Collaboration in the past
I would like to start by telling you how i went from Lotus Notes, via SharePoint to Microsoft Teams.
Since 1997 I have been working on building systems for “collaboration”. The first few years I worked as a Lotus Notes-developer. Lotus Notes was at that time, in my personal opinion, the most effective platform for building good collaboration solutions. With Lotus Notes, i built document management solutions, good process support with automated workflows, ordering and booking systems, intranets and HR solutions. You could basically build most of it.
Best of all was that once you had built a good solution you could save it as a template. This template could then be used to quickly build the same, or similar solution elsewhere.
The replication in Lotus Notes means that you can distribute the load over different servers and you as a user can also replicate the databases so that you can work offline on your local computer when you do not have access to the Internet (this was during the time you did not always have access to fast internet everywhere and all the time).
Files were attached to Notes documents and you could use the email to attach links to the Notes documents which in turn contained those files. That’s how you (or at least i) did it “at that time”…
SharePoint shows up
When Microsoft 2001 launched the first version of its web-based collaboration platform SharePoint, I was still in the Lotus Notes world and building document management solutions. Then, for some years, I worked as an IT manager and consulting manager and felt that I was losing close proximity to technology and direct contact with customers and this was something I was missing.
When Microsoft launched “SharePoint 2010”, I saw that this was a platform I wanted to work with. That said, I started working as a consultant again and I wanted to learn all about SharePoint.
“At that time, the updates did not come that often, so you actually had a real opportunity to really know a product until the next version was launched (today every day is new learning).”
From 2010 to 2017, I was involved in many projects and solutions where SharePoint was the obvious platform for solving customer needs. When Office 365 was launched in 2011, I thought there was still a lot missing in SharePoint Online so it took about 2 years before I went “all in” and “all cloud”.
The solutions I have built in SharePoint over the years have mainly been intranets and different types of areas for departments, working groups, areas of expertise and project areas. Most projects have gone well and the solutions have worked as they were intended to work.
The challenge, in almost all of the SharePoint projects I have been involved with, has been User Adoption. Sure, we have completed training courses and written more or less detailed manuals, but this has never resulted in the real wow effect we have been aiming for. Users have often found it difficult to use metadata, and there have been major challenges when it comes to sharing information properly. Information sharing with external users (guests) has been a separate chapter that has caused a lot of confusion and cleaning up.
“When I look in the rearview mirror, I can see a clear reason why the real success never came into being and that is the “collaboration perspective”.”
Sure, it has been possible to share documents and send links via email, but using SharePoint to create or upload files and then using email for interaction I have felt that this has been the weakest link. The lack of “context-based genuine collaboration” is what has most often put spikes in the wheel.
Many people still work this way but it is sooooo 2016.
“Do not misunderstand me. I love SharePoint and still think it’s a great platform. Modern SharePoint has just one other main purpose today. As SharePoint looks, and works today, I am more impressed than ever. But the overall collaboration experience I only get in Microsoft Teams (which has a close relationship with SharePoint). Today we have been provided with the key to success and, in my personal opinion, it is called Microsoft Teams.”
Collaboration in Present
Microsoft calls Microsoft Teams “The hub for teamwork in Office 365”. This is a correct description because in Microsoft Teams everything needed for teamwork is collected in a single workspace. In my opinion, Microsoft Teams is “The Missing Puzzle Part”.
When you use Microsoft Teams you have files and dialogs in the area where they belong. There is no need to send email with links to documents. Everything is in a Team and in the right context, which means that you know where to work, you know where to search and find documents and dialogues. Everyone works in the same intuitive interface which facilitates significantly in terms of implementation and user adoption.
What is it that you get in Microsoft Teams that you do not get with the “traditional” collaboration using SharePoint and Email? Well, it is the uniformity and the so long-awaited and necessary “Collaboration dimension”. I want to illustrate it with an example that shows what you couldn’t do before but that you can do now.
Example: A project team
- The people (internal and / or external) involved in the project are members of the project team.
- If you work with documents that belong to a project, the documents are in that project’s Team.
- If you have a dialogue about the project then you have that dialogue in the project team.
- If you have a dialogue about a project document, that dialogue is linked to the project document.
- All dialogue about the project that is relevant to the project members is accessible and searchable.
- You can share individual documents with people who are not part of the project but who may need to contribute reading or correction of a document.
- You can link in-house and / or third-party apps that are relevant to use to carry out the project in the way you need and that support your particular processes and system support.
- You can choose to follow certain information in order to focus on the information that is relevant to the performance of one’s tasks. You can also choose not to follow the information that is not relevant.
- You can reach all project members with a message and the project members can comment and have a dialogue about this message. All in one place instead of several replies that we have been on before.
- You can conduct web-based project meetings and share documents and desks. All project members can participate via their computer or smartphone, no matter where they are. The meetings can be recorded and accessible to those who were unable to attend. The geographical boundaries are blurred and you also have an incredible improvement in sound and video quality compared to what you have been used to before.
- When the project is complete, the entire project team can be archived so that no one can work in it anymore, but everyone can still search and reuse the historical information contained in the archived team.
It is not difficult to see how relevant this functionality is even for organizational units such as departments, sections and working groups.
Microsoft Teams is so much more than a “Project Room”.
“The hub for teamwork in Office 365” replaces Skype for Business means that you can use private chat (that is only between yourself and the person (s) you choose to chat with). You can start instant meetings (with or without video and always with the opportunity to share screen. You can also make calls and collaborate with whomever you want and when it suits you.
As I mentioned before, I have now worked with Microsoft Teams since it was launched and “it just works”. In the past, during the “SharePoint era”, special adjustments were often made. Now, with Microsoft Teams, it can (almost always) be configured or you can build a solution for Your organization with Power Apps and/or deploy a third-party app.
The users embrace Microsoft Teams and find it easy to use (of course there are almost always some exceptions but as usual you have to make visible “whats in it for me” so it usually resolves.
Sure, “It just works”. Yes, technically it works and it works incredibly well. BUT there are some things you MUST keep in mind and they are the following:
Unless the organization knows why to use Microsoft Teams and what it contributes to the organization, expectations can be completely wrong. ALWAYS start with a collaboration strategy where goals and meaning are clearly described so that you know what activities you need to complete.
Control as well as “order and readiness” is (or at least should be) a matter of course. The organization must have general control over its IT environment with regard to Identities, Units, Services, Information and Security. This also needs to be detailed on the services you use, Microsoft Teams is no exception. Examples of Governance for Microsoft Teams include rules and procedures and documentation on:
- How to set up a new Team
- Which settings should be the default
- What features should be available
- Who handles updates and user adoption
You can read much more about Governance here on my blog.
This is probably the most important of all. It is about planning to implement and follow up on change. How to implement Microsoft Teams, how to implement training. What action needs to be taken. How to follow up.
When it comes to user adoption, I recommend that you follow Karoliina Kettukari and follow what she has to say about this area.
Curious about more information about Microsoft Teams?
There is an incredible amount of information on the Internet about Microsoft Teams. Myself, I follow the Microsoft Tech Community for Microsoft Teams and all knowledgeable community members Twitter accounts to learn new and keep me updated.
In addition, there are numerous conferences and seminars. If you are unable to participate physically, I recommend that you attend the web-based free conferences that run sometimes. One of these, which you should not miss is the “TeamsFest“. TeamsFest 2020 is a 1 day virtual event run by the European Teams User Group which will be held on Wednesday 1st April, 8am – 5.30pm GMT.