13 Hacks to up your Productivity with Microsoft Teams

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So have we got 13 juicy top tips and hacks for you on Microsoft Teams? …… Actually No!….we have many more listed under the 12 headings below!!

This posts contains some fantastic top hints, tips, hacks and guidance on how to get the most of teams, and the best thing of all….this is just scratching the surface.

Microsoft Teams is the product of the moment and is constantly being improved and added to. People are still learning how best to use it and get the most from it in its current feature set and like all good products it is so flexible it can be used in many different ways to meet your business or team needs.

I hope this helps you all and if you think of any other must share tips please add them to the comments and the best ones we will add to the blog post crediting the author. So lets get started: 

1. Meetings with external / Guest users in Microsoft Teams

Many people will have used Skype for business by adding it to meetings directly into the invite in Outlook, a really useful feature. Well now you can do that with Microsoft Teams and pretty much the same way:

 Question and Answer from Ingeborg Hawighorst:  What needs to be in place for the “New Teams Meeting” to show up in the Outlook ribbon?: If you have the Teams Desktop client installed, Outlook will see an add-in for Teams, which will automatically be enabled. If you don’t have the desktop client installed, you won’t be able to see the ribbon icon.

As you can see from the screen shot below the meeting invite has the link to the Teams meeting at the bottom for attendees to click on when the meeting time comes, in the same way it would if using Skype for Business.

So who can attend these meetings?…

Well one of the really neat things is that anyone with an email address really….So there are a few ways users outside and inside your organisation can take part in your Teams meeting, here are the 3 main ones:

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i. A User With No Microsoft Account at all – Just Need An Email

Anyone with an email, internet connection can access the call via the browser, simply by clicking the ‘Join on Web’ button:

Whilst the resulting interface is quite restricted for the attendee on the web, you cannot share camera or screen, but can view other members shared screens, it is still a really good way to have a conference call in Teams….without all attendees being in Teams.

ii. A User With any Office365 account, as a Guest User

If you have an MS account then you can still use the web link as above however by click the ‘Open Microsoft Teams’ option and signing in with your MS account you will get a much richer user experience of a meeting within Teams. 

iii. Anyone with a Phone

You are able to have dial-in conference options so people can join your meetings in Microsoft Teams from almost any device, anywhere. You need to have Audio Conferencing with this which comes with Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscription or available on a pay-per-minute basis as an add-on to Office 365 E1 or E3 subscription. Where the Audio Conferencing is enabled users will automatically see the dial in options for Microsoft Teams meetings that are created.

Take a look at this blog post for some further info on Meeting with Microsoft Teams

2. Scheduling meetings from within Teams

Ok closely related to number 1, however the simple features are always the best in my view so figured it was worth its own number.

You can schedule meetings from within teams.  From within a team or channel you can click the small camera icon to meet now, or using the same icon you can also choose to schedule a meeting as you would in Outlook. You can also see your calendar and meetings within teams by clicking the meetings icon.

You get this window:

 

It has the Teams channel you are meeting ‘in’, the ability to use the Schedule assistant as you can in Outlook and the ability to select the people you would like to invite from your organisation. Once scheduled the result is a calendar invite in Outlook with the relevant Teams link in it to click and join the meeting when the time comes and will also display in Teams when you click on the meetings icon.

A really cool thing about the calendar in Teams is that you can start a Teams chat with the meeting attendees before the actually meeting, really useful for preparation and planning of meetings.

3. Guests – The other stuff they can do

So the above meeting functionality shows that there are various features you or your guest can make use of in your Teams, providing some great ways of working with people outside of your orginisation. Well it doesn’t stop there, Guests can participate in channels, conversations, chats, and meetings; they can share files in channels, add new channels, and use the Wiki…..Providing some fantastic Collaboration Opportunities.

Note: Guest access is available on the desktop, web, and Android apps, and is coming soon for iOS.

As mentioned above all a user needs have to be a Guest is to have an email with an Office 365 account.  Once you have this, adding a guest can be done by a Team owner and is almost too simple!

Click on the 3 dots  ‘…’ next to the team you want to add them to, be sure it is the correct one.  As I say above it is almost too simple and you could easily add someone to the wrong team and get into all sorts of trouble. Then in the window that pops up, just enter the email and click add….you can add more than one at a time in the same window.

What can a guest do?

So from the Micosoft Teams FAQs site as at time of writing the Guest permissions are best described with the table below

Capability

Team member

Guest

Create a channel

checkmark

checkmark

Participate in a private chat

checkmark

checkmark

Participate in a channel conversation

checkmark

checkmark

Share a channel file

checkmark

checkmark

Share a chat file

checkmark

 

Add apps (such as tabs, bots, or connectors)

checkmark

 

Can be invited via any work or school account for Office 365

 

checkmark

Create a team

checkmark

 

Delete or edit posted messages

checkmark

checkmark

Discover and join public teams

checkmark

 

Post in the General channel

checkmark

checkmark

View org chart

checkmark

 

You can also manage guest permissions via the ‘Manage Team’ option, again by clicking on the the 3 dots ‘…’ next to the team.

