Will Microsoft Teams ever replace the email client?

This was a goal Microsoft implied at the 2019 Partner Conference but how practical a goal is it? In a serious attempt to plumb this storyline we at Paradise decided to move to Teams wholeheartedly in Q4 of 2019 and this article describes the results.

First of all, it is very clear Teams is far from ready to deal with replacing communication with parties outside the organisation. Although there is no barrier to adding users who are outside the domain to Teams the process and administration simply makes this unsuitable for the vast majority of traffic and can really only be used for specific sub-contractors or those involved in working on specific projects. A long-term solution to address this would be to encapsulate Outlook within Teams - hopefully soon as the effort of managing communication through both an email client AND Teams effectively nullifies the advantages of Teams as an improved platform.

Once we view Teams as currently being an internal communication tool the picture changes and there are a series of advantages - predominantly these being new functions such as adding additional staff into conversations, the file/document library facilities and the excellent text search tool for quickly finding old conversations and snippets of information. The biggest learning we found is involved with the structure of the two main tools: "Chat" and "Teams". We started off, as many people will, by creating a hierarchy of Teams running down by departments and projects along with a number of internal Teams addressing issues like HR, H&S and similar. Paradise is only a company of 20 employees, but we quickly learned that trying to find information in this structure becomes frustrating and tiresome very quickly - mainly because there are frequent messaging requirements which break the clean lines created - for example, if a message involves a hotel stay and transport to a client site, does this come under the "customer project", or under "expenses"?

The best solution to this is to keep the number of Teams to an absolute minimum. We have settled on one main Team for company announcements and then one for each active Customer Project. All other messages in Teams are then handled within Chat by starting a thread with an individual (key staff being "pinned" to the top of the chat list for ease) and then adding other participants into each Chat thread as required. The key to success here is to name each Chat thread to indicate the purpose of that particular thread instead of leaving the default of just listing the participant names. We have also found prefixing the name with "PCL" when the subject is a company issue also assists both admin and searching. We are only a small company but I am confident our individual workloads are similar to most IT workers, and the approach we have adopted means we only have a single screen-full of Teams to manage, plus two screens-full in Chat - one of pinned staff and below that all the active Chat threads we are involved with - this is highly manageable and reduces the need to search for messages using the search tool to a minimum. 

Overall, the feeling of using Teams is satisfying and if like me, you have an ever-growing and evolving email folder library then it will be a relief to see that growth stop. This aspect also highlights the single best advantage of using Teams for me personally - the potential to stop spam. As each and every communication is to or from a "recognised" person, there is simply no spam in Teams. Very refreshing.

Conclusion

If Microsoft truly intends to replace the classic email client with something new then they have made a good start. After 3 months we have probably cut internal email by around 80% and that means overall email traffic by probably 50%. And while all of us still struggle to work with two communications platforms every day we are generally positive and the consensus of the staff here is that the effort is worth it because if and when Microsoft deems it to be time to include Outlook inside Teams then we will be ahead of the curve.

Call us on 01604 655900 for more information about training or installing Microsoft Teams to improve collaboration in your business.

 

comments powered by Disqus