Microsoft Teams comes to Office 365

Editor's note: In the time since this blog was published, Microsoft has released an unpaid version of the Teams application. The free version comes with many of the main features that the paid app has. For up to 300 users, Teams includes unlimited searches and chat messages, 2 GB per user and 10 GB of shared storage, and over 140 integrated apps and services. To read more about the free version of Microsoft Teams and see the whole list offerings, click here.

Chat programs are often built to be simplistic and serve a single purpose – to increase collaboration through instant communication among team members. Microsoft Teams takes that purpose and expands on it with exciting new features built specifically for project teams or departments within a business. This isn’t just chat or email, it’s a combination of the two built to improve organization and collaboration of teams. The video below is a nice introduction of Microsoft Teams for those who haven’t seen it in action before.

This new addition to the Office 365 lineup is still in preview, but will soon see a public release. Here are a few features that make Microsoft Teams special.  

Team Organization

The way Microsoft has set up Teams to organize groups of people works very well. Teams are meant to group members of your organization that are working towards a common goal. For our organization, a marketing team makes sense so we can communicate and keep track of our progress in one location. Within Teams, there are Channels. Channels are individual topics or projects within a team that are used to keep conversations and files more organized. Within our marketing team, we use channels for individual marketing projects or programs such as blogging or social media.

Channels have their own level of organization as well. Within a channel, there are tabs for conversations, files, notes, and other Office programs that can be added on at any point.

In our Blogging Channel, tabs are listed including Conversations, Files, Notes, and SharePoint. We have added a SharePoint tab because we keep all blog drafts in a SharePoint library on our team SharePoint site. We can embed that library directly within Teams for quicker access. This doesn’t just stop at SharePoint though. We can add a tab for many other Office 365 programs to this Channel.

Integration with Skype for Business and Outlook

As seen above, Microsoft has gone above and beyond to integrate other Office 365 programs with Microsoft Teams. This is also true of valuable Office 365 programs that focus on communication like Skype for Business and Outlook. The Meetings tab automatically gathers any meetings that are scheduled in Outlook and allows me to join Skype meetings directly from Teams. 

The meetings integration doesn’t stop there. I can create Skype meetings for my teams, channels, or individuals directly within Teams as well. When creating a meeting, I select the channel associated with the meeting. The meeting invite will be posted in that channel as well as my meetings tab.

Teams 5.png

If I go back to the Blogging Channel, I will see a conversation note that a meeting is planned for this time. I can click into the meeting invitation and join the Skype meeting directly within Teams! Notice how I am able to access normal Skype meeting options including adding video and sharing my screen directly from the Teams window.

Perhaps the best part of holding Skype meetings directly in Teams is the multitask ability. Say I enter this blogging meeting in Teams, but want to reference a conversation in the Blogging Channel about a blog that I wrote last week. I can simply click on the sidebar and navigate to the Blogging Channel and track down the conversation without leaving the meeting. Teams will adjust my window to push the meeting to the top right corner of the window so I am free to use Teams as I wish. Very handy! 

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