Ok it's serious, very serious! The medical profession is working flat out alongside the government to protect us. I know it's hard to just park the medical impact for a moment (actually it's almost impossible) but I would like to focus on the business and commercial impact in this piece as this in turn will have a major impact on our daily lives in the very short term but could leave long term scars for the economy and individual businesses.


We can’t just down tools until this thing blows over, we must fight back in our own way whilst the medics and politicians do what they need to do.  I hope I'm reaching some of the business leaders and operations people out there. I just wanted to remind you of a group of people who are also used to dealing with viruses - a completely different, non-lethal type of virus but you know what I mean. That group is IT, we are used to finding ways to getting things going again when the S**T hits the fan.  


Technology helps solves problems (big problems) - it’s a proven enabler and some of these tech firms have stepped up to the mark. Microsoft, Google and Zoom to name a few are companies that are making their products/services more readily available (free offerings) to help organisations deploy remote working and to communicate and collaborate in these uncertain times.  


I'm a Microsoft guy so I've focused on how Microsoft Teams might just be the tool that can help you get things going again. Here are 5 steps that will help you get going with Teams: 


Assumptions first: Your organisation has decided to or is preparing a plan of action in readiness for your office to be closed and enabling your people to work remotely, most likely from home. 



            Step 1 - Decide







Decide on your approach, I would suggest keeping it simple and starting with the using the basic functionality Chat/Calls/Meeting. Make the roll out of Teams focused and make it clear what you want Teams to be used for:


Chat/Messaging - you need to replace the fact that you can’t just turn and speak to each other or shout across the room.

Internal Calls - talking to each other with Teams via voice or video is included, calling people on the mobile number will need a bolt-on at an additional cost. 

Online Meetings - groups of you will still need to get together to make decisions - so use the meeting function to hold online meetings (voice or video).

Document Sharing - if you need to share documents this is done really well in Teams but think about how you want to a manage this process. 


Remember: give IT clear direction on what you want your people/end users to be able to do whilst working remotely.  


IT Admin:


Help operations understand the capability and limitations of Microsoft Teams. These are tough times; I know us IT people like maintaining control, but you may have to hand some of this over to operations in this case. Successful usage, utilisation and even security may have to be determined by procedure, process and policy and not just technical or administrative controls.  


Pick the right subscription for you: 


Use the Microsoft Teams subscription you already have - if you have an Office 365 Plan that has Teams included - use that one! Turn it on for everyone.

Use the free 6-month trial - if you are not currently licensed for Teams and are have a Microsoft Account manager (normally large organisations only), then call your Microsoft account manager, otherwise call your Microsoft provider, like the pure technology group to get this activated. See details for the 6-month Office 365 E1 offer.

Use the freemium version - if you don't have an office 365 plan and don't qualify for the 6-month free trial. Use the free version, it has limited but very useful functionality and Microsoft have removed the 300-user limit to deal with Coronavirus.

Think about user access for Microsoft Teams, options are: PC client, Mac client, Linux client, iOS app, Android app and web browser.

Consider implementing MFA (Multi Factor Authentication) to preserve or improve remote access security.


End Users:


You are now going to play a major role in keeping your business going, so invest some time in learning about Teams. Start by watching the welcome video to get an overview of Teams. Consider whether you would be comfortable using your own device if your employer asks you to (mobile or laptop).  


            Step 2 - Communicate







Communicate to your organisation advising that you will be enabling Microsoft Teams to help with communication and collaboration whilst working from home or in isolation. 


Use this Customer Success Kit, which contains these great email templates:


Use the Announcement Email to tell users that Teams is available for them. 


Send Your 'First Day in Teams' Email to help users feel productive quickly. 


A few days later, send the Tips and Tricks Email to help your users get the most out of Teams.


IT Admin: 


Help users understand how you would like them to access Microsoft Teams. 

Tell users you will be implementing MFA .


End Users:


If you have experience with Teams, Slack, Zoom or are even a whizz with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger etc. nominate yourself as a champion for Teams, SPEAK UP! Put yourself forward for being an advocate/champion for your department/team so you colleagues can get your help if they are struggling with getting to grips with Teams. Microsoft Teams is a very intuitive and user-friendly tool but sometimes people need a little help to getting to grips with something new. 



            Step 3 - Action







Review your home working, IT and digital communication policies and make the necessary amendments. Implement any new processes and procedures for remote workers and be clear about rules in regards your data security and online behaviour. You want people to communicate freely without feeling like they might be monitored so remind people that communication between colleagues is private and is only reviewed in specific circumstances.  


Lay down the rules about what should and shouldn't be discussed in chats and Teams (this will most likely be very similar of your existing digital communication policies).  


Pass ownership of creating Teams to Individual managers or users but be sure to give them some guidance. E.g. create Teams based on departments and make at least 2 people owners of each Team. Create Teams based on projects and workloads where people across departments work together. 


