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Look who’s five: The rise of Microsoft Teams

March 14th marked the five-year anniversary of the general availability of Microsoft Teams. The platform was originally pitched as an ‘experience that brings together people, conversations and content—along with the tools that teams need—so they can easily collaborate to achieve more’. Now it has become the go-to communication platform for over half a million organisations in more than 180 countries worldwide.

With a modest 2 million users back in 2017, Teams has rocketed to success, increasing to over 270 million users by the end of 2021. That’s impressive growth by anyone’s standards. As Microsoft Teams hits the five-year milestone, it’s a poignant time to explore the reasons it has experienced such a boom, why it has become the platform of choice for businesses across the globe, and its emerging role in the future of work.

The pandemic effect

Let’s start with the obvious – the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020 businesses were forced to shift their working practices online, almost overnight. Suddenly, workers found themselves without the ability to meet and collaborate in person and technology needed to fill the void. As such, deploying an effective cloud-based collaboration platform became a priority for many.

A number of contenders stepped up to the mark – Zoom and Slack amongst others – but Microsoft Teams saw the greatest uptake, increasing its user base by 40 million in the first six months of the pandemic and another 30 million in the six months after that.

One of the main attractions of Microsoft Teams was the seamless access to multiple communication and collaboration channels, which made it a viable alternative to traditional office interactions. The informal chat stream allowed users to quickly fire off questions to colleagues just as they would have done in the office, video calls could replace longer internal conversations, and integration with the outlook calendar facilitated the organisation of more formalised meetings through video conferencing.

In fact, the shift to online collaboration has proved so successful in the short-term, that many businesses are now advocating these benefits as part of a long-term hybrid working strategy. Microsoft Teams forms a key part of this landscape, which is why its user base continues to grow.

Easy collaboration

Ease of use is central to the successful adoption and onboarding of new tools, and from the outset Microsoft Teams had that particular box ticked. Built with a familiar Microsoft look and feel, users could easily navigate the Teams interface to engage their colleagues as they needed, launching new chats and video calls in a couple of clicks. This had the added effect of reducing internal communications via Outlook, helping employees to be more focused with their emails and avoiding overcrowded inboxes. What’s more, the cloud-based nature of Teams allows users to easily switch between locations and devices to maintain continuity in their interactions on the go, something that was especially beneficial in the immediate fallout of the shift to flexible working.

Ever-improving features

Microsoft Teams is constantly adapting to the needs of users, with new feature releases announced every month. This flexibility has been crucial to the success of the tool during the pandemic, as organisations came up against new challenges with working and educating remotely.

Reactions, GIFs and emojis have enabled more expression in digital communications, helping to maintain relationships outside the office environment. The inclusion of more languages and addition of accessibility features have made the platform more inclusive and able to support a wider range of users in both business and educational settings. The introduction of breakout rooms was a huge step forward for educators who could more closely replicate classroom teaching methods, whilst being able to create separate channels externally helped organisations better collaborate with customers and suppliers.

The working landscape remains fluid as businesses settle into their post-pandemic strategies. Now, new features are helping the platform become more sophisticated as it seeks to meet the needs of office-based, hybrid, remote and global teams.

365 integration

Of course, one of the big selling points of Microsoft Teams is that it is included in your 365 subscription and works seamlessly with Microsoft’s suite of productivity services to improve collaboration. Integrations with OneDrive and SharePoint means that users are able to view and edit documents all from one platform, and may do so collaboratively with other members of their team. And because it’s fully cloud-based, they can do so wherever they are, from any device.

Synching with the Outlook calendar streamlines the organisation of meetings, with recordings and transcripts stored in Teams for easy access. Depending on the Microsoft apps you use for your business operations, there are a whole host of integrations with tools such as planner and Power BI which make Teams fully customisable.

Microsoft Teams and the future of hybrid work

It might be their birthday, but Microsoft Teams is doing the giving, with the announcement of new features to celebrate the five-year milestone. The immediate goal is to help businesses ‘make hybrid work work.’  Here are some of the features announced this month:

  • Outlook RSVP will allow users to respond to a meeting invite indicating whether they’ll be attending virtually or in person.
  • PowerPoint Recording Studio and Cameo allows you to record a presentation in Teams for colleagues or customers to watch back later. And you can choose if and when to appear in your own slides with Cameo.
  • Teams rooms with front row presents the video gallery at the bottom of the screen so in-room participants can see remote colleagues face-to-face — almost as if they were in the same room.
  • Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera is the first AI-powered camera from Microsoft with automatic framing, ultra-wide field of view, and image optimisation designed to give remote attendees a first-class view of what’s happening regardless of conference room size or configuration.
  • Teams Connect lets you establish seamless, secure and trusted collaboration across multiple organisations in a matter of minutes, where everyone can work as one extended team while staying in their own Teams environment and without having to change tenants.
  • The Viva Inspiration Library will provide resources to help employees make the most of their workday, whilst guiding managers and leaders as they define their teams’ new normal.

Teams has undoubtedly cemented its place as a central component of the modern workplace, and understanding the role it can play within your business is the first step to realising the benefits.

If you’d like to get more from Microsoft Teams, or learn how you can build its tools and functionality into your own workplace strategy, talk to us today.