- A Guide to Microsoft Teams Project Management...
Table of Contents
Most people are aware of Microsoft Teams as a tool that allows business users to chat, make calls, and even share files back and forth-but it's also a valuable tool for project management.
Employees working on a project often ask the same questions:
- Where can I find the tasks that I've been assigned?
- When is this due?
- Where can I find updates?
- Where can I find documentation?
Being able to have all this information in one place that provides a single source of truth for everyone, regardless of their role in a project, not only saves the project manager from having to answer the same questions over and over but also ensures that every stakeholder in a project can find what they need when they need it.
In other words, project managers and employees alike can take advantage of inherent Microsoft Teams features to stay connected with teams and channels and ensure projects stay on track with the ability to monitor progress in one place, even though work is completed using multiple applications. Those are good project management practices, and they are especially useful for modern organizations that support remote and hybrid work enablement.
With Microsoft Teams, communication and collaboration are king. Being able to emphasize the robust communication and collaboration features that Teams offers by integrating it with the applications that employees and managers use to complete their work allows projects to hum along seamlessly. It also allows people to use the applications and tools to accomplish their best work without hindrance.
Let's take a closer look at Microsoft Teams and how it can be used effectively as an essential part of your project management tech stack.
Microsoft Teams Management Tools
Essentially, every aspect of project management touches Microsoft Teams. The platform is uniquely positioned to give project managers a bird's eye view of every project, with the ability to see progress on project milestones as well as granular tasks. This is accomplished through document management, task management, effective communication tools (such as the Teams phone system), integration with Microsoft 365 apps, and third-party apps and tools to keep information accessible in one place. The greatest advantage of using Microsoft Teams for project management is that team members don't have to leave Teams to collaborate; they can do it within the app itself.
Microsoft Teams Document Management
Be default, when a new channel is created under a team, a SharePoint document repository will automatically be created for that channel under the “files” tab (tabs are extremely useful in Microsoft teams, but we'll talk more about tabs later on in this article), but you can also click the Add cloud storage option and link to third-party cloud storage providers. This ensures that every file related to a project, whether it's a Microsoft Word document in SharePoint or PDF file in Adobe Document Cloud, is available in one place and can be accessed without having to leave Microsoft Teams.
All the files that are accessible in the “files” tab can also be co-authored, which means that multiple people can work on the same file without the need for multiple versions of the file to be created.
On the same note, any file under the “files” tab for your channel can be shared in posts, so if team members need to discuss a file or ask specific questions outside of leaving a comment directly in the file itself, this can be done in Teams as well.
Task Management in Microsoft Teams
Following the thread of keeping everything in one place, Teams can connect with dedicated project management apps and tools using the Tab functionality.
Tabs that can be added include Microsoft's own Project and Planner dedicated project management apps, but also numerous third-party options. This allows project managers to use the tools that work best for their teams while at the same time taking full advantage of Microsoft Teams' collaborative environment. It also means that you don't have to compromise and switch to a different tool; instead, the functionality of the project management tool that works for your team is maintained, but there's still a single source of truth for your project.
Resources and Communication Management in Microsoft Teams
Ensuring that important communications about a project don't get lost in the shuffle is extremely important. By default, a Microsoft Teams environment has the chat feature, but it's more for small group discussions or leaving notes for yourself. For effective communication for a project, more focused communication is needed.
Microsoft Teams Chat versus Channels
Can be one-on-one, in a group, or used to write notes to yourself to refer to later
Channels sit inside of created teams and are dedicated to a specific topic, group of stakeholders, project, and more
Allows basic formatting options with the ability to add images and other files and change the size of text
Channels have advanced communication options via tabs that allow file and application access related to the project
Meetings can be scheduled with the people you're chatting with directly in the conversation space
Channels have different settings to allow for public discussions that the whole team can see, or private discussions limited to select team members
Let's say that you run a marketing agency and need to create a new website for a client. There are several stakeholders involved in this project, and they are going to be working on different aspects of the project simultaneously, and the client themselves will need to be able to weigh in on the project's progress as different milestones are completed. This means that communications from multiple stakeholders will need to be organized effectively.
