Top 10 Microsoft Teams features to use in your intelligent intranet!

Microsoft Teams is now two years old. It has been adapted by 500,000+ organizations and 91 of the Fortune 100 companies now use it. Microsoft Teams features have clearly made it a big success story. But what makes it so successful?

Microsoft Teams is the chat-based solution in Office 365. It is built on Office 365 groups and the Graph. And has the same management, compliance, security and extend-ability as all other stacks of Microsoft 365. Plus Microsoft Teams leverages identities stored in Azure Active Directory.

As a recap, when you form a ‘Team’ in Microsoft Teams the provisioning engine will create the following:

  • A new Office 365 group (security)
  • A SharePoint Site (Files)
  • A shared mailbox and calendar (email)
  • A Notebook
  • Planner Plan

The following image illustrates that Microsoft Teams is one simple capability for connecting different stacks. It provides one single experience for using the multiple stacks. And a single hub for extending and managing the different stacks of Office 365.

Microsoft Teams features

Here are my top 10 under-used or undiscovered Microsoft Teams features. You can add them into your governance or roadmap to fulfill your intelligent intranet.

Feature 1: Org-wide teams for small & medium organisations

After the Private and Public teams, we now have the Org-wide teams. They provide an automatic way for everyone to be a part of a single team for collaboration. So whenever you create an Org-wide team, all global admins are added. And team owners as well as all active users are added as team members too. Team members can’t leave an org-wide team. However, as a team owner, you can manually add or remove users if needed. In my humble opinion, for small and medium-sized organizations, the outer loop, which Microsoft defines as Yammer, can also be replaced by the org-wide teams.

Microsoft Teams features

Here are also some best practices released by Microsoft for managing Org-wide teams in Microsoft Teams.

  • Allow only team owners to post to the General channel
  • Turn off @team and @[team name] mentions
  • Automatically favorite important channels
  • Remove accounts that might not belong

Feature 2: Immersive reader

With the immersive reader in Microsoft Teams, students, disabled persons can now easily view, translate, hear individual messages. It will enlarge the text to fill the entire window. And you can also use the screen reader to have the computer read the message in a synthesized voice in any language you want.

Whenever you enable the picture dictionary, the feature will translate every single word to a text. This makes it easier for you, students or disabled persons to clearly understand the text in the conversation. This unfortunately only works with English texts today. But hopefully more languages will be added soon.

Feature 3: Built-in translator

In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, more and more organizations are opting for big and geographically distributed teams. This helps to break down barriers and improve productivity. Today, having a content core team working on SharePoint or Microsoft Teams from different countries is the new normal. Microsoft Teams has a built-in feature that can translate any conversation for you. Below is an example of how it works. Here you can see that Jim and I have had a conversation in Dutch about contracts. And Microsoft Teams has perfectly translated the conversation from Dutch to English.If you can’t see the translation from the menu, you may ask to your Teams Administrator to enable the feature for you.

Feature 4: Meeting whiteboards

Any meeting in Microsoft Teams has a dedicated whiteboard where participants have space to sketch together. The main difference with “sharing your screen” and “Whiteboard sketching” is that when you share your screen attendees can only watch what you show. On the other hand, with ‘Whiteboard’, there is the opportunity for real collaboration. Attendees can sketch and actively participate in the meeting.

With Microsoft Whiteboard, you can collaborate with meeting participants in the Teams app or the Whiteboard app. In both, you’ll be able to draw, erase, and share content that everyone else will see in real-time. You can access the whiteboard from the Whiteboard tab before or after a meeting.

Feature 5: Notify when available

One of the top-used features from Skype For Business -“notify when available”- feature is now available in Microsoft Teams. Whenever a user becomes available in Microsoft Teams, Teams will send you a notification to inform you. Try to use this feature as much as possible instead of asking your contacts “do you have one minute for me?”. This is the most unproductive sentence ever – as you will never remember where you stopped before helping your co-worker 😊

Feature 6: Blurred background

Working with Microsoft Teams with a geographically distributed team has a lot of benefits. But what if you have sensitive information in your environment – or simply remote working from home? If you don’t want to show sensitive information/private stuff to your attendees/co-workers use the ‘blur my background option’. This will hide non-relevant information during the meeting which can cause some strange moments. 🙂

Feature 7: Microsoft Live Events

With Microsoft Teams live events, meetings, webinars or live announcements in your organization can be broadcasted to large online audiences. Something that the outer-Loop users are aware of as this was one of the core capabilities of Yammer. These are meant for one-to-many communications, (while meetings are many-to-many) where the host of the event is leading the interactions and audience participation is primarily to view the content shared by the host.

The attendees can watch them live or watch the recorded event in Yammer, Teams and/or Microsoft Stream. Microsoft Teams live events are the next-gen of Skype Meeting Broadcast and will eventually replace the capabilities provided in Skype Meeting Broadcast.

Feature 8: Intelligent BOT Framework

Within the Microsoft Teams ecosystem, all bots are created using the Microsoft Bot Framework. Teams App Studio is a free-to-use, super simple tool that can help create your bot. With Teams App Studio you can deploy, download or even submit your bot to the Microsoft Teams Team to review and add it to the store. It also contains a React control library and configurable samples for cards.

I recommend getting rid of the classic, HTML-based FAQ and replacing them with Bot’s in Microsoft Teams. Therefore, you must use Cognitive Services AKA QnAMaker. With QnAMaker.ai you can build, train and publish a sophisticated bot using FAQ pages, support websites, product manuals, SharePoint documents or editorial content through an easy-to-use UI or via REST APIs. You can even create a NO CODE bot in Teams, or elsewhere without writing a single line of code. You can also add personality to your bot using pre-built chit-chat datasets.

In the example below, when there is no answer to the question (“No QnA Maker answers were found.”), the answer hasn’t been added to the Cognitive Services. Once the question and the answer have been added, the bot knows how to answer the question “What about Valo?”.

Feature 9: Renaming Channels & limiting Emoji usage

One of the biggest enhancements within Office 365 is that you can use emojis everywhere. You can use any of the Windows emoji characters in Office 365 labels, classification labels or even as Channel names. But there is a little bug with the SharePoint provisioning engine.

If you have two channels with the same name (i.e. “conference”) and you add an emoji to one of them. It will work in Teams perfectly but not in SharePoint. This is quite annoying because you see the same files in both channels.

Renaming a Channel doesn’t change the folder name into SharePoint, unfortunately. So, please be careful when creating Channels and not to use “non-professional” names such as “Channel for Dummies” as in the back-end, SharePoint will still have this as a folder name. You can read more in deep-dive the following blog post.

Feature 10: Get most of the out-of-the-box analytics

If you look into reports into the Teams Admin Center, the per-team and cross-team analytics won’t be that much different. Even so, some inconsistencies can be seen if you compare the data reported in one against another. For the moment, you can see some inconsistency between reports. They will unfortunately give you different results. In some reports I’ve seen differences of up to three days. But in any case, the reports are essential to see who is collaborating in your team. And more importantly, for the team owners, it shows those who are inactive or who use Team(s) less within your organization!

Microsoft Teams Cross-team Analytics

So that’s it. Those were my top 10 Microsoft Teams features that I try to include in my guidance and roadmap of my intelligent intranet. I’m pretty sure that you can add more features to bring collaboration to another level in Microsoft 365. These Microsoft Teams features are essential and unfortunately the less known ones. So I thought that bringing them to the fore could help you and your organization get the most out of Microsoft Teams.

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