Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Day 47: Review "Microsoft Teams" (Software)

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 46 or Day 48.

This one is from love-and-hate-department. With the current situation, work could be really a lot more difficult without a software like Microsoft Teams. On the other side, the idiosyncrasies can really drive me mad.

On the plus side, it allows easy communication cross-platform (Windows, MacOS, Linux, IOS, Android) even in large teams. The ability to integrate a lot of apps through several different projects and teams can really help you keep an overview on a lot of activities.... or distract you with a seemingly endless list of conversations to follow. Unluckily the side upon you will end on really depends how well your co-users have been trained in the use of Teams. A lot of companies have rated it self-explaining and therefor omitted a lot of the necessary basic course. In that case Teams may end up being something like a document dumpster.

The biggest weakness is the incomplete multi-tenancy support. Though a single user can be part of multiple tenants, his role in all but one is limit to that of a guest. That severely restricts the use if  e.g. you cannot attach documents to a discussion. But even worse, you are always only active within a single tenant. You have either to manually switch between the tenants or (like me) open the second tenant as web app in the private mode of the Edge Browser. To confuse you even more, some discussions remain active no matter which tenant you're in. I've experienced this a lot with chats associated with meetings. Another thing I also dislike is that you have to set your status within each tenant separately. I haven't found an option to automatically keep it in all tenants the same.

Also the integration into the mobile phone is incomplete. E.g. I haven't found an option to silence or reject incoming calls automatically when you're in a phone conference with Teams on the PC.

Video conferences are not as good as in Zoom but acceptable. The quality varies with the overall load on the Teams platform. As a friend uses to say: "If it had been designed as a cloud service, it would scale much better." The total or near-total outages have been rare, but with the onset of the Corona pandemic, a service level degradation was felt.

The chat is not perfect but OK. My biggest problem is that I tend to send my message when I'm trying to add a line in the middle of the text. You can edit your messages afterwards or delete it. But most users have never been introduced to that option.

In total I'm torn on this one. Team surely helps at a time where the digital communication rules and it will beat any combination of phone, email and file server even on a bad day. But the bad days are there too and (that is really frustrating) they are mostly unnecessary. Teams is sometimes it's own nemesis by screwing up at a central point like multi-tenancy.

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