How to change user's behavior?

We all have some behavior that we would like to change in ourselves or encourage others to change in a positive way. Sometimes we see the clear value of doing things differently, but for some reason, we do not change our behavior.

How do we start changing the behavior? For example, you want to quit eating candies. And so, you tell yourself ‘’ I have to stop eating candies otherwise, I will be fat.’’ So what we do here is trying to scare ourselves with the negativity that might happen to us and we think that this leads to making a change. And this tactic is very widely used not only by individuals but also in many organizations and institutions for example by a government saying ‘’ stop leave trashes otherwise you will live in a dirty neighborhood’’ or by healthcare institutions ‘’Stop smoking. Smoking kills’’

However, research shows that warnings have a little impact on changing behavior. According to Dr. Tali Sharot research, when we think about negative consequences we tend to ignore them because we are not completely sure if this (the negative scenario) will happen to us for real, we prefer to ignore negativity and so this emotion is not the best stimulation for a change. However, positive emotions are encouraging people to change says Dr. Tali Sharot. We like to feel that we achieved something positive, even though it is a small step.

QuickHelp

This model works for every kind of changes and the business world is not an exception. Indeed, nowadays in the global market, only those companies that can adapt to fast changes will survive.
Doesn’t matter in which market or sector you work, you have to always be dynamic, grow and learn a lot. But this is definitely easier said than done.

How can organizations deal with this challenging environment? Technology can certainly help. For instance, Microsoft Office 365 tools are revolutionizing the way of working in many companies around the world. They enable employees to be more productive, more efficient while collaborating more.
But what happens when these tools are so new for employees? This brings big changes to their working environment and daily routines. And when it actually happens, people are stressed twice: how to meet their deadlines while learning how to work with the new tools?
In general, employees are always stressed about new technologies coming into their workplace. They are worried about how disruptive this will be for them. Usually, they are worried and raising questions like: will I understand the new tools? will I be able to use and work with them? And the fear about how the change will affect their job causes reluctance to use the tool or to know more about it.

HOW TO TURN CHANGES INTO A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE?

Everyone wants to achieve positive results in a short period of time. Employees that are going through a change process are not an exception. So how we can offer them positive emotions in a change process that will not take much time?

Tiny Habits Program Tiny Habits Program

A “Tiny Habit” is a simple behavior or action you do at least once a day, that takes you less than 30 seconds and that requires little effort. Every time you succeed in doing or embracing the new habit, you must celebrate. The stronger you feel a positive emotion after your Tiny Habit, the faster it will become automatic. So with small actions repeated regularly, we can easily transform our behavior at work. Hence, if you want to encourage people for changes, this method can be an easy way to bring some positive emotions for employees when they feel happy that they did a small positive step towards bigger results.

QuickHelp. 5 min per day to improve your digital skills

QuickHelp is a cloud-based training solution for Office 365 users, that is accessible anywhere at any time. This platform provides a lot of information that is useful for all end-users (from a non-advanced user to a very advanced user.) The majority of content is in videos, that are shot (from 1 to 4 minutes) and very concentrate. It also gives opportunities to sign up for ‘’events’’, webinars with Microsoft certificated trainers where participates can ask questions online.

Quickhelp
By using QuickHelp all employees have a learning path to follow. A personalized account is offered, so every user can select learning videos based on their preferences regarding Office 365 apps. This learning platform provides up-to-date information so an advanced user can find new topics, meantime a beginner can follow the full program on a certain topic without having any information gaps. The most important, all information is accessible at any time and it’s simple to use. By taking only a few minutes per day to watch a video about the tool you would like to know more employees will have a positive feeling that they learned something. To do so employees were encouraged by the positive feelings and not by warnings.

In the process of changing our behavior emotions are playing an important role. We want to succeed and feel good about our selves. In a business environment, a ”change’’ usually is associated with new ways of working that cause stress. It means that employees have to accept and adapt to novelties. This negative feeling causes reluctant for a change. However, even though the change process is difficult and challenging, luckily, there are some tools and methods that can bring positive emotion to users and encourage them to change their behavior. Follow these rules and do small steps for big changes. And if you want to know more join our workshop Office 365 training: 5 min per day to increase user adoption!

How to get the most out of your Microsoft Office 365 investment?

