More than 250 million people use Microsoft Teams monthly. That figure, announced in late July, is almost three times the number released in April 2020 when organizational leaders scrambled to keep remote employees connected and engaged in the early days of the pandemic.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.
Now, ask yourself: Have you checked in lately?
Teams is a game-changer for workplace collaboration, but it isn’t a one-and-done solution. Managers and IT decision-makers must look beyond the initial rollout. They need to understand how employees are using Teams — and what hurdles or habits might prevent wider use of the platform’s many functionalities.
Recently, I gained terrific insights from the 2021 Microsoft Teams Benchmarking Report. Produced by SWOOP Analytics, the report assessed almost 100,000 teams on Microsoft Teams across 33 organizations over a three-month period.
The survey examined everything from common behaviors and attitudes to shared best practices. Although it found plenty of great examples of teamwork in action, many features are widely underutilized.
And one figure truly stood out: 97% of organizations aren’t getting the most out of Teams.
Based on the report, I’m inspired to reflect on several key takeaways and explain why these considerations are essential for all businesses utilizing Teams:
1. Use Microsoft Teams for More Than Just Telephony
With many of us still working apart, it’s understandable that constant audio and video calls remain a way of life. That practice is reflected in the SWOOP study, which found that most respondents use Teams only for telephony (chat, calls, and meetings).
But, as the authors note, that only scratches the surface of possibility.
There are countless ways to collaborate on Teams — including file sharing, channels (dedicated sections to organize conversations by topics, projects, or disciplines), first- and third-party apps, webinars, and note-taking. These actions can reduce or enhance meetings and efficiently deliver critical information.
Still, this culture shift has not been a priority for most organizations new to Teams. Only 30% of surveyed staff are active in Teams channels, the report found; that figure drops to about 11% when consulting firms are excluded.
That’s why I encourage naming in-house “super users” and gaining executive buy in, among other strategies to drive Teams adoption. You can also expedite the process by migrating your other SaaS tools (such as Box and Slack) to Microsoft 365. Keeping those other services creates confusion and discourages Teams use.
Adopting a Teams governance policy also makes the experience simpler and secure for everyone — more on that in a minute.
2. Conduct Conversation and Meetings in Teams Channels
Most chat- and call-based communication in Teams — 98% — occurs between just two people, the SWOOP report found. And, on average, 28 times as many chat messages are sent compared with every channel message sent.
Chat is fast and convenient, but it keeps institutional knowledge siloed. It can also create more work (messaging multiple folks separately for a shared task, for example) or leave key players out of the loop.
The SWOOP authors recommend using Teams’ chat function only for personal purposes and keeping work-related discussions within channels. This ensures relevant parties and important conversations, as well as files, are connected. (Teams offers public and private channels, so sensitive matters can be restricted.)
Not surprisingly, SWOOP also advises holding meetings within channels — when appropriate — to ensure context, continuity, and communal action. Having robust, real-time dialogue within channels ensures everyone is always engaged and prepared, which is critical as hybrid office arrangements are set to endure.
3. Keep Track of Inactive Teams (and Retire Them If Necessary)
Creating a team is easy to get a discussion up and running. But simplicity can lead to a glut of underused or inactive teams, especially after a project is complete. The result: confusing, possibly duplicate content sprawl — or the feeling that a tumbleweed ought to be rolling across your computer screen.
After all, only 1 in 4 of all teams log any activity at all, according to those analyzed in the SWOOP study, and fewer than 3% have meaningful levels of interactions.
Dormant or excessive teams do more than require digital housekeeping; they also raise security risks. External guests might still have access to company resources or accidental deletion of sensitive content, for example.
This is why it’s critical to set Teams governance “guide rails” that promote optimal use within your ecosystem. Who can create a team, and for what purpose? What applications and services can users add? Is there a plan for lifecycle management of content and workspaces after a project is complete (or an employee leaves)?
A third-party solution such as AvePoint Cloud Governance can address these and other concerns to support a safe, streamlined Teams experience for users.
4. Keep Teams Small and Suited to the Task
Imagine you’re at a big cocktail party or a networking event. You wouldn’t hold a conversation with the entire room, right? The same idea applies to setting up a team. In fact, the SWOOP report found that the ideal team size is 10 people.
The reason? Larger groups become more difficult to manage when delegating a project or managing a committee, leading to breakdowns in communication and passivity. Likewise, if most members of a channel aren’t participating, tackling even a small task grows more cumbersome: A person could face a barrage of extraneous messages or, if disengaged, neglect an action item.
But among the 100,000 teams analyzed by SWOOP, the average team size was 49.07 people (when “active” teams are accounted for, it’s only 24.73 people.)
Often, large group discussions are better suited to Yammer, a social network built into the enterprise editions of Microsoft 365. Yammer is designed for people to ask questions and find answers, or to access knowledge across an entire organization.
Here’s how one company cited in the SWOOP study makes the judgment call: If a group needs more than two large pizzas to feed it, their discussion is moved from Teams to Yammer.
5. Make Microsoft Teams Security and Backup a Top Priority
Despite uneven Teams usage among SWOOP survey respondents, overall adoption is growing. So is enthusiasm: The study found many respondents are now looking more seriously at Teams channels and digital teaming to further leverage the richness available beyond basic telephony.
So, as more of your organization’s critical data is created in Teams, it’s essential for everyone on your staff to understand the big cost of data loss.
Delivering secure collaboration is essential. Governance is one part of the equation, but so are backup and restore capabilities. There are many ways that Teams and Microsoft 365 data can be lost, including user or administrator error and a growing wave of ransomware attacks.
A Team can be restored within 30 days by an administrator, but after that the content is permanently lost. And while there is the native ability to archive Teams — and to set retention policies that can help maintain the duration of a Team — these are not actual “backup” options.
Can you afford the financial, operational, and reputational damage?
Consider a solution such as AvePoint Cloud Backup to provide backups four times daily, to restore files granularly, and to back up and recover advanced workloads, including Teams chats! With proven protection against the unthinkable, your collaboration via Teams has limitless potential.