As users of Office 365 Business Premium and Enterprise editions can attest, Microsoft is continuously changing the way its productivity suite of software works. Existing and useful apps are often migrated to new and unfamiliar apps, sometimes without adequate explanation. For example, Skype for Business, which many small businesses have used for inexpensive video conferencing, has been morphed into a feature of Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is the company’s collaboration platform that allows groups and teams to chat, message, meet in virtual space, exchange ideas, video conference, and share documents. While it is certainly true that businesses that used Skype for Business can use Microsoft Teams to video conference among other tasks, the migration will require some admin deployment activity and some user retraining.
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How to deploy Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is more than just an app, it is a platform that includes several apps and features. This plethora of features can be a bit confusing for new users, especially if they are used to Skype for Business, which was a single-function application.
To help accelerate the transition, it might be beneficial to have your Office 365 admins create a few general groups and channels for Microsoft Teams. By creating and pre-populating a few general groups, businesses can offer users a chance to experience the new collaboration platform without the added pressure of trying to achieve a work task.
The Microsoft Teams platform can be accessed via the Office 365 website, via a desktop application, and via a mobile app. Downloading and installing the Microsoft Teams desktop and mobile app is similar to the way users download and install other Office 365 apps, like Word and Excel.
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The Microsoft Teams desktop app, shown in Figure A, is available as a free download. The download is about 95Mb, so it may take a minute or two. The installation itself only takes a few seconds. It is important to note that Microsoft Teams requires an internet connection—the app must be able to connect to the Teams servers in order to function properly. There is no offline mode.
The Microsoft Teams mobile apps are available for both Android and iOS and can be downloaded from their respective locations on Google Play and the Apple App Store. The mobile apps require the latest or near latest versions of each mobile operating system, so double-check the requirements.
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To start a group in Microsoft Teams, click or tap the Create Team button and choose whether to build a team from scratch or use an existing team as a template. Selecting the build from scratch option will require you to make several decisions, including how your new team will be accessed, as shown in Figure B. Be careful with your selections.
Microsoft Teams will look for potential team members from your organization’s email addresses first. Outside contact information will be gathered from your list of Outlook contacts. Calendar information will also be drawn from Outlook, as shown in Figure C.
Why did Microsoft make this change?
Microsoft’s theory and overall strategic plan for Office 365 and Azure is that modern business enterprises operate with a mobile, always connected workforce. To be productive and effective, this on-the-go workforce needs a capable collaboration platform. Microsoft Teams is their solution to this problem. If you have been video conferencing using Skype for Business, you now, or will soon, be using Microsoft Teams. Your staff will need some help learning this new platform.