Your IT manager suggested migrating to Microsoft Office 365, as it has been addressed as the best option now for your company. You trust him, you trust the IT team. So you did the migration, bought the licenses and now all employees are in. The investment was huge, and it’s time to get the most out of it. But how do you know whether and how your employees are going to use and exploit the possibilities that Office 365 can offer them in terms of productivity, collaboration and smart working?
By helping your end-users understand how those capabilities can improve their team collaboration and simplify their day-to-day tasks, you can make some positive changes for your company, starting to act for your return on investment.

 

Return on investment

 

 

1. Use Targeted Communications

To change the behavior of your end-user community and make them adopt the new technology, a communication strategy is essential. First of all, you have to create awareness and information about what is going on and what this changes will mean for end users.
You need to customize the message to their job role and specify how the new features can help them to be more productive, meaning do more in less time. So, focus on your audience and their needs. The critical question is “What’s in it for me? “ In other words, highlight the benefits for them.

2. Media mix

To implement your communication strategy, you can use several channels.
Printed material such as posters, flyers, brochures, and reference cards. They can be put up in common areas such as break rooms, printer bays, and bathrooms. Communicate your message and boost discussions, questions, dialogues.
Live events such as webinars, workshops, lunch and training. These are a great way for IT to engage with end users, learn about how the tool works, and discover many opportunities to solve real business problems with Office 365.
Audiovisual material. Videos broadcasted in your collaboration platform, internal organizational channels, WhatsApp groups, social media, intranet, corporate emails and newsletter.

media mix

3. Word of mouth

The good old way of communicating always works. People like to talk with people about what is happening in the organization. Everyone is involved in the word of mouth process to communicate the changes and marketing the new technology. Executives and managers are not excluded. They also have to tell their direct reports to peers telling peers. You can harness the power of peers telling peers by creating a champions program.

4. Champions program

Identify people in your company who see the value of Office 365 through personal experience and are willing to mentor their peers. They will be your ambassadors, promoting the use of the tools to their colleagues and inspiring them to follow their example.

5. Technical support for new users

The IT Helpdesk staff should be trained in what Office 365 can do, as well as how to support users facing problems and difficulties. Moreover, the IT help desk can identify a business productivity problem that Office 365 can solve in ways the end user is not aware, or discover common issues experienced by users that need more training.

6. Learning opportunities

Whether it is e-learning sessions, workshops, live or virtual training, the most important thing is to help users familiarize and experiment with Office 365. Learning how it works, the concrete possibilities and actions they can do in the daily work explained by experts is fundamental to avoid the barriers that can stop new users to adapt to the new tools.

 

conference call Skype

 

7. Keep track and monitor the progress

To do so, Microsoft provides many tools, such as Microsoft 365 usage analytics within Power BI. Thanks to this tool, you can gain insights on how your organization is adopting the various services within Office 365 to communicate and collaborate. You can visualize and analyze Office 365 usage data, create custom reports and share the insights within your organization and gain insights into how specific regions or departments are utilizing Office 365.

 

These seven points represent some tips and general ideas on how to proceed when a new technology, like Office 365, is being introduced in your company. However, to ensure a positive rate of user adoption and a successful change management strategy that will pay back your investment, a more structured user adoption strategy and change management methodology are needed.

Pace methodology SilversideSilverside PACE methodology is made of four phases: Plan, Acquire, Change, Enhance. Managing the organizational changes in the method of working and in technologies is just easier for managers, consultants and end users. Firstly, be aware of the organizational culture of your company and plan a complete and predictive change management strategy in all the aspects. Secondly, acquire the new collaborative business vision and the technologies necessary to implement the strategy. A user adoption strategy is fundamental at this stage to instill change at every level in the organization. Lastly, optimize the value gained by adjusting the strategy, address key challenges and align with the required business outcomes.

Download the PACE whitepaper! 

4 reasons why IT is a challenging environment

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We are working in a business environemnt  where every day we see how employees encounter different issues related to the way of  working,  communciating, collaborating,  but also about tools and technologies. Since the business world is becoming more and more demanding, people have more work to do and less time, so employees have to do more in the same amount of time. This is why technology can help us by offering possibilities to be more productive at work. If on one hand technology supports and helps employees and businesses, on the other hand it is tricky and can cause many issues to the users.

Indeed, hardly a day is passing by without at least one novelty in IT environment is released. As a consequence, technology in our working environment is changing very fast: new products, new features and updates are being presented every day. In Silverside working practice we see some main challenges that companies have, but have to overcome.

What are the biggest challenges in this dynamic IT world?

