Gartner: Six tips to make better use of Microsoft Teams

Gartner has identified six practices that application leaders can employ to help employees make better use of Microsoft Teams.


 This is a contributed article by Mike Gotta, Research VP Analyst at Gartner.


As the UK enters the second wave of COVID-19, organisations have again been advised to work from home wherever possible. Fortunately, this change to how we work has been made possible from technologies including cloud-based communications and collaboration tools supporting remote work requirements and maintaining business continuity. Gartner refers to this market as “workstream collaboration”.

The urgent need to respond quickly and prepare businesses to pivot to remote working, meant that many IT departments deployed workstream collaboration tools to act as a central activity hub for staff handling messaging, file sharing, meetings, and task coordination. In organisations that used Microsoft Office 365, this meant rapid deployment of Microsoft Teams. The sudden reliance on Teams required employees to learn new ways of working and IT groups to learn how to support a tool that they might not be completely familiar with. The result? In some cases, Teams is used ineffectively. As businesses continue to change the way they operate, it’s essential that employees understand the bigger picture of why and how they need to work differently.

Gartner has outlined six practices to help employees make better use of Microsoft teams, improving business continuity and productivity in the long-term.

  1. Tell a story

While broad-based information is effective for raising generalised awareness of issues or topics, it often fails to motivate employees to work in new ways. Achieving self-identification with what the organisation desires is a key challenge when it comes to engaging employees in their use of new collaboration methods.

Organisations should look to craft stories for specific groups of workers rather than broadcasting communications across the wider workforce. Stories help contextualise the information being presented to employees and creates “calls to action” as the communication campaign creates a journey from current to new ways of working. As staff identify with how to use Teams for their particular role and activity and hear about the success colleagues are having in their own journey, it can alleviate the uncertainty and builds a sense of community that everyone is progressing to this new work environment.

Gartner recommends:

Connecting the value of improved collaboration to your digital workplace narrative: It’s essential for organisations’ digital workplace programme to include an employee communications framework. This is the first step in framing the organisational transformations needed for success. The digital workplace story on collaboration should include content, leadership interviews and employee testimonials, demonstrating how teamwork can differentiate an organisation from its competitors.

Communicate progress, focusing on team results and individual accomplishments: Focus on the people and celebrate situations where teams have succeeded in their objective by working in new ways and by achieving a high level of digital dexterity.

  1. Encourage community support

When employees are informed about the success of their colleagues, it helps foster a broader community, also highlighting the actions being recognised or rewarded. Communications about new ways of collaborating should include reports of progress, as well as the setbacks. As the successes are revealed, sharing hurdles can also help staff to find new solutions in routines and tool usage, helping themselves and their peers build community support. Gartner recommends:

Leveraging Microsoft Teams as an ideation centre to continually improve how Teams is used: Use teams to create an innovation hub dedicated to improving the use of Teams and collaboration.

Crowdsource the best examples of how Microsoft Teams is used, including useful “hacks”: identify hacks and practical examples of how employees are effectively using Teams, feeding these behavioural changes back into the communication and story-telling efforts to continue the employee journey.

  1. Enlist champions

Organisations often have natural mentors and coaches, sought after by colleagues to support in different capacities. These employees can be invited into a “champions” programme or be voted in, helping to better implement organisational change efforts.

Establish a champions program within your digital workplace program, with collaboration and Microsoft Teams within its charter: Champions should be an extension of the digital workplace programme and include representatives from across the business.

  1. Promote good etiquette

With the use of chat-based environments being relatively new in a business context, many employees may only have experience with group messaging in their personal lives through various social media and messaging tools. As a result, one of the consistently overlooked attributes of effective adoption has been “etiquette.” Gartner recommends:

Guiding employees on the practical use of team workspaces: Utilise different channels for different activities, conversations, meetings and tasks. For example, organisations can utilise channels for newcomers, Q&A, announcements or social recognition across team members, creating separate channels for each topic and giving employees various outlets to communicate appropriately.

  1. Coach on extensibility

Workstream apps are business application interfaces embedded into channels that result in more actionable collaborative experiences for all team members. Application leaders should educate staff on customisation options of workstream applications, helping develop their digital dexterity and gain a greater sense of ownership over ways to improve their collaborative work and deliverables. Gartner recommends:

Familiarising staff with the Teams app store and policies for adding approved third-party software: Workstream collaboration tools like Teams are designed for integration with add-on tools. Organisations should onboard staff to know how to add applications such as Cisco Webex and Zoom to interact with Teams for better collaboration.

  1. Learn and adjust

Even the best efforts to improve effective use of Microsoft Teams and employees’ digital dexterity will fail unless application leaders and other stakeholders use analytics on usage and results. Gartner recommends:

Using usage data and analytics to refine communications outreach and community efforts and to inform champions: Teams includes a variety of default usage and activity reports that can inform application leaders and others involved in deploying Teams, including information on devices and live events. Third-party apps can add additional insights to this baseline.

Assess employee feedback and service desk assessments to pinpoint specific areas for improvement: Quantitative data is one element to consider, however, it’s also important to gather qualitative data from interviews, surveys, or champion observations. Service desk feedback should also be gathered from IT service management tools to uncover more significant hurdles.

COVID-19 has presented an abundance of challenges for leaders and employees regardless of industry. Organisations and applications leaders can utilise these recommendations to develop a digital workplace programme, enhance the digital dexterity of all employees whilst maintain business continuity and increasing collaboration.

Mike Gotta is a Research Vice President for collaboration and social software at Gartner Research. He has 40 years of experience in the IT industry, with over 20 of those years spent as an Industry Analyst advising business and IT strategists on collaboration and social software. Gotta has a deep focus on the business, cultural and technology aspects of the digital workplace, including collaboration, teamwork, social networks, communities, knowledge management and employee engagement. He also focuses on the use of ethnography within business organizations to gain insight on hidden relationship and cultural dynamics.