What is Teams and why should you be using it? That is the question that everyone will be asking themselves after today’s announcement about Microsoft Teams. Having seen the product in preview for several weeks I have many opinions and thoughts of this software and for the most part, they are all very positive.
What is Teams?
It’s Microsoft’s response to Slack. Or another way it is their latest step in the Team Collaboration software. The product is broken into different Teams (now you get the name of the product). Within each Team you invite different people into your team. Each Team can have multiple channels to break up your work.
NOTE: This is one of the major differences from Yammer to Teams. Within Yammer, you can search for public groups and ask to join them. In Yammer, you have private groups which cannot be seen at all. In Teams, you only see the Teams in which you have been invited to.
Inside of every Channel is three different categories. Conversations, Files, Notes and the ability to add even more items. Within the + sign, you can add the following:
Now you might be asking. I’m confused. Why do I see SharePoint, OneNote, etc. here. This is where it gets very cool. Teams is built on top of all of the existing Microsoft technologies. Under the hood, every Team is actually an Office 365 Group.
So when you are uploading a File into Teams, you are really uploading that file into SharePoint under the Hood. When you create a OneNote document, you are creating a OneNote document in SharePoint, etc.
NOTE: Teams is a one-way sync of information from Office 365 Groups. So you can create a Team from an existing Office 365 Group. But editing the Office 365 Group after the Team is created, doesn’t update the Team Members within Teams. For example, if I edit the members of my Cloud Core Team above from Exchange, it won’t add new members within Teams. However, if I update the members in Teams it will update the Office 365 group.
At this point in time, you should see a lot of overlap with Yammer, SharePoint, One Drive for Business and Exchange.
What is Chat?
It’s exactly what you would expect. It’s a chat experience. However, it a persistent chat experience between you, between groups, between whomever you want (as long as they are in your organization).
In addition, it’s an Audio and Video tool as well. You can also see that from an existing conversation you can add additional people to your conversation. You can also easily add new people to your chat as well.
Within, the Chat tool, you will also see our first bot of Teams.
T-Bot is a training bot at this time. It’s designed to allow you to ask questions and get a quick reply on how to complete a particular task.
So now we are overlapping within the Skype for Business / Skype Consumer product
What is Meetings?
It’s exactly what you think it would be. It’s a list of all of your meetings along with the ability to schedule new meetings.
As you can see in the New Team Meeting dialog, you can choose who you want to invite to your meeting, times, etc. What will happen when you create this meeting, is a calendar meeting will automatically appear on your calendar. Individuals who you invited will also get the meeting invite and a message will be posted in the Team / Channel about the meeting.
NOTE: The Team / Channel that will be selected will be the last one you were visiting before you went to the meetings button. This has caused me to schedule a meeting in the wrong Team / Channel on a number of occasions. I’ve added feedback that it should default to nothing and force you choose a Team / Channel.
Teams is also going to read your Office 365 / Exchange calendar. So if you a Skype for Business meeting you will see this:
And when you click on the Join button, it opens up Skype for Business. Let’s be very clear about one thing. Teams is NOT using the Skype for Business back-end to accomplish these meetings. They might be using some aspects of it but you are not scheduling a Skype for Business meeting. You are scheduling a Teams meeting. Your Skype for Business client will have no clue that you scheduled this meeting.
So now we are overlapping even more with Skype for Business / Skype Consumer product
What is Files?
Again, exactly what you would expect. It’s a listing of all files that you have access to within Teams.
You can also see that as a user, you can browse Teams, OneDrive and see Recent files. You can upload new files but you can also use Microsoft Teams as a OneDrive for Business file explorer.
So now we are overlapping One Drive for Business.
What Do I Think?
So a few things have stood out to me during my testing. The first thing I have to say is that this is a very complete and stable product. I’m not joking. My Skype for Business Windows client crashes twice a day, Teams rarely crashes and when it does I remind myself it’s a beta product.
Overall, I love the Teams experience. I have gone out of my way to force myself and others on my team to use the product and the best line thus far has been – “I hate that I can’t hate this product.” So things that I love about Teams compared to Skype for Business.
- Persistent Chat experience. I’ve been begging for this for years. What we got in the Mac client is way better than the Windows client already.
- Audio Experience. Thus far, my calls on Teams are clearer than those in SfB. Maybe I’m projecting because it’s new but they seem very solid.
- Video Experience. Edge to edge video. Great experience. Again, it just seems to work.
- Desktop Share. You can share, but cannot give control. It’s clearly a video based screen sharing experience.
- Search. I know this is silly but the search experience is rock solid. Easy to search chats, files and more.
Although there are a bunch of great tools with Teams there are some things you will miss immediately.
- Federation. Or remote users in your Teams. This is going to be a huge barrier for adoption to start with. Slack does three things really well. 1) It’s cheap. 2) Anyone can use it. 3) API Support is crazy good.
- API Support. There are a ton of existing connectors in the product today (Twitter, Jira, etc.). What I don’t know is what I can do to connect to it.
- Confusion. This is where Microsoft is going to get ripped the most. How does this product fit into everything else. People will say we have: Office 365 Groups, SharePoint, One Drive for Business, Yammer and Skype for Business. Now if you paid attention above, you will see Teams represents connections into many of these tools. But the story isn’t complete and in many places (looking at you Yammer) is competing directly with Teams.