1. Workload

If you think about your work day and all the activities and tasks you have completed… so many things need to be done in a short period of time.

workloadTime is precious, so we have to use it in the right way. Hence, managing your time in a productive way, is critical. This is why people are looking for better options and solutions that can allow them to be more efficient. If you are working with your colleagues, which tool is the best for communicating and collaborating? No matter if you are working alone or in a team, time is always precious and work efficiency is always a priority.

Technology provides all kinds of possibilities: tasks are automated, it is easier for employees to reach their goals in faster ways and it is now possible what some decades ago was impossible. In this context, competition in the market is higher than ever. Moreover, customers all around the world are more and more demanding, pretending high quality products and services, the right support from suppliers and fast responses when they have all kinds of issues. The result? The need for employees to reach maximum productivity in order to keep up with the workload they are assigned to do.

2. Globalization

We are living in a global economy. This means that companies expand all around the globe, opening new branches in different countries and continents, in order to enlarge the profits of the global market. In other words, business doesn’t have any boundaries anymore. This has a great impact on the way of collaborating and working.

Globalization

Nowadays, people can be in the different places and still work together: remote team work is a habit and being part of the same project team together with people from Japan and Canada is now the norm. How can this be possible? Thanks to technology. Hence, it is not possible to imagine working without smart technologies for business communication. If you have a meeting, do you always need to be physically in the same room with your colleague? In this age, the answer is definitely NO. However, the question arises on HOW to do that in a productive way with the right technologies? Which apps and which functionalities to use to have the most effective online meetings and conferences?

3. Fast Changes

The only constant is change.

fast changes

We are facing the challenge of finding that perfect balance between keeping up with change and not changing for its own sake. Change is inevitable, and change is good, but  change must be consistent with corporate objectives and and bring some positive results.

The impact of technology on constant changes is huge, because new tools, apps, new features, and updates are being released on a daily basis. Technology is changing so rapidly for organizations and the ability to adopt new technologies is becoming a vital mechanism. Hence, managers all over the world make many efforts in searching for the best technologies to help employees work better and smarter because nowadays the technologies give us many opportunities on how to improve our work.
However, changing the technologies means changes in the way we work, so people need to adapt and develop new skills.

4. User adoption

When we talk about business technologies the big problem arises when in reality only a few people will actually use these new tools. Why they do so? Because people don’t like changes, they like to behave in the same old ‘’natural’’ way. As a consequence, making change work for your business is the challenge. One of the biggest challenges that technologies bring to business is user adoption: getting employees trained on new tools of working and encourage them to use new tools on a daily basis.
However, at first, employees are stressed about new technologies coming into their workplace. They are worried about how disruptive it will be for them. Usually, they are worried and raising questions like: Will I understand the new tools? Will I be able to use and work with them? When employees are told that new technologies are coming into their workspace, they get stressed and feel under pressure. And so, the fear about how the change will affect their job causes reluctance to use the tool.

 

user adoption

 

One of the biggest mistakes that companies do when they implement the new technology, is thinking that the date when that technology is introduced, correspond to the starting date of its usage. Because it is not! The real struggle is not the switch from one software to another, but the task to make people adopt it.

 

Here I listed four business challenges that I believe have the biggest impact on our daily work. It is not difficult to imagine that in such a condition it is really challenging for us to keep up with this pace and the struggle with personal and group productivity, collaboration,  adoption of new tools and new ways of working is real. Hence, Silverside invites you to participate in our free workshop ‘Office 365 training: 5 min per day to increase user adoption‘, together explore the challenges that the dynamic IT world brings for the end user and find out about possible ways how to overcome these struggles.

The importance of Corporate Email Signature

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Your email signature is as important as any other part of your corporate identity. Using a badly designed, not consistent email signature has a huge negative impact on a client or a prospect since it results in poor professionalism.

Having instead a consistent, simple, clean signature with the corporate logo that reflects the identity of the company is the right approach to increase the positive perception of the company in the eyes of customers and prospects, while providing an instant brand recognition of the organization. That’s why a corporate email signature is fundamental for every company. Indeed, an email signature is like handing a person a business card every time you send an email. When people say: “the first impression is the one that counts the most” is really true, also if we are talking about corporate electronic communications. In the end, why should you risk your professional image by not instituting a company-wide email signature?

 

email signature

 

To sum up, an email signature has four main areas of interest:

  • Legitimacy

Conveying a cohesive and consistent image of your company throughout every email of every employee means that your business is well established and trustworthy.

