In 2017, Microsoft announced Teams, a new collaborative messaging and communications platform, as a competitor to Slack and an eventual replacement for Skype for Business. After much development, Teams is now a powerful platform that you can use in your organization.
Teams offers several great features that are especially useful for companies already making use of Microsoft 365. In this article and the next, we’ll look at how to get started with Teams in your company, and some exciting features that will help you take advantage of everything Teams has to offer.
Getting Started with Teams
Teams is already included with most Microsoft 365 license subscriptions. Additionally, Microsoft offers a free version of Teams with limited features, as well as a six-month trial of Microsoft 365 E1.
For this article, we’ll cover adding Teams to your existing 365 environment, but the same principles apply to those who are just now getting started with the platform.
Teams is already enabled for all eligible organizations, unless it was previously turned off. To use it, you’ll need to assign Teams licenses to yourself and any other users who you’d like to begin testing with. This can be done through the Azure AD console.
Once you’ve assigned yourself a license, download and install the Teams desktop client for your OS, and then sign in with your Office 365 account.
Planning Your Teams and Channels
The backbone of Teams organization is -- you guessed it -- the Team. Teams are groups of users that need to collaborate with each other by chatting, sharing documents, having meetings, etc. By default, all members of a team can see everything shared within that team. This can be adjusted to some extent, but generally, it’s best to think of a team as one big open office space, where individuals are free to communicate and collaborate.
Many organizations choose to first create teams that mirror their existing organizational structure. For instance, you may have a team for the marketing department, another for sales, one for IT, accounting, and so on.
To further organize teams, channels can be created within each team. Channels can be used to organize the work of each Team into subgroups or projects. For instance, a channel could be created under the accounting department’s team for accounts payable, another for accounts receivable, and one for month-end or year-end reporting.
Teams can also be used for inter-department collaboration. For example, a team could be created for a new product launch, and include members of the development team, the marketing team, and others who are working together on that particular project.
Users can be given rights as “Team Owners”, which allows them to manage their own team by adding and removing users, creating channels, and deciding which apps and tabs to use. This gives you greater flexibility by letting those who are actually using Teams to decide on how they will use it in their workflow.
Teams can be created as public or private. Public teams allow anyone in your organization to join them. For example, you could create a team for the company softball league that anyone is free to join, whereas the individual department- or project-specific teams can be set to private, so users must be invited to join them.
Creating Your First Team
To begin with, Microsoft recommends creating one team and a few channels to use with a few early adopters. Using it within your IT team is a great way to get familiar with its features and get used to supporting it as you roll it out to the rest of your company.
One of the nice things about Teams is that you can do most administrative tasks directly from the Teams desktop client. This allows you to make changes rapidly as Teams rolls out to your organization.
To create your first team, first log in to the Teams client as an administrator. Then select the “Teams” tab and, at the bottom of the list, click Join or create a team > Create a new team.
From there, you can give your team a name and invite members. Members can be individuals, or you can use groups and distribution lists to manage team membership automatically.
To give another user that you’ve added to the team rights as the team owner, select the team, then click More Options ... > Manage Team. Then click the Members tab and locate the people you’d like to make team owners. Then change their role to Owner.
Next, go ahead and create a channel. Click More Options ... > Add channel. After a channel is created, the team owners have the option to automatically favorite a channel for everyone in the team, which is useful to make the channel more visible to everyone. They can also add tabs to the channel that give access to additional tools.
And there you have it: your first Teams chat. Next week, we’ll look into some of the other features that will make Teams an indispensable communications tool for your organization, and how you can plan to deploy it for your entire company.