Microsoft Teams

Dave Hodgdon, Steve Ripper, and Roland Carter of PCG, a managed service and IT provider, discuss Microsoft Teams.

Portsmouth Computer Group · Microsoft Teams

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dave Hodgdon, Steve Ripper and Roland Carter of PCG, a managed service and IT provider, with headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and locations in Dover, Manchester, and Portland, Maine. Today we’re talking about Microsoft Teams. So, Steve, let’s start with you. Tell me a little bit about Microsoft Teams and what it is?

What is Microsoft Teams?

Steve Ripper: Thanks John. So, Teams is collaboration software. It comes with the Office 365 suite. So, in the last couple of years, John, we’ve seen most companies have adopted Office 365 as their messaging and collaboration software. And Teams, is a very important component of that. It allows collaboration, it allows video calling, chatting functions. Teams, where it gets its name from, so that you can create groups within your company that may be working on, either projects, or clients, or topics, such as marketing, accounting and things like that. So, it is essentially collaboration software that brings all the other elements of Office 365 together.

Benefits of Microsoft Teams

John: Dave, maybe, you could go into a little bit more detail on what are some of the benefits of Teams?

Dave Hodgdon: Absolutely. So, Teams was acquired by Microsoft. Lot of people might recognize the name as Skype. The reason Microsoft went after that, was for the collaboration. But I think some of the staggering numbers of where Teams has gone, it’s been used 30 times as much, over the last month. So, everyone is exploring, as Steve said earlier. The service has been there and people were using it, but not realizing what this can really do. But where people are working more remotely, having that ability to feel like you’re in the office to do a video call, to engage a team meeting, to have a vendor or a client call, the ability to do chat, the ability to share documentation and to collaborate or share a screen, John, is just finding a great way for all of us to work remotely.

Teams vs. Other Video Conference Platforms

John: So, Teams, like you said, came from Skype, we know which was used by a lot of people, for just communicating online via video chat, if you will. There are other tools, like Zoom and GoToMeeting that do similar things. Roland, what are some of the differences between Teams and these other types of video conferencing tools?

Roland Carter: Sure. One of the biggest differences is how Teams integrates with the Office Suite, meaning Outlook and OneDrive, SharePoint, any number of those products. So, Teams works hand in hand with Outlook for scheduling meetings. Both Teams and Outlook have a calendar function, and you can schedule your meetings and assign the people that are going to be there and any pertinent information. And when you are ready for that meeting, you can launch directly into it from either location, whether it’s Teams or Outlook. That it’s pretty seamless with how all of that works.

Now, GoToMeeting, Zoom, they have plugins for Outlook, but it’s not a completely seamless integration there. And it also works with SharePoint and OneDrive for file storage and file access. So, within Teams, like Steve was saying, you do have the individual Teams, where you can break down into categories of discussions. And within there, you have the files that are pertinent to what you’re discussing. You can add any information there and it goes up to OneDrive. And you can access that from your computer, without having to have Teams open too.

Steve: John, I would just add to that really quickly. One of the biggest differences is cost. So, Zoom does some amazing things and so, does GoToMeeting, but those are going to cost you more. They’re going to be an extra for your company, whereas, in many cases, most companies are already using Office 365. So, while there is a cost for Teams, for many companies, they’re already paying it. So, they might as well, leverage Teams as much as they can. And then, decide, do I need a competing product to do some other things that I’m trying to do.

What Tools Do You Need?

John: Okay. So, Dave, what’s needed to use Teams? Do I have to have Office or Microsoft 365?

Dave: There are of course, there’re many ways to get around that done, but it is, as Steve just was talking about, licensing is critical. So, in Microsoft 365, they do have several plans. It’s not included in the kiosk, or what’s known as the exchange plan one, which is email only. But most people are using the essentials, which is the email with Teams or what’s known as the Microsoft premium product, which includes the Office Suite, the, Word, the Excel, the PowerPoint, that does include Teams. So, about 90% of people have the licensing to use Teams. But I would say, John, probably 80% were not using it, until this epidemic came up.

So, from a licensing standpoint, as Steve said, it is included, so leverage to that. What’s needed to use it in your realm, which a lot of people they’re struggling with, as they’re getting used to it from a hardware standpoint. A lot of the notebooks, we’ll have the built in webcam, which is good, the built in mic. A lot of people went home, and they were expecting to use Teams, but they didn’t have a webcam on their monitor. There’s a huge shortage right now, trying to find a webcam online, is absurd right now. But no one ever planned for this, but having a nice webcam and mic is critical, and those are the three components you need.

