What Government Agencies NEED to Know Before Running a Microsoft Teams Pilot (My Teams #12)

Post Date: 05/01/2019
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The “My Teams” series is broken into the following categories. Click on one to see the full list of articles in that category:

Tina has been with Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 12 years and currently works on bringing her users into the world of Office 365. Her focus on training employees about the benefits of Office 365 and increasing user adoption makes her an ideal candidate for this series. In part twelve we’ll go over the Microsoft Teams rollout process, potential roadblocks, and keys for taking full advantage of the platform.

Name: Tina Snyder
Location: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Current Role: O365 SME/Mobile Device Administrator
One word that best describes how you work: Deadlines
Mobile device of choice: Samsung Note 9
Computer of choice: Windows 10 laptop

To get started, please tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I got started in computers when I was in the Air Force. I worked in different computing environments for 8 years before going into the commercial world where I worked with server administration, networking and, for the last nine years, Telecommunications.

My teaching experience (13 years as an adjunct professor) also led to me being asked to work on an Office 365 project. Office 365 was a major departure from how our lab typically operated (in the cloud vs. on premises), and with the vast array of new apps that Microsoft had released, proper training and information release was crucial. My many years of teaching experience helped me get that information to the end user in easy-to-understand terms.

What drove Oak Ridge National Labs to rollout Microsoft Teams as an enterprise solution?

ORNL is mainly an Office of Science lab and as such, research and collaboration are key to the lab’s success. We had integrated Skype into our environment when it was still Lync, so naturally our end users had utilized it heavily throughout the years.

It was then natural to move towards Microsoft Teams when it became available given its additional features. While Skype for Business is easy to use because of its simplicity, Teams picks up the slack (no pun intended) from what Skype was missing. The ability to search for images or files sent through Teams, chat search capability and more are just way beyond what Skype can ever offer.

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What process did your lab use to roll out Microsoft Teams?

We’ve conducted a pilot where we asked different groups to utilize Microsoft Teams and provide feedback on the functionality it offered. We’ve been a bit slow to push it out lab-wide due to the limitations Microsoft has set on the Office 365 US Government Community services (GCC) version (i.e. OneNote, Planner, external app connections).

The feedback from the pilot has been relatively positive, especially with Microsoft just releasing Planner to us. Because of that feedback, we’re now to the point of having Microsoft Teams be an opt-in option for our users.  We believe that once our users see how well it performs with communications and file storage and access, as well as integration with the other Microsoft apps, a lot of them will move from legacy solutions over to Teams.

What success criteria has your lab established for the use and growth of Microsoft Teams?

ORNL hasn’t done formal analysis on the use and growth yet largely because we’re still in a pilot phase. One good thing that has been noticed is powerful word of mouth adoption; as people hear about its uses, they ask to be added. That makes me excited because word is getting out about how useful the product is even without any formal communications. Once we do the opt-in for Microsoft Teams, we’ll be able to run native Microsoft 365 usage analytics as well as custom reports—all via Power BI—to provide us with a better understanding of how the end users are taking to it.

What roadblocks has your lab seen/mitigated thus far?

The biggest roadblocks have been the limitations Microsoft has placed on the GCC. Because Microsoft didn’t offer some of their own software connectivity into the application, we didn’t feel like the response to the product would have been favorable. Our pilot users even mentioned this in their testing that not having OneNote or Planner tied into the application hampered the usefulness of the app.

Besides that, we have not enabled guest access or sharing outside of our tenant. This has eased our security risks as the tenant is already approved for moderate data. Governance is handled at the top of the Office 365 structure and set across all the services.

How are you enabling end users to get the most out of Microsoft Teams?

IT has developed quick instructional videos to help get our users familiar with Microsoft Teams thanks to the feedback provided by our pilot users. We are planning several in-person sessions with different groups across the lab as well as utilizing training materials already developed by Microsoft and their associates.

How does Oak Ridge National Labs share the ownership, authority, and management of Office 365?

Our Office 365 tenant is separated by services in a way that typically matches what the administrative team did on-prem. If the admin team handled Active Directory on-prem then they’re the SME for Azure, SharePoint Online is managed by the SharePoint administrators, etc. We’ve had to carefully select which admin team would be most involved with that service. For instance, Power BI is being handled by our SAP team because of their experience with data warehousing.

Integration between the administrative teams is essential, because what changes in one could potentially affect another. An excellent example is Office 365 Groups themselves: allowing customers to create a Group means we have to be aware of how they’re integrated into the different services to provide solid troubleshooting support if the need arises.

Office 365

How would you finish the following statement? “Before we started the Office 365 pilot, I wish someone told me…”

…to be aware of the major differences between commercial and government tenants. The GCC tenant helps because of the FedRamp requirements that are put in place around it; however, in some cases it’s very limiting with regards to the end user experience. Trying to understand what is and isn’t available for our users due to us being in GCC takes a lot of time and research. Microsoft does not separate out their documentation regarding their different tenant types, so figuring out what our users can and will see and what they cannot can be frustrating.

Also, note that not everything follows the GCC rules. An example of this are the original Office applications. While external apps are not accessible in Microsoft Teams, they are readily available within Word, Excel, etc. This can cause major confusion when our users can access apps like EverNote within Word but not within Teams.

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