Create a 'Champions Team' of people across multiple departments and management levels. Get these people to lead the charge and share what’s working and what isn’t so they can then disseminate this back to their own Teams. Pick people who get this type of tech instinctively (millennials do quite well with this kind of stuff).  


IT Admin: 


Show people how to test their internet speed at home. If they have limited bandwidth recommend chat communication rather than voice and voice rather than video. 


Understand how to get your organisation started with Meetings in Teams.  For more, read 'additional resources for supporting remote workers'. 


Deploy the app via SCCM, Intune or your preferred deployment method. 


Microsoft Teams admin Portal: 

Enable external access if operations want users to communication one to one with people outside your organisation e.g customers, partners and suppliers via Teams. 


Enable guest access and review the access settings if operations want groups of users to communication with people outside your organisation e.g customers, partner suppliers via Teams. 


Implement MFA. 


End Users:


Check your internet speed at home and think about data usage on your mobile.


Be realistic - you might have kids or pets (or even the other half) to put up with while you are at home.  Find a suitable place where you can focus on your work. 


Don’t be afraid to ask even the most basic questions, this is a new tool and you're learning on the job. 


Don’t forget to have fun. In a tough time, a smile goes a long way. Use the emoji’s, pics, GIF’s and Stickers to lighten the mood.



            Step 4 - Educate







Challenge the champions by asking them to watch the following training videos and share the juicy bits with the rest of their Teams (yes I know I used the word juicy for team training vids). This is worth a read - 'staying productive while working remotely with Microsoft Teams'. 


IT Admin: 


Add the quick start guide as a PDF tab and training videos as a website tab in a companywide Team. 


Upskill yourself with technical and management training.


Learn about MFA. 



End Users:


Use the extensive training material already available.


Download the 'Quick Start Guide' to learn the Teams basics.


Watch a series of short 'Quick Start' videos for a walkthrough of Teams. 


Watch the meetings videos to learn how to use meetings in Teams. 



            Step 5 - Review







Managing change at best of times can be a challenge, keep track of changes you may have introduced and consider reverting or amending when necessary.


Hold a meeting every couple of days, with IT and the champions to check how things are going. When things return to normal, think about how you might want to continue using Teams in your organisation.


Use the 'Microsoft Teams Live Event' feature to make company announcements, let the leadership broadcast to the entire organisation within Teams! (With Teams live events, users in your organization can broadcast video and meeting content to large online audiences.


Give yourselves a pat on the back! You helped to keep the train on the track. 


IT Admin: 


Use the Teams admin centre to review and share usage with operations and the champions.


If Teams have been created and not being used ask champions to review if that Team is necessary.


Review call quality stats and establish if there is a “best time to hold large meeting on teams”.


Check online forums and speak with your peers.


Monitor the number of guests being added and check with the champions if this is necessary.


Check with operations and champions how things are going.


Get feedback on the end user MFA experience and review how the MFA reports.


Give yourselves a pat on the back! You were the enablers.


End Users:


Think about what is working and what isn’t, share your thoughts with your team. If you find solution to a problem you are having, share it. This might be a chance to prove you can be very productive working from home, so record any improvements in productivity and see if it will give you a chance to work from home once in a while once things are back to normal. 


Give yourselves a pat on the back! You maintained focus and took these challenges in your stride. Feels good to be part of a team doesn’t it!


For some businesses the current situation could be critical and for others they just need to weather the storm, but it is incumbent on each of us to do our bit, and those of us in tech to be the enablers that our colleagues need us to be.


I wanted to leave you with an Extract from a blog post by Jared Spataro, (Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365) and the story of Lily Zheng, is a Microsoft employee who lives and works in Shanghai and who's letter inspired Microsoft to make Microsoft Teams available for free for people moving to remote work during this challenging time.


An extract from her letter below:


"While our team here is accustomed to working remotely, these past few weeks have really clarified what successful and sustainable remote work requires. Here are my top three lessons.


Stay well.

This move to remote work is all about protecting our physical health by minimizing contact with the virus. That, everyone understands. What is less obvious is that working where you live can create its own kind of stress. Taking time to exercise, eat well, and enjoy real downtime away from screens are all essential to maintaining mental well-being while working from home.


Go all in.

It can be tempting to put things off while working remotely. But teams that thrive remotely find ways to do just about everything online. If you’ve scheduled one-on-ones, keep them. If you’ve planned big meetings, hold them. If you’re ready to brainstorm an upcoming presentation, jump on that video call.


Support your teammates.

I’ve also learned from this experience that supporting others is the best way to stay positive and energized. We use our online tools for more than just work, sharing photos of family and pets and checking in with each other throughout the day. Cheering each other up is not just good for maintaining morale, it also helps keep our team together when we work apart."


If recent events have prompted a disaster recovery response from you or your business, contact us today to find out how dr can assist.


Good health to you all :-)

Urfaan Azhar

Microsoft Technology Strategist at PTG