Say goodbye to virtual team challenges with Microsoft Teams


05 Mar Say goodbye to virtual team challenges with Microsoft Teams

The digital workplace is flexible and mobile. The cloud, big data and communication apps have transformed businesses, unleashing new ways of working that are changing the traditional concept of ‘work’. Work no longer involves people sitting at the same desk in the same building for the same number of hours every day. Remote working and flexible working options give employees the freedom to work when they want and how they want. This has led to the rise of virtual teams.

This way of working presents a number of challenges, but organisations need to embrace virtual teams or they could miss out on attracting the best talent and fail to grow their business.

The main virtual team challenges

Here are the main virtual team challenges:-

  • The physical distance
  • The lack of face-to-face meetings
  • Lack of shared structure to the day
  • People working in different ways at different times
  • Lack of clarity, direction and personal management
  • Breakdown in communication resulting in bottlenecks.

An example of these problems in action

The setting:

Imagine you have a team of 12 sales reps, all working remotely across the UK, the US, and Australia. As the manager of this virtual team, you need to communicate to each member daily. You must set their objectives and sales goals for the week. You need to be available to deal with any problems that arise. You need to motivate them individually while instilling a sense of team ethic.

These tasks become harder when working remotely. Sometimes a telephone call will work, other times an email. On a Monday, you get everyone together online in a conference call to discuss the week ahead, but this seems impersonal, and it’s hard to find a time when everyone is available, due to time zones and hectic schedules.

The problem:

One day, a team member based in the North of England has an issue they can’t solve. A potential customer has posed a question they don’t know the answer to. After missing a few phone calls, you receive an email outlining the problem, but quickly realise you don’t know the answer either. However, you know one of your team members in the US resolved the same issue a few weeks earlier.

You go to call them but realise it’s 5am in the morning in Dallas. You send an email and wait for your colleague to respond. You receive a call from Dallas a few hours later and then relay the information to your colleague in Manchester.

It takes 3-4 hours for the issue to be resolved. In the weekly meeting a few days later, you find out that several other members of the team could have solved the problem and that the issue and its resolution had been documented in a shared file online. If you knew this earlier, you could have resolved the issue much faster.

How Microsoft Teams overcomes virtual team challenges

Microsoft Teams (part of Microsoft’s Office 365) is a communication and collaboration hub, designed for “chats, calls and meeting for today’s teams”. As well as its primary function as an application for group chat, it’s also a central hub for information and helps employees make the most of the whole range of tools provided by Office 365.

Instant communication

With Microsoft Teams, you can communicate via instant messenger to reach out to members of the team wherever they are in seconds. While email will always be used for long, formal and external communications, the back and forth can be time-consuming. On the contrary, with instant messaging, you can ask questions and receive feedback in seconds.

Here are four scenarios where this can be useful:-

  • If you are working from home and need to ask a question to your manager to clarify something, you can hear back in an instant
  • If remote workers are out in the field and stumble upon a problem they don’t know the answer to, they can quickly connect with the office to find a solution
  • If your team comprises solely of remote workers, you can send a daily message to catch up with every member
  • If you are out at a meeting and you need to find a particular file, you can quickly ask someone to share it with you.

Meetings in the cloud

With video conference call technology (Skype for Business) integrated into Microsoft Teams, you can carry out meetings in the cloud. Users can log-in to a meeting from anywhere in the world and can contribute as if they were sitting around the same table in an office. Attendees can share files, share screens, communicate via instant chat and work together on documents in real time.

Built-in app integrations

Microsoft has announced its largest ever update for Microsoft Teams. The focus of the updates is on better app integration, including Office 365 apps and third-party apps including Zendesk, Asana, Hootsuite and more.

This lets users access their favourite apps within Teams and quickly use information from other apps in Teams. For instance, you can search for a Trello task or search for a work item in Wrike. Users can then bring the information from the apps they use every day to make collaboration across virtual teams even more effective – e.g. into a Skype for Business meeting or a Group conversation.

Multi-function team members can access several tools from one place. Not only does this make life much easier, but also it helps avoid the distraction of context-switching, as users no longer have to switch between apps to find information.

For more information about Microsoft Teams, get in touch with CPS today.

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Sorcha Piotrowski
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