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Recently an article was published called “The Horror of Microsoft Teams.”
In it, the author listed his frustrations with the product, its implementation, usage, features, and more. Reading it myself, my blood started to boil—not because of the author or any of his points in particular, but at the negative experience he was enduring using Microsoft Teams. A number of people have rebuked many of his points by now, but what it ultimately comes down to are two things:
- Poor deployment, configuration, and governance
- Poor education and change management
These both result in poor adoption, a poor user experience, and a negative perception of the product. While Microsoft Teams—like anything else—isn’t perfect, there are a number of issues that can be avoided if it is implemented correctly.
The implementation and usage of Microsoft Teams is quite subjective, so while I won’t dive deep into “best practices“, I’ll focus more on “recommended practices” based on current experience. Instead of taking the original author’s post apart (as many have already done), I thought I’d continue with the “horror” theme and call out bad practices that can lead to such horrific experiences.
Outbreak (Uncontrolled Teams and Office 365 Groups Creation)
Like the movie with Dustin Hoffman, this issue grows and continues to spread like a virus.
Symptoms include content duplication, challenges navigating which Team to use when, user frustration growing, and people reverting to storing files in their OneDrive.
The cure is to control the creation of Office 365 Groups, and therefore Teams. This can either be done manually through a group of approved creators or through a smarter automation and approval workflow system.New to Microsoft Teams and want to avoid common issues? Check out this post: Click To Tweet
The Island (Independently Functioning Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business Tenants in One Organization)
When organisations have already been using Skype for Business Online before adopting Microsoft Teams, their Teams upgrade mode is often set to “Islands.” This allows both platforms to work independently of each other, with some limited integration between the two.
Symptoms include instant messages from Teams chat ending up Skype, users not knowing which tool to use to communicate with each other, two different experiences for some of the same purposes, and overall user confusion.
The cure is to choose an upgrade mode other than Islands at either the individual or organizational level. Microsoft offers organisations a number of choices for those that aren’t ready to go all in with Microsoft Teams.
The Graveyard Shift (Unmigrated User Mailboxes to Exchange Online)
Some organisations start using Microsoft Teams before migrating user mailboxes to Exchange Online or even setting up a hybrid. This is typically either because IT thinks the tool is easy enough to use and lets staff have it, or because staff find it themselves and the usage grows organically.
Because the Exchange mailbox is required for a number of functions, the lack of its connection to Microsoft Teams can lead to a significantly impaired experience. These include the Calendar/Meetings app not showing up in the client (because it can’t see the user’s calendar) and Planner not working (while technically a separate product, it’s often used for the first time within Teams). These and others can lead to a fragmented user experience, and can result in the impression that the product doesn’t work properly.
The fix here is simple: get the Exchange hybrid running and move user mailboxes to the cloud as soon as possible.
The Invisible Man (Unavailable OneDrive and SharePoint Content)
Like the previous scenario, some organisations have yet to make OneDrive for Business or SharePoint available for staff or to migrate home and shared drive contents to those services.
Without OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams has nowhere to store files in the Chat feature; thus, it won’t be available to those users. If files aren’t migrated to the SharePoint document libraries that are connected to the relevant Teams, users will upload files themselves as part of their channel conversations.
This will result in content duplication, confusion around which location has the right version of the file, more time spent finding files, inconsistent version history when files are active in multiple locations and, as always, user frustration.
The solution is for organisations to prioritise their move to OneDrive and SharePoint for file storage in conjunction with Microsoft Teams usage.
The Crazies (Lack of Change Management)
Many organisations have the belief that users will simply “get” Microsoft Teams, and as such don’t invest in organisational change management to drive new ways of working.
This results in a lack of clarity around where Microsoft Teams sits within the organisation and why/how/when it should be used. This is largely due to a misalignment between users, IT, the business, and IT again. Because of this, users are not as comfortable using Teams as they could be and don’t use the product to its fullest potential. This is often reflected in high chat usage and file sharing, but low channel conversations, Team file storage, and hosted meetings.
It’s important at this point for organisations to perform a retrospective to review where things can be improved, implement a Champions program to help build internal capability, and run deep-dive sessions with teams to course-correct.
The Uninvited (Lack of Awareness of Microsoft Teams Integrations)
Driving further from the previous scenario, many organisations start using Microsoft Teams without giving their staff proper education on the broader Office 365 platform. Because Microsoft Teams sits atop of, leverages, and integrates many Office 365 services, a lack of understanding impacts the competency and usage of Teams.
Common symptoms include users being unaware of how to share files outside of their Team, improper permissions and sharing methods, users not knowing of the existence of other Office 365 apps and services and therefore using third-party products hosted externally, or users still doing things manually; it just happens to be inside of Microsoft Teams.