So in this menu you can, see your members, add and delete members, manage channels, manage settings and manage Apps.  With a mix of the Guest permission and the other settings you can choose to set the team up to be fully interactive with all members and guests or you can really lock down to just the owner being able to post – giving a great announcement or information channel.

All in all the functionality and Collaboration that Guest access enables for users and organisations is fantastic! 

4. Apps and Actions from the Command Box

The search bar at the top is hiding more than just search functionality, it has some great ‘shortcut’ app and command options, some of which are really useful… A great shortcut key to get to the bar is ALT+E

All you have to do to see what’s on offer is type ‘/’ for the commands, most work standalone and some that work with apps or ‘@’ to see the Apps commands. The apps will require installing and setup on first use, but it’s very quick to do.

Once the apps are installed they can also be accessed by clicking on the ‘…’ at the bottom of the conversation window. This allows you to share the search result, or item from the relevant app in the conversation, this can be a very powerful way to interact with Apps and your teams. – Take a look at this blog post on working with Apps in MS Teams– 

So back to the Command Bar….the shortcuts in here can be really useful,  and let’s face it they are only going to grow and get more useful as time goes on. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • /whatsnew – This has to be the most useful one given the speed that MS release changes these days. This takes you to the Release notes tab in the T-Bot channel. Worth a regular check.
  • @Wikipedia – Allows you to do a Wikipedia search. Returns a summary that you can click on to go to the full Wikipedia page.
  • /goto – If you have a lot of teams or channels or spend a lot of time, as I do, in the Chat part of teams then this is good way to hop straight to your destination.
  • /files – Shows your recent files and allows you to search and go to the file you want rather than having to click around your teams.
  • /keys – This is a shortcut to show shortcuts. Nice quick reference for the MS Teams Keyboard Shortcuts
  • /call This allows you to type the first few letters of the person you want to call and select them to call. In big organisations this could be very time saving
  • /help – Pretty self explanatory and simple. A really good quick way to ask a question of the Teams help via the T-Bot
  • /saved – This takes you straight to your list of saved messages.

As you can see these are just a few of the good basic ones to use, however there are an ever growing list to take advantage of.

5. Microsoft Teams T-Bot

The T-Bot is the resident Microsoft Teams Bot, and is actually quite a good means of figuring out how to get things done and what is possible. I have been using Teams for months now and I still pop the odd question to the T-Bot. 

The really cool thing is that the T-Bot will learn over time, meaning it will get better at answering your questions as time goes on. 

So whilst T-Bot is fundamentally the interface to the Teams help, it provides a glimpse and probably everyones first experience of what is a much wider subject, Bots In Microsoft Teams. There are already many Bot options to choose from in the ‘Store’ from task management, productivity and HR Bots, have a look and see if any can help you. Additionally you can also build your own Bots. Take a look at this blog post on Building Your First Bot in Teams.

6. Chats and Conversations best bits

So we all know how chat works and can pretty much do it without thinking, but I figured it was worth putting together a list of basic and best bits for Chats and Conversations in Teams.

Chats – These are done via the Chat tab on the left hand menu and are more traditional chats where you can have 1 to 1 or group chats probably best compared to a chat in domestic Skype.

Conversations – Whilst on the face of it very similar to chats, this gives some structure to your conversation, to allow better collaboration in a more focused way. The interface is very similar to chat however with some subtle differences worth mentioning, so below is an example of a couple of conversations with in a channel:

As you can see there can be several conversations going on at once, around specific subjects or documents, if used correctly this really helps keep track of conversations, here are some tips for conversations:

  • Reply – The ‘Reply’ option under each conversation should be used to add further points to that conversation.
  • New Conversation – The bottom chat entry is used to start a new chat, this is the one most commonly used incorrectly to reply to conversation above.
  • Conversation on a Document – To start the conversation on an existing document, open the document in teams and then click ‘Start Converation’ at the top. To start on a new document simply click the paperclip and upload the document, this will start the conversation and upload the document to the files tab at the same time.
  • Subject – When creating a conversation it is good to add a subject – By Clicking the ‘A’ icon you get more edit options. Adding the title helps keep focus and context to that conversation.
  • @mention – Also when starting a conversation or asking a specific question it’s good to use the @mention  functionality to either get the whole channels attention, by using the name of the channel, or a given team member name. The relevant people then get alerted to this new reply or conversation.
  • GIFs – In both chat and converation if it is enabled on your Microsoft Teams by the administrator you can brighten up everyones day and use the GIFs. Just click the GIF icon and have a look around, dont blame me if it distracts you from your work for a while.
  • Meetings – I have already mentioned this earlier in the post, but worth a mention again – you can also click the camera icon here to ether start a meeting now or schedule one for the future.

