Need to quickly get started with Microsoft Teams? Here’s a six-step process that keeps it as simple as possible.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the need for a remote workforce has shifted the focus to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. What may have been a few weeks ago, “it sounds good, but do I really need it?” has become “how soon can I get it?”
The short answer is, “quicker than you think.” But to get there, you need to put thought into it, since this platform impacts your employees both at the technical and cultural level.
This blog lays out a proven implementation process for deploying Teams, broadly discusses the timeline for doing so, and considers factors that may make a rollout more complicated and therefore longer. Our goal is to answer many questions that may be on your mind, such as:
- How do I assess my Technical Readiness?
- How do I determine my Organizational Readiness?
- How do I develop my Deployment Plan?
- What to do about Post–Deployment Support?
- What kind of Implementation Timeline is realistic?
- What Lurking Gotchas are beneath the surface?
By sharing what we have learned, we hope we can help you get up and running with the least possible amount of heartburn.
Quickly Get Started with Microsoft Teams
Everyone can use some good news these days, and Microsoft Teams can help.
First, Teams can be brought online relatively quickly, especially if your organization already uses Office 365. Licenses for most of Teams’ underlying components, such as OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online, are part of Office 365, and your employees are likely familiar with at least some of these. That said, as discussed in greater detail below, implementation times will vary based on your company’s size, culture, technical maturity and more.
Second, even if your company doesn’t have Office 365, the full suite can also be brought online quickly so that you can start implementing Teams.
Third, because Teams runs in the cloud, hardware procurement and set–up is not an issue. It is a software as a service (SaaS) tool with just about everything you need already in place. That makes our first step, Technical Readiness, easier to manage.
Another thought – if you were looking for a time to move off of Skype for Business, go all-in. It is going away in 2021, and events unfolding with the new coronavirus could help move that transition along rapidly.
1. Technical Readiness
It’s 2020, and some of the items that in the past would have been big deals are standard parts of today’s office environment, such as high-speed network access. This means that there are usually no technical showstoppers to a rapid deployment.
However, your team needs to assess the organization’s technical readiness by doing the following: examining the existing Office 365 Tenant (or standing up a new Tenant), discussing the rules you want to enforce for Teams usage (often referred to as governance), understanding Teams’ general use cases, conducting a careful review of your network capacity to handle a full-on teams roll out, and finally—given all these inputs—configuring and turning on Teams.
- Examine your existing Office 365 tenant’s configuration (or that of your new tenant): Review your current tenant configuration, focusing on Teams integration with things like SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, and the various security tools that your organization has in place. The output of this work is a list of items that you need to update in your tenant and any other interrelated components, such as your Active Directory / Azure Active Directory architecture and your Identity Management applications.
- Discuss your governance plan for ongoing operations: In this critically important step, consider the rules that will govern access rights to documents, team owner restrictions, guest access, Teams Federation, team naming conventions, team lifecycle processes, regulatory compliance requirements, data retention rules, mobile device enablement / management, and auditing and monitoring requirements. Some organizations like to run in a wide-open manner with few rules, but larger corporate environments usually have strict legal rules that need to be followed. Establishing a Governance Plan is therefore critical.
- The three most critical items to consider in governance for rapid deployment include: defining and enforcing team lifecycles (team creation through team deletion / archival), controlling guest access, and determining how to manage and set up the most critical teams that are created to support the remote workers. While automating some of the governance policies / standards is a good practice, it’s not necessary to have in place on day one. Consider adding these capabilities further down the road so it doesn’t slow your deployment timelines in response to the greater need in getting the tool in place for your remote workers.
- Review your network capacity: Use Microsoft’s tools and worksheets to perform these calculations—they are very helpful. Additionally, Teams itself is “smart” about throttling down resource–hungry resources such as video during phone calls. Nevertheless, you need to spend time analyzing capacity. With the right people in the room, you can do this quickly and to an adequate level of detail needed to support the remote workforce with the most essential collaboration and communication tools within Teams. One of the most critical areas to examine: do remote workers need to access the Office 365 Tenant services without having to traverse back to your organization’s internal network through VPN?
- Configure and turn on Teams: Complete tasks such as: Make sure you have the basic security configurations to meet your minimum standards; enable licenses of key services (OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams and Exchange); configure external access for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams; and configure Teams to limit who can create new teams, control who can add guests, establish basic controls over meetings, and regulate private channel creation. But look out for things that will potentially slow you down or take extra time, such as enhanced security and compliance features in Office 365, designing and implementing automation that enforces governance policies, and defining standard templates to support numerous different use cases of Teams.
