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Making things easier: Microsoft Teams is here

Options to do work more collaboratively have increased with advent of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is an extremely powerful collaboration tool with a seemingly endless amount of resources available for users and it’s now available to campus. From automating integration with other Office 365 products to simply having a face-to-face conversation with researchers at other institutions, there are very few things that Microsoft Teams can’t do. As some of you may have noticed, the Unified Communications team has migrated campus from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams as the Office of Information Technology (OIT) supported platform for chat, meetings, and collaboration. The decision to make this move came as a part of a larger discussion taking place to not only keep in step with the development of cloud services and support structures, which save the University money in equipment and maintenance, but also to provide the campus with more effective ways to communicate and work together, allowing for greater efficiency in our business processes.

If you have used Skype for Business in the past, you will see a large number of similarities in Teams. Teams is the next iteration of Microsoft’s Unified Communications platform with some key advancements.

Instant messaging, meetings, and desktop sharing are of course flagship features of Teams, which most will be accustomed to. The key advancements in centralized file sharing/storage and collaboration (such as simultaneous editing of Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints, or Word documents with versioning history) as well as application integration with not only Microsoft products but also countless third party applications, has truly set Teams apart from all other products in its market.

People on campus are already transforming the efficiency of their daily work. Take a look at this feedback from Leslie Nady, chief of staff in the Office of Provost:

“I have created Teams for the Provost Office Staff and for College Liaisons for Promotion and Tenure, the chat feature has been great, and the file sharing has helped us put resources we all need in one location that is easily accessible.  I’m very excited to see the Concierge and Complaint Service be utilized, having it automatically populate a SharePoint site and create tasks with reminders will help ensure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.  I used something similar with regards to tracking the review and approvals for RFA’s, which allowed me to keep track of who was reviewing a given proposal, their feedback and the final outcome, while providing reminders that I could adjust based off of business needs.” 

What’s also exciting is that when customers speak, Microsoft listens. The Teams product development group has continued to roll out feature enhancements, on a seemingly weekly basis, that have been requested directly by its users. Some of the most recent enhancements include permission-based Channels (adding restricting or granting access to particular areas of a Team), screen sharing and video conferencing with people still using Skype, and most exciting, live captions, translation and transcription for Live Events (this is also planned to launch for collaborative meetings very soon).

Here’s another example of how individuals and departments around campus are using Teams from Tad Kelly, manager, financial systems:

“It is a nice middle-ground between a phone call and an email. It encourages quick responses from colleagues that I am actively working with on a task. It is especially effective for a campus setting where I am often not collocated with someone I am working with. It is very good for sending files back and forth much faster than email. I also like the “texting” style communication – emojis and gifs make the communication more fun and personal when the situation calls for it. Also, the expanded HR and Finance teams that support Workday have been using it to have the cross-functional groups communicate more effectively. We have also utilized Teams to build campus-wide user groups that can join if they have certain roles in Workday so that they can ask questions and get communications specifically tailored to their needs. It has been great for allowing those varying styles of communication while keeping my personal chats separate from group discussions and activity.”

Change can sometimes be intimidating and due to the robust amount of options and features that Teams offers, the Unified Communications department in OIT has begun providing training on the basic functionality and operations of the platform. We are continuing these workshop sessions through the start of the semester (and longer if necessary). We have also expanded these sessions to include more in-depth topics such as workflow and project management techniques using MS Flow automation and integrations with our existing Microsoft suite of products, Live Event broadcasts for seminars or large-scale meetings, and many more topics that help add value to your daily operations.

Unified Communications in OIT can also provide more personal trainings to individual groups or departments upon request. Along with sign up forms for these sessions, our OIT website and Microsoft Teams page has many great resources available how to utilize Teams effectively within your group or department but if you have any questions or additional requests for training, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Unified Communications department by emailing uc@unr.edu.

Kyle Combs
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