Who Can Use Teams?

John: Okay. And can you have people outside of your organization, like your clients or your vendors, join your Teams meetings, just like you can with some of those other video conferencing tools?

Steve: Yes. Join your meetings or we think of them as external users. Okay. So, when you’re in Teams, you have the ability to directly call anyone else in your own organization. You just hit the phone icon. Many of the concepts in Teams are really trying to mirror the ideas of making calls. You’re just making video or internet calls as opposed to using your phone. So, many of the concepts are the same. You’re going to call coworkers directly and immediately. If you want to call an external user, someone who’s outside of your company, but he’s also using Teams, you would then send them a calendar invite. This basically, John, gives the external person the option to accept or not. So, if they accept, they can then join your meeting or meet you for a meeting and talk with you that way. Or if they choose to decline, you will then know that they declined and you’re not trying to call them.

Audio Conferencing

John: And what is a 365 audio conferencing? I just saw the note there that says, talk about the 365 audio conferencing.

Roland: So, with Teams, you can add 365 audio conferencing and the ability to have a phone number attached to Teams. This allows external people to get an invite and join via regular phone. It also allows, in some cases, you can call out to people using that phone number and get them to join in on the call. Some of the features do need to be turned on, it’s not an automatic thing that you get with Teams. But in the configurations, you can assign licenses, to allow these options and pick phone numbers that are local to your general area or toll free numbers. There are charges for the toll free numbers, so be mindful of that. But in general, you can get a phone number and have people call in to the meeting, just like with a number of other tools that are out there.


John: Does Teams also have screen-sharing abilities? So, I can share this screen on my computer and also, as you mentioned before, that you can also share documents, especially, if you’re on a Microsoft 365, it’s easy to share your documents from your OneDrive, et cetera. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Roland: Absolutely. So, right in the center of your screen, there’s a nice button, where you can share. And that allows you to select what you would like to share. And you can do a number of things, so you can do the document that you have up on your screen, you can share that to whoever’s in the meeting. You can share your entire desktop on that. If you are sharing your desktop, you can request control of the presenters PC. I used this just the other day, to help a coworker with an application issue. We were able to talk over Teams. She was having a problem and she shared her screen with me. I helped her out and we are good to go. With documents, there’s a number of ways you can do this, you can drag and drop a document right into your chat and they can view the document there. You can share your screen where the document is. Within Teams, you have your documents and data that’s already there, so you can show the links to where those are located and say, “Go here, to review this documentation.”

There’s a number of ways, where you can share documents, your screens and really collaborate together. It’s really useful, and in the times we’re in right now, where we’re not seeing people face to face, but we still want to collaborate on something. So, being able to share the same thing in real time is a pretty great thing.

Key Features of Teams

John: Okay. And Steve, what are some of the key features and benefits to Teams?

Steve: Well, I mean, for me one of the biggest features, is the chat feature. I mean, when I try to tell customers and clients and companies to start using Teams, I tell them to try and start using the chat feature. One of the key reasons for Teams and Slack before, it’s Slack in the Google Mac and Apple Space. The real driver for this technology, was that email was really, just getting too large. People were just ending up with large mailboxes. And the reason why they were ending up with really large mailboxes, is because, they constantly keep sending emails that say, “Yes. No. I’ll have the roast beef sandwich for lunch.”

John: Right.

Steve: “Can you please order. Yes. Order that.” Really, just two and three word conversations daily, that really could be either handled, if the person was in front of you, you would just ask them, “What do you want to do for lunch?” Or in a chat feature.

So, the chat feature really allows you to have non-permanent communications between your coworkers. Once you start chatting to people, once you start saying to someone, who maybe is in another part of the facility, where you might either email them, an email that they might ignore or not see, or you might get up in your chair and walk across the facility. You don’t have to anymore, you can chat to them. The chat feature, and I know, chat has been around for a long time, it was very big in the early 2000s and then, it went out of favor. So, it’s not a new concept to people, but it really, is the gateway towards everything else. Once you start chatting to a coworker, you’ll then, maybe you’ll start to video conference with them. You want to see their face and get their reactions to what you’re closing.

