Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

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We have been using Microsoft Teams at Silverside for an increasing share of our collaboration and coordination over the past year, and at least in terms of my usage, it’s the first place I check each day rather than Outlook. I still check Outlook each day, though, because some activities and notifications flow there rather than Teams, and some private conversations are better as an email rather than a private chat. As I go back-and-forth across various team workspaces and channels within a given team workspace, there are several capabilities that I find myself looking for – but that aren’t available yet in Microsoft Teams. Like Juliet’s search for Romeo, here’s the top three capabilities I’m still searching for in Teams.

Closing a Conversation Topic.

As our channels gain more and more conversations, the ongoing presence of conversation topics that have been completed and finished is both visually distracting and cognitively annoying to me. I like an information space that is cleared of inactive and outdated material, not one that has everything that was ever written. It would still be essential to be able to access older conversation topics, but when I’m in work mode—rather than reflect-and-seek mode—I don’t want to see that which is no longer current. If it has been dealt with, I should be able to mark it as closed and have it disappear from the main conversation channel.

Clearly, how to do this effectively in a shared conversation space is nuanced; here’s my point-of-view.

  • As an individual contributor, I should be able to silence or hide the conversation threads I don’t want to see again, but this should not remove the same from the conversation channel of others. If they want to keep seeing a given thread, then great; my action should not dictate their action.
  • If I have hidden a conversation thread and it becomes active again by new comments or contributions by other contributors – or perhaps more specifically if I am @mentioned again – then the thread should re-emerge from its hidden state in my channel.
  • If I am the owner of the team, I should have the added ability to hide the conversation thread from everyone in the team. It’s done / dealt with for everyone; it’s time to move on to new topics.

Moving a Conversation to Another Channel

There are times when a conversation is created in the wrong channel and it would be helpful to be able to move it completely to the correct channel. Sometimes this is when a team member offers something quickly in an established channel, but actually, it should be in its own channel (because of the scope of work and interaction that it will generate over time), or sometimes a conversation topic is initially right in one channel but over time morphs into being more aligned with another channel. Being able to pick the whole thing up – the conversation, the linked documents, everything – and shift it to a new place would be helpful in managing the information space over time.

Again, there’s nuances in how to do this:

  • The ability to move a conversation topic should only be available to an owner of a team. They have primary responsibility for making the workspace a productive place of work, and this involves “gardening” the content. A member can suggest that the thread is moved, but moving it is an owner’s task.
  • There should be a pointer left in the channel indicating where the conversation topic has gone. Team members may come looking for a topic in its usual place and therefore not find it. Creating an easy link to its new home is essential—otherwise they’ll believe that Teams “gobbles up content” and is unreliable. At some point in time, per #1 above, this could be closed and removed from sight.

Moving a Channel to Another Team

The ability to reshape a team workspace to align with the ebb and flow of a changing roster of project and business-as-usual responsibilities would be helpful. What starts as a single team workspace will atrophy over time as the surrounding context changes. New responsibilities are added. Initial responsibilities are completed or given to another group. Picking up channels and conversations from the initial workspace and shifting them into a newly-scoped second workspace would allow what happens in the real world to be mirrored with the tools that we use to complete that work. Otherwise the initial team workspace becomes a domain of small transgressions that balloon over time into a wreaked space. The ability to re-organise, re-factor, re-scope and re-design the interactional space across team workspaces by moving channels would mitigate this inevitable slide to a single workspace attempting to do too much.

Wherefore Art Thou?

Do you find yourself also seeking the above capabilities? Or are there capabilities that are top-of-mind in your “wherefore art thou” search?

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