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It's Not Teams...It's Us

I hear it over and over again: "I hate Microsoft Teams." As the COO of a company that does a lot of Microsoft Teams consulting, I feel safe in saying: Microsoft Teams is quirky. Microsoft Teams is often misunderstood. Microsoft Teams is AWESOM. (That last "e" was left off intentionally; Nirvana gets closer every day, but a "little help from your friends" is still needed to push Teams into the realm of the amazing).

Let’s start with the hard truth: most companies really aren’t very good at organizational collaboration. They just don’t organize themselves or govern details in a way that promotes clarity and efficiency. Add in the daily fire drills, the lack of standardization in technology and data, and now the Great New Normal Distributed Workforce, and you have a world without end as it pertains to managing the critical few.

In my experience, companies often just throw technology at the problem. The problem with this approach is that technology is a very minor part of the affliction. The real villain? Us. See if any of this sounds familiar:

Operating in a Potpourri of “Corporate Standards”

  • Web Conferencing... (WebEx, Zoom, Skype, Connect, GoTo, UberConference, JoinMe, Teams…)

  • Chat... (Slack, Skype, Hangouts, Messenger, Adium, Spark, Jabber, Pidgin, Teams…)

  • Collaboration and Storage Systems... (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, iDrive, Sync, Box, OneDrive, Sharepoint, Teams…)

Pick your poison. If there is one thing companies are good at, it is resisting standardization. I worked at a block-shaped company with no fewer than four CRMs. That's not a technology problem, that's a governance car crash.

Perpetuating a Dizzying Ability to Create Ownership Silos

In recent stop, the topic of “who owns go to market/messaging" became quite comical. Product believed they owned it. Marketing was sure they owned it. Sales knew they owned it-this week. The result was different checklists/pricing strategies/priorities. Worse, we would go to meetings designed to address these concerns and spin up two to three different projects that would track on the exact same topics.

The point is that none of the topics above is solved alone by technology, Microsoft Teams included. Until you address standards and ownership and create an agreed-upon way to make decision - along with a plan to govern and retrain your organizational muscle - and systematically track your migration and course correct, your problems will continue.

While that sounds so simple, its not. Many businesses recognize the symptoms and invest in Teams as a one-stop solution, but just let tech distribute new licenses – i.e. never address the administration of the cure. Whether that is from counting pennies, conflict avoidance, or just short-sighted treatment, it is like buying a 747 and leaving it to the engineers to decide where and how to fly it. It’s no surprise, then that we see many mature clients who are shocked by all Teams actually does. People will gravitate to what they know, avoid what they don’t, and reproduce all their old bad habits in their shiny new toy.

In my experience, it is this that leads to many of the criticisms associated with Microsoft Teams: It doesn’t chat or jabber as well as Slack. It doesn’t display contact lists as well as Skype. It doesn’t connect large groups as well as Zoom. It doesn’t file share as well as Dropbox. I’ve come to firmly believe it does all of those things extremely well. Simply put, it is far and away the most seamless and cost-effective tool for working with the Microsoft 365 suite and project management – period. And harnessed properly, amazing progress can happen quickly.

If you are in Office, you should be in Teams. But you will dramatically expedite your drive to becoming an operational Wunderkind by designating ownership and agreeing on the way you will collaborate in support of specific company objectives. This focus will drive the discovery of a world of capabilities that Microsoft Teams can uniquely deliver. But here is another truth: many Teams consultants know the bells and whistles, but they don’t know matrixed management, or the mechanics of organizational change. Choose wisely. Select someone who both understands organizations and change management, and has first-hand experience at managing in the Teams ecosystem. It can save you hundreds if not thousands of hours of frustration.

Here are a couple of quick-hit suggestions for improving your Teams experience:

  • Put policies in place to get all content under one roof.

  • Be ruthless in reducing duplication of systems and effort.

  • Invest time on governance. Create well-defined ownership and decision-making standards.

  • Pick a technology partner who has corporate leadership experience, who understands how businesses work, and who can help you articulate this in your plan.

  • Create and communicate specific expectations for its launch and its use by your team.

  • Ask your team to hold you accountable for drinking your own medicine.

  • Reward people for recognizing and addressing when new practices are not being followed.

  • Track and analyze all aspects of your adoption and act quickly to address challenge areas.

  • Share the results and celebrate success at both the individual, team, and channel level.

  • The opportunity to improve is never-ending. Use it.

Whether you are thinking about migrating to Microsoft 365 and Teams, or you have already made the move and think you are meandering, it is critical to recognize that you are on a journey of organizational self-discovery. Regardless of whether you work with us, or work with others, be sure you leverage the real-world experience of those who have practical Teams operational leadership experience and can weigh in on process engineering. You won't regret it.

And don’t forget to check out that stupendous new Minecraft backdrop Teams is offering.


Brian Benson

Brian is the COO of Grind Analytics and has over two decades of executive-level experience building companies and products while guiding clients on the use of data and technology.


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