Catch up on our Q&A webinar about using Microsoft Teams within the public sector.
We have seen unprecedented growth in the use of remote-working tools such as Microsoft Teams since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Microsoft recently reported 2.7 billion Teams meetings on a single day – March 31, 2020.
Usage has grown across all sectors, including government, nonprofit and education. Government adoption is being aided by a free six-month Office 365 Trial for government agencies, called the G1 Trial. The Department of Defense (DoD) alone is rolling out about four million instances of Teams to implement its Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment. The education and nonprofit sectors will follow suit through Microsoft’s free Office 365 A1 license.
As Linda Stevens and Michael McNett have noted, the transition has not always been smooth — but it’s getting better. On April 14, Stevens, McNett and Microsoft Senior Account Executive Jim Estepp held a webinar to share best practices with organizations in the government, nonprofit and education sectors and to answer users’ questions.
“It really doesn’t matter what type of agency or organization you’re with, there’s a way you can leverage these tools to improve some of the challenges we’ve seen,” McNett said. “The first step is getting Teams deployed, but we have found that in most cases, getting the technology on people’s computers is the easiest step. Driving adoption and helping them understand how to leverage it and make it part of their lives is the bigger challenge.”
The participants discussed several scenarios they have encountered working with government clients:
- One client rolled out Exchange Online and Office 365. The client had its identities and networking in place but had not yet adopted Teams. They needed to figure out how to telework. After turning on Teams and working through governance issues, the client fully deployed their Teams Tenant in less than a week because they had already addressed some of the technical challenges.
- Another client was already using Teams but had not deployed any of the audio-conferencing capabilities, so its voice calls were happening over IP. By quickly setting them up with audio conferencing capabilities and providing phone numbers, within two days they had audio conferencing capabilities available for all of their meetings.
- One client had a unique request—they needed to get information out quickly to everybody across their government agency, and they needed it in real-time. Building a Power BI dashboard and securing the proper licensing and technology allowed them to share critical, real-time logistics data with their end-users and outside of the agency.
- Many first-time Teams users build out conversational bots to help people learn about the technology.
However, whatever the scenario, communication, education, adoption and governance are critical.
“If you think that we can just turn Teams on and people will come and use it because now they’re remote – don’t necessarily believe that,” McNett said. “You need to have an intentional approach to make sure people understand why you’re doing this. If you don’t do that, they’re probably going to go back to their old way of doing business, which probably means email, or they’ll bring in some third-party, non-approved tool that you will have no control over. That can put your organization and its information at risk.”
The Microsoft Team experts offered this advice:
- Set up several basic Teams training sessions.
- Use existing channels to manage some of your primary communications. That way, you have a “single source of truth” where people get the latest updates.
- Consider setting up two to five communications teams oriented around specific topics to collaborate and figure out the right messaging for end users.
- Enable audio conferencing, if possible, especially for users most likely to be creating meetings so that they can get dial-in numbers for people without good Wi-Fi capabilities.
- Consider your security posture. Government organizations, especially, will likely have enhanced security needs. You will need to consider security, not only within Teams but across Office 365. It may be best to hire an outside vendor for a security assessment.
McNett took a closer look at governance and Teams by discussing DoD, non-DoD, and nonprofits and educational organizations separately.
For DoD, everyone will abide by the same governance rules across the agency, and they won’t have emailing or calendaring in place. That means people using Teams in the CVR can’t schedule meetings directly from within Teams, though they can still create and communicate meeting times.
However, DoD employees will retain control over certain aspects of their Teams environment, including putting some manual processes and policies in place to support governance areas such as good team naming conventions. DoD employees can go to www.cloud.mil/CVR for more guidance.
Non-DoD government organizations can obtain their own Office 365 Tenants while retaining complete control over governance. However, organizations receiving Teams service from another agency, such as a city or county government organization, may be subject to governance policies already in place, though they may have with some control over how employees use it.
Nonprofit and the educational customers will probably own their own Office 365 Tenants, subject to Microsoft’s specific licensing for their organizations. McNett encouraged them to take advantage of the documentation Microsoft provided for organizations of various sizes and their specific needs.
Finally, for adoption, McNett advised monitoring Teams once organizations roll it out to identify pockets of growth and resistance. That information can help drive training for users with varying levels of skills and comfort with remote-working platforms.
Below are edited versions of the questions received during the webinar.
Microsoft Teams Q&A
Government and DoD
Nonprofit and Education
If your government, nonprofit or educational organization wants to deploy Teams, you have several options. We recommend focusing initially on basic chats, meetings and calls so people can be ready for the more advanced capabilities.
Then, be intentional about adoption and governance. If you don’t show that you are willing to make an investment in training and communicating, resisters will revert back to their old ways of doing business or adopt unapproved tools that put your organization at risk.
In terms of governance, at least define your guidelines and periodically review your teams to make sure they are following it. If you do these three things, you will have a more successful Teams deployment and be ready for whatever comes as COVID-19 recedes.