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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Teams chat pop out for improved collaboration

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Q – How can I chat and collaborate on a file at the same time

I was having a chat with a customer on Microsoft Teams and we were discussing the content of a PowerPoint file. The file was open for both of us in the desktop version of the PowerPoint App. I was referencing the content and the customer started complaining that every time I did that, she would have to switch out of chat and go the PowerPoint App to view the content referenced. Then come back to the chat to carry on the discussion. This context switching was fraying her nerves and is a classic example of bad collaboration productivity when a perfectly good solution will do, which is what she asked for 👇

A – Teams chat pop out

First just to say that if you want to work on an App like PowerPoint and chat alongside it at the same time, you can do that perfectly well when you are viewing the App in Teams – see screenshot below. Here you can see I have opened a Word file from the chat where I shared it. When you open the file from the chat, the conversation is not automatically displayed alongside the file, but you just have to click the Conversation icon to do that (see yellow circle). This functionality also works in a Channel conversation by the way.

Chat alongside App in Teams desktop – click to enlarge

This first option definitely does the job but sometimes you want to go beyond the App within Teams for richer functionality and use the desktop version of the App. Or collaborate alongside Apps not integrated into Teams like the Office Apps are. Thats when you use the Chat pop out function. Here are instructions for how to pop out a chat. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like. You can resize both windows to suit side by side work and chat better this way if you wish.

Chat alongside App outside Teams desktop – click to enlarge

And finally, here is an example of the popped-out chat alongside a browser window, just to show you how it’s possible to chat in this way alongside any other application.

Chat alongside non-Teams embedded App – click to enlarge
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Starting a business remote first – 10 priorities

I mentor startups from time to time, in my spare time. I am doing so at the moment with one. I am bringing my past experience to bear starting and working in startups and I’ve also written an eBook on a related subject. In the current case though, it’s more my current experience I am advising and focusing on based on my professional work at Microsoft (disclosure). This is around the use of the Microsoft 365 platform (mostly) to support collaboration and productivity.

First some assumptions to be clear on:

  1. Remote first. The team members are all distributed and not all in the same country. So far, so normal 🙂
  2. Side job so multiple other tools. Some of the members have other jobs and so there is a question of competing and even conflicting technologies that need to be considered.
  3. Early stage. This is a very early-stage startup with founders just starting to work together on this – hence the need to start from scratch.

Then here is my list of top 10 things I am focusing on – not that they are necessarily the most important, just what I can and need to prioritise for the team now:

1 Create a new Microsoft 365 account and license the users. Just because I work with this tech, I did not want to push it. Many of the members have familiarity with other platforms and this needs to be considered. In the end, after some discussion (and I presented the case in a DanelDoodle), we agreed on M365. I chose an M365 Business Standard option and here is a handy guide when setting up for the first time if needed.

2 Assign a domain that can be used in email and beyond. The team already had a domain, I was given access to manage the domain through GoDaddy, the domain registrar. Assigning it was a doddle.

3 Create a Team for internal collaboration. I started with a great template for project management. More about Team templates here. We are using this for all collaboration naturally, asynchronously and through Teams Meetings on regular sync calls.

4 Orientation page or description with clear outline of purpose. In the General Channel for the project management Team I set up, I created a simple wiki page in a Tab with pointers to everything they needed to know to get started and up and running. It also collates links and info on the function of each Channel and the tools available in each Channel.

5 Simple Task Planning – Planner in Teams is the perfect lightweight option to get started with. Members access it from a Tab in the Planning Channel in the Team that was set up from the template. Tasks are listed by sprint buckets.

6 Viva Learning and powering a growth mindset. Setting up a Tab in a Channel is straightforward and other than to bring in content covering Teams and the broader M365 platform, you can choose from the 125 free LinkedIn courses to driving learning in other important areas to fill any skills gaps.

7 Automation for competitive intel – Power Automate. One simple automation I have started with (based on a template) is to bring in tweets with relevant hashtags related to competitive activity. Will be looking for more and much of these kinds of templated flows plus many you can build come free with the M365 license (but beware of the limitations).

8 Marketing – start a website prototype. I had already started working on that and I documented that in this post: Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1. This covers both the content management and website creation side of things as well as eCommerce.

9 Forms for surveys to get feedback on prototypes and other things. Microsoft Forms which comes with the license is a simple and useful tool.

10 Chat Bot in Teams (employees), later for website (customers) using Power Virtual Agents (PVA). I started with a simple pre-made BOT to support understanding of Teams. It’s snappily called the Teams Training Assistant App – you can watch it in action in this video here. I’m not actually sure it was built on PVA but regardless, it is useful for the Teams newbies. I will look to build a customer facing BOT later using PVA.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – what and why M365

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Question:

The customer is just about to launch Microsoft 365 so the decision has already been made about buying and using it. The question was more in relation to a kick off session to all staff in which I was asked to present in 10 minutes what M365 is and why it will add value to the organisation. I’ve also been asked this by others so I thought this would be a good exercise in any event.

Answer:

I’ve started my thinking on how to address this with a DanelDoodle, always a good way for me to narrow my thinking and generally sense make. As you can imagine, 10 minutes in which to explain M365, a platform so vast in capability, is not an easy task. Maybe impossible. But it is a good exercise. And on this point, this is just an exercise. This is not a definitive answer and will likely change as I prepare for my session and use this to gather feedback. Some explainers below the doodle.

Click to enlarge
  1. I started with a brief explanation in the first two blocks on the nature of Microsoft 365 in relation to the commonly held understanding that it is the Office suite you buy upgrades for every few years. It’s much more than just a set of document tools like Word, PowerPoint, etc. It also goes beyond a new name and business model. So the first block tries to explain that it is a subscription service and you get continues updates and innovation as a result. It also covers many other tools covered in the second block, more on all of them here: Microsoft 365 | Secure, Integrated Office 365 Apps + Teams
  2. I then wanted to cover the concept of the Microsoft Graph which is really important. This is pretty challenging, not sure I’ve done that quite yet. More on that here: Overview of Microsoft Graph – Microsoft Graph | Microsoft Docs
  3. I then tried to choose an area that M365 covers really well which is documents and processes. I chose some examples for each of these that showcase the two main functions. There are so many to choose from this is really difficult. I chose these because I think they capture the essence of innovative new features really well. Here is a little more on each:
    1. Analyze Data in Excel (microsoft.com)
    2. Create professional slide layouts with PowerPoint Designer (microsoft.com)
    3. Microsoft Editor checks grammar and more in documents, mail, and the web
    4. Microsoft Lists | Microsoft 365
  4. The last block covers Microsoft Teams which has become the de facto “front end for collaboration” incorporating so many other tools and components of M365. This article covers the concept I am trying to explain really well: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog
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As we come out of the pandemic – what to take and what to leave

I say we are coming out of the pandemic because all the signs point in that direction. At least where I live in the UK where all restrictions have been lifted and the talk is of learning to live with COVID-19. Whether it is based in fact and is a permanent state, that remains to be seen. I at least am ready to move on and will behave as if its over (I’m done and this is my call to arms). So this is what I’m leaving behind and taking forward.

Leaving behind

Meetings = Productivity.

This has always been a problem but in the pandemic it’s been exacerbated. That people think they need to add more meetings to overcome lack of proximity is fundamentally flawed thinking.

If anything, less meetings should be added or considered. I’m waging war on irrelevant, unplanned, disorganised meetings that serve no purpose or suck the life out of already challenging days.

Flattened experiences.

I mean by this how everything seems to have become homogenised, samey, devoid of any diversity. The days blur, the meetings are lifeless, the innovation stifled.

The problem is the effort people put in, or rather don’t. I’m guilty as hell – not getting properly dressed or sub par ablutions for the day.

More than just the physical preparations though, its about the mental preparations. Having good sleep, meditating, good exercise.

Doing this leads to better energy. Better energy leads to a better and more positive presence.

Taking forward

Writing and working asynchronously.

I’ve written about this before: Writing skills for remote asynchronous work and how you can master them.

