thanks to the ‘Meeting Recap’ feature. These resources, plus attendance records and other meeting data, are stored in the meeting’s calendar entry after the event. This maximizes meeting value by providing a depository of information that staff can use as a reference point, ensuring that the topics discussed remain fresh in the memory of all attendees.





Unite All Your Communication Channels with Microsoft Teams Phone


Microsoft Teams is renowned for its video conferencing and chat features, but what many aren't aware of is its capability to function as a fully-fledged enterprise phone system.

Known as 'Microsoft Teams Phone,' this service is available to most Microsoft 365 customers for an added monthly subscription fee. Notably, users on the 365 E5 plan can access this service at no extra cost.


So how does it work?


Teams phone functions as a full-featured VoIP phone system, that’s fully accessible through the Microsoft Teams interface. Users benefit from phone system functionality without the need to invest in additional hardware, as the system is hosted on the Teams Desktop Client and the Teams mobile app, allowing it to be accessed using existing laptops, desktop computers and mobile phones. Here are some of the key benefits of this competitive telephony system:


Make Your Phone System Mobile


Leverage a single contact number and retain the ability to transfer, hold and forward calls, whether you’re in the office or working remotely. Your clients will benefit from the same seamless communication experience no matter where you and your team are working from.


Features that Support Demanding Call Volumes


Teams Phone comes preloaded with features that assist in the handling of high call volumes. Such features are designed to make life easier for call handlers and provide a smoother experience for inbound callers.


The ‘auto attendant’ feature provides a menu of options to inbound callers, allowing them to route themselves to the most suitable department or individual, and alleviating pressure on call handlers.


The ‘call queue’ allows inbound calls to be distributed among available team members, helping to share the load and keep wait times to a minimum. And the ‘call park’ feature lets you temporarily hold a call while you switch devices.


Heavy on Features, Light on Hardware


Microsoft Teams Phone works with your existing devices through 'softphones,' eliminating the need for traditional cabling and PBX servers thanks to cloud-hosting. You can also opt for Teams-compatible desktop phones, combining the familiarity of traditional systems with video conferencing and chat functionality for unified communication.






Conclusion


Switching between segregated applications and interfaces for business communication can be a frustrating experience, and one that makes it hard to collaborate effectively and maintain a clear, consistent dialogue with customers. By integrating chat, virtual meetings, telephony, files and collaboration features into a single streamlined interface, Microsoft Teams helps provides a sleek, modern communication solution for businesses that value effective communication.


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