Guest post by one of our legal IT support clients.
I’m an attorney who owns a law practice with four offices throughout the state of Virginia. It’s essential that my employees and I stay connected on the cases we work on. I’m on the road a lot, so this isn’t always easy to do. However, I recently discovered Microsoft Teams. I can’t tell you how much it has helped me keep everyone on the same page.
It took me some time to do this because I often get overwhelmed with all the new business tools today. It seems like a new one is launched every day. Plus, everything we do is confidential, and I was concerned about using online communication solutions. However, when a colleague told me how much time and money he saved when his employees used Teams, I thought I’d give it a try. Boy, am I glad I did.
Like me, I found that a lot of my business friends either didn’t know about Microsoft Teams or they just “didn’t have the time” to learn it. When I heard this, I made it my mission to inform them and others how great it is.
So, What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace in Office 365 that lets you bring together other users and collaborate with conversations and content. The idea behind using Teams is to help you do more and increase your employees’ productivity. Basically, it helps your teams get work done. You can easily integrate it with other Microsoft Office applications via its secure cloud.
Teams will help you standardize processes for your employees who do the same kind of work. With my employees spread out between four offices in different cities across Virginia, it was difficult to get a consensus on projects. Teams provides the organizational capabilities and transparency that we need to easily share information and make decisions.
This saves us so much time and effort. Our discussions and decisions in Teams are securely archived and stored in the Office Graph so we can go back into our Conversations at any time and review what was communicated. (Conversations is one of the main features in Teams.)
Here’s How We Use Teams in A Law Practice.
I set Teams up with me as the Manager. Teams organizational structure is much like the way our firm is set up. I’m the Manager, and I oversee other managers in my four offices. So, I simply set up our Teams this way.
I can set the controls from Teams right from Office 365 Admin in the Groups Control Panel. Here I can establish who can create teams, and what features they can use. If I decide to add a manager or user, I can go in at any time and update the settings.
Teams has multiple settings that I can turn on or off at the Tenant Level in Office 365. To do this, I simply go to the Office 365 admin center and open Settings > Services & add-ins. From here I select Microsoft Teams. Then I sign in and go from there.
I set up Teams so my managers and I can all access:
Calendars and Meetings via Outlook.
Content, and edit it via SharePoint, OneDrive, and OneNote.
Team meetings via Skype.
Instant messaging and chats via Skype.
It’s easy to set up Teams with just a few clicks. All you need is a Team name and a description of what it is, then allow members to be added. Each new Team I create has a matching Group, OneNote, SharePoint site, and plan. I can also set up more than one Team.
I also use the Email Integration feature, so our users can send and receive emails from within Teams, and to any Channel with Connectors that are enabled. I only allow my managers to access Apps. These are third party tabs, connectors, and bots.
Each Team includes subsections called Channels. You’ll have a General Channel and then you can set up multiple Channels within a Team. This way we can have focused conversations about different areas in our practice and collaborate on cases securely. We have Channels for our different areas of practice: Criminal Law, Personal Injury, Traffic Law, Real Estate.
Each Channel has Tabs that represent Conversations, Files and Notes. (Files provides access to all your Team’s files and files in OneNote. Notes takes you directly to OneNote, and from within Teams we can view and edit notes without leaving the application.) Teams has automatic tabs that include Planner, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and Power BI dashboards to name a few.
We add our own tabs as needed and customize Channels using the Connectors that are available in Teams. In our Teams windows, we can perform a variety of tasks without going outside the Team Application. We can delete, move, copy, edit and download Files.
I know I’m getting pretty technical here. What I advise, and what I did was to ask my IT provider (my local Managed Services Provider) to come in and instruct me and my staff on how to use Teams. They were really helpful and gave me one-on-one training on how to set it up. Then they instructed my managers, and finally the rest of the staff.
Teams Has Really Enhanced our Communication Capabilities.
I can set up Calls and Meetings for my Teams, with scheduling for private meetings, Channel meetings, video meetings and more. We typically have less than 20 people in a meeting at any one time unless we schedule an “All Hands” meeting (everyone in all 4 offices). Fortunately, Teams allows us to include up to 80 users in a meeting.
We can also start a Group chat when viewing and working on a file. It’s seamless, transparent and very effective way of working.
Messaging can be set with or without various restrictions, such as the ability to include memes, stickers and animated images (or not), allow users to delete messages (or not), allow users to edit their own messages (or not), allow users to chat privately (or not), and more.
All of this probably makes me sound like a real “control freak” but then, it is my business, so I should have control, right? I guess that’s another reason why I really like Teams – it puts me in control!