  • Branding

How to brand every message you send? Through a signature. It establishes and reinforces who you are as a company, enforcing your brand awareness among your customers and prospects.

  • Email marketing

Entrepreneurs and marketing professionals commonly use email marketing for business promotion. But what is the point of email marketing if your corporate email is not attractive? If the logo is not present in the email? If it is not recognizable or doesn’t have the link to the company website?

  • Digital Business Card

This signature is your digital business card, meaning it is a way to connect with customers, leads or potential new clients. Moreover, including the contact details and important links (like your website or social media) is a way to facilitate the communication and connection with your audience.

email signature

 

Dedicated software can be used to design and manage signatures. By managing email branding, you can easily refresh email signatures across your entire organization, as well as regulate them. If you still don’t have an email signature, Crossware can help you.

crossware

Crossware is an international leader in company email signature management. Crossware’s flagship product, Crossware Mail Signature, gives users complete control over their company email signatures. They can easily design an attractive and professional email signature and ensure that these are included on every email leaving their company, even those sent from mobile devices.

Start your 30 days free trial now!

The Microsoft news that was supposed to dominate the headlines yesterday was the forthcoming updates for Office 365 users of Outlook for Windows and Outlook on the web. Instead the news that dominated was the data centre outage in San Antonio TX after a lightning storm took out the cooling system, which had cascading effects across the world for Azure, Azure Active Directory, and Office 365. But that outage seems to be resolved now, and so we can get back to seeing how changes from Microsoft can have an impact on how people work together.

Two main blog posts on the Outlook Blog yesterday were released together to highlight the forthcoming changes in Outlook (although the team released five in coordination). It’s worth a read to see what the team has been working on: Outlook for Windows and Outlook for the web.

The forthcoming updates that stood out to me were:

  1. The opt-in slider for users of both clients to choose whether to switch to the new experience immediately, or wait until it is fully released. Giving people (and organisations) options for when they embrace the change in the interface helps with pacing what is coming, determining whether any new adoption resources are needed, and for the Outlook team at Microsoft, provides a way of getting targeted feedback from people with a high interest in seeing what’s coming. I don’t know why Microsoft uses a different name for the opt-in slider on Outlook on the web and Outlook for Windows though. That seems an unnecessary complexification of the change. 
  2. The simplified ribbon in Outlook for Windows. I remember the transition from the short icons to the higher ribbon a decade ago, and the furore in response. Looking at both the ribbon we’ve grown used to and the simplified ribbon that we’ll soon have access to, the second is definitely cleaner and easier to look at – mainly due to the removal of so many options. Microsoft’s design point that many people use the same 10 or so commands, but then the next few are different between people is well founded – and surely they have the in-product usage telemetry to make that design assertion. The simplified ribbon provides a way of addressing this individualisation of the experience; it will be good to try it out. I know in my use of Microsoft Office generally, there are many ribbon buttons that I don’t ever use.
  3. The subtle but powerful re-arrangement of the new meeting form was the change I loved the most: putting the time for the meeting ahead of the location. By entering the time first, the availability of locations can be shown alongside the list of possible meeting locations. Defaults are a powerful thing, and clearly so is the sequencing of input fields. It would be great to see this innovation flow across other Microsoft tools that combine a request for time with a request for a location, such as the new meeting form in Microsoft Teams. 
  4. Talking about the new meeting form, I was very surprised to see a button for making the meeting a “Skype Meeting” instead of a “Teams Meeting.” Surely the Outlook team has read the memo about Microsoft Teams being the strategic communication app in the Office 365 stack now, and Skype for Business being relegated to second or lower fiddle. Defaults are a powerful thing, and having Teams as the default option would be the better choice in light of the wider Microsoft vision. Hopefully that email about the strategy wasn’t caught in spam!

Finally, there are a whole set of small, almost inconsequential and subtle changes in the layout: Groups being a peer to Folders, message actions in the top right corner, background highlights for flagged messages, and so on. These are all good directional changes that simplify workflow within Outlook.

Of course, while Outlook remains a pivotal place for people to work, collaboration is best done through other experiences such as Teams, Yammer, and SharePoint. It’s good to see Outlook getting better, but no degree of getting better will address the fundamental weaknesses of an email system for productive collaboration. For that you need modern collaboration tools and a journey of transformation to becoming a collaborative business.

Microsoft Teams external communication

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Since Microsoft Teams has been introduced two years ago, the product has evolved in a reasonable way. Yet, there are still some difficulties to overcome with Microsoft Teams. There are many questions that need to be answered prior moving to Microsoft Teams when coming from Skype for Business.

