The world went into hibernation mode to start 2020, having to adapt to a new way of working. Offices became empty and business happened in millions of homes across the globe. We’ve learned that the business community can be quite resourceful when it mattered most. Millions of knowledge workers adjusted quickly to the work-from-home orders.
Maybe adjusted is a stretch, but the business community has made it work. Questions remain though. What happens when things return to normal? Will it even be normal anymore or are we forging a new normal?
One of the biggest revelations of the work from home shift brought on by COVID-19 has been the incredible importance of digital transformation. Those companies that had the tools to adjust quickly — like Microsoft Teams, an Information Management system, and other systems — fared better than those companies that were forced to quickly implement makeshift solutions. The latter will be re-evaluating their entire digital transformation strategy when they come up for air.
For many, Microsoft Teams has saved the day, helping keep the lines of communication open between colleagues, vendors and contributors across the world. An April 2020 Microsoft report suggests remote work is not going anywhere even after we snuff the pandemic — and they have the data to prove it.
Microsoft says it saw an increase of 12 million users in the first week of stay-at-home orders — which means there are now close to 50 million people using Microsoft Teams to stay connected. Comparing the total meeting minutes on March 15 and March 31, 2020, the number of minutes facilitated with Teams increased 300%, for a total of 2.7 billion minutes… in one day.
Microsoft also indicated that, in parts of the world that have started to return to work, many people stay remote. Some of it is probably hesitance, but there’s also a case to be made that if we’ve demonstrated that work can be done remotely, why commute to the office again? In many cases, it’s better for both the employee and employer, allowing flexibility for workers to choose their schedule and work environment — while giving employers the flexibility to free up brick-and-mortar resources and allot them to other line items.
While the shift to working remotely has been a challenge, tools like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams have made it easy to stay connected and productive.
Are they just a quick fix implemented for business continuity in a strange situation?
Do these tools support overarching information governance, compliance and security protocols?
There’s a case to be made that communication and collaboration tools alone can actually lead to negative consequences for the business — like proliferation of information sprawl, siloed information, shadow IT and lots of other issues.
5 Benefits Of Using Microsoft Teams For Remote Work
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, when working remotely, most employees will save an average of 26 minutes of travel to and from work, which results in more family time and less expense. While there are countless advantages of remote work in general, Microsoft Teams offers several benefits for remote work environments — most importantly the ability to keep communication and collaboration as effective as traditional methods.
Here are some of the advantages:
Video conferencing keeps people engaged. Seeing the person that you’re working with when you talk to them is a tremendous intangible to employee engagement.
Microsoft Teams bridges the gap between colleagues with video conferencing, allowing for a more personal interaction — a welcome feature when working remotely.
Communication stays centralised.
When Microsoft Teams becomes the communication tool of record, people are less likely to turn to other communication avenues — text message, email or others. Furthermore, while those other communication methods can be unsecured, Teams keeps communication self-contained and centralized. Thus, workers need not check their phone and then their email to find what their colleague said. They simply need to check the chat log.
Chat keeps employees connected.
From a practical standpoint, knowledge workers still need to communicate with one another, even though there’s no water cooler where they can physically commune together. With one-to-one chat and channels with multiple team members, the feeling of isolation lessens, and colleagues know their counterparts are but a message away.
Group chat and dedicated channels support collaboration.
Your need to swiftly form a committee or formal team to collaborate on a special topic won’t disappear just because everyone is working remotely. If anything, that need grows with a remote workforce.
Teams gives users the ability to quickly spin up a group chat or channel to Meetings and events can be recorded. Lastly, your organization can continue to support some of the extracurricular activities you previously hosted. For example, if your company has special events such as sponsoring health seminars, book clubs, or educational opportunities, these can continue in Microsoft Teams. The tool even gives you the capability to combine virtual meetings and in-person gatherings — and record them using Stream, so anyone can access at any time.
6 Quick Tips To Become A Master Of Microsoft Teams
If your team has been using Microsoft Teams to collaborate and communicate as they work from home, they’ve probably mastered the basics. (If the organization needs introductory materials, Microsoft offers a compilation of videos and short tutorials as part of the authorized Teams documentation.)
Microsoft Teams has a ton of features, keystrokes and commands that help you to work faster and be more productive. If you want to be a Teams power user, apply these eight tips to master command line and keyboard shortcuts, connect to external apps, and make useful content easier to find. We wanted to share some time-saving shortcuts that go beyond the basics.
The command line is your friend.
It might not be immediately apparent, but the Search box at the top of the Teams desktop app is also a command line. By clicking in the Search box and tapping the slash key (/), users get a list of all available commands.
The command line is old hat to developers and techies, and now Teams users can make use of quick commands as well.
Learn some keyboard shortcuts.
Keyboard shortcuts are a quick way to execute certain functions.
Add a subject to a conversation.
If you want to make it easier for colleagues to spot a conversation thread when scrolling through a busy team channel, add a Subject to the conversation. Just click the Format button in the lower left and add a Subject.
Change a group name for group chats.
As you probably know, the Chat pane is where your private conversations happen without the formality of a team channel.
Chats happen between one person or multiple people. By default, each chat session is labelled with the names of the other members.
To make it simpler to find a specific session, change the group name to something descriptive. Select any group chat from the pane on the left, then click the pencil icon to the right of the members’ names at the top of the page. Enter a new group name and then click Save. This practice is particularly beneficial for long-running chats with several participants, so everyone knows where to go to re-join the conversation.
Blur your background.
So you’d rather not show off your messy office on a video conference. Or maybe your kids have a habit of barging in on your conversations. You can blur the background — either from the toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+P to toggle this setting.
Connect to external apps Context-switching is where users navigate between several applications to perform work. It can drain productivity and efficiency.
One example might be if your team needs to go from Teams to Salesforce and then to their email inbox and back to Teams to find a piece of material and send it. Lots of unnecessary clicking around.
To help, organizations can take advantage of the many connected third-party apps to minimize context switching and productivity loss. Just click the Apps flyout to connect external apps to Teams.
M-Files connects with Teams, in fact, to simplify information governance, minimize risk, and manage content effectively. It eliminates information sprawl and presents content to users, no matter where that content is stored.
4 Pain Points Of An Unchecked Microsoft Teams Implementation
Teams is a wonderful app for communication and collaboration. Unfortunately, the control of content within a hasty Teams implementation is often not systematically managed. Without the oversight of an organization’s IT team, the way users’ access, save and manage content in Teams could easily contravene overarching company guidelines around the handling of information.
It’s important that Teams is implemented properly or else it could become just another information silo, contributing to further content chaos. Here, we identify the top four pain points companies might experience with an unchecked Teams implementation.
PAIN #1: Unchecked Microsoft Teams implementation can contribute to information sprawl.
In 2020, the recent, rapid shift to remote work has resulted in a huge increase in the usage of Microsoft Teams. This increase in Teams implementation and usage has cast a spotlight on a pervasive organizational issue — information sprawl. Information sprawl is an issue that creates a waterfall of problems in other key areas: compliance, governance, productivity.
Information sprawl occurs when files, documents and content are scattered across the entire information ecosystem, in various repositories — ERP, CRM, network folders, email inboxes, file-sharing applications… the list goes on and on. According to a recent M-Files report, on average, respondents identified four systems and/or repositories that their organization uses to store and manage documents and other information. But content sprawl is not a new problem. It is, however, a problem exacerbated by poor document control processes within Microsoft Teams.
Then there’s duplication of documents. It’s not uncommon for users to collaborate on documents and drag files into Teams from their email, network folders and other silos. But then how does an individual or team know definitively which version is the correct version? Cross-team or cross-system collaboration often means documents are duplicated, and control is lost.
The result is a familiar struggle for many large businesses today: organizations face increasing inefficiencies and missed opportunities from fragmented data living in multiple applications.
An organization that lacks such data cohesion cannot possibly recognize the total value of their business. The fact remains that, even within the Microsoft Teams ecosystem, data and information can be found in various places
PAIN #2: Without proper controls, Microsoft Teams may not support information governance strategy.
The increase in the use of Teams, and the resulting unchecked implementations of Teams, have caused organizations to evaluate the risks posed by adding a new method of sharing and collaborating on information.
As more of our day-to-day interactions occur in these collaborative tools, Microsoft Teams lifecycle management is becoming a substantial challenge.
Information must be managed throughout its lifecycle, starting when the record is created or received. Next, the emphasis is on usage, storage, retrieval, and maintenance. At the last stage of the lifecycle is disposition and destruction or permanent retention in accordance with the organization’s records retention schedule.
