Practice-Guide: Microsoft Teams Tools for efficient management

Michele Casazza
10.07.20 10:31

Microsoft Teams is becoming the go-to productivity and communication platform where people will spend most time of their day. Its flexibility, user experience, features and integration has won millions of users in the last few months alone. For the same reasons, as users and owners we need to understand its capabilities to be able to properly manage the content in Teams, the security and privacy, and how we can bring in information from other sources to make Teams the new Digital Workplace platform. In this blog we will look at some of tools for users and admins to get the most out of Teams.

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Managing Content

Using OneDrive sync and understanding how files and folders are stored will save you time and avoid ending up with a messy files structure.

End users don't necessarily need to know that Microsoft Teams leverages SharePoint and OneDrive to store content, but understanding how this works will give you more options and flexibility when working with files. For example, how can you share a file in a Team with an external user that is not part of the Team? Let's see how files are stored:

Files shared in a Chat are stored in OneDrive.

Teams is quite smart to set the necessary permissions on files you share in chats (1:1 or 1:many). For example if you share a file in a Chat with two members in your organisation and one Guest, that file will be uploaded to your OneDrive and will be specifically 'permissioned' for those users only 

Files shared in a Team's Channel are stored in SharePoint, where each Channel gets its own folder in a SharePoint Document library.

One of the main advantage of this is the ability to use the sync functionality of OneDrive for Business which is built-in in Windows 10. By syncing our Teams files we get two main benefits:

  • We can work on our Team's files directly from Windows Explorer
  • We can work on files while Offline and the changes be will automatically synced once we are back online

If you are part of many Teams but you mainly work on a few, syncing your files will make it easier to access and update them.

 

When a users uploads a file in a Channel's conversation, the file will be uploaded to the respective folder in SharePoint. This works a treat and is transparent to the user, but if you are dealing with many files you might quickly end up with a lot of unorganised content. To avoid this you can create a folder structure in your channel's File tab and advise your Team's members to save files accordingly. 

Microsoft is also rolling out Teams Templates which will allow administrator to configure and make available Teams with predefined channels, tabs, apps, folder structure and other settings.

When collaborating on files in a Channel another useful feature is the conversation on the file, which will be collected as a thread. This is different to the comments in the file (e.g. in Word), which remains as is.

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Secure and efficient usage

Like the flexibility of Teams but want to make sure security is not compromised?
Beware of available settings for external users, lobby, discoverability and privacy

When it comes to security and privacy, Microsoft Teams offers granularity control over several layers. Let's first see what types of external users we can have in Teams:

  • Guests are users who have been invited into your organisation, for example they are part of a Team
  • Anonymous are users that can join a Meeting without registering or authenticating. If this is allowed in the Team's settings, as a meeting organiser you can share the meetings link with anyone
  • Federated users are external users that also use Teams (or Skype for Business) in their organisation (this scenarios is also known as Azure B2B). With these users you can chat, call and video call as long as it is enabled (it is by default) and there are no domains restrictions

Another level where you control security as a Team owner is the Team itself. When you organise a meeting, in the Meeting Options, you can decide who can bypass the lobby, meaning they can join the meeting directly without having to be admitted by the organiser. 

When you create a new Team you also have to choose the Privacy:

  • Public Teams can be joined by anyone in the organisation
  • Private Teams require owners approval to join

You can also leverage Sensitivity Labels to apply rules based on the Team's privacy. For example you can decide that Private Teams will not be allowed to have Guests, and can only be joined by users in the organisation

The lowest level to control security is the file. This is where it becomes important to understand how sharing works in Microsoft 365. The Sharing experience in M365 is consistent in all services and allows users to specify who can access a file or folder. To learn more about Sharing functionalities see our 3-part Blog series 

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Roles and Permissions in Teams

There are 3 main roles in Teams: Owner, Member and Guest. As you would expect, Owner have full control, Members can do most actions except for adding other members and edit/delete the Team. Guests don't have control over Team and Channel settings but they have a full experience in Channel conversations and collaboration.

As a Team's owner you can also manage permissions for Members and Guest, in the Team's settings.

Dynamic membership is a feature of Azure that allows to dynamically add or remove members in Team based on a specific attribute in the directory e.g. Department, Job Title, Office, or even a custom attribute. This is quite handy for many use cases, from projects to management and other organisational functions. 

This functionality relies on the underlying Microsoft 365 Group that is created for each Team.

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Unify Apps

Switching all day between business apps might soon become less prevalent. With its ability to surface information from other systems and the integration with hundreds of connectors and apps, Teams has the potential to be the platform where users will spend most of their time.

An organisation can decide which apps can be made available for users to add to Teams, or which apps should be assigned by default. This is possible by using Policies which allow to differentiate between Microsoft, Third-party and Custom apps

Soon gone can also be the days where users will open the Intranet portal first thing in the morning. The Intranet per se is not dead but the ability to surface its information within Teams makes it a seamless experience in one single platform for the modern workplace. At LiveTiles we have developed Reach, a Teams app that shows news, pages and events from your Intranet in Teams.

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Useful Features

If you think you have used Teams to its fullest, check out these features!

Tags

Mention people without having to know or remember their name. You can assign one or multiple tag to each member of a Team, for example based on their function or role in the Team, think developers, project manager, guests etc. Then you can use the tag as @ mention to converse directly with them

Audio recording

A Whatsapp-like feature to record voice messages from your Teams mobile app

Urgent Message

Sending an urgent message will notify the chat recipients every 2 minutes, for 20 minutes or until they read the message. This feature needs to be enabled by an Administrator and can be assigned to specific users only via policies

Status Message/Delegation

Use @ mention in your Status Message when you are not in office to allow people to quickly see who to contact when they try to reach you

 

Whether you are focused on productivity, security, integration or are using Teams for general purpose, there are many functionalities that will help you work smarter. Here is a summary take away:

  • Sync your most used Teams files and notebook
  • Save files in existing folders rather than in the main conversation
  • Beware of enabling anonymous users in Meetings: it’s an all or nothing
  • Learn the sharing options in M365
  • Implement dynamic membership in Teams if you there is a use case for it
  • Use Tags to easily mention group of people in a Team

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