This can be addressed by providing users with training around products in Office 365 that integrate with Microsoft Teams such as OneDrive, SharePoint, Planner, Forms, Stream, etc.
One Missed Call (Using Bad Headphones for Calls in Teams)
Microsoft Teams, like Skype for Business before it, makes it easy for people to communicate anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Because of this, more people are calling each either and having meetings in Microsoft Teams with voice (and often video!).
How is this a horror story? Well, it becomes ones when users aren’t given quality headsets that are Microsoft Teams-certified.
It’s all too common to see people on a call using the earbuds that came with their mobile phone. And while these might work well for playing music or basic phone calls, they are not suitable for sustained calls and meetings. The lack of features like a quality microphone near the user’s mouth can result in a lot of background noise coming through the call/meeting to the people on the other end. Alternatively, a lack of active noise cancellation may make it hard for the user to hear what is being said by other people in the call/meeting.
Ultimately, cases like these lead to user frustration for everyone involved, as well as potential physical discomfort for some and an overall loss of productivity as things have to be repeated, re-explained, or people have to be muted.
Quality headsets don’t have to be expensive, and there are plenty of certified choices available that suit all different user personas, scenarios, and working styles.
Final Destination (Unupdated Windows 10)
While many organisations have deployed Windows 10, plenty more haven’t. And some of those that are “current” actually aren’t, as they may have deployed an earlier version and not kept up to date.
In build 1703 of Windows 10 (released in early 2017), the OneDrive Files On-Demand feature was made available which greatly improved the way files and folders are synchronised to devices from both OneDrive for Business and SharePoint.
Without this build or later, users end up either not syncing anything from OneDrive or SharePoint or syncing everything—unless they learn how to manage synchronisation on a folder-by-folder level. If they don’t, their hard drive can end up filling up by synchronising content they don’t need every time someone adds files to the shared location being synchronised. It can also impact the performance of features like co-authoring in Office desktop versions, sometimes resulting in application crashes and/or losing changes.
The fix for this is simply to get a later build of Windows 10. Organisations don’t have to be on the bleeding edge and install the latest updates as soon as they are installed, but something post-2017 would be helpful.
The Possession (Microsoft Teams and Kaizala/Yammer Overlap)
Even though many organisations are focusing on moving forward with Microsoft Teams, there are two other social communication tools within the Office 365 platform: Yammer, which has been around for 10 years (and part of the platform for 6 years), and relative newcomer Kaizala. Some organisations may have not even used Yammer (or never fully adopted it). Kaizala, on the other hand, was only recently made part of Office 365 before it was announced that the product would be merged into Microsoft Teams over the next 12-18 months.
If left enabled but ungoverned, these two products may still be used by users the same way they find other products; by stumbling across them and clicking around or by being shown by someone else.
Both Yammer and Kaizala have numerous elements that are similar to functionality available inside of Microsoft Teams. As a result, users may be confused about which tool to use when because of the overlap. A common scenario is where conversations go unanswered in one service because people are using a different service, such as people posting a question in Yammer when their peers are more active in Microsoft Teams. Or a group of people chatting in Kaizala but wondering why some of their colleagues don’t respond.
The solution is to streamline on products that overlap with each other (much like was suggested earlier with Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams). If people haven’t started using Kaizala or Yammer, turn the inactive product off straight away. In the case where people have been using Yammer for some time and are confused as to whether they should continue to use it or switch to Microsoft Teams, look into the use cases and decide which tool is better suited to which purpose, then make it clear and educate the users.
The Host (Lack of Adequate Meeting Room Equipment)
Like the previous story, organisations often under-invest in adequate meeting room equipment or appropriate design. Unfortunately, the reality is that you can’t afford to be cheap. In many cases organizations have previously over-invested in expensive systems that are either too complex to use or can only connect with a handful of other endpoints. In these cases, the organisations are reluctant to spend again, having been burnt the first time.
Unfortunately, this can result in a poor audio experience for people on the other end since they have to deal with echo, quiet audio, or both, ultimately making it difficult for them to understand what’s being said. Additionally, it can be difficult to share/present screens or just take extra time to start the meeting due to fiddling with equipment and cables. Depending on the equipment and design, remote participants may also find that not everyone is visible. This is usually due to the camera being mounted in the incorrect position, typically having been installed by someone with little experience in meeting room design.
Again, like in the previous story, the equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a range of Microsoft Teams-certified devices available to suit any room size, design, and budget. Coupling this with having someone experienced in meeting room design can considerably improve the meeting experience for both in-room and remote participants.
The horrors of Microsoft Teams can easily be avoided simply by spending some time planning, getting some advice from people with experience, putting some controls in place, and investing in the right areas. Have any horror stories of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments below!