That's where Channels come in. Once an overarching Team is created in Microsoft Teams, more granular channels can be created. Going back to the marketing agency example, when creating a website, there will be copywriters, designers, developers, project managers, and at least one, if not more, stakeholders on the client's side that will need to be involved.
Instead of using email, phone calls, or social media to communicate, relevant stakeholders for every aspect of the project can be organized into specific Teams channels. In other words, designers and copywriters could be in one channel, development in another, and project managers in every channel. Standard, public, and private channels can also be created to ensure that people can be added as the project progresses, but also prevents people from being bombarded with messages that don't apply to them.
How to Use Microsoft Teams for Project Management
Understanding the different tools and functionality available in Microsoft Teams is the first step to visualizing how this platform would perform in your organization's work environment. Next, you'll need to create a basic setup so you can start customizing your Teams environment.
1. Create Channels within your Team Environment
While Chat is a great function for private discussions or to save personal notes, Channels allow more organized discussions to take place between specific team members and external clients. Once you create your Team, a general channel will automatically be created. This is where general discussion between all team members can occur. You can add specific channels to keep conversations organized as you go.
There are two main roles within Teams:
- Team owner, which is the person who created the team. This individual can add co-owners so more people can share in the responsibility of managing the Team, inviting new team members, and managing general settings.
- Team members, which are the people who the Team owners invite to the Team.
With regards to your Team, if your organization already uses Microsoft 365 and has an existing group, you can securely add those team members to your Team, and the same roles and access permissions will be reflected automatically. In addition, if changes are made to the group's membership, it will automatically be synced with Microsoft Teams.
Standard, Public, and Private Channels
An important feature for project management in Microsoft Teams with regard to channels is the ability to create standard, public, or private channels. These different types of channels make it easy to have control over certain conversations without having to keep creating different overarching Teams.
Channels fall into one of three categories:
Anything posted within the channel can be viewed and searched by channel team members
Discussions in these channels are only viewable by select team members that have been invited to the channel by the channel creator
A specific collaboration space where owners or members of the channel can invite people outside of the organization
A standard channel is useful when:
- General discussion between all team members is needed, such as general project updates, policy changes, announcements, and more
- Resources that are applicable to all team members need to be shared in one location
A private channel is useful when:
- A group wants to collaborate in a separate space without needing to create another team
- A group of people (such as executives or managers) within a team want to discuss sensitive information like budgeting, strategy, etc.
A shared channel is useful when:
- Different people who are not part of the same Team want to collaborate with each other (e.g., individuals from customer support, marketing, and development need to collaborate on a project)
- You need to collaborate with an external party, such as a client, for a project
2. Customize Notifications for Each Channel
Team owners and members alike will want to customize their notifications to match their workflow. By default, anyone in the channel will get notifications for every activity that happens in that channel, including new posts, replies, and channel mentions (when someone uses the @mention function to tag a specific person's name).
Changing these notifications is easy. Clicking the ellipsis button (three dots) beside the channel name brings up a menu with the option to change channel notifications. Select the “custom” option to control whether or not you want to see notifications for all new posts, all replies, or channel mentions.
3. Add Channel Tabs to your Team
The tabs functionality in Microsoft Teams is vast, allowing you to choose from hundreds of different productivity, execution, and management applications to add to a channel. The thought process behind tabs is to ensure that everything related to a project is accessible from one location to make collaboration easier and workflow more efficient. Once you've created your channel, it's important to immediately add tabs so that a single source of truth can be established from the beginning of your project for all team members.
Remember that if you use Microsoft applications, the security and permissions settings that have already been established for those applications will transfer to Microsoft Teams. You'll have to manage security manually and permissions if you're using apps outside of the Microsoft environment.
