Microsoft Teams is a new collaboration tool that is transforming the way people work and collaborate around the world. It reached more than 44 million active users in 2020 Q1 and does not show any signs of slowing down.
Workers spend part of their day switching between platforms to chat with their peers, access the project’s documentation, schedule meetings, share files, and more. All of these tasks can be finally centralized in a single workspace, and that workspace is Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft has a lot of experience with communication and collaboration tools and Microsoft Teams is an evolution of their previous solutions. Teams inherits all the experience and know-how acquired from other Microsoft enterprise solutions over the last 20 years and is the natural successor of Microsoft Lync and Skype for Business.
If you are reading this book, you have probably asked yourself – Why Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams connects the dots between other Microsoft services and applications used in business environments, empowers users to achieve more, reduces the associated costs, and boosts employee engagement.
If you want to embrace the modern workplace journey and give your teams a boost using Microsoft Teams, this book is for you.
In this chapter, we are going to cover the following topics:
- Accessing Microsoft Teams
- How to sign in on Microsoft Teams
- What does Microsoft Teams look like?
- What is a team?
- What is a channel?
- What is a tab?
If you do not have access to an Office 365 subscription and still want to implement Microsoft Teams, you can start with the free version, but be aware of its limitations. The following table shows a comparison between the free and paid versions that might help you decide which version suits your needs:
As you can see, the free version of Microsoft Teams has some limitations and it might not suit all scenarios. However, if you are building a proof of concept to drive the adoption of the platform, it can be a starting point. A detailed and updated comparison of all the Teams versions can be found online at https://products.office.com/en/microsoft-teams/free.
Teams is available for a variety of platforms. You can use it through any of the following:
- A web browser
- A desktop application
- A mobile application
Each version has its own specifications and features, so be aware that your experience of Teams might be different if you’re using it on multiple devices. To get the best experience while using Microsoft Teams, it’s recommended to use the native clients for mobile and desktop.
Microsoft Teams is available as a web app and can be accessed directly from a browser by going to https://teams.microsoft.com. The web version allows you to use the main functionalities of Microsoft Teams, but you might face some limitations, depending on the browser you are using:
*1Incoming sharing only.
When accessing the Microsoft Teams web app for the first time, you will have to bypass the download app screen by clicking the Use web app instead link:
The Microsoft Teams client for Windows supports 32-bit and 64-bit architectures; unlike other office apps, it is agnostic of the architecture of the version of Microsoft Office you have installed and does not require administrator privileges to be installed. This is because the application is deployed in the user’s profile folder, that is, AppData.
The Microsoft Teams client for Linux is available for Debian distributions and for Red Hat-based distributions. The installation packages are provided in DEB format (for Debian) and RPM format (for Red Hat).
Linux has a lot of different distributions but among the most used ones are Ubuntu, which are based on the Debian distribution package, and CentOS and Fedora, which are based on the Red Hat distribution package.
To install Microsoft Teams on Linux, you need to have the minimum requirements listed in the following table:
The Android version of Microsoft Teams is available for download on the Google Play Store and is compatible with the last four major versions of Android.
Depending on the evolution of the Android operating system, the support for Microsoft Teams can be extended to older versions. To find out what the latest version supported is, you can check the requirements for Microsoft Teams on the Google Play Store.
The iOS version of Microsoft Teams is available for download on the Apple App Store and is compatible with the last two major versions of iOS. Microsoft Teams is compatible with all iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
For example, iOS is on version 13, which means that Microsoft Teams is officially supported on iOS 11 or higher.
Depending on the evolution of the iOS operating system, the support for Microsoft Teams can be extended to older versions. To find out what the latest version support is, you can check the requirements for Microsoft Teams on the Apple App Store.
When you first open the Microsoft Teams application, you will be asked for your email, as shown in the following screenshot. Once you’ve typed in your email, click on Sign in. When you do this, the application will request your password:
When using the web version of Microsoft Teams, the sign-in process is a bit different. The first thing you need to do is type https://teams.microsoft.com into the address bar of your browser.
If you are not authenticated with your email account for any Microsoft service, you will be redirected to the default federation authentication page, which looks as follows:
You will need to provide your email and click on Next. After doing that, provide your password and click on Sign in.
The sign-in process in the mobile client is fairly similar and you will need to provide your email and password to go through the authentication process.
The following screenshot represents the web or desktop version of Microsoft Teams. All the major components are identified with numbers:
- App bar: By default, the app bar shows Activity, Chat, Teams, Calendar, Calls, and Files. These are the main default features of Microsoft Teams. This bar can be customized, and a Microsoft Teams administrator can add more apps to it and define the position of new apps. However, the default apps cannot be removed. If a new app is added to the first six positions, the default app is moved to the submenu, which can be accessed through the … icon.
- Left pane: The context of the left pane changes according to the app that is selected. From this pane, you can access your contacts, chats, and teams. The left pane is not used by all Microsoft Teams apps; apps such as the calendar only make use of the stage section.
- Stage: The stage is where the main content of the app is displayed. It is from this section that you will chat with your colleagues and send or download files, among other things.
