Is Microsoft Teams REALLY the best option for workplace collaboration?

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The Ripple Team

on August 03 2020

Internal communication Intranet Collaboration Tools

With remote work on the rise, it’s not surprising that Microsoft Teams has become a hot topic. Microsoft’s ‘hub for teamwork’ has grown to 75 million daily active users, but had a high-profile outage right when it was needed the most.

That contrast – huge success paired with serious hiccups – is a pretty good way to understand Teams as a whole. It’s great at some of the stuff it does, and not-so-great when it’s asked to do too much at once. If you’ve read our blog on ‘the digital workplace’, you’ll know where we’re going with this.

Here’s a look at its strengths, shortcomings, and what might be a better approach to workplace collaboration.

Why does everyone love it?

If you work in internal communications, it’s hard to ignore Teams. The platform’s ability to gather colleagues, conversations, meetings and Office 365 applications into searchable groups makes it a powerful IC tool.

By grouping IM, video chat and a message board in one, it’s a solid option for enabling internal dialogues without relying on a whole suite of apps. Their ‘Teams Rooms Premium’ offering brings video conference management into the equation, and it’s also an anagram of ‘marmoset emporiums’. What’s not to like?

If that’s all that workplace collaboration was, then Microsoft Teams would be the answer to everyone’s prayers. Unfortunately, internal dialogues and monkey boutiques are part of a much larger picture.

The alternative to the one-stop-shop

When’s the last time you used a Spork? The last one-man-band album you bought? It would be nice if our cutlery and musicians could do it all at once, but we know how that works out. We shouldn’t treat collaboration tools any differently.

Microsoft Teams struggles when it tries to do it all. Take external communication, for example – you can invite contractors and clients into your ‘Team’, but there’s not much detail when it comes to permissions. Once they’re in, they can see it all. There’s a much simpler, more effective approach out there, widely known as ‘email’ and ‘project management software’.

File organization is similarly tricky. Moving a file from one place to another breaks all the once-useful links to it in your team’s conversation. SharePoint, DropBox and Google Drive can all be linked to within Teams.

The same goes for shared calendars. Despite countless requests, Teams still can’t quite sync with group calendars in Outlook. The answer? You guessed it. Keep using a tool like Outlook for calendars, and don’t expect Teams to fulfill that function.

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Not all IC is the same

Not all internal communication starts as a dialogue. Company news, policies and resources like employee handbooks need to remain somewhat static so that they don’t get lost in a mire of conversation, and the intranet might just be the place.

Discussion can grow out of them, but information should be easily accessible and discoverable for employees across the organization. Teams is so notorious for its intermittent notification failures that there are web pages dedicated to teaching you how to fix the issue. In short, it isn’t exactly the best space for providing easy access to essential information.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Is Microsoft Teams the best option for workplace collaboration? Not quite, but it’s part of the best option.

There’s certainly an argument for getting everything done under one roof, but let’s give ourselves a bit more credit. Chimpanzees and crows have their own ‘tool kits’, for god’s sake. Our brains can handle the use of more than one app, and we should absolutely embrace that if it means each job is done better as a result.

Overall, Teams can do one part of internal communications really well, but it shouldn’t be expected to do them all.

The bad boss guide to burning out your digital workforce