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Microsoft Teams best practice guidelines

1. General guidelines

 

1.1. Installing Teams

Download and install Teams on your computer and phone (ensuring that you have appropriate authentication enabled on your phone).

1.2. Configuring notifications

Configure your notifications such that they facilitate your work seamlessly without being too overwhelming. (Settings - Desktop application; Notifications - Mobile app (iOS, Android)

1.3. Emojis or reactions buttons/icons
  • Use the Like (i.e. thumbs up) icon/button for acknowledging messages, (e.g. got it, sounds good, okay) instead of cluttering the conversation/chat with messages of acknowledgement.
  • Use the reactions icons/buttons (i.e. symbols for love, laugh, wow, sad, anger) for showing sentiment in more informal areas in Teams or if deemed acceptable in the team or organisation culture.
1.4. Team creation Only create a team when you need to, always ensuring that the team does not already exist, and that the prospective members of the group are amenable to using Teams and have access to it, or whether a new channel in an existing team might suffice.
  • When creating a team, ensure that you consider carefully whether to make your team private or public.
  • Most teams should be private teams as this will ensure that all content is only accessible to those who are owners, members or guests of the team.
  • Public teams should ideally not be used unless absolutely necessary, as all content in the team is accessible to any member of the UCT community who chooses to join the public team.
1.5. Minimalist approach to avoid clutter

Only use what you need in the team to facilitate the group's work. Don't install tabs or add channels that you are not going to use.

1.6. Internal collaboration tool

Keep Teams as an internal collaboration tool, use email for more formal, external communication.

1.7. Selective membership

Only invite applicable people to your teams, i.e. those working on dedicated deliverables. If your team is more informational, provide invitees with the option to join or not by sending join codes to let the recipient decide if it is appropriate for them to join.

1.8. Switching profiles when swapping Teams tenants

If you need to jump between accounts or if you are a guest in another organisation's Teams system, use Google/Microsoft profiles to facilitate this.

1.9. Teams-friendly out-of-office response

Make your out-of-office response Teams-friendly, by referring to "messages" rather than "email" since your Outlook out-of-office response displays in Teams as well (e.g. Say "Thanks for your message", rather than, "Thanks for your email").

1.10. Send links not attachments

Send links to documents rather than attachments, to ensure a single source of truth, and leverage co-editing features.

1.11. Track tasks with Planner

If applicable, track team tasks with Planner using the built-in Planner tab, where necessary, to keep project deliverables, tasks, and reminders in your channel conversations for all team members to see.

1.12. Team owner or delegate approval for restoring teams

Ensure that you have approval from the applicable team owner (their delegate or their line manager) when requesting the restoring of a team which has been removed previously.

2. Membership

2.1. Use external access (federation) when: External users should not, or do not need to, have access to your organisation's Teams or Teams resources;
  • You need to engage with external users in other domains (i.e. external to the organisation) and let them find, call, chat, and set up meetings with you.
  • You need to communicate with those external users who are still on Skype for Business (online or on premises) or Skype.
2.2. Use guest access only when:

Individual external users (regardless of domain) need to have access to your organisation's Teams, channels and/or teams resources where they can chat, call, meet, and collaborate on organisation files (stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business), using Office 365 apps such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

2.3. Owners of a Team should ensure that: Team membership is maintained, removing/adding members, and assigning access, as required.
  • If applicable, a unique photo or graphic is added to represent the Team profile.
  • Only required or applicable settings (e.g. private/public, guest permissions, @mentions, "fun stuff) are applied for Team members.
  • Only required or applicable tabs are added for team members.
  • Moderation takes place, either by moderating conversations themselves, or by appointing selected team members as moderators and briefing them on moderation principles.
2.4. Compliance:

Members of a team should comply with best practices and governance on Teams.

3. Conversations/Posts

3.1. Know difference between Reply vs Start

Do not mix up Start a conversation with Reply to a conversation/post. These are different boxes and it is difficult to recover if you start a new conversation when you meant to reply to one.

3.2. Structure conversations

Ensure that you keep conversations, organised, easy to follow and clean.

3.3. Keep posts short

Always aim to keep messages short and concise, if a long message or more information needs to be provided, then rather send an email to the team or refer to a document/file uploaded in the Files tab, as applicable.

3.4. Use subject lines 

To facilitate easier finding of conversations/posts, ensure that you use subject lines when starting new conversations.

3.5. @mentions: Use for attention

@mention individuals only when you need to get their attention and a response (i.e. @mentioning is equivalent to placing someone in the To or CC field of an email).

3.6. @mentions: Remove surnames

To avoid wasting valuable space and to be less formal with your colleagues, press Backspace/Delete after inserting an @mention to remove surnames or extraneous information.

3.7. @mentions: Limit for Teams/Channels

To avoid sending all team members more notifications than necessary, do not @mention a team or channel unless you really need to.

3.8 Mark ! for urgency

If conversations are urgent, mark urgency with ! button, however, urgency in conversations may be comparable to urgency of an email, with similar response times.

3.9. Limit use of memes/gifs

Only use memes and gifs for informal teams or channels, and if in line with your organisational culture, generally avoid, as they take up space, can be a distraction and not everyone likes them or finds them funny. If necessary, a specific channel for fun stuff can be created where memes and gifs are allowed.

3.10. Consult before inviting guests

Obtain agreement from all team members/owners before inviting external guests. Guests have access to almost everything in that team, including past discussions. If applicable, ensure that approval is obtained to share teams content externally.

3.11. Send an email requiring discussions to teams for
internal resolution

Forward emails to teams for internal discussion before responding via email. Each channel has an email address. Forward any external emails that require discussion to a channel and ask for the input there. Only respond via email once consensus is garnered in Teams.

4. Channels

4.1. Use naming conventions

Apply an agreed naming convention for channels to ensure that team members and owners are clear as to what each channel covers, if you name them alphanumerically in order of importance it will help members access them more easily.

4.2. Keep topic-based

Keep channels topic-based to keep conversations separated by topic.

4.3. Stay on topic

Manage channel conversations to keep them on topic.

4.4. Avoid renaming

Do not rename a channel unless you inform your team ahead of time.

4.5. Start simple

Ensure that you keep your channel listing simple to begin with and allow it to evolve organically.

4.6. Use General for miscellaneous

Use the General channel as a miscellaneous space for announcements and topics not suitable for other channels.

4.7. Limit to what is needed

Only create channels when you know you really need them to avoid too many channels and resulting confusion as to where to post.

4.8. Use Wiki page for Team-specific norms

Use the wiki as an About document describing the team, its goals, expectations, and behavioural norms and rename the tab to About <Team name>.

4.9. @mention new members

@mention people who join a channel. New channels may not be followed by everyone automatically. Calling out new members helps them get their notifications set up.

4.10. File location

Files uploaded in channels are stored in SharePoint.

4.11. Light-hearted channel

If necessary, keep one channel for informal/lighthearted content (e.g. fun stuff, memes, and gifs) to help keep separate from work-related content.

4.12. FAQ channel

If necessary, keep one channel for asking questions and discussing about the usage of Teams and how the members should work within the team (i.e. a meta-channel for tips, tricks, questions and discussions on how the members are working within the team).

4.13. Approval required for restore
or delete

Ensure that you have approval from the applicable team owner (their delegate or line manager) when requesting the restoring of a channel which has been removed previously.

5. Files

5.1 Size limit

Keep files under 15 GB in size as that is the limit.

5.2 Limit to three

Limit to three levels of folders deep to mirror best practice and work within the character limit to the folder path length.

5.3 Naming convention

All files should, wherever possible, follow a standard and intuitive naming convention.

5.4 Sync for offline access

To enable working remotely without needing WiFi/data, sync files for offline access by installing OneDrive for offline access built directly into Windows Explorer, MacOS Finder, and the OneDrive mobile app.

5.5. Folder/file level permissions
as needed

Only when necessary, apply file/folder level permissions to files and folders by sharing files and folders with other people from OneDrive/SharePoint sites.
Note: These file-level permissions can become difficult to manage.

5.6. Move button in Teams

When moving files from one team or channel to another, to ensure that you do not lose the version history of the file(s), use the Move button in Teams (or SharePoint).

5.7. Choose location carefully

When uploading files, non-confidential files should be uploaded to the Files tab in an applicable channel (saves them to the SharePoint folder for that Teams channel), confidential files can be uploaded to an applicable private chat (saves them to the uploader's OneDrive and shares with everyone in the chat).

6. Private chat

6.1. Private/high-priority
conversations

Use private chat for high-priority questions or private conversations in the team.
6.2. Urgency

Urgency in private chat is comparable to urgency in Skype for Business. If you message someone, you are implying higher urgency than if you @mention them in a conversation. Use @mention in chat to give that extra nudge in their activity feed.

6.3. Low member count

Keep member count low. If you have a lot of people in a private chat, it may justify creating a team instead.

6.4. Ad hoc conversations

Keep conversations ad hoc. If the discussion starts getting into business decisions, bring it back to a channel.

6.5. Create only when needed

Membership matters, e.g. If you already have a chat going with four people and you create a new chat with those same four people, there will be two different chats with the same individuals in the two conversations. To prevent confusion, try to avoid this, unless necessary.

6.6. Consider chat history when
adding members

Adding participants to a chat gives you the option to see prior discussions in that chat. Before adding anyone to a private chat, be sure that you want them to see what was discussed previously.

6.7. Naming

You can name private chat groups (e.g. topic- or group-specific name), which can make the chat easier to find and keep everyone on topic.

6.8. Respect availability status

Pay attention to and respect your colleague's availability status by messaging accordingly. They could be available, away, busy, or out of the office (typically displayed as a green, yellow, red, and purple, respectively). E.g. If you see that they are out of the office, then feedback can wait until their return; a red status can mean busy, in a meeting, or do not disturb, ensure that you message accordingly.

6.9. Auditing may occur

Do not assume you have complete privacy, as per Skype for Business or Outlook, chats can be audited by the system administrators if required.

6.10. OneDrive for files

Files uploaded in private chat are saved in OneDrive. The file automatically uploads to the Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder in the OneDrive of the person who uploads it and is automatically shared with everyone in the chat.

7. Meetings and calls

7.1. Scheduling meetings

When scheduling your meeting, if you are inviting an entire team, use the Select a channel to meet in option. Do not use this if you only want certain individuals, use Outlook Calendar instead.

7.2. Using Desktop vs Web app

Use the desktop app for meetings and calls rather than the web version, since the web version of Teams is not as feature-rich as the desktop app.

7.3. Using video

Use video when circumstances and internet connection support it, since video facilitates a much more effective meeting than audio.

7.4. Background blur/images

Use background blur/image to minimise distractions.

7.5. Muting audio

Stay on mute when you are not talking. If background noise is an issue, mute those on the call who are not talking.

7.6. Sharing web pages When sharing web pages, zoom in to help your attendees see what you are showing, which may be smaller on their side. (Ctrl/Cmd + will zoom for most browsers.)
7.7. Chat

Use chat to help share resources and information during meetings without causing a distraction (e.g. web addresses, contact names, spellings, and other information while someone else is talking). Since these chats are part of the channel/private chat, members/attendees can refer to them after the meeting, without disrupting the call.

7.8. Recording meetings

Record your meetings for future reference, if necessary. The videos can be useful for training and members who were absent (use Microsoft Stream to auto-transcribe what was said; channel recordings will automatically populate in the chat).

7.9. Announcements

Only use announcements when they are applicable and needed for urgent or important notifications to selected team channels.

7.10. Live events

Live events are only available for staff users on request to the IT Helpdesk.