- New Chat: This button allows you to start a new conversation with one user or with multiple users. The conversations will then appear in the Chat app.
- Search and Commands: The search box has two functionalities built into it. It allows you to perform a global search on Microsoft Teams for files, people, and messages and also allows you to use commands to perform common tasks. To use a command, type / into the text box and choose a command from the list.
- Profile and settings: Your avatar allows access to personal settings. From this option, you will be able to change your current status, which indicates your availability. It also allows you to access your saved messages and configure the global options of the Microsoft Teams app.
- Filters: The filter option works in the context of the app you have selected, and it will show the results in the left pane.
Microsoft Teams is also available for mobile devices, but because of the smaller screen size, the app's layout is different. Not all desktop features are available in the mobile version, though Microsoft is adding them gradually to mobile apps. The following screenshot represents the mobile version of Microsoft Teams. All the main components are identified with numbers:
Let’s take a look at the different components, all of which have been numbered in the preceding screenshot:
- App bar: By default, the app bar shows Activity, Chat, Teams, Calendar, Calls, and these apps cannot be modified. To view the other apps, you need to swipe the app bar up and the app icons will appear inside a panel.
- Stage: The stage on mobile displays the information from the desktop left pane and from the stage area. The stage has several levels and allows you navigate inside of your teams or chats.
- Tab: By default, the app shows the Chat and Files tabs. Any other tabs that exist in the channel are displayed when you click on More.
- Menu: The menu allows you to access the personal settings. From here, you will be able to change your current status, which indicates your availability. It also allows you to access your saved messages and configure the global options of the Microsoft Teams app. From the menu, you can also select all the tenants where you logged on to Microsoft Teams. This option allows you to switch between organizations and currently is only available on the mobile app.
- Search and tools: The search icon a magnifying glass, allows you to search globally in the Microsoft Teams app. The cog icon allows you to select the Teams you want to see by default, while the + icon allows you to join or create a team.
- Follow channel: This option allows you to receive notifications from the channels you follow to avoid losing important information.
Now that you are familiar with the look of Microsoft Teams on desktop and mobile, it’s time to understand its main components as explained in the following sections.
A team is a group of people that can represent a department, a project, a class, or even a sports team. Besides grouping people, Teams also gathers a set of tools that allows members to share information and work together.
The following scenarios will be used to explain the ways you can tailor team creation for a specific team’s requirements. I’ve tried to add as many examples as possible from multiple sectors, even though they may not fit in the overall setup of the book, just so that you are be able to connect these scenarios with your own realities.
Team Scenario #1 –Mary the marketing manager
Mary is the marketing manager for a multinational company leading a global marketing team currently working on a worldwide campaign for the holidays.Mary has created a team in Microsoft Teams that allows her to do the following:• Keep conversations about the campaign with other members of the marketing department.• Share documents about the campaign.• Invite guest members to the team who will produce the TV commercials to keep them updated with the campaign ideas.• Access the campaign tasks to each member.
Team Scenario #2 – Geno the basketball coach
Geno is a college basketball coach preparing for a new season. As the head coach, he wants to make communicating and sharing information between team members easier. Geno has decided to create a team on Microsoft Teams that allows him to do the following:• Keep all the team members, players, coaches, and physical therapists in communication with each other on the same channel.• Schedule practices.• Share the games calendar.• Share the results from other teams and the standings.• Share scouting videos.
Creating a new team is the first step to taking advantage of the collaborative features Microsoft Teams offers. This can be done from all app types, although the options might appear in different locations, depending on the operating system you’re using.
To create a new empty team using the web or desktop version of Microsoft Teams, do the following:
- Open the Microsoft Teams App.
- On the app bar, click on Teams.
- Click on Join or create a team or click on the Create a team tile, as shown in the following screenshot:
- On the Create your team popup, you can choose between the options shown in the following screenshot:
(a) Build a team from scratch: This option will create an empty team with a chat, a document library, and a wiki.
(b) Create from an existing Office 365 group or team: This option allows you to create a team from an existing Office 365 group or use an existing team as a template for your new team.
- As a team owner, you can choose from three different levels of privacy for the team, as shown in the following screenshot:
Let’s explain these options in more detail:
(b) Public: Anyone in the organization can join and the team can be discovered through the Microsoft Teams app.
(c) Org-Wide: Everyone in the organization is added to the team automatically and is kept in sync with the Active Directory as more users join or leave the organization. This option is only available for environments with less than 5,000 users and only global admins will be able to create org-wide teams.
- Provide a name and a description for your team and click the Create button:
- Wait a few seconds for the success message to appear. Now, you are ready to start adding members to your newly created team.
- Follow the preceding steps until step 4.
- Select Create from an existing Office 365 group or team.
- Select either Team or Office 365 group. Both options will show you a list of the teams or groups that you have access to:
- Pick the desired team or group:
- When a new team is created from an existing team, you will have the option to control everything that is related to it. This includes the following:
- When a new team is created from Office 365 groups, it inherits the settings from the group, namely the following:
- Click the Create button. Now, you are ready to start using your new team.
