Everybody knows what they get with Office 365, with familiar apps that most organisations rely on heavily, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype and Outlook. But what about the features that keep getting added, with little fanfare, which offer huge potential to help improve efficiency and productivity?

The latest of these recently added features is Microsoft Teams, a chat-based workspace designed to combine people, conversations and content, with the tools they need, to improve collaboration and achieve more.

The concept was born out of the realisation that organisational structures are much flatter these days, to allow an easier flow of information. Teams delivers an open, digital environment that makes work ore visible, integrated and accessible by the entire team, to keep everyone in the loop.

The intention is to reduce the delays, log-jams and misunderstandings that can slow communications and derail projects. But it’s not just sitting on your desktop waiting to be launched; although free to subscribers, you have to ask for it to be added.

How it all works

Firstly, for the modern organisation that might integrate workers at different locations, remote workers and freelancers, into a single project, it works across and mobile device.

It’s easy to create teams from different departments and allow all members to work together using the different apps available within Office 365 and collaborate via SharePoint.

Setting up Teams is simple and only requires a team name and a short description before members can be included.

Driven by an intuitive menu

The app has the familiar Microsoft feel and the menu allows users to choose what they want to do:

Activity: Shows recent activity that each individual was notified about.

Chat: Used for one-time conversations with another single team member, which are saved so everyone can review them later.

Teams: Shows group conversations, including the individual channels of each team.

Meetings: Syncs with Outlook calendar and shows meetings in the coming week. Also allows users to create meetings with team members.

Files: Lets users find files that have been used and stored in Teams, OneDrive and Downloads, with a recent tab to check documents being currently worked on.

There is one note of caution as Teams by default, syncs with OneNote, SharePoint and Planner, which could frustrate experienced users who discover new groups are being created in multiple apps automatically – it can be turned off in admin, so not a massive headache.

When team members chat, the conversation is saved, so other team members can catch up on developments at any time. Members of the team can reply to a specific individual during group conversations to help reduce and confusion that might occur – like a whispered comment in a meeting.

Although conversations can be seen by the whole team, it is easy to make any discussion private when required. And it’s not just about typing messages, with Skype integrated to allow team members to collaborate in vice and video conferences.

Team members can also ass a little of their own personality to the digital workspace using emoji’s, stickers, GIF’s and custom memes to make it their own.

Remember, if you want to get Teams started and start reaping the collaborative benefits, you only have to get in touch and I’ll talk you through the next steps.

Paul Tozer, Head of Cloud Services, Quiss Technology plc