Explaining Microsoft Teams succinctly can be tricky. It has a lot of functionality and functionality overlap between features. Often a lot of jargon is used in explanations.
Forrester referrers to apps in this space as “Enterprise Team Messaging Apps”, Gartner calls this product category “Workstream Collaboration” (WSC).
Here is how I try to break it down. Microsoft Teams is an Office 365 cloud-based application available across PC, Mac, Web app and mobile app (iOS and Android) that combines communications (chat and calling), online meetings and group collaboration workspaces. You may enable some or all of this functionality depending on your business requirements.
- Private Chat
Private chats between 2 to 20 people, with all the modern chat features you may expect, Emojis, Gifs, text formatting, sharing files and pictures. Usually used for fast informal communication between people.
Also sometimes called Direct Messaging, Instant Messaging or just chat.
- Person to Person Voice and Video Calling
From Chat you can Voice or Video call and directly share screens and remotely control the other person’s screen.
- Phone Calling
Teams can be a real PSTN phone with a real phone number, you can call any phone number. This can be a cloud service direct from Microsoft, or you can connect your preferred PSTN provider. You can also have a real physical phone if you want.
Scheduled or ad-hoc Online meetings, Audio, Video and Screen Sharing and Cloud meeting recording. Including dial-in/out with tradition PSTN Phones,
A meeting can have up to 250 participants, but it is more focused around collaboration between people than a 1 to many information broadcast.
Team Collab Workspaces
This is the feature that is the newest to the enterprise. We’ve been emailing, voice and video calling and doing Online meetings for some time, but this is having project focused collaborative group workspaces (called “teams” in Microsoft Teams).
The workspaces are comprised of different chat rooms (“channels”) for different topics, each with threaded and persistent chat conversations. You can @mention people, channels or entire teams to cause notifications to get peoples attention, but generally, chat is considered to be dipped in and out of by individuals.
Each channel also has file storage (in SharePoint) and other applications can be embedded in the channel in tabs, for example, OneNote, Planner, but also non-Microsoft third-party applications like Trello.
Each team can have as little as 2 members up to 2,500. It would be more typical to be at the lower end of that range.
The idea is that people collaborate together in a single space with their chat, apps and files which means working together better and faster.
Depending on your use case, you can enable or disable some of these abilities. So, for example, Microsoft Teams in your organisation may just be for Collaboration and have all the Communications and Online Meetings abilities turned off.
There is more Teams does that I haven’t talked about for simplicity, such as,
- Bots, Connectors and application integrations
- IP Phones and Meeting Room Systems for Teams
- Guest Access, allowing users outside your company to be a member of your Team workspace
- Teams Free, a free version for up to 300 users
- Scheduling meetings in channels
- Live/Broadcast meetings with up to 10,000 attendees
But hopefully, this has provided a good simple introduction to what Microsoft Teams can do and how you might use it.
And, I didn’t mention Modern Digital Workplace Transformation once