Microsoft Teams: a self contained virtual collab-lab


Why do we even need another new technology when employees are happy and comfortable, using emails”

The question (and the preceding discussion) was about Microsoft Teams and came from one of our customers during a recent customer engagement conversation. It’s a valid question, one that we hear practically every day – not only from our customers but also from our internal teams.

Why shift from something, when it really works? 

Technically there are several reasons that underscore the merits of this transition – collaboration, aggregation of all productivity capabilities in one application, security, quality of interface, creating more time etc. Yet, as I stood there thinking on how to respond, my mind was racing to find a simpler narrative to make this argument plausible.

As I looked around the plush Executive Business Center room, I had this epiphany. Here’s how the narrative went,

Our world today: email as the primary medium of communication (fig 1):

Our emails are like meeting rooms (A).

  • If we must send an email to this group, its like getting into a room (A) and sharing some information (along with some files or additional content – that stays in that room). Now, if anyone responds as “reply all”, they create another room where they share another set of information. So, every time we communicate using an email its like going into a conference room, every reply is an adjacent room and every attachment is a bunch of reference material that we use and leave behind in the respective room
  •  When there are any off shoots or side conversations, generating additional emails within a smaller group within the larger group, these create additional rooms (B)
  •  Over time information, notes, insights, files, content etc. reside in these rooms (mails) or in separate rooms/vaults (C) (our own computers or externally in shared storage spaces – SharePoint, OneDrive, OneNote etc.). Similarly, our chats and calls are independent activities, and insights or decisions created in those either do not get saved or stored as above.

Our organization today is all about multiple project teams, workgroups, cohorts etc., who need to operate within a closed inner loop. Within this loop, to search for information, notes or files (that were shared), entails searching through all these multiple rooms and vaults (either by physically opening each of them or by using some sort of search command), which either results in higher email time or repetitive efforts to reshare information.

Imagine physically running through each of the rooms and rummaging through all the stuff kept in each of them to figure out the right stuff that we need for use. It’s pretty much like that experience.

Also, if a new member has to be inducted into the project midway, imagine the complexity involved – one has to find all the relevant material from respective rooms or vaults or calendars or notes to share with them as individual files or links for them to get up to speed.

Needless to say, security across can be a complex subject when the project is sensitive.

 Future: Microsoft Teams (fig 2):

Now, imagine as a project team or workgroup or functional cohort, being in one big (secure) room – a virtual Collab-Lab (instead of multiple rooms or vaults or video conferencing centers etc.,) with the ability to:

  • converse and communicate (using different medium like chat, video, meetings) across one big table (A)
  • share and store all the content, that gets shared within the team in a central vault right within the room (B)
  • record notes, plan our schedules, track our progress, share fun sentiments, and do much (much) more (C)
  • have smaller side conversations with a sub group, on a sub topic, in a corner of this big room (channels) (D)
  • induct a new team member quickly with immediate access to historical conversations, notes, files, and other important information (E)

So, now searching for anything is to just a search within this one big room – simpler, easier, cleaner and less time consuming.

The idea of this virtual all-inclusive Collab-Lab that empowered teams with more productivity and time, seem to resonate deeply with the customer team.

The modern workplace or “new world of work” as we have come to know it as, is all about creating time for doing more with our lives. The real power of technology will be measured with how much it helps us do with our time.

Microsoft Teams is right up there in empowering us to achieve more.          

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The article was first published on LinkedIn

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