Today, businesses often turn to software to help them solve challenges. When that challenge is adapting to remote working, Microsoft Teams could be the solution.
The ‘new normal’ has transformed the way businesses operate, but in one crucial aspect, we have not changed: technology remains the go-to avenue for businesses looking to solve critical challenges.
In fact, the nature of the global pandemic has accelerated our technology adoption. In some cases, businesses are investing in new software solutions. In others, they are expanding on existing suites to solve emerging challenges brought about by the new normal — notably, the drive towards remote working.
“According to a new McKinsey Global Survey, their companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years.”
McKinsey & Company
Across the UK, an estimated 140,000 companies currently use Microsoft Office 365 (rebranded Microsoft 365 this year). With the newest government guidelines recommending employees work from home where possible until April 2021, how can these teams continue to get the most from their software, communicate effectively and operate collaboratively? The aptly-named Microsoft Teams application could be the solution.
How does Microsoft Teams work?
Microsoft Teams functions as an extension of Microsoft 365. It builds on Microsoft 365’s already broad functionality, offering a suite of new communication and collaboration tools to bring workforces together, keep them connected, and help them to accomplish more, even when individual employees are physically apart from one another due to remote working.
At its core is a range of communication tools that enable teams to chat from anywhere. Instant messaging (IM) can be used one-to-one or with a group, so colleagues can communicate effortlessly. Messages can be customised with rich text editing and people can be tagged to draw their attention, creating an IM experience that employees will love to use.The ability to set up a video call offers a similar experience, with the added bonus that conversants can see and interact with each other as if they were together. Screen sharing makes it easier than ever for team members to share ideas or make decisions, helping businesses to adapt to remote working scenarios quickly and with minimal friction.
Teams of 10 or 10,000 can meet in one place, no matter how many places they are in. Features like Custom Background and Together Mode will help maintain professionalism while creating the impression that everyone is in the same room.
How do voice calls work with Microsoft Teams
Teams can be purchased with an inclusive voice telephony bundle, which enables users to make telephone calls to traditional telephone numbers of non Teams users. Known as Microsoft 365 Business Voice, its cloud-based telephony solution offers built-in audio-conferencing and calling plans tailored to each organisation’s requirements, perfectly balancing the growing need for flexible communication systems with those of security and reliability. For businesses dependent on secure, reliable communications, backed by enterprise-level support and SLAs, we would recommend one of our direct routing services, which harnesses carrier grade infrastructures from partners Gamma, 8×8 and Cirrus Response. These combine the collaboration benefits of Microsoft Teams with fully supported business telephony services, which offer superior call control, international calling plans and cloud based Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solutions.
For businesses using Mitel communications, we offer an integration which enables Microsoft Teams calls to be made via the Mitel telephony platform. This offers consistency in the telephony communication regardless of whether calls are made on a traditional desk phone, Mitel soft phone application or a Microsoft Teams application. IT and communications managers maintain a single view of inbound and outbound call statistics, employee direct dial numbers can remain consistent and organisations can operate with mixed estates of desk phones, Teams users or a combination of the two.
Of course, communication is only half of the battle. Collaboration is where the magic happens, yet many businesses will find themselves questioning how to facilitate this remotely across teams, business levels, or even regions/languages. Teams addresses this across multiple features. Key amongst them is the ability to access, share and edit Word docs, PowerPoint and Excel files in real-time, literally facilitating collaboration on documentation of all kinds.
Remote work can be further simplified by integrating relevant apps and workflows in Teams, whether these are tried-and-tested apps that provide core functionality to a business or remote working apps selected in response to the new normal. With Teams, businesses can integrate them to boost productivity, even from afar.
The benefits of Microsoft Teams in the new normal
Microsoft users have leant on Teams for some time now to unlock efficiencies and gain a competitive advantage, but the new normal has placed a new importance on its benefits. The numbers speak for themselves, with Microsoft reporting a 40% increase in demand for its Teams solution as early into the global pandemic as March 2020.
“By the end of April, it was reporting a 70% increase in daily active users (75 million).”
What might have been a competitive advantage has since become a must-have for users looking to roll out long-term, sustainable remote working solutions with high adoption rates. What do these benefits look like and why are they significant now?
Maintain high availability
Availability is one metric called immediately into question by the new normal. How can an organisation safeguard remote workers’ availability? With built-in redundancy and active load balancing for a 99.9% uptime guaranteed by Office 365, Teams maintains high availability, so staff are always contactable when they need to be.
Increased dependence on virtual communications heightens the importance of security systems to protect it. Designed to deliver an enterprise-grade communications and collaboration experience, Teams is built around privacy, security and compliance, so business can carry on as usual with full confidence that private conversations stay that way.
According to McKinsey & Company’s Global Survey, “more than half of executives say they are investing in technology for competitive advantage or refocusing their entire business around digital technologies”. Cost-effective solutions are those that will deliver the biggest returns, particularly when they form the basis for the entire company’s communications estate. Teams’ comprehensive functionality provides tangible value across the business with visible benefits that far outweigh the initial cost. Its cloud-based telephony solutions further remove the need for on-premises costs, reducing overheads and driving other savings.
One of the most challenging and costly aspects of any new technology solution can be rollout and adoption. As a general rule, people don’t like change. Existing Microsoft users will find Teams neatly sidesteps this hurdle by building on the Office 365 ecosystem. Because they are already familiar with Microsoft as a platform, change is minimised and engagement improved. Companies new to Microsoft will find their communications infrastructure vastly simplified, by virtue of Teams’ centralised billing and it being managed via the Office 365 admin console.
Technology solutions for virtual teams
To thrive in the new normal, new strategies and practices are required. Businesses who adjust their thinking will recognise the new normal as a challenge, but also an opportunity to take ownership of their communications estate and usher in a more flexible, more modern way of communicating and collaborating.
“The results also suggest that companies are making these crisis-related changes with the long term in mind.” McKinsey & Company
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Opus is expertly placed to help businesses scope out, set up, implement and maintain Microsoft Teams now, during this critical time, and into the future. We can upgrade an organisation’s estate around Teams or recommend Teams as part of a wider communications estate implementation, depending on each customer’s unique circumstances and requirements.
Businesses across the UK will have experienced the knee-jerk reaction to remote working. But the new normal is exactly that: a new normal around which businesses must adapt if they want to thrive and grow in the coming years. Like the new normal, teams aren’t made in a moment. They are the result of continuous, repeated teamwork, a coming-together of different employees and their ideas to serve and solve for the customer. They just need the right software to connect, first.