How we adopted Microsoft Teams – part three

We started using Microsoft Teams at Breadcrumb about two years ago. Although it was easy to get started, there was still a learning curve so in this series of three articles I will share our firsthand experience and answer the following questions:

Part three: what are our top tips for using Microsoft Teams?

In part one and two we shared why we use Teams and how we organise it to support effective collaboration and communication. In the last article, I wanted to share some tips that we learned from transitioning to Teams.

Using Teams introduced some challenges and opportunities, so we established best practice rules that allow us to use Teams successfully from both an end-user perspective and a long-term maintenance perspective.

Like message

We use this function to acknowledge a message, not to express that we like the message. It may sound slightly confusing, but it helps the message author to know when a message has been received and adds a lot more value.

@mention person, channel and team

The mention function lets you tag a whole team, a channel or a person and send a notification to the mentioned people. We established two very simple rules about using this function:

  1. When you send a message to a group chat it should have at least one mention – a team, channel or a person. It’s like sending an email; you need to add a recipient if you would want to send a message. This approach ensures the right people are notified and your message is not lost in a thread of other messages.
  2. Mention only those people who should be notified. While mentioning a whole team or a channel is very useful and quick, in some cases it creates unnecessary distraction. We respect our team members and only mention individuals instead of a group when it’s appropriate.

Group chat vs private chat

Along with group chats, where conversations are visible to all team members, there are private chats in Teams. To avoid situations where important information or documents slip under the covers, we established a principle that all work-related information and documents should be shared in a group chat not private chat, so that we have a record of decisions, there is a single point of truth, and no duplicated documents are floating around. This principle requires a well-established Teams structure that ensures people feel safe about sharing information and documents publicly within a group of people.

Naming conventions

Using naming conventions helps us to make the Teams environment consistent and easy to navigate. We use naming conventions for team names, channels and tabs where it’s applicable. Using this approach makes it easier to switch between multiple teams.

Multiple team owners

We always assign multiple team owners. It makes it easier to manage team features, add people or change access permissions. It means we avoid situations where a whole team is dependent on the availability of one person.

Favourite teams and channels

Over time the list of teams will inevitably grow. In some teams and channels we are active participants; in others we are passive observers. When you become a member of too many teams it can become unwieldy.

We use the ‘favourite’ function when this happens. Favourite teams always stay at the top and you get notifications when a team is mentioned. ‘Unfavourite’ teams are hidden under the collapsible menu. Similarly, ‘favourited’ channels stay visible in a team and you get notifications when a channel is mentioned and ‘unfavourited’ channels are hidden under ‘other channels’. Adding favourites reduces visual clutter and unwanted notification noise.

Audit and archive teams

Teams is an everchanging and fast-growing environment, so it requires some governance. We established a practice of archiving teams after finishing a project. Archived teams stay available for reference but can’t be used for conversations.

We also do a periodic audit of our teams and identify teams that should be deleted, merged or separated. Similarly, we review channels and ensure there are no abandoned or unruly spaces.

As part of our reviews we also check members of teams to make sure the permissions are correct. This is especially important for teams with external guests.

In summary

Introducing these simple principles made a big difference to our adoption of Teams. As the functionality of Teams evolves we adjust our approach and ensure we address new challenges and use new opportunities.

Interested in learning more about Microsoft Teams? Get in touch. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned.