At Microsoft, we’re transforming how our employees work together. Our vision for seamless teamwork is using Microsoft 365 to create productive, aligned teams and engage employees with leadership and the organization. We’re helping our employees be productive in all work activities with empowered, self-service enterprise collaboration.

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As our digital transformation continues, Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) is focusing on improving the experiences of all Microsoft employees and partners. The Seamless Teamwork investment focuses on how our employees connect and collaborate with each other, with the teams to which they belong, and with Microsoft’s mission, values, and culture. We’re transforming how teams work together, which not only empowers our employees but also embeds agility in our organization that strengthens business continuity and helps our employees remain connected and informed while working remotely. Our vision illustrates for our customers how Microsoft 365 can help large enterprises make a similar transformation and realize its benefits.

The Seamless Teamwork investment is part of a broader vision for providing the most productive employee experience possible as we continue our digital transformation. To learn more about how Microsoft is achieving this vision, refer to Reinventing the employee experience at Microsoft.

The vision for seamless teamwork

Achieving more together is the goal and essence of seamless teamwork, and our collective success depends on our ability to maximize the productivity of our interactions with each other. Our vision is for Microsoft employees to collaborate as productively as possible and feel successful in all the activities in which they engage throughout their workday. Seamless teamwork aims to improve team productivity and satisfaction through a set of experiences that foster collaboration and increase engagement in a connected and natural way. Our employees must feel productive in all work activities, such as individual focus time, team interactions and meetings, sharing and working with corporate knowledge, and engaging with colleagues inside and outside the company.

Shifting from “me” to “we”

While our past tools were optimized around the individual, the Seamless Teamwork investment focuses on transforming our technology and culture to embrace a team-centric mindset. We want to shift our experiences from “me” to “we” in all aspects: in conversations, meetings, content collaboration, and workflows. We’ve identified three primary areas within the Seamless Teamwork investment space to drive this transformation, as Figure 1 depicts.

The graphic represents the breadth of seamless teamwork at Microsoft. A spot illustration representing the individual employee is at the center of a circle.

Figure 1. The breadth of seamless teamwork at Microsoft

  • Productive and aligned teams. These are the people that an employee interacts with regularly, such as the immediate team they work on, their project teams, cross-functional peers within their business group, and their managers and direct reports. We want our employees to be productive and aligned within the groups and teams to which they contribute daily.
  • Leadership and community engagement. These are the people that an employee connects with openly across the organization. Employees need to connect with Microsoft as an organization, engage with company leadership, and engage with coworkers in communities across Microsoft.
  • Empowered self-service collaboration. This represents the breadth of collaboration that a compliant, secure, and manageable set of best practices and technologies must support, which helps ensure that our users have the most productive and collaborative environment across all experiences, teams, and communities with which they work.

We define the vision for seamless teamwork by what it offers employees and the organization in the context of how we connect and collaborate. Employees should be able to enjoy simple and productive teamwork experiences. Participants in these experiences can work with their teams to share knowledge and make decisions by using transparent communications and effective meetings. We want them to establish connections across the company that generate value through engagement with company leaders, active communities, sharing, and company knowledge and innovation through crowdsourcing. Employees should be able to secure and manage information easily across all employee experiences.

As an enterprise, Microsoft must empower employees to collaborate and address business needs easily while protecting sensitive assets. We must remain compliant with legal, security, privacy, and IT policies and support a healthy environment. We envision robust first-party services and features that don’t create risk for the enterprise or confusion for employees. We must create experiences that connect employees with the apps and services that they need in a seamless, compliant, curated, targeted, and trusted way. In all of this, Microsoft will be an industry leader, and it will highlight how enterprise customers can foster healthy collaboration and productivity techniques while remaining compliant, manageable, and protected.

Examining the catalyst for change

Moving into a digital economy means that companies must rely on teams to generate new ideas, manage information, and create new business models. Companies are losing billions of dollars in revenue because of a disengaged workforce, and the next generation of talent places high value in a positive organizational culture. The ability to attract talent to Microsoft depends on engagement.

Microsoft employees are enjoying a period of unprecedented investment in productivity tools that aim to improve teamwork. Our focus on user experience is driving user satisfaction in our products, while an array of new tool options provides employees with many choices to help them boost their productivity. However, when choices become unclear and tools add complexity, established habits persist and employees don’t attain the collaborative potential of the productivity tools. Within our organization, we’ve recognized key unmet needs within the teamwork space:

  • Communication. Our employees are using decentralized communication channels that create inefficiencies. For example, our engineers need more integrated engineering and communication tools, and sellers would like a reduction in communication pipelines so that they can spend more time with customers and partners.
  • Content sharing. Knowledge is fragmented across many sources with no durable archive of communal knowledge. Our employees work with many different tools. This environment makes it challenging to discover and access content or get a consolidated overview of data.
  • Collaboration. Some tools can complicate individual and team efforts to work together productively. Engineering teams are overwhelmed with email messages from Azure DevOps, and we need an effective system for tracking progress on actions. Sellers, on the other hand, need better unified tools to identify people to support deals and manage workstreams.

Moving the company to Microsoft Teams over the past year has dramatically improved our meeting and collaboration experiences. After implementing Teams, user satisfaction in both the meetings and collaboration categories increased significantly. However, we believe that these improvements are just the beginning. There’s still friction when it comes to achieving more team-centric communication and workflows. Our research points not only to the need for better tools and integration but also a lack of training on how to optimize tool functionality within longstanding cultural and team norms.

Additionally, real-time content collaboration and coauthoring can help employees be more efficient and effective. However, some users are still accessing files through email attachments or local storage. Furthermore, not all files opened in the cloud are used in a collaborative context. Content creation in the cloud and external sharing are still ongoing challenges. Barriers to coauthoring include concerns about version control, fear of losing content, and confusion about where users are saving files. Our employees need best practices for working in the cloud.

At Microsoft, we must create a trusted center of activity where employees can both engage and learn from others and can confidently ask for—and get—answers. We want to eradicate stagnant and disconnected communities and create ways for employees to find past topics or communities in which they want to take part. Additionally, we want to create a standardized, consistent portal experience with an efficient, easy-to-use publishing process to drive relevant, timely, and easy-to-find content.

Finally, all parties on sensitive projects must be able to trust that their work won’t go beyond their intended team, while simultaneously allowing that team to be as inclusive as necessary. If we want employees to work in a modern way, we must give them easy-to-manage limits when they need them. Microsoft is setting the standard high for how teams work together, and we want to share our journey and experiences to help our customers transform enterprise collaboration in their organizations.

Enabling seamless teamwork

To drive the shift from me-centric to we-centric, we’re establishing key initiatives that match the unique collaboration needs of our employees. We’re striving to create productive and aligned teams that have more streamlined and intuitive collaboration experiences. Additionally, we’re working to foster leadership and community engagement to better connect our employees to the wider organization, driving team culture and a sense of corporate community. We recognize that the experience necessary for close-knit, high-bandwidth collaboration is different from the experience of engaging broadly with company leadership and communities. Across both scenarios, we’re evolving to an integrated tool set and culture that creates empowered, self-service collaboration for all Microsoft employees.

To accomplish this vision, CSEO-driven efforts are underway to deliver user-centric experiences that foster healthy teamwork and engagement. We’re also partnering with Microsoft product groups to extend and complement the user-centric experience.

Our CSEO efforts include:

  • Delivering self-service solutions that securely address user needs and champion data-driven processes to solve problems.
  • Providing an industry showcase for effective teamwork practices.
  • Defining and promoting teamwork best practices that maximize technology use.

We’re also engaging with our product groups and partners to help Microsoft products deliver and complement key experience components. These efforts include:

  • Advocating on behalf of users for new functionality that results in successful adoption and productivity.
  • Strengthening the foundation for a solid customer experience that increases user satisfaction.
  • Closing feature gaps and improving collaborative functionality to create more effective interactions.

Productive and aligned teams

The focus of this initiative is to help our employees communicate and collaborate openly, with a team-first mindset that drives productivity and inclusion. Additionally, we’re using Teams as a collaboration hub to provide more streamlined productivity and enhance our business data security. Using cloud-default content storage improves team-based workflows and alignment. Working collaboratively on content encourages healthy teamwork behaviors such as sharing ideas and faster decision-making.

Key initiatives

We’re pursuing more productive and aligned teams in the upcoming year through CSEO efforts and in partnership with Microsoft product groups. This includes:

  • Driving teamwork in Teams channels. We’re replacing isolated one-to-one chats and emails with open team conversations in Teams channels. This creates transparency and increases team engagement. We’re striving to increase Teams channels’ daily active users throughout the organization. Improving team-based workflows, which we expect to occur in Teams channels, will increase team productivity and alignment significantly. This includes:
    • Researching, defining, and building workflows and content by roles, with an initial focus on managers and engineering teams to optimize business processes and increase productivity. This includes efforts that combine to use workflows to both drive and measure increased channel usage.
    • Defining and launching new front-desk offerings and white-glove services to drive channel engagement and provide productivity tips and tricks. This includes defining and producing teamwork templates to accelerate teamwork startup.
    • Addressing the final hurdles to move everyone in the company fully onto Teams, including direct routing and location-based routing to use public switched telephone networks (PSTNs) to address local regulations in countries/regions such as India. This includes migrating response group services to call queues and remaining ineligible users to Teams-only.
  • Increasing content sharing in the cloud. We’re working to create modern sharing and coauthoring as a tangible way of contributing to and taking advantage of our teammates’ work. This includes increasing the number of Microsoft Office documents that are stored online by using Microsoft 365. Having all content in the cloud encourages more streamlined collaboration, increases compliance, and enhances the security of corporate files.
  • Increasing content coauthoring. We’re increasing the number of employees creating Microsoft 365 content. As employees work on content together in a collaborative environment, we’re strengthening the healthy teamwork behaviors of sharing ideas and making decisions together more quickly.

Moving forward

The seamless teamwork transition starts with team transparency and the ability to provide a focused hub for teams, but that’s only the beginning. The areas we’ll investigate and pursue include:

  • Establishing teamwork accelerators and templates to take advantage of best practices from peers within teams.
  • Making saving and sharing files more intuitive, enabling transparency when appropriate and protection when not.
  • Transforming teamwork history into knowledge for future efforts and creating ways to share that knowledge more broadly.

Leadