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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Teams top tips

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.

The question (that I am answering in this post) is actually part of a broader set of questions which I will be answering in a virtual session with over 100 executives and users that a customer of mine is hosting and has asked me to speak at. It is a deceptively tricky question because there are so many options. Here is the question below and future posts will cover the other questions.

Q: Your top 5 tips for using or what you like most in Teams?

First there are two questions in one really. But that’s okay I guess, because we often end up using most what we like best. I have focused on what I use frequently but also what I think adds value. The context for the session in which I will answer this question is that Teams has a vast number of functions and sometimes it is difficult to discern best use or most valid amongst the many options. So here is my take and then I have included a bonus tip.

Pinned Chats

Chats can get overwhelming, more so than Teams, which are subject to their own sprawl.

Chats is where most of the action happens. They effectively take over from where Skype for Business left off and it’s now the DeFacto, instant messaging function of Teams.

They are super easy to set up, be it with individuals or groups, but they are not so easy to find once you have amassed a large list and want to come back to them.

One trick is to use the new search function (see start of video). Another is to pin and unpin chats frequently depending on urgency. I have chats pinned at the top of my list, where I am working on something currently and/or urgently.

The way to pin chats is found at left – hover over the chat title until the three dots appear and, in the pop up, you’ll see the option.

Meeting Polls

You would once have to create Polls through Microsoft Forms.

That was not such a straightforward exercise.

It’s much simpler now as a new Polls App has been added to the App Store.

You can add Polls before a meeting starts and you can add more than one. This way you are ready to launch the Polls at the appropriate time throughout the meeting.

You can also add them on the fly, especially the instant polls.

They are a good way to drive participant engagement.

And of course, to get critical collective feedback.

More here on how to use it.

Prioritise Teams

As mentioned, Teams also have a tendency to sprawl, either because you have been added to too many or you have created too many.

My view is to be ruthless in your participation. If you are invited to a Team, think carefully about staying in it.

If a Teams usefulness has ended or if the purpose for which a Team was created is no longer valid or you can no longer serve it, leave it.

Before creating a Team, think carefully about it and whether it’s really necessary. Oftentimes a chat will do, even a group chat which has the ability to add many numbers of participants, has a files section, Apps can be added to it, etc.

If you are a member of many Teams, order the most important at the top and rank them by priority. You can also pin channels so the ones that are most active can be pinned to the top, above the list of Teams.

Notifications

For starters, you should manage notifications globally from Teams Settings. In the top right of the screenshot you can see where to access those – clue, it’s the three dots next to your profile pic.

There you can set general notifications or customise them.

You can get specific on active channels in Teams. If you have a lot of active Teams on the go at a time and they are all important, then you want to get notifications.

You want to make sure you don’t miss important collaboration.

You can add email notification for some of the most important activity.

For Teams notifications, you can access them from global settings, or you can drill down for Team Channel notifications- see screenshot.

Teams Apps

Apps in Teams provide the ability to quickly, and in most cases, easily bring much needed functionality from outside Apps into Teams, e.g. 3rd party, Microsoft, custom Apps, etc.

This means end users can remain in their flow of work, i.e. they can work on the App without leaving Teams – this reduces context switching.

This also brings a conversational layer to the Apps around which users can collaborate, e.g. viewing a PowerBI dashboard and discussing the data in it with colleagues.

Apps need to be enabled for end users. This can be done from the Teams admin centre portal – more on that here.

One of the things that can be enabled is to pin Apps to the sidebar for all users, for quick access. Users can also do this for themselves.

With all these Apps though, my view is to start with what you are trying to do, then seek an App that can help you do it. Not the other way around.

Bonus tip – Bring email to Teams

Click to enlarge

First, let me address why you would want to bring emails into Teams. Well, simply put, it’s because Teams is the better tool for collaboration and when you need to deep dive on a topic with a team, Teams is where to do it. It’s also great to create a backchannel for discussion or triage with a separate set of participants before coming back to the email participants with a response – this way you avoid the email trees which have been prevalent since forever.

From the screenshots above (where I have redacted some details) you can see the view on the left is from an email where you can access the Share to Teams Add In (this view is from Outlook Web App – it might be slightly different in the Outlook client). On the right is what pops up so you can select who to share it to. It automatically suggests recipients of the email but then if you go into the Share To field, you get suggestions from recent Teams chats or you can search and find the right chat (group or individual).

Considering Teams chat use has overtaken email use for commercial users (for more read the Microsoft FY23 First Quarter Earnings Conference Call transcript) this function makes perfect sense. As stated by Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO): “an average commercial user spends more time in Teams chat than they do in e-mail, and the number of users who use four or more features within Teams increased over 20 percent year over year”.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Viva Amplify boosting internal comms

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.

I have written about Microsoft Viva before, in relation to an employee experience trend report I am working on as well as in answer to other customer questions on the multiple Viva modules being rolled out. As that roll out continues, I continue to address the new opportunities and questions that arise. Past posts below for your interest, before I get to Viva Amplify, a new module just announced (scroll through for the full list).

Why Internal Comms is ripe for disruption

I have also written about internal comms before: Internal Communications is more important than ever but missing a trick. In that post I talked about a new Microsoft Teams App called Company Communicator that could be used by internal comms teams and I covered some of the benefits of that over traditional means. Well you can think of Viva Amplify as a form of Company Communicator but on steroids, reaching more channels, with built in analytics (which was missing from Company Communicator), etc. Ultimately Viva Amplify will boost the function of internal comms even further and take it to the next level. I’m super excited by the possibilities.

What is Viva Amplify?

With new communication capabilities in Microsoft Viva, you can create messages to drive business outcomes as well as plan, create, manage and publish all your workplace communications from one place.

Reach all your employees on any device, wherever they work (i.e. the tool they are working in at the moment), whether you’re planning a large campaign or sending out weekly updates.

Jumpstart your process using Viva’s writing guidance, which makes it easier to create messages that resonate with your audience and in the right channel. Save time rewriting the same message for a different channel or audience in just a few clicks.

Viva Amplify gives you a single place to share drafts and track approvals, and it also helps you visualize and optimize your messages by previewing your final output for each channel.

In addition to messages, you can also define campaign objectives to help you set clear messaging goals within multiple channels, whether that’s Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer and more. All this before you hit send.

Then use Viva’s Campaign hub to understand and track the impact your messages will make. Know what’s working and how to improve your messages for next time you have a story to tell.

Here is a short gif to give you a flavour of how this will work (note that this may change in the final version when it launches some time early in calendar year 2023).

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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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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Power Platform and Teams Hackathon tips

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.

This was not so much a question as a request to present to all the hackers participating in the company hackathon in a launch event. I put a few slides together, here they are in a pdf below. Below that, a few notes of elaboration on the slides that I think need it. This follows earlier advice I shared with the same customer on how to organise the hackathon, captured in this story: How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform. And it also builds on this earlier thought rocket: Hackathons the MVP and lean startup.

Slide 3

I wanted to instil some lean startup, entrepreneurial thinking into the hackers minds. This is also a setup for some of the later slides. The main point being that you have to have an idea of what you want to build in the way of problem/s to solve or opportunity/ies to leverage and that by definition (being future focused), you are not going to be certain that you can achieve it. I wanted to juxtapose this with the need to start building and iterating fast and testing your work as you go and that this has to mapped against your vision and course correction will be required all along the way. Course correction will require either that you refine your vision or your solution.

Slide 5

The clear point here is that you should try and build complete solutions (as far as possible) at every stage of your build. It follows naturally from the previous slide too. I also made the point that they should not be myopic in their thinking and focus too much on the technology or “product”. For instance, building a wheel which on its own, is not really usable. Rather they should think about solving a transport problem and in the image example, a skateboard could be a great first version, perfectly usable in its own right. Hopefully you get the point.

Slide 7

While the hackers were mostly focused on building apps, automations, reports and the like with the Power Platform, I did want to bring Microsoft Teams into the picture as the platform through which they should consider publishing their work. I made two points really. One is that they could develop their solutions either in the respective standalone environment in Power Platform but they could also create solutions directly from within the Teams environment – more on that here: Create low-code custom apps for Microsoft Teams – Teams | Microsoft Docs. More importantly, that they should think about bringing their solutions into Teams to become collaborative apps – a concept explained really well here: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog.

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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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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Service BOTs in Teams

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:

Can you help us to overcome a challenge our users face in how they currently access IT and HR related information, FAQ’s and create support tickets covering issues in both areas or departments?

Answer:

For the answer it is probably best to just share the two slides I used to capture the issue and challenge (in the first) and then position a solution or set of potential solutions (in the second). Below the slides, links to main solution options.

  1. ServiceNow: For how to integrate ServiceNow into Teams, start here. Universal request shows how you can incorporate cross department ticket transfers.
  2. Moveworks: More on the solution here, demo here.
  3. FAQ+: All info here, get it on GitHub here.

The customer has not yet fully decided in which direction to go and as that happens I will bring the input in here, where permissible. In the meantime, hopefully the above helps to frame things and aids decision making.

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21 essentials for the digital enterprise in 2021

I was asked a question the other day from someone wanting to know what would be required to become a fully digital company. Big question I know and I didn’t have much time in which to answer. I came up with a fast list. This is an attempt to remember and add to it but still in the spirit of off the cuff thinking, so I’m not going to dig into too much detail. Great exercise, you should try it. So this list is extended beyond the original list to include 21 items in total, for 2021 natch and seeing as that we are at the end of it 😜

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity

I work in the business of dealing with customers 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.

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How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform

I’ve decided, while I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly, I might as well 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 respect both sides sensitivities. This is where I started the activity and this post uses a slightly different format but is essentially the same approach.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Viva Connections

I’ve decided, while I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly, I might as well 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 respect both sides sensitivities (some parts have been redacted) and the topic is covered in the post title. Answers in grey background starting with initial questions

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