So, chat is really, I think the gateway towards everything else that happens in there. Other features, of course, are the calendar. The calendar is the function that allows you to add people, not in your organization, to your Teams meetings, talking to them. Voicemail, Teams has voicemail built into it. So, if you call somebody in your organization and they don’t pick up, you can still leave them a message. Okay. The Teams is a huge part of it. Teams, the actual Teams section, is really a new way of working for a lot of companies. They’re not used to having a particular group assigned to the topic that they may be working on, like marketing or a delivery of a device to a particular company. A project that allows you to do, is you can chat within that team, save files within that team and video call people that have been added to that team. Something to really collaborate on that topic with the people who are involved with it. So, those are some of the features that are really key.

Microsoft Teams and Remote Workers

John: Dave, you mentioned before that a lot more people are using Teams, just in the last month, because we’re still in the middle of this Coronavirus epidemic and a lot of people are working from home. So, how is Teams really helping in terms of the remote workforce?

Dave: I think, one of the most important things, especially for PCG, is that, when we have our team meetings we are able to collaborate or stay engaged and we’re isolated in our homes right now, John. To see facial expressions, to have some fun. A lot of people are doing things like lunch and learns, or having a happy hour after the end of work. We’re finding it a way that we can continue during these tough times, to actually have that emotional touch with our fellow workers. And I’m finding it with my clients now, I’m almost not, I don’t want to use the word forcing, but I’m showing them about it and I’m engaging to have that call, so they know, we’re here to help them.

I’ve been fine every time I’m doing a call each day, it seems that various people are finding new ways to put various backgrounds, so whether or not, they’re at the beach, they’re in the mountains, they’re in an office. So, you’re trying to find to try to make it a little bit more fun, that it’s not the same backgrounds. I just feel we as individuals, people need that personal touch and I’d assume we’re all in, and Steve would agree. I just think being engaged and collaborating is probably the most important part.

Steve: Yeah, I would absolutely agree. I couldn’t imagine being in the bass swim here, I call it the shuttle craft, with all the screens, and I couldn’t imagine trying to work without Teams. We had this conversation a couple of days ago, of just, what would it have been like to have this problem hit us in… Dave, what it would’ve been like in 2005, everything just would’ve been email and you really would have felt disconnected from everything else that’s going on in the company. But just our meeting this morning, John, where each of us had a camera and I could see the people. And every time someone spoke, one of the hidden features of Teams, which I think is really nice, is that it would put four cameras on the screen, but it would rotate them automatically, based on who was speaking at that time. So, every time someone spoke I got to see them on the other screen, yet we’re spread out across the countryside here, because of the circumstances.

So, it’s really been great. I’ve had a couple of times where coworkers have, just lack of a better term, they just pinged me in Teams. They were having a problem and it’s so much easier, to just communicate instantly with people via Teams, than it is to dial them on the phone. So, it’s been great that way. I can’t imagine trying to do this without it at this point

Free vs. Paid Versions of Teams

John: And Roland, what’s the difference between the free and the paid version of Teams? I understand that there’s a free version. What does that give you and not give you?

Roland: Yeah. So, typically in the free version you’ll see that, you can attend the meeting and you can see what’s going on and collaborate and chat, do all those typical things, but you’re unable to schedule meetings. You cannot record the meeting, you can’t use the phone call features to communicate. The free version just doesn’t have these in there. With the paid version, you get all of that and also, a robust administration portal. And it gives you a ton of control over how Teams is used and all of the functions within it. Those are really the key differences. So, again, the free version, you can attend, with the paid version, you can schedule and change all the configurations.

Best Practices for Using Teams

John: Dave, you mentioned that some of your team members, when you do these meetings, these Team meetings online, that people put their own little backgrounds behind them, to make it, maybe make it look like they’re on the beach or something like that. Are there some do’s and don’ts for best practices and using Teams or some etiquette that’s coming out of more and more people using video conferencing and Teams now?

Dave: Absolutely. I think the adequate is imperative. I think your organization or business is trying to put across a professional image. And depending on who you’re communicating with, yeah, of course, you could be in your sweats on an easy Friday. By that, we feel that dress code is key, because you’re on the camera, you’re in front of them, you are presenting, you are in front of an audience. You might not know who else might join, but dress code is key. Know, the environment, the room that you’re in. The lighting, is the sun too bright? Is your room behind you messy? So, play the game properly. I’ve noticed more and more people are using different backgrounds to give a different presence than a boring room. Know, about the noise, the kids, especially with everyone coming from home, the kids, the homework. If you’ve got an important meeting, you need to shut the door or at least tell the people in the house, “Hey, I’ve got this big meeting.” So, just be aware, be mindful what’s going on, because you can’t put the video on pause, but they’re going to see anything that’s there.