Documents in Teams tend to be static, meaning that for them to go through their lifecycle they need to be processed manually. Think about a situation where a project manager, for example, solicits input from colleagues about a customer deliverable contained in a document. In Teams, they would likely tag the team member in the conversation and wait for their reply, which is far from the optimal method of tracking a document through its lifecycle and capturing critical changes or feedback.
PAIN #3: Sure, Teams has basic data security…
But how do you control access? Before an organization can feel confident that Microsoft Teams is secure, they probably should know where Teams stores their data. While the average user probably won’t care about Teams data, admins and IT personnel should pay attention.
Referring to the previous chart (Where is your Microsoft Teams Data?), Teams stores data in Exchange, Stream, Groups, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business. Think about that for a minute. On the one hand, Teams is an incredible tool for collaboration, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that that it would send and store data in multiple locations. On the other hand, Teams’ extensive reach requires a vigilant approach to tracking that data.
According to Microsoft, “Teams is built on the Office 365 hyper-scale, enterprise-grade cloud, delivering the advanced security and compliance capabilities our customers expect.” Teams features two-factor authentication and encrypted data (in transit and at rest). As a tech giant, you would expect Microsoft to have solid, basic data security within the Teams environment.
But what about access and permissions? Data may be secure with basic encryption and authentication, but how can companies apply access permissions to Teams? How can the organization ensure that only the people, roles or groups that need access to sensitive information have access?
Microsoft recently rolled out guest accounts for Microsoft Teams. This means guests — not employees or members of your organization — can access teams, documents in channels, resources, chats, and applications. A potential problem is the lack of IT control over whether individuals are sharing private information with external parties. Furthermore, in general, Teams is missing an overall permissions model — including guest access. By default, when an employee is invited to a channel, they can access all documents in the SharePoint site of the team. Some of these files, though, might contain sensitive information, or information about other projects, customers, partners.
As an example, imagine inviting a supplier to the channel, so that they can stay in the loop and contribute, and then realizing they have had access the whole time to the quotes their competitors have sent you at the beginning of the job, or to the contact details of the customer.
PAIN #4: Teams allows for free flow of information, but how does that balance with compliance measures?
Information sprawl within Teams can lead to compliance challenges. Microsoft Teams and all the channels within a Teams environment can contain a lot of content — including chats, files, video streams, internal and external links to websites, portals, and an abundance of links to third-party applications.
On the one hand, organizations like the free flow of information within Teams to facilitate collaboration. But does that unchecked flow of information come at odds with overall compliance protocols?
As we’ve mentioned, information governance and access to documents may be compromised.
Thus, compliance may also be compromised as it is closely connected to how companies handle sensitive information and dispose of records.
Strict regulatory measures — like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — govern how organizations must handle personally identifiable information. How can you be sure that the flow of information in Teams does not violate regulatory compliance measures?
The Solution: Integrating Microsoft Teams & M-Files
In an era where a flexible, remote workplace may indeed become the norm, M-Files helps advance the investment companies have made in Microsoft Teams. In essence, M-Files breaks users from the chains of managing documents in a siloed manner.
M-Files can be layered on individual applications to ensure that those applications adhere to overarching governance, compliance and security protocols. Intelligent information management with M-Files eliminates the need to micromanage individual applications, like Teams.
Taming Information Sprawl
M-Files is built on a vision — to enable access to all the information in an organization, no matter where it’s stored. The platform has integrations with most common third-party archives and business systems. Consequently, Teams users have access to information, files and documents in their channels and groups, regardless of which system they reside in. The best part for IT departments is that integrations within M-Files can be controlled at the company-level. Whereas, in Teams users are largely free to use any integration they see fit, giving rise to shadow IT and a variety of complications.
A huge part of creating this frictionless experience for employees — in Teams and otherwise — is the metadata-driven approach. M-Files ushers a new era of information management for users, uncoupling them from the traditional folder system of storing information — a setup that is still used by Microsoft Teams. With metadata properties, M-Files places a premium on what’s in a document rather, than where it is stored. This changes the perspective completely.