What are the typical items in a technical assessment that can lengthen deployment timelines? In our experience, it’s things like:
- Having complicated conversion requirements of older versions of SharePoint
- Requiring custom functionality that must be rebuilt in the new Teams environment
- Deploying complicated compliance requirements. While security and document access rights are readily handled by teams, fully understanding how they will work and who has access to what can take time.
- Integrating with custom authorization and authentication methods
- Migrating files and emails from other sources
- Meshing Teams with third-party applications
- Implementing complex access rules that need to be applied to both mobile and laptop/desktop devices
2. Organizational Readiness
Organizational readiness is about doing all the things you need to do to roll out an application that fundamentally changes the way people get work done. Consider for a moment what the Teams product encompasses: voice and video calling, meeting scheduling, file sharing, instant messaging, collaborative document creation and editing, whiteboards, email integration, and so much more. Teams encompasses most of the fundamental building blocks of digital workers’ day-to-day lives, touching literally every aspect of almost all basic office tasks. Therefore, it truly impacts every aspect of how people work together.
Add to that Teams’ ability to enable remote workers to interact in a much more complete manner, and you’ve really got a case for needing to invest in change management within your organization – essentially, everyone’s behavior needs to change given the changes in how they work day-to-day.
Here are some techniques that can help you define the scope of your adoption needs and, of course, create an adoption plan:
- Stand up a demo team: Hold a Teams demo to drive out user needs, requirements, and training opportunities while identifying both advocates and detractors. Giving your champions’ roles in the roll out and training process is important to driving product enthusiasm and building a ground swell of support. Similarly, addressing resistors’ needs is also important. They can be won over through additional training and encouragement.
- Invest time in a teamwork assessment: Illustrate the potential for a Teams workplace through multiple-hour interactive sessions and demos. They will explore with key business stakeholders standard use cases and work processes most often affected by an Office 365 or Teams deployment, like diving deeper into how to conduct a meeting in Teams. It sounds simple, and the time commitment may be intimidating, but it’s an easy way to bring Teams to life for employees.
- Synthesize your findings to create a deployment roadmap: Create a road map that includes when to turn features on, roll–out plans (waves or big bangs), training schedules, organizational support structure and staffing requirements, integrations with other enterprise applications used in your organization, automating various processes for supporting Teams, and implementing more advanced security and compliance capabilities.
Tricky things you’ll need to do as you plan for Organizational Readiness include:
- Ensuring your support staff is properly trained and resourced
- Providing continual and targeted education of—and communications to—end users, managers and leaders, and support staff
- Allowing your governance to evolve based on the needs of your organization and your business leaders
- Keeping abreast of the changes Microsoft pushes to your Tenant to ensure end users are aware of what’s coming and how it could impact them
- Decentralizing the management of Teams through the use of Team Owners, and auditing what they’re doing to ensure they follow the governance policies
3. Deployment Plan
The information you have gathered and work you have done so far will drive your deployment plan. Ideally, it will include:
- Details about Teams tenant configuration (see Technical Readiness)
- Change management activities, such as communication plans, resistance management plans, training plans, live and remote training sessions (see Operational Readiness)
- Plans for longer term support and training
Again, in a rapid deployment environment, keep your planning as lean as you can to get the most important collaboration and communications tools in front of your end users as fast as possible.
4. Post-Deployment Support
Post–deployment support is of course important, but it’s probably not what you think it is.
In most cases, it is not horrifically complicated or expensive to provide post–deployment support, because the traditionally very hard stuff largely goes away because of Teams’ cloud-based nature. It is not deployed on premise, so you face no server maintenance, no patching, and no worrying about scaling to increase application performance.
What you will run into is 1) the need for someone who’s skilled and knowledgeable in working in a cloud environment and has a good understanding of administering Office 365, and 2) the confusion found within a large population of new Office 365 users. Of course, your adoption plan helps here.
