Why Teams is the future for true collaboration

Randy Chapman Oct 14 2019

The future looks best when you appreciate your past

As you look to the future to plan out strategy, product features or improvements, it’s important to remember where you’ve been.  This is especially true for a product that frequently changes and improves.  Remembering where you were at the beginning can remind you just how far you’ve come.

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first saw Teams.  I had heard some rumours of a product that focused more on collaboration than just simple communications.  I’ll have to admit I was sceptical.  But when I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait.  On 2nd November 2016, Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft showed the world what Teams was.

Then he invited us all to try it out for ourselves, opening Teams up to public preview.  Even this was a relatively new idea.  The idea was for admins to enable Teams tenant wide and have a play.  This is key, and I’ll come back to this.

In the beginning, Teams didn’t do a whole lot.  But the foundation was there for something huge.  At the time, Microsoft didn’t know what Teams was to become.  How could they?  Looking back, I’m sure Bill Gates can say the same thing about Windows.  He couldn’t have predicted what it could become, or that it could have north of 85% market share of operating systems used globally.

Teams is a lot like Windows

Windows (an operating system) is the hub for your work.  Teams, on the other hand, is the hub for teamwork.  Teams is where you do to get stuff done, with your team.  Whether it is a chat or call with one or more colleagues to discuss a challenge and how to solve it.  Or a meeting with your department to discuss the week ahead.  Or some conversation in a channel you use to ideate on your product roadmap.  You can do it in Teams, and you can do it together.

Go your own way with Teams

I said above that Satya invited the world to try out Teams.  To have a play in other words.  I’ll start by saying that when you hand your kids a box of Lego, you don’t tell them what to do with them, or what to make of it.  When you install a whiteboard in a room, you don’t tell anyone what to draw.

Teams is a bit like this.  When you give a team Teams, you should let them use it how they want to.  How it works best to support them in the way they work and need to get things done with as little friction as possible.  It can be said that if you don’t give a team what they need to get things done, they will go around you and find it themselves.  If you restrict how they use Teams, they will find another way.  And while Teams should support free thinking, creativity and ideation.

Admins should understand the implications of doing this and how they can support this creativity while still managing any risks such as data leakage and compliance.  Teams, and indeed Microsoft 365, has a rich set of governance tools that can help manage any risk, but without getting in the way of the users’ productivity.

3 years later, Teams does everything short of make your coffee.

Also, as I said above, at first, Teams didn’t do a lot.  3 years later, it does everything short of make your coffee.  And if you add a button, and you have a smart coffee machine, it will even do that.  Teams is getting better every day.  Both in terms of the back end and with the feature additions.  As a Microsoft MVP, I recently got to hang out with the team responsible for Teams in a weeklong event, known as an Airlift.  And while I can’t repeat anything I heard there because of my NDA; I can tell you that if you think Teams is great now, just wait.

The focus and commitment, by Microsoft, on Teams is incredible.  And rightly so.  It is the fastest growing product in the history of Microsoft.  Enjoying a near vertical rate or year on year growth.  This is partly because of what Teams does, but also because of what Teams could (and will) do.  Microsoft is doing everything they can to deserve that growth by developing and improving it at an incredible pace.

This “evergreen” nature of Teams can be hard for users to keep up with.  A new button that wasn’t there before that does something useful should be communicated to users to maximize their benefit to the wider community.  A complete change in the way something was done previously should be managed into the business carefully.  It’s critical to come up with a strategy to keep your users informed so they can stay productive.

Teams is the future

I really think Teams is the future of communications and collaboration.  As I think back on how it used to be done, there is no way I’d go back.  And I’m excited by the prospect of looking back at where we are now and thinking the same thing.

About the author

Randy joined Enablit early in 2014 and is the lead solutions architect and Head of Consulting. He is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Teams, a blogger, speaker, evangelist & enthusiast of all things Microsoft UC. Randy has worked in IT and telecoms for over 20 years, with the last 10 years focusing on Lync, Skype for Business and Teams.