Work for many is no longer just at fixed locations such as business offices. The rise of the Internet and the “Cloud” has scattered work across time and place. Remote work has become part of modern business and life.
While most work is a group effort it’s not a given that colleagues are working together in the same workspace, time zone, or time of day. Even if they live in the same city, team members may be working together – just at different times of the day – “asynchronously”.
This trend began the moment that distances were narrowed by technology, beginning with domesticated horses and the wheel, then boats, trains, cars, planes, and telecommunications (going as far back as human messengers and carrier pigeons and up to satellites and the Internet).
Large businesses used to be the only ones with workers scattered globally but not anymore.
Microsoft 2018 Survey on work sets the context:
“For many companies, the amount of time employees spend engaged in collaborative work—in meetings, on phone calls, or answering emails—has increased roughly 50 percent and takes up 80 percent or more of their time.
We are on twice as many teams as we were five years ago.
Remote and freelance work are on the rise, and some experts even predict that by 2027 the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance.“
MORE JOBS of the NEAR FUTURE will be FREELANCE and REMOTE
WHILE we may work physically alone, perhaps half-way around the world from colleagues and/or family, we still want to be connected together on a regular real time or same-day basis.
At the same time a lot of work that was “non-freelance” will gradually decline and change into, or be taken over by, “freelance” roles.
(Chart source: “Freelancing In America”, Upwork 2017)
The Internet has been the main catalyst for converting on-premises work into remote work.
And it has enabled the creation of jobs that were remote by design and/or necessity. Newer technologies including social networks, messaging apps, and “no code” tools built on top of the Internet have accelerated the rise of remote work.
Even if they are not working in the same spaces or even the same time zones or countries, people need or want to see each other as part of their work – through Video Conferencing.
People need to see each other as part of working together on the same projects and products.
Remote work’s rise means demand for the right kinds of tools will increase.
Collaboration software has become one of the main tools for remote and freelance work.
Instead of going down the hallway, or sticking your head out of an office cubicle, or meeting in the company cafeteria or boardroom – you’ll use software to meet and work with colleagues.
There are many software applications in the market. Examples include platforms such as market leader Slack, as well as Cisco Webex, Flock, Glip, Google Meets, Zoho and Zoom. One app’s user base has grown quickly – surprisingly not from a new tech venture startup. It’s Microsoft Teams.
MICROSOFT TEAMS: REMOTE WORK POWER TOOL FOR MILLIONS
Introduced in November 2016*, Microsoft Teams is a collaboration app which mashes together business messaging and productivity tools into a platform renamed from Office to Microsoft 365. Microsoft Teams is “a powerful hub for teamwork that brings together chat, meetings, calling, files, and apps into a shared workspace…”
(*Microsoft nearly bought collaboration competitor Slack for $8B USD but built their own app.)
Statista noted (Slack and Microsoft Teams DAU daily active users November 2019) Microsoft Teams’ fast recent growth – that “it took Teams roughly three years since its beta release in November 2016 to reach 20 million users”. Teams’ user growth has accelerated at 50% from 13 million in July 2019 to 30 million by early 2020.
Microsoft reported that on March 31, 2020 Microsoft Team minutes reached 2.7 BILLION minutes. The company also observed that “… as students and teachers turn to Teams for distance learning, there are 183,000 tenants in 175 countries using Teams for Education.”
Since then, daily usage has grown to “200 million meeting participants in a single day [in April 2020] … generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes and… more than 75 million daily active users” according to Microsoft’s communications office.
Microsoft users can get a free version or as part of a Business (“Enterprise”) account.
All users need for a Microsoft Teams Free Account is an email (e.g. “Outlook”) account, where one can invite 299 (Microsoft only) users to join in. Business accounts get extras such as meetings and Sharepoint.
Let’s focus on the free version as our introduction to Microsoft Teams.
What does Microsoft Teams look like to a user? The BAR on the LEFT is the starting point.
The way Teams works is through a few key menu items:
Teams, Channels, Activity, Chats and Files (and GIFs)
As a collaboration app, users will work with other users through “Microsoft Teams” – which could be just a few people or involve an entire business.
Inside teams, users create “Channels” which are “conversations you have with your teammates. Each channel is dedicated to a specific topic, department, or project”.
“Channels are where the work actually gets done—where text, audio, and video conversations open to the whole team happen, where files are shared, and where apps are added.”
“Activity” are notifications for your account’s “@” handle and responses.
Chats are the one-on-one conversations users have through text messages and video calls.
Files are the documents which you can share and work on with Teams.
Lastly, users can use GIFs, emojis and stickers.
Features for Microsoft Teams Free Version Users:
“The free version includes the following for up to 300 people:
- Unlimited chat messages and search.
- Built-in audio and video calling for individuals, groups, and full team meetups.
- 10 GB of team file storage plus additional 2 GB per person for personal storage.
- Integrated, real-time content creation with Office Online apps, including built-in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
- Unlimited app integrations with 140+ business apps to choose from—including Adobe, Evernote, and Trello.
- Ability to communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside your organization, backed by Microsoft’s secure, global infrastructure.
This new offering provides a powerful introduction to Microsoft 365. Teams in Microsoft 365 includes everything in the free version plus additional storage, enterprise security, and compliance, and it can be used for your whole organization, regardless of size.”
Business accounts come as part of Microsoft 365 packages for Basic, Premium and Enterprise.
For a sense of the range for various users of Microsoft Teams here are a Microsoft Teams Free Enterprise between Microsoft Teams Free and the highest business tier, Microsoft Enterprise.
REMOTE WORK SOFTWARE SPENDING WILL GROW
It’s early days for collaboration software user adoption. The global viral pandemic crisis has been a catalyst further accelerating remote work related software. While economic activity has been squeezed, demand for remote software to support remote work has grown at double-digit rates.
This spending will be continued by many businesses according to research firm TrustRadius:
“There also appears to be a shift towards supporting remote work over the long term.
This combined with trends in TrustRadius’s week-over-week traffic data suggests that the focus of future spending will shift away from how to transition to remote teams in the short term, in favor of how to sustain and secure remote work environments over the long term.
There also appears to be a lot of value for businesses to maintain the ability to go and stay remote. Nearly 90% of increased spenders expect to still be using, and paying for, these tools two years from now.”
A word of caution about Microsoft Teams, it’s a powerful integration for Microsoft users but it does involve a few steps for setup – like all power tools it does require some knowledge.
If you’re curious, here are a few tutorial videos to help you start:
“Say Hello To Microsoft Teams”
Microsoft Teams Demo Tutorial,
and a page of training videos from Microsoft Teams.
Most businesses want to focus on what they do best however.
Get help for technical services such as DevOps, cloud hosting and virtual private servers which helps make many kinds of remote work possible.
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