In the weeks that followed the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic and national health emergency, everyone seemed to be talking about Zoom. Overnight, it seemingly went from a little-known platform to one that all businesses needed if they were going to successfully navigate the operational challenges brought upon them by the health crisis. These included the need to pivot to remote work and virtual collaboration to comply with stay-at-home orders and maintain social distancing.
Yet little did many businesses realize that they already had access to one of the best cloud-based communication and collaboration platforms at no cost: Microsoft Teams.
Launched in 2017, Teams was designed as a successor Skype for Business (Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011). It later became a component of the commercial Microsoft Office 365 subscription. That means if your practice has purchased a commercial Office 365 subscription to use the likes of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, you can also use Teams for free.
Considering the impressive features of Teams, it’s a platform that likely has a lot to offer your practice. Here are just seven of the best features of Teams.
- Unlimited chat and online meetings. An intuitive interface allows you to send a message to one team member, all of your team members, or any number in between, with the capability to search conversations at any time. For group chats, you can title the channel to help with organization.
If conversations require more than text, pull team members in for a meeting with audio and video calling options as well as screen sharing capability. You can also invite individuals from outside your practice to participate in chats and meetings. Easily record meetings and share recordings with anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting or those who need to reference what was covered in your discussion.
- Collaboration via Office apps. Since Teams is fully integrated with Office 365, you can coauthor and collaborate on Word documents and Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files. Access, share, edit, and comment on these documents and files in real time. This eliminates confusion about what version of a document or file is the most current, avoids creation of multiple versions of documents and files, and improves staff productivity since they can always access the latest version of a document or file without the need to request and wait for it from a team member.
- Team and personal file storage. The free version of Teams includes 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file cloud storage per user. That’s plenty to start with and is easily upgradable if you require more space. Cloud storage has many benefits, including accessibility from essentially any device that can connect to the Internet and automated backup.
- Access across all devices. In addition to its comprehensive web interface, Teams is available on Android, Windows, and iOS devices. Using the mobile app version of Teams allows you to keep in touch via text, audio, or video when you’re on the go.
- Integration with third-party applications. An ever-growing list of third-party apps can be integrated into Teams. They perform a wide variety of functions that can further enhance the value of the platform for your practice.
- Cybersecurity. Microsoft takes cybersecurity seriously. Team uses some of the strongest security standards. In addition, as the company notes, “Teams enforces team-wide and organization-wide two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest.”
- Outlook email integration. If your practice uses Outlook to manage its email, Teams just got even better for you. The “Share to Outlook” feature allows users to send a copy of a Teams conversation to an email in Outlook — and do so without leaving Teams. And with actionable activity emails, users automatically receive emails informing them of any applicable missed Teams activity. These missed activity emails provide the latest replies from a conversation, including those messages sent after the initial missed message.
Much, Much More to Microsoft Teams
While these are seven of the most significant features of Teams, there are many others that can make a difference in your efforts to successfully manage your practice and continue to deliver exceptional care to patients in the COVID-19 era. While getting started with Teams can be easy, maximizing its value and potential may require some insight and assistance from your managed services provider (MSP). Speak with your MSP about how your practice could benefit from Teams. You may be surprised to find out just how much a platform that you may have had access to for years can have a positive impact on the future of your organization.