But as people lay their hands on the keyboards and try to collaborate and communicate, you will have confusion and questions. It will gradually settle, but you do need to be proactive rather than reactive for these users. You can’t just set it loose, and you will need all or some of the following at the ready:
- Technical support for issues like access rights, authorization and authentication, low bandwidth environments, video / audio quality complaints, and the desire for dial-in capabilities. You can create a single team/channel for all questions to come into. In addition, Teams’ Help feature, in the bottom left corner of the screen, can be useful, as well as Teams’ new Bots that automate routine question–answering. However, for some of questions, you will need someone with platform knowledge – a power user will not cut it. Build this into your plans.
- Power users can provide advice for your rookie population that will reduce downstream clean–up. People who know the nuances around Governance are especially helpful. Example: you may want to provide quick advice on questions like, “Is it better to set up a new team, or to add a channel to an existing team?”
- A way to monitor compliance of important procedures to prevent run-away growth of teams, channels, tabs and more. Clean-up is often harder than getting it right in the first place. So, make sure you have governance in place, processes to create teams and channels, and some basic moderation in key, corporate–wide channels.
- A tool to monitor adoption rates to allow for monitoring your people, checking trends, and detecting low adoption by various groups or geographies. When you think about how your organization and teams collaborate, it’s good to have data to back that up. Coreview and Panagenda’s Office Expert are good visualization tools to make working through collaboration better.
- An organization-wide communications team to drive communication and adoption throughout the organization. This same team can be used to answer questions for remote users.
5. Implementation Timeline
“I’m surprised that you cannot tell me the precise timeline”— said no experienced IT person ever. But while determining a specific implementation and adoption timeline is difficult, key factors include:
- Licensing status
- Network deficiencies
- Number of seats and geographic locations
- Security and compliance requirements
- Integration with third-party applications
- Federation with other domains
- Integration with various Identity Management and Access Management solutions
- Your employees’ experience level
Let’s consider three different timeline scenarios:
- 3-7 days: A minimalist set of collaboration and communication Teams functionality (chats, meetings and calls, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and several critical teams) along with a minimalist adoption and change management tasks. The organization is fully committed to deploying quickly and has a team in place to execute and support the plan.
- A few weeks: A basic Teams rollout for a relatively modern organization with a 1,000–seat Tenant.
- 1+ months to start turning on features, 3-6 months for full deployment: A larger rollout for an organization of, say, 5,000 seats.
In all three cases you can get started with rolling out features that are most important to your business quickly. Then, it’s all about doing what you can to reduce confusion among novice users, converting them to unskilled believers, and finally to adept, experienced believers.
At some point, you just have to throw the switch and jump into the pool – whether you want them to jump into the shallow, the deep end, or somewhere in-between depends on your organization’s culture, resourcing, necessity for a transformation, and how risk–averse you are.
6. Lurking Gotchas
As with all technology-based shifts, some things are always lurking that could drive up costs and extend deployment timelines. Please consider the following as you do your planning:
- No licenses: Likely easy to fix, but something to be mindful of.
- External sharing: Watch out on this. Be sure you know what this really means in your organization.
- Private Channels: Double–edged sword, so understand how Private Channels work and when it’s appropriate to use them.
- Network Architectures: Could cause significant performance issues, causing people to blame the application when the root cause of the problems is something else entirely.
- Lack of senior leader buy-in: If the leaders aren’t actively and visibly using the tool, don’t expect the rest of the organization to jump in headfirst.
- Over-thinking the solution: For example, CISOs are paid to say “no,” decrease risk whenever possible, and always seek the maximum level of security. Dealing with today’s pandemic may require some relaxation of the most stringent security requirements – don’t ignore them, but getting this in the hands of end users in a very quick manner will require some amount of give-and-take.
- Migrations: If you have all your documents in other locations, don’t think that you have to eat the whole elephant at once – perhaps just do a simple move of files from key network shares into Teams (or SharePoint or OneDrive). Focus on the nearest targets and the biggest needs for supporting your remote workers. That further target sitting off in the distance can be attacked after you kill off the ones breathing down your neck.
- Integrations to legacy solutions
The Way Forward
Even as you quickly shift to remote work in response to COVID-19, keep in mind that the key to successfully get started with Microsoft Teams is to know your people, know your environment, and know which features are most important to your business. Then, strive to reduce confusion, keep communication lines open, recruit champions, and use education to convert resisters.
Whether you jump into to the deep end with Teams or wade in from the shallow end depends on your organization’s culture. But in most cases, Teams will get you to a better place. That’s why it’s Microsoft’s fastest-growing product of all time.
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