The disruptive force of Microsoft Teams

It’s been barely three months since Microsoft Teams was made available in Preview, and in such a short time I have seen a considerable amount of change in both conversations around how organisations communicate as well as how IT Pros and MVPs are starting to look at the future way of working.

And it hasn’t even been made Generally Available yet – they key milestone where Microsoft releases it to the world as “ready for production use”.

While there was some general hubbub about the potential release of originally named “Skype Teams”, when Microsoft Teams was actually made available the impact to the industry and Office 365 in general was almost explosive.

For starters I don’t think a single workload or functional release of Office 365 has generated such an amazing amount of blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and general discussion. And again – all in under three months, while the product is still in Preview. While Yammer certainly created a significant amount of conversation and disruption, a large component of that was negative with many IT Pros objecting to it being thrust upon the Office 365 community and customer base. Interestingly the release of Microsoft Teams has actually brought Yammer back to the forefront with many people asking the question of where does it actually fit in with Microsoft Teams.

Historically in Office 365 we have predominantly had two communication tools: Outlook for emails, and Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) for instant messaging, voice and video. Yammer has been part of Office 365 since 2013 and was not as revolutionary as many had hoped. This was due in part to a few reasons:

  • Many customers and users had been using Yammer before Microsoft acquired it
  • The approach to replacing email with Yammer was in some camps too forceful, and in others too confused
  • In many instances Yammer was simply “turned on” without any consideration as to its place in an organisation, and generally led by IT as a traditional technology deployment – often leaving behind a proper change management and adoption strategy
  • Being categorised as a “Facebook for work” which was misguided, because while Facebook is a common social networking platform there are others such as LinkedIn and Twitter, with which Yammer also shares similarities

The current landscape of communication options within Office 365 now looks like this:

Microsoft Teams is largely seen as a competitor and reactive response to Slack which has quite a substantial user base not just amongst developers, but business users in general. I have spoken to a number of customers who have moved away from Yammer and started using Slack as they wanted something more “live”.

Ultimately the introduction of Teams has given Office 365 customers choice: the ability to choose the right tool for communication for the right purpose, team, way of work, and user generation.

Recently I wrote a blog post for AvePoint explaining how to successfully implement both Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams, explaining the confusion and challenges between them.

One of the things that Microsoft Teams has done is to surface the importance and benefit of Office 365 Groups. While Groups was introduced in 2014 there was still a lot of confusion as to their place in the Office 365 world, who should use them, how to access them, and for many – what the actual point of them was.

Because Microsoft Teams requires Office 365 Groups – it has become paramount for Office 365 customers and IT Pros to understand how they work and how to use them. Before teams it was still somewhat easy to stay aligned to a specific Office 365 workload or technology such as Exchange Online or SharePoint Online, but with Groups they show the importance of both as well as introducing a number of other features such a Skype for Business meeting rooms and Connectors that bring in content from external applications and sources.

While Office 365 Groups have been there for quite some time, they lurked in the background. Microsoft Teams has now provided an easy and somewhat unified way to access the features within them (there’s still work to be done though, specifically around accessing the mailbox, Planner and existing content stored in the Group).

The big thing I have seen Microsoft Teams do is change the way customers talk about using Office 365. Historically conversations were generally workload based: migrate mailboxes, migrate files, deploy an intranet, roll out IM & conferencing, etc.

Now I am seeing customers looking at the implementation of Office 365 through a much broader lens. They are finally asking the question: “I want to transform the way we work and make us more productive, how can we use all of these technologies to do that?”.

Previously I found customer IT Pros might have been resistant to Yammer, mainly because they didn’t understand its place. And the reality is that they weren’t the audience for the product – the business was. Now I am finding they know that they are no longer the audience for Office 365 in general – they are there to enable the organisation to be better, and are asking for help about that.

Often when I speak to customers I am now hearing them say things like: “we want to look at how to use Yammer and Teams to change the way we work, Cloud PBX to improve our traditional communications and conferencing, and oh yeah I guess migrate our mailboxes”.

While many pioneers have travelled this road before – the tools simply weren’t there or as functional (or existed outside of our walled garden).

We are facing a new world thanks to Microsoft Teams – and not because it is the best tool or way of working, but because it appears to have finally shaken the tree hard enough to make people think beyond their mailboxes and file shares.

Is Delve Analytics ready for organisational use yet?

Recently I was on a call with a Microsoft product manager about Delve Analytics talking about its usefulness and how we go about positioning it with customers.

I had to tell the truth: we don’t.

The truth is that Delve Analytics is an amazing product, with amazing potential. We’ve started calling it “Fitbit for work” because of how pervasive Fitbit (and similar such dashboard systems) have become in our lives.

Reality is that personal analytics solutions like Fitbit, Garmin, Band, and others are really only useful to those in the population who care to understand how their bodies and exercise routines are working – because they strive to be better.

And that’s where Delve Analytics currently sits: it’s ideally suited for those people in an organisation who want to understand how they work and what they can be doing better. The reality is that many workers are simply there to do their job and get paid – they’re not particularly interested in reaching optimal worker bee performance.

Where Delve Analytics really has amazing potential is the organisational analytics space – the ability for the organisation to look at the trends of its staff and see patterns or areas of concern such as a higher than expected after-hours working rate.

In my call with the product manager I urged them to release some form of organisational dashboard. The data is already present; we can see it in our own dashboards where it compares our statistics against the company average:

While I appreciate that there is a roadmap that Microsoft follows, I believe that an organisational dashboard should come first before integrating in any other potential data points such as Skype for Business or Yammer (at present Delve Analytics only works off your email and calendar).

An organisational dashboard would allow those in charge of people and culture to see trends in behaviour that may need to be addressed, or for managers to see if their team are overworked or unproductive.

You can see from my stats above that I spent 2.8 hours working after hours, which is slightly above the company average of 2 hours. This is not really an area of concern but something a manager might want to keep an eye on. Especially as it shows that I am down by 0.6 hours from the previous week – so perhaps I spiked because of a project or heavier than normal work week and I am returning to a healthy balance. However here’s some other data which might bring that concern level back up:

Approximately one quarter of the emails I sent are outside business hours. So even though last week I only spent 2.8 hours working after hours – perhaps that was stretched out. The next graph gives more insight:

The graph over the course of the day shows I’m still sending emails right up until the time I go to bed. That is something management would want to address because it shows that I never really switch off and that may be a long-term concern as that type of behaviour could lead to burn-out. Beyond that you may also ask what is the quality of response and consideration I am giving to my emails at that hour vs prime time?

This is why I believe that Microsoft needs to prioritise an organisational dashboard. Without that – Delve Analytics is just there for those keen enough to look and do something about it.

From a selling perspective: the organisational dashboard is what would sell E5. It’s all very well and good to have features like Cloud PBX so you can be more mobile – but without the analytics over staff behaviour how do you know that this hasn’t inadvertently increased the amount they work and is actually a negative?

From a customer perspective: Delve Analytics is a nice to have at this point, I don’t believe it provides a compelling argument until the organisation can actually do something with it.

From my perspective: I think everybody should have it and everybody should care about how they perform. But I’m one of those people who wears a device on their wrist 24 hours a day which uploads data to the cloud so I can look at graphs and make tweaks to my behaviour and activites.

Everyone is different – so Delve Analytics needs to provide that birds-eye view of the organisation and allows managers to dive in; so they can see overall trends as well as individual behaviours and patterns.

Then potentially we can finally put a finger on the wave of digital fatigue we are starting to experience from the workplace.