Microsoft Teams is tightly connected to other Office 365 applications and makes use of some of them to provide a rich collaboration environment every time a new team is created. The following are created when you create a team:
- A new Office 365 group
- A SharePoint site collection
- A shared calendar and a shared mailbox
- A OneNote notebook
- A Microsoft Stream group
- A Microsoft Forms group
- These can be seen in the following diagram:
- Select your team and click on the … icon.
- On the dropdown, click Add Member.
- Start typing in the name or group you want to add.
- While typing, you will get suggestions regarding users that belong to your organization. Find the user you want to add and click on them. If guest access is enabled on your tenant, you will be able to add members to the team that don’t belong to the organization. To do this, type in the person’s email and select Add <email> as a guest:
- Once the users have been added to the team, a post will be automatically made in the general channel to let everyone know about the new members.
Guest users are identified by the word (Guest) in front of their name and will not be displayed with a profile picture. To clearly identify a guest user, make sure they are added with a legible name. Microsoft Teams will suggest a name based on the email, but while adding the guest to the Team, you have the opportunity to rename them.
To change the name of a guest user, click on the pencil icon and type in a new name, as shown in the following screenshot. You might want to consider adding the organization of the user to their name in case you have users with the same name from different organizations:
By default, all teams are created with the General channel, which includes the conversations tab, files, and wiki.
Channels are public by default, but if it's been enabled by the administrator, it is also possible to create private channels. Private channels will be explained in detail in Chapter 5, Public versus Private – Teams and Channels.
Channel Scenario #1 – Mary the marketing manager
Mary is working with the company designers to create advertisements for a campaign. To avoid distracting other members of the team and to keep the information about this topic centralized, Mary has created a new channel.In the new channel, the team members working on the advertisements are doing the following:
• Chatting about the ideas to promote the campaign • Sharing files, either specifications or the design files of the several concepts
Channel Scenario #2 – Geno the basketball coach
Geno has created his team ahead of the start of the season and is organizing a pre-season plan with his assistant coaches. Before adding the athletes to the team, Geno has created a Pre-Season channel so that he has/can do the following:• Have a common place where the pre-season schedule can be shared.• Communicate with the athletes and other staff member once the pre-season starts.
- Select the team and click on the … icon.
- Click on Add Channel.
- Give a name to the channel, as well as an alternative description to help team members understand the topic or purpose of the channel.
- Select if you want to automatically show the channel to the channel list of the team members:
When a public channel is created, it creates a folder in the document library of the team SharePoint site collection. Each new channel gets its own folder in the document library to keep files organized by topic.
Creating a channel also generates an email address that can be used to send messages directly to the conversations that are occurring on the team.
To get the email address for the channel, do the following:
- Select the channel and click on the … icon.
- Click on Get email address. A popup will open and reveal the email address.
The use of email addresses can be restricted to avoid receiving unwanted messages in the chat window. To do this, from the Get email address popup, click on the advanced settings link and select one of the available options:
- Anyone can send emails to this address
- Only members of this team
- Only emails sent from these domains:
If you want to disable the email functionality of the channel, in the same popup, there is a link to remove it. Once the email has been removed, the option to get the email address will disappear from the dropdown.
In this section, you have learned how to create your own structure inside a team. In the following section , you will learn how to refine your structure even further using tabs.
Tabs allow team members to access tools and content in the context of a channel inside a team. Tabs also allow team members to have conversations in the context of a tab to discuss the content the tab is displaying.
On Microsoft Teams, you will find two types of tabs: the built-in ones that come by default with the application and the custom ones that are added by apps that have been installed on Microsoft Teams, either from the store or manually uploaded.
Tab Scenario #1 – Mary the marketing manager
Mary wants to make sure the advertisements for the campaign are on track and to do this, she’s added a new tab to the channel with Microsoft Planner, along with the tasks of each designer.
Tab Scenario #2 – Geno the basketball coach
Geno continues to prepare for the season. He wants to share the plays and the plan for his practice sessions with the players without printing everything out. Geno has added two tabs to the Pre-Season channel for the following reasons:•To add a OneNote document with all the plays and practice sessions.•To add a YouTube video showing the plays.
- Open the channel where you want to add a new tab.
- On the stage section, next to the Conversation and Files tab, click on the + icon:
- From the Add a tab popup, select one of the available apps.
- If the app is not installed on Microsoft Teams yet, click on the Add button.
- Configure the tab by following the options available in the form. Each app will present different options.
- Click Save.
Using tabs, you will be able to create your custom structure inside of your channel. This flexibility allows you to adapt Microsoft Teams to virtually any scenario from any industry.
In this chapter, you learned about the basic concepts and operations of Microsoft Teams. Now, you are ready to start building your own teams. We can compare Microsoft Teams components to the Russian dolls with the Team, Channel, and Tab structure being the nested components inside of a team structure.
The three base concepts of Microsoft Teams are organized hierarchically and have dependencies between them. A tab can only exist inside of a channel and a channel can only exist inside of a team. This structure gives you the flexibility you need to build your teams by following the internal organization of companies or schools.
In the next chapter, you will learn how to use the main features of Microsoft Teams to communicate with other Teams members.