John: Right. Steve and Roland, do you have any tips or tricks for companies, in terms of getting the most out of Teams?

Roland: Yeah. One of my big things is, telling people to use the mobile app. It has all the same features. Mostly, it doesn’t allow you to access someone else’s screen, doing the screen share, but it does have all of the same features. You can chat with it, you can do video calls, you can see the files within Teams. So, it’s a really great resource, for when you’re either on the go or you need your computer to do what you’re doing or talking about. But you need to be able to talk at the same time. Maybe you’re collaborating with a couple of different people over various methods. So, the mobile app gives some different features for you.

John: Do people have a way of maybe, holding their phone in a little stand on their desk or something like that?

Roland: Yeah. So, I do this with my phone. I don’t do quite as much of the video with Teams on my phone, but I will do the audio. And it’s primarily, so that I can be on my computer and typing a document out, if it’s just my laptop without my other screens. But I can still be talking with the people that I need to discuss media or a part or anything else.

Dave: Having the phone accessible in the stand, to have access to a Team meetings on the go, is a great add on.

Steve: Yeah. John, I would pile on that thought, but I would expand it a little bit. My temper trick to companies or maybe a company implementer, an owner, company manager, who might be listening to this, is my number one tip is, that in order to use Teams you have to embrace it. You have to embrace every part of it. From getting your users, it’s not going to work, if you have five users, who are using Teams and then seven who aren’t. Either you all are or it’s just not going to work. The same thing, once you get everyone to embrace it, it’s like Roland said and alluded to, put Teams on every single device. If you have a laptop, put Teams on it. If you have your desktop at work, put Teams on it, put Teams on your phone.

I had a conversation with one of my coworkers the other day and we had an earlier conversation at about four o’clock and he was sitting at his desk and then, something came up, I had to go do something and then he got back to me, and I thought he was still sending his desk. It turns out he was, he said to me, “Oh no, actually I’m in the car. I’m driving home.” But we still were talking, we were still collaborating. We were still solving the problem. He just moved to a different device. So, really the tip there, is to embrace, you’ve got to embrace every part of it. Every single person has to be, “Oh, yeah, no, I have Teams. It’s running. It’s over there.” And then, the second tip I would get is just to hammer home what I said earlier, please, for the love of God, stop sending, “thank you,” “I’ll have roast beef,” “I’m sure”. Stop sending those emails, just chat or engage in a different way, than just 6,000 emails that say, “thank you”. Nobody needs that anymore.

How Can PCG Help?

John: Right. We can all use less email for sure. Dave, what are some of the resources that PCG has, in terms of being able to help business, to get Teams set up?

Dave: Thanks, Steve, you hit the hammer on the head right there. You have to embrace it. So, as we talk to our clients, we feel it’s key to get the training going and then, have all engaged. We might do lunch and learn, and you just have to go over the basics of what it does. And what? It’s like riding a bicycle. Once you get on it, they start using, “Oh, the chat. Oh, I can make a phone call.” It’s not that difficult to use. They just need to embrace it and jump in. We do podcasts like we’re doing today, John, that we’re just educating them on all the things they can do.

I’ve learned so much in Teams, the last two weeks. I’ve used it in the past, but now, you’re living on it all day long, so you just find more features you can use. We’ve got training materials available on our website. We also have executive consulting and counsel that can help our customers better utilize this service and have their business, have again, more value and efficiencies with their staff, clients and vendors. So, we have a lot of resources to help you out.

John: And what’s the first step? How does a company get started with Microsoft Teams?

Dave: I like anything Steve said, to embrace it. But call one of our Microsoft Teams experts. We’ll give you an overview of how it works, what’s needed, from licensing, hardware, webcam, but most importantly, the necessary consulting and training. So, you actually are gaining momentum with this investment. You’ll see, just strides, just each day the team growing, collaborating. And I think we’ve used examples throughout this podcast of how you as a group can be better.

John: All right. That’s great information, Dave, Steve and Roland. Thanks again, for speaking with me today.

Dave: Thanks John.

Roland: Thank you John.

John: And for more information, as Dave said, you can visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call (603) 431-4121.