Before M-Files, employees need to figure out where a document they might need was saved; now, it’s enough to know what type of document they need, or which customer or project it concerns, or when it expires, and they can easily identify it. It’s a way of looking at information that is much more in line with a modern workplace, where an employee can find needed information in context by commanding, “Show me all contracts that are expiring next week” or “I want to see all documents about this project.” It’s a paradigm shift that stands in stark contrast to the folder approach that comes from the archaic file cabinet system.
With M-Files for Microsoft Teams, there is one single source of truth for information. While M-Files tracks version history, there is only one master document which users can reference.
Different departments can access the same up to date version of a document directly from Teams, no matter where it is stored and without the need to create duplicates Easily managed, centralized document lifecycle One of the most powerful features of M-Files is the ability to create workflows around documents.
Workflows can move documents along their lifecycle — status changes automatically, and people are notified — even after the Teams channel is deleted or archived. Documents can be assigned to workflows, facilitating lifecycle management for different types of documents — like contracts, customer information, etc.
There’s no need for manual processing of documents within Teams. Consider the example of a contract uploaded to a Teams channel with a note for team members to sign off on it. How can the originator know if all seven people have approved it? How does she know where it is in the approval process? With M-Files, documents like contracts follow a pre-defined workflow process, where users are reminded that action is required, and managers are notified when the workflow is complete. Governing information becomes a snap when documents must be moved into different states depending on the type, so that appropriate lifecycle management can be enforced without impacting the day-to-day work of employees.
The same document lifecycle management in M-Files applies to the basic governance tenets of archival, disposition and retention. Sensitive information is protected even when external contributors are invited, and retention and disposition policies are enforced, no matter if a channel has been archived or deleted.
Workflow capabilities all but eliminate orphaned content. Documents, files and other information always have a by-line to owners, stakeholders, external contributors and anyone that might have a vested interest in the lifecycle of that document.
Minimize Information Security & Compliance Risk
With M-Files for Microsoft Teams, information security is safeguarded, and the risk of accidental leaks is minimized. M-Files features a robust and customizable structure for permissions and access. With metadata, users (or groups of users) can be assigned permissions automatically or manually, ensuring that they only have access to the documents they’re supposed to have access to. Thus, even if an employee references sensitive files in a Teams channel, only those users with the appropriate permissions will be able to access them.
Imagine, for example, a situation where an employee shares confidential client data with team members on a Teams channel. Without M-Files, that employee may not know if some members of the channel shouldn’t have access to it.
They may not know if that confidential information gets proliferated outside of the Teams environment. There’s a lack of information security controls. With M-Files, the user simply shares a link to the document and only those with proper access can view or edit it.
In addition, accidental leaks are prevented at the system level. Both Microsoft Teams and M-Files use Azure Active Directory (AD) to authenticate and grant access to users. This allows setup of permissions to safeguard certain classes of documents. By using Azure AD to determine the role or the group of the user, it enables an advanced level of permissions within Teams, so that members of the same team or channel can have access to different sets of documents.
The Backbone Of A Flexible, Remote Workplace Strategy Is An Intelligent Information Management Platform
Maintaining continuity through flexible work — and specifically working from home — has vaulted to enormous importance. Many pundits have lauded endpoint solutions like Microsoft Teams and, indeed, these are great solutions and should be praised for helping ease the burden of working remotely.
Ultimately, though, a poor implementation of these endpoint solutions only amounts to a quick fix. Sure, companies can crank up Teams quickly, but what now?
Companies need to beware that they aren’t creating a short-term solution that leads to a long-term problem. If organizations are going to prepare for the new normal of flexible work environments, the solution is to develop a well-formed, overarching strategy — one that promotes a cohesive working environment while adhering to governance, compliance, and security protocols.
It’s a concept near and dear to our heart at M-Files. After all, our story is inextricably linked to the idea of a flexible work environment. The M-Files intelligent information management platform was built on the idea that the value of a piece of information is not where it’s located, but what the file or document actually is. The by-product is a strategy that incorporates anytime, anywhere access to information.
With an intelligent information management platform, the key principles that underpin a solid flexible work strategy are already there. All you have to do to work remotely is grab your laptop and go. All the information, files and documents they need are a couple clicks away, from any device. It’s this concept of anytime, anywhere access to company information — with a built-in information security framework — that truly sets the stage for remote working, giving staffers the same experience as they would at the office.
And by doing that, companies can ensure continuity, productivity and efficiency of their remote workforce.