4. Use Applications to Assign Tasks
With your channels, notifications, and tabs set up, it's time to assign tasks. You have several options for assigning tasks, including To Do or using something more robust like Microsoft Project, Planner, or a third-party project management application.
The Tasks app in Teams acts like a hub for Microsoft project management applications, showing information from Project, Planner, and To Do in one location. This makes it easy for team members and owners to see everything going on with a project without opening multiple applications.
Depending on the project and who is involved, it might be better to integrate one dedicated project management app into Microsoft Teams over another. For instance:
- If it's a solo project, then using To Do will suffice. It can also integrate with Microsoft Outlook so that your tasks can be viewable from there as well.
- For simpler team projects that only require basic planning and task assignment and where team members already have a working Microsoft 365 Business subscription, Planner is a good choice. It also provides a chart to track the progress of a project and can be used within Microsoft SharePoint as well.
- For more complex projects with dependencies, costs, and more, Project is the best choice. It's simple to get started with but has powerful functionality, such as automated workflows, to keep all the moving parts with big projects humming along.
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Microsoft Teams Project Management Best Practices
Using Microsoft Teams for project management can help your organization's projects run more efficiently, but only if you follow best practices to ensure you're taking full advantage of what the platform offers. Here are several tips that contribute to effective Microsoft Teams project management:
1. Use Microsoft Apps to Ensure Set Security & Permissions are Observed in Teams
If you connect Microsoft applications to your Teams environment, the security and access permissions that were set out within those applications automatically transfer to your Teams environment. This means that team members and owners who don't have permission to access certain information in these applications will also not be able to access that information as it's displayed in the Tasks app in Teams.
This takes the pressure off of your organization's IT department with managing security and access, ensuring that security and permissions remain static throughout your organization's entire Microsoft ecosystem.
2. Keep Work Accessible by Connecting with SharePoint
By default, the files tab under a Channel in your Team environment will show the option to open a file using SharePoint. This allows everyone in that Channel to access documents, edit them, leave comments, and more. Instead of dealing with multiple versions of a document, everyone can work on one copy where changes and updates are accurately reflected in the document's edit history. Since Microsoft Teams seamlessly syncs with SharePoint, all relevant documents are displayed without having to leave Teams.
3. Customize your Teams Experience with Channel Integrations
Using the tab functionality in each Teams Channel allows you to customize how Microsoft Teams works for your project management needs. If there is a specific application that has helped your team be more productive and efficient in the past, chances are that you can add it to Teams.
Further, administrators can modify the appearance of some Microsoft Teams applications, so it provides a seamless branded experience to the end user. This includes names, app icons, colors, descriptions, and more. Taking advantage of this option isn't just about optics but can also contribute to a more effective user experience as well. Specific metadata properties of an application help users understand its specific use case and make it easy for users to identify it as an application that belongs to the organization.
4. Use Templates to Save Time
Specific Channel setups (including tabs within those channels) can be saved as templates for future use, saving Team owners a ton of time when they need to create a new Channel for a project. Team members will also already know where to access certain information if a template they are familiar with is used.
There are default templates within Teams that can be accessed from the Dashboard in the Admin center that is already set up with different use cases in mind. But you can also create your own templates that work for your team by clicking on the “Add” button just above the list of default templates.
Overall, using Microsoft Teams for project management allows organizations that are already taking advantage of the Microsoft ecosystem to marry communication and collaboration with administrative project management tools.
Although multiple tools may be used to execute a project, Teams provides a centralized location where everyone can find the information they need to continue executing the role in the project. The increase in productivity and efficiency with having information in one place not only allows projects to be completed faster and more effectively, it can also prevent situations like crunch time, where employees work a large amount of overtime near the end of the project to complete it.
A major part of effective project management is having the right tools, but navigating the different licensing options for the Microsoft products you use to ensure that your organization is only paying for what it needs can be challenging. Amaxra removes that burden and helps you with Microsoft licensing optimization so your organization can not only save money but simplify its tech stack as well.
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