7. Save Messages or Bookmarks

This is a really useful piece of functionality that allows you to save a particular message, or more accurately a position in a conversation or chat,  just by clicking on the sash icon at the top of the message:

 

Then you can recall all your saved messages by clicking on your profile picture top right and selecting ‘Saved’ or possibly quicker would be to type in the command bar /saved. This gives you a list of all your saved points and on clicking on them takes you back to the point in the conversation you saved from.

8. Navigation Buttons (< >)

The simple tips are the best!!

When I first started using teams my impression was that is was great but did have some challenges in regards to multitasking. Every time I went from working in a tab in a given team to continue a chat by clicking on the chat icon and then have to go back I would always then have to click all the way thought back to where i was…..I was missing something, these:

So when I have come from another channel because someone messages me or similar, I can easily click back, and also forward again so as to toggle. I’m finding this vastly improves my Teams Experience.

9. Tabs

So a must for productivity and ease of access within your working group is taking advantage of the tabs within your Teams and Channels. From Simply exposing a website or file to be easily accessible through to more complex Apps to manage work and help with day to day activities.

All you need to do to add a tab is click the ‘+’ sign on the right hand side of your Channel and then search for what it is you want to add in, the main MS Apps or at the top with the remainder lower down.:

There are too many to mention them all, however here are some of the ways I have found tabs useful in Teams:

  • Simply Exposing Office documents or Websites on a tab for quick reference – I have found this useful in a number of scenarios from quick access to templates through to tracking spreadsheets of various kinds. In fact we recently placed the Collab365 Teams live show onto a tab in our Collab365 Teams based Teams Community (so far with over 500 Members in as Guests to our tenant), a lot of teams in that sentence!
  • Task Management – Here at Collab365 we have used tabs to expose both Microsoft Planner and tools like trello, depending on the audience involved – The quick access to tasks and scheduling is really useful. There are more complex task and project management Apps that you can use from the store.
  • OneNote – for those that love OneNote you can create a OneNote tab and off you go using OneNote within your Channel.
  • Forms – Simply select ‘Forms’ and you can easily create a very powerful form / survey that can be managed in teams and with a tweak of the share permissions shared and filled in by anyone that has the link. The responses can be seen on the tab by the form owner and also stored in a spreadsheet in the files tab.
  • Expose any existing SharePoint Document Library – Simply select the ‘SharePoint’ icon fill in site URL, select the document library you want from the list, give the tab a name, and you have the library exposed in a Teams channel.

That is just a few of the tabs we have found useful, however you only have to look at the number of Apps in the store to know there are going to be tools of all shapes and sizes, have a look around.

10. Don’t put all your eggs in ‘General’

When you first start using Teams it is tempting to keep everything in the General channel of your team, adding tab after tab for each need you come across. Now in some circumstances with small teams this is fine however in most it will lead to confusion and making it hard to find stuff. 

So here are some recommendations:

  • Think of the General channel as the landing page for your Team the hub for the high level interaction.
  • Then for each subject area or main function create a new Channel.
  • When adding a tab to General, always ask yourself would this work better as its own channel or within another channel.
  • The more tabs you add to General the less people will find them. So try the rule that when the number of tabs doesn’t fit on your standard working screen size ( different for everyone) start thinking about flipping the tabs to existing or new channels.

11. How to publish an RSS feed post to Microsoft Teams as a Card (using Zapier)

For those that don’t know we at Collab365 run a “Community Team” on our Teams Tenant and one of the challenges we wanted to solve was adding the Collab365 Today posts to a channel and for them to look nice (as cards)….. Read More 

12. Some useful Links

This is it for the list of hacks to help you out, however I just wanted to add some other useful some other resources that might just help you with your quest to learn more about Teams:

  • A great live show on the community on Microsoft Teams 
  • Microsofts interactive teams demo – https://teamsdemo.office.com/
  • Combined Knowledge do some fantastic courses, take a look. Here is one on Groups and Teams
  • IWMentor Ultimate training package has amongst other fantastic courses some Teams courses and I am sure will have more in the future – Ultimate Package
  • Microsoft’s Support site has some great resources including the really useful Micosoft Teams FAQs

That’s all folks, I hope you found this useful and don’t forget if you think of any other must share tips please add them to the comments and we will add the best ones to the blog post crediting the author.

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13 Hacks to up your Productivity with Microsoft Teams

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About The Author
- I have over 15 years in the IT industry mainly as a Project Manager working across many disciplines and industries including Finance, Local Government and Manufacturing. As a Product Manager for Collaboris I work on our policy and document management products DocRead and DocSurvey, however my main focus is on the Collab365 Community and Collab365 MicroJobs. Along with managing the constant change and improvements I coordinate all the communications issued by the community including the weekly newsletter and social buzz. I also deal with the Partner opportunities within Collab365, so if you are interested in becoming a partner get in touch!

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