As you probably know by now, OnMSFT has switched over to Microsoft Office 365 and in doing so, we've adopted Microsoft Teams as our primary source of communication and workflow. But not all of us are taking the change easily. In fact, I could argue that the stapled together HipChat/Trello flow we used to have ran so much smoother than Teams/Planner in many regards. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
When our Senior Editor Kip Kniskern told me that we were switching over to Office 365 fully, I was ecstatic. After reading and writing about Microsoft Teams so much, it was a big moment to get my hands on the actual product.
At first glance, Teams is such an appealing option. The user interface is smooth and who doesn't like threaded conversations to keep chat on topic? But even deeper, I love the idea of integrating all of our organization such as work email, alerts, newsletters, calendar events, schedules, requested time off, and deadlines all into one place. For me, I believed Microsoft Teams would be the ultimate work organizer.
What I Need
The most important part of any work organizer is exactly that, to be able to put together each integration into a coherent manner that will be easily adaptable. At the barebones, our writers needed to be able to work seamlessly with breaking news and features, aware of who is covering which story, and to chat efficiently.
We needed a replacement for the Trello system, where we would move stories that are constantly rolling in, updating on the fly who is taking care of which one, and quickly communicating this information through chat. How handy it was that Hipchat's Trello integration would indicate when a task was moved and by whom, a goal that we sought to re-enact with a similar Planner setup integrated into Microsoft Teams.
What I Got
Microsoft Teams has plenty of features that make collaborating easier, many of which were new and exciting to discover. The most noticeable of which were the threaded conversations. I can't tell you how many times I've lost track of a conversation in HipChat, and these threaded and focused chats made working on individual stories so much more organized. The feature alone could be praised as a reason to convert, which may be why other competitors felt the heat to add them. Furthermore, these are topped with an Activity Feed with notifications that keep you up to date in real time even through your phone.
Digging further into the functionality of this collaborative software, the fun yet professional communication tools have already stolen my heart. Not only can I use fun gifs and make my own custom memes, which admittedly I use a little too much, but the compose box transforms the standard chat text into significant content. Users are able to create a header, fill in paragraphs of text, write lists, and mark it as important with a bright red exclamation mark. Perfect for Team announcements or newsletters!
Of course, what Teams really excels in is integrating with other Microsoft Office 365 software. I know that's no surprise, but it's worth mentioning. Connectors let our team schedule upcoming events, share files, scour the newsfeeds, and even toy with bots if we so desire, even if the selection of bots are extremely limited.
But Microsoft Teams is not fully what I wanted it to be, at least not yet. For a software that was supposedly developed by a team that used it daily, Teams is lacking some essential features.
One of the features I've used a lot in the past is @here in chat. With a job where people come and go online, it's hard to keep track of who is currently online. In Teams, the list of online members is already hidden in the background where you have to right click the team's name to view it. Even then, members aren't filtered by availability. You can organize by name, location, title, and role, but when it comes to wanting to contact someone that is immediately available, Teams is lacking.
What I Want
After about a month to play around with Microsoft Teams, I've got a list of complaints that I could go on and on about. Granted, the same could be said for praises. To minimize the amount of ranting, I've decided on three focus points that I want to see improved the most.
Minimal UI - The current Teams software is clunky. Much like other Windows 10 software, it loves its square tiles and bold headers. This might make it easier to navigate, but as time goes by, it tends to get in the way more than it helps. I'd like to see a compact version that minimizes the amount of dead space, makes icons smaller and looks more professional. Teams should be a quick and efficient to use software for businesses, and some of us work better without the bells and whistles. Currently, this idea needs feedback on UserVoice.
Sub-teams/Roles - In Microsoft Teams, you have few options for customizing your workplace. When a team is made, there is one role that controls all of those sub-channels. This also means that it is limited to tagging that one team, essentially as an @all feature. What I want to see is a way to have a single team, and within those channels be able to tag @Admins, @Editors, @Writers. Currently, this potential feature hasn't been addressed as of yet. Instead, it seems users are encouraged to make private teams. But this is a different monster entirely. These private teams cannot be mentioned in another team's conversation threads, rendering them useless. Sub-teams and roles would also fix another requested feature on UserVoice: more efficient permission handling.
Full Planner Integration - This is obviously a personal vendetta of my own. After all, not every business is going to use Planner as their main integration hub. However, for our setup, Planner is nearly essential even if it is lacking. Described as "Planner Lite" by other UserVoice members, this integration has performance issues between its web interface and Teams. It lacks the features that Planners has, can be unreliable, and cannot even be accessed unless you use a link from the tab in Teams to access the web interface. This feature has been 'Planned' in UserVoice since last November.
The switch to Microsoft Teams takes some of getting used to, that is for certain. We're still just getting started though, poking and prodding at what we can do in the software to improve our behind the scenes writing. While I fully believe in the longevity of Office 365 products, there's a part of me that is pining for the features in the previous OnMSFT setup. Until then, I've found my soapbox on the easily accessible UserVoice feedback forums, conveniently placed as a big square button in Teams, and I refuse to relent!