Let’s say you are working for an international organization and you didn’t implement Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams yet, but the company needs a communication client to communicate with employees all around the world. Currently some departments within the organization are using different communication clients with potential employees, or are communicating with external clients with different tools.

 

conference call Skype

 

Microsoft Teams seems to be THE tool, right? Possibly, I would say.

Depending on the requirements for your internal business it can be a problem. When you want to communicate with external parties, are you going to ask every external person to install Microsoft Teams? Even when it is not an External Client? I don’t believe so!

Currently, many organizations are using the Skype consumer client for external communication. Why? Because people are used to use Skype consumer everywhere around the world for communicating with potential new employees or external clients. And people are using it to communicate with friends and family around the world. It is easy to install, it is a lightweight product and it works on everything: from a simple tablet to phones and notebooks. It doesn’t consume a lot of bandwidth and it doesn’t need a lot of resources to operate smoothly. Next to that, it has persistent chat which stays available.

Are you going to ask a single person to install Microsoft Teams for just a one-hour call, and the hazzle that comes with it? Since not every person is handy with computers and software, you need to guide them with them. With Skype for Business you can communicate with Skype consumer, but it lacks many options that come with Microsoft Teams. Also, Microsoft decided that we need to move to Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business will be deprecated.

But there is also an issue with Skype consumer version. You cannot use it in a very strict environment with Proxies. Skype consumer doesn’t like Proxies, and yes, in version 7 you can still use it, but in version 8 it isn’t possible to set a Proxy. And when you have configured a Proxy there is still no guarantee it will work. Skype for Business

So, let’s go back to Microsoft Teams. You would think that Microsoft Teams will support external communication with Skype consumer, since Skype for Business has it? Well, no! After investigating I found out that Microsoft rejected the implementation of integration with the Skype consumer version. The only part that Microsoft will introduce is the PSTN calling from Microsoft Teams to Skype Consumer, but not the ability to chat or send files.

Microsoft is limiting organizations to use Microsoft Teams with no possibility to communicate with external parties that don’t use this app. But nothing to say about the future, Microsoft is still learning from its own mistakes.

Yet there are no decent solutions for organizations who rely on communication with external parties when you are moving to Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. MS Teams is nice for internal communication and organizations who are using Microsoft Teams.

Source:
https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public/suggestions/16958347-skype-integration-consumer-federation

 

New data centres coming to Germany in 2020 for German data residency

Data privacy and data protection are serious issues across Europe. The new Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is top-of-mind for many organisations in the region – as it should be – and the rest of the world now too – as it has become – but matters of data privacy and data protection have been serious issues for a long time before GDPR. This is not the blog post for a deep analysis of GDPR, but one of the items that flows from the regulation is a high duty of care around where data is physically located and stored. When data is stored in on-premises systems and servers, it is much easier to draw a line around a box and say “this is where it is.” In the original vision of the cloud, on the other hand, data residency issues bordered on the irrelevant; as long as it was stored securely, so the vendors reasoned, where precisely it was stored “in the cloud” could be rather amorphous.

That’s changed. For example, Microsoft now offers much greater transparency around where specifically data is stored for Office 365 tenants, and even has an almost year old multi-geography offering for organisations that require different data storage locations in different regions but still within a single tenant. And in combination with a changed mindset around data storage location, Microsoft is building out a global network of data centres to provide in-region and even in-country guarantees for those organisations where the specifics around data residency is a potential show stopper. In principle, much of the world is now covered by a consistent data centre approach for Office 365, although this is a moving target as Microsoft re-jigs data storage locations to take advantage of new data centres.

One of the countries that has been excluded from the consistent approach is Germany. Back in 2015, Microsoft introduced a “new type” of Office 365 data centre for German organisations who required data residency within Germany. The Office 365 service offered through the 2015 German data centre was a special variant (e.g., Office 365 E4 Germany), and was run by a German-based third-party data trustee so that Microsoft would not have access to customer data as a non-German company. This approach provided an immediate answer for Microsoft and for German organisations, but over the subsequent years, the new capabilities introduced to Office 365 globally have generally been excluded from Office 365 Germany. No Microsoft Teams. No PowerApps. No Microsoft Flow. No Office 365 E5. No Yammer even. No MyAnalytics. No Planner. No, no, no and no.

It’s pretty hard to work with organisations on introducing change in how people work together using modern collaboration tools when they can’t even access them.

But the times are a’changin. Effective early 2020, Microsoft will bring its new Berlin and Frankfurt data centres on stream for Office 365, replacing the current 2015 data centre model. The new data centres are part of Microsoft’s consistent global Office 365 data centre strategy – not a continuation of the “new type” – and German organisations for whom in-country data residency is essential will be able to use these new data centres. We’re not there yet, but Microsoft is not onboarding new customers to its current 2015 German data centre any more, and new customers can either embrace one of the regional European data centres or wait for early 2020. Part of this stems from the impact of GDPR: since GDPR delivers a harmonised approach across all 28 member states in the EU, the need for a specific and exclusive approach in Germany is no longer required.

In the Euro 2012, Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1. In the FIFA World Cup 2014, Argentina won the penalty shootout against the Netherlands, and then proceeded to play Germany in the final (and lose 0-1). Clearly, Germany has a great football team (although go Netherlands in 2018!). Despite our country-level competition in football, we welcome all German organisations to Microsoft Teams (and other Office 365 services) in the new data centres, and look forward to bringing our PACE approach to make a winning combination – for all teams.

Join Sasja Beerendonk at Office 365 and SharePoint Connect 2018

This year, Office 365 & SharePoint Connect conference comes to Haarlem, Netherlands. Here the best independent experts from around the world and Microsoft will meet to talk about the possibilities Microsoft offers to innovate the IT and Business sectors and how companies and professionals should deal with it.
Attendees can learn how to move forward with expert speakers who will share their experience, knowledge, and best practices, plus real-world project insights with you.
Moreover, there is also the chance to hear about the latest novelties coming from Microsoft Ignite USA, who will take place in September. This will also include all the latest Ignite releases and updates as Microsoft defines its directions.

The conference format is designed with many personalized sessions, based on the attendees’ interests and levels of knowledge.
Office 365 and SharePoint Connect are once again delighted to work with various user group leaders from SP&C NL, DIWUG, Office 365 NL, and Collab365.

 

Facebook never needed adoption, why does Office 365?

 

Among all the expert speakers of the sessions, we are proud to announce that also our Senior Consultant Sasja Beerendonk will hold the workshop “Facebook never needed adoption, why does Office 365?

Silverside

Resistance to change is what you’ll get without a proper change strategy for your collaboration platform. Unlike IT people, business users are not necessarily thrilled about new technology, features and functionalities.
Introducing a collaboration platform in an organization, does not mean that people will adapt to the changes and adopt the new way of working, using that platform.

Most employees will need to be motivated differently to actively use the new tools. What are the reasons employees do not simply embrace new technology? And most importantly: How can we bend resistance to change? Learn what makes change for technology so difficult and how to motivate your employees by joining Sasja!

 

Silverside

Remote Team Work: How to communicate efficiently in the digital age?

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Nowadays, working in a team remotely is almost a state of mind. More and more companies have different project teams with members located in different parts of the world or teams and departments dislocated all around the globe.

Harvard Business Review reports that, according to recent studies from Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22% of Americans work from home, while nearly 50% are involved with remote or virtual teamwork.

 

remote work

 

In the past, the collaboration and communication between these remote teams meant thousands of emails and phone calls. But the impossibility to physically meet and have conversations and discussions negatively impacted the productivity.

Online and virtual meetings revolutionized completely the collaboration and productivity for teams that have to work together remotely. Tools like Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams opened up a completely new world for remote team working (read the blog Online team collaboration with Microsoft Teams to have an example of how to collaborate online using Microsoft Teams). Through an internet connection, basic digital skills and the right tools, it’s now possible to have brainstorming, knowledge meetings, collaborate around projects, solve problems and much more, boosting in this way team productivity. Even though remote team working is now a habit for the majority of companies, people who work on remote teams still face many challenges that require new collaboration skills to be faced.

 

Lack of body language

When working and collaborating remotely, body language is completely missing. This can create misunderstandings, confusion, misinterpretations and other communication issues that cost a lot in terms of social interaction, productivity, and efficiency.

 

Distances

There are three kinds of distance in remote collaboration: physical (place and time), operational (team size and skill levels) affinity (values, trust, and interdependence). Virtual and online meetings reduce physical distances but do not compensate for the differences in skill levels and values among team members.

 

The solution

The solution to these two main challenges cannot come from the technologies used. To perform at the highest levels, remote teams have to find new and better ways to operate, communicate and collaborate.

 

remote team work

 

1. Clarity and consistency

To avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication, it is fundamental that members in the team establish and respect rules and norms on how to communicate and collaborate. Some examples can be a set of acronyms, expected response time, rules on how to use communication platforms like Microsoft Teams.

 

2. Limit the digital volume

Even though communicating in a platform like Microsoft Teams will significantly reduce the amount of emails team members will receive, this does not mean that you can send hundreds of messages in a team chat. Discussions have always to have an aim and a purpose and having a team conversation full of confused messages and attachments is not going to help the productivity of the team. Try to send one message with the information you want to communicate (only the most important one). In the end, you are not whatsapping your friends, even though the platform is similar.

 

3. Always respect the social rules of interaction

You are communicating remotely through digital devices and online meetings. You are not having physical and face to face conversations with your team members, but they still remain human beings, with feelings and different personalities. Don’t forget to respect the normal norms of social interactions: thank you, good morning, have a nice day, and expressions like these are always welcome also in chats and online conversations.

 

4. Strengthen relationships within your team members

Your team is composed by people with who you are working and communicating on a daily basis. Conversations should not only be about work. Creating occasions for celebrations and socializing can strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for future collaboration. Find ways to shorten the affinity distance. Congratulate for a birthday, create personalized memes, share funny content, tell something personal, ask for advices and so on are also part of a remote team life!

 

As mentioned before, the challenges of digital interactions and remote team working cannot be solved by the technology teams use. Miscommunication is always a high risk, but by understanding the new rules of engagement and building the right communication skills among the team members, can help remote teams to work more efficiently, facing the challenges that our digitally-driven age brings.

Download our whitepaper Collaborate as a team in Office 365 to learn how to foster your team collaboration using Office 365 tools.

 

Microsoft Teams provides a place for teams to work together, share documents, and hold meetings. As I mentioned yesterday, Microsoft has been working hard to bring meeting capabilities from Skype for Business Online into Microsoft Teams, and is making solid progress on this, albeit with more still to go.

In making its case for using Microsoft Teams for meetings, Microsoft funded a research project looking at the effectiveness of meetings, and concluded that meetings on the whole are fairly ineffective. Interestingly, this is the same line of argument that we profile in our Principles of Smarter Meetings document, and why we start our work with clients looking at the current state of work activities (what we call “productivity scenarios”) in scoping the opportunity for introducing change in how people work together. If we can see an opportunity, then we can do something about it – through an integrated mix of better practice and better tools.

Here’s the diagram that Microsoft shared from its research:

Research findings on meetings - by Microsoft

What’s interesting in reading the blog post talking about Teams for meetings, however, is the emphasis on “faster” and “quicker.” For example, here’s the two pivot lines that jumped out to me (emphasis added):

  • “Meetings occur in the hallway, in meeting spaces, the shop floor, or in daily standups. No matter where in the world a user may be, the recent investments made in Teams meetings will help work to get done faster.
  • “With the recent capabilities released, meetings can start quicker. It’s about making meetings easy to schedule once a decision has been made to connect, and a frictionless join at meeting time.”

Don’t get me wrong – I think faster and quicker have a place to play, but actually, in the way we think about it, what meetings need to become more effective is much more about slowing down. 

It’s about scoping the agenda right. 

It’s about getting the right people on the invitation list. 

It’s about preparing solid pre-meeting materials so people can come prepared and maximise meeting time for interaction and discussion, not for listening to a presentation.

It’s about finding the right time, not just some knee-jerk reaction to “meet now” and thus break flow and concentration and deep work.

It’s about effective meeting behaviours where leaders listen in order to hear and are then able to leverage the input of everyone in attendance.

It’s about hearing what’s said, capturing effective meeting notes, and making solid follow-up plans.

None of these are fundamentally about faster and quicker. But if you can get these disciplines right, you’ll win about 90% of the battle for better meeting effectiveness.

And then, sure, let’s use modern and efficient and new and interesting tools like Microsoft Teams to actually hold the meeting.

How effective are the meetings at your place?

Screenshot of Microsoft Teams - a meeting with five people

Late last week, Microsoft advised the world that the planned integration of features and functionality from Skype for Business Online into Microsoft Teams was completed. This made, in Microsoft’s words, “Teams ready to meet your messaging, meeting and calling needs.” Microsoft then provided a great list of noteworthy capabilities that are now available in Microsoft Teams, including integration with Skype room systems and end user devices for meetings and calling.

Members of the Microsoft Teams community were quick with two types of feedback: the congratulatory side, and the “but-this-still-doesn’t-work” push-backs. For example, community members pointed out the lack of:

  • A compact mode, so more interaction fits onto one screen.
  • Stability and reliability, because Teams crashes too often and stops working.
  • The ability to joint a Teams meeting from a Polycom VVX phone via touch.
  • The ability to add another PSTN caller to a current phone call.
  • Mapping of caller IDs to a local address book.
  • The ability to add external or federated contacts to a contact group.
  • Desktop sharing during one-to-one chats.
  • Pop-up options for chat windows.
  • General purpose capabilities for online webinars, such as turning off chat for all attendees, muting audio for all attendees, running a moderated Q&A, and real-time polls. While some of these are available in the new Teams Live Events, they come with an unacceptable time delay that makes it unusable for interactive webinars.
  • Outlook meeting scheduling in Mac, OWA and mobile.
  • … and more.

Many of these issues are about the use of Microsoft Teams for calling and conferencing, which is a separate use case than team collaboration. Whenever a vendor collapses capabilities from multiple products into a new single product, there’s always going to be speed bumps along the way. Customers who loved and embraced earlier product features want to see those carried forward, and either that’s not always possible in the same way, or the timeframe for getting there is too long. I don’t see a disavowal of Microsoft’s strategic intent with Microsoft Teams among the community members, but I do see a desire for Microsoft to do it right. And as soon as possible. And if not as soon as possible, then as accurately and truly and correctly as possible.

There remain some items in the list above that apply more broadly to Microsoft Teams, such as the reliability and stability of the client (d’oh, crashed again!). We would like to see Microsoft pay more attention in the short term to resolving some of these long running issues, because if it ain’t stable, it ain’t going anywhere. Being the new kid on the block will get you an initial pass to explore what’s available, but if the new kid can’t meet the expectations put on him or her, the world will bypass the offer and reject the new. Introducing change in how people work together using modern collaboration tools is what we do at Silverside, but if new ways are undermined by unreliable and unstable tools, you quickly conclude that the new ways don’t actually work. And that’s not helpful.

We really like what we see available in Microsoft Teams for team collaboration – the text chat, the tabs, the shared files, the app integrations, and more. It’s a significant innovation for the Office 365 toolkit for modern collaboration. We hope the wider use cases and larger scale dream around meetings and calling doesn’t undermine the team collaboration story.

Team of people discussing work over coffee

Microsoft Teams is the strategic team collaboration app in Office 365, and as discussed yesterday, has supplanted both Microsoft SharePoint Online and Skype for Business Online. It is not, however, standing still, as Microsoft is adding new capabilities and enhancing current ones at quite some cadence. In July the big news was a free version of Microsoft Teams for tenants with up to 300 users. During the last month, we have seen the following:

  • Message translation directly in Microsoft Teams, to enable each person to write in their language of choice but not have language issues prevent collaboration. Everyone can translate a message into their language; the original is honoured, but the meaning isn’t hidden.
  • Integration with Adobe XD, a prototyping and design service offered by Adobe. The integration enables an XD user to paste a link to their work into a Microsoft Teams conversation, which provides access to the rest of the team. Teams automatically displays a thumbnail and summary of the prototype, and comments made to the prototype in the XD interface flow back into the Microsoft Teams channel, centralising sharing, feedback, and interaction.
  • Incoming phone calls that would have previously been answered in Skype for Business Online can now be answered in Microsoft Teams; this covers Auto Attendant and Call Queue calling. After answering either type of call, one or more other users can be conferenced in, or the call can be transferred directly.
  • Various small changes that address usability issues and provide new options for working with others, such as a selective Do Not Disturb option (so that specific people and numbers can still get in contact when a user is in Do Not Disturb), sharing a PowerPoint file into a meeting rather than video streaming it, and a new wiki app that allows personal pages and an aggregated view of wiki pages across Teams workspaces.
  • New data residency options for customers in Canada, Australia and Japan. Customers new to Microsoft Teams will immediately be able to have in-country data residency for Teams data (chat and conversations), and those who have been using Teams for a while will have the option of migrating chat and conversation data into their country some time during 2019. Microsoft has promised a migration capability, although not committed to a timeline beyond the nebulous “sometime in 2019.”

The above is not an exhaustive list. There’s a lot happening with Microsoft Teams, and a lot still that needs to happen. Interesting times indeed.

Have you started your journey with Microsoft Teams?