I believe writing as part of asynchronous work are going to become key skills for work of the future and many are lacking in these basic capabilities.

I’ve been working this way (asynchronously) and writing for a long time but always believe I can get better. I’m going to be focusing on this a lot going forward.

OuterVentures.

By this I mean adventures in the grand outdoors. I’ve done so much more of this since the beginning of the lock downs and it’s made all the difference for coping.

I’m not just talking about sports like running or hiking which I always did a lot of and increased through the pandemic.

I mean being out and present in some amazing natural settings. I certainly have many on my door step or not far away with a bit of effort. Things like forest bathing or beach walking – give me more.

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Hyperconnected business and driving the next level of productivity with collaborative apps

This title is not really mine and comes from some of the headline announcements at Microsoft Ignite which took place this week. I have an interest since I work there (disclosure) and write about these things, collaboration especially. In this post I want to unpack one of the themes and product announcements. The theme is captured by the title, the product is Microsoft Loop.

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The ebb and flow of productivity at work

I was thinking the other day about the times when I’m most productive at work. So much has been written about the subject and I work at a company and in a role where it’s one of the key functions of my job, i.e. to make people more productive through technology. There are a gazillion sites and services out there on how to be more productive. I think a lot of them miss the point.

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We Work Unbound – key concepts for a hybrid world

Working at Yammer back in the day (2012 onwards), we were at the forefront of some cutting edge work practices that had been brewing a while. The advent of social technologies of which Yammer was a latest iteration and that I had also previously been involved in (more here: birth of enterprise social) were driving these new practices. At the time we came up with a concept that could probably be called a precursor to hybrid work in that it made the most of social technologies that enabled remote work yet also included in person work. We used to hold frequent get togethers including customers, employees, leading outside thinkers, etc. There is still a Facebook group and LinkedIn group that are semi active for organising things. The manifesto which is the featured image for this post describes the concept at its core and below are some additional notes penned at the time. Sharing here for posterity.

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The backlash to video calling and the alternatives

Okay I wouldn’t call just one decision from the CEO of a major bank the indication of a backlash: Citigroup CEO ordains Zoom-free Fridays to ease ‘relentless’ pandemic workday. But come on, how many tales have you already heard of similar woes. Zoom fatigue has become a thing. And its not just about Zoom. Microsoft Teams (disclosure) has built features into their software to try and negate the ill effects of too much time spent on video calls. So what’s a business bod to do?

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Employee Experience Platform – the birth of a category

This week, Microsoft announced the launch of a new product called Viva (disclosure). Actually it is far more than a new product in many ways. It is also an attempt at consolidating technologies in the employee experience category as well as creating the category. It is also a shrewd leverage of the Teams as a Platform strategy which I have written about several times. Since Viva will be served exclusively through Teams, this is a perfect execution of the Teams as a Platform strategy. And it brings the new product and its functionalities into the Flow of Work.

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Slack acquisition – this feels personal

I only say that because of my experience with a similar acquisition (when Yammer was acquired by Microsoft – disclosure) and that I was there at the birth of Enterprise Social. I’ve written lots before (latest posts) and so feel with this vested interest and experience I can also have an opinion as everyone else does, per TechCrunch: Everyone has an opinion on the $27.7B Slack acquisition 😬

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Microsoft Teams as a Platform – the next frontier

Microsoft Teams, with its 115M users, is way more than just chat or meetings. From this Geekwire article:

“Meetings are important, but they are transactional. Work happens before meetings, during meetings, and after meetings. That ability to have the workflow completely stitched together is where Microsoft 365 really stands out. That reinforcing effect of Teams by itself, and then Microsoft 365 in conjunction with Teams, is where you’ll see a significant amount of usage growth, more so than individual tools of the past, even.”

CEO Microsoft, Satya Nadella
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The business of culture change in the tech industry

I had interesting chats with customers and colleagues recently that I wanted to capture and share. The context was enterprise collaboration technology but I also wanted to expand a little on the increasing business of technology’s influence on culture more broadly and vice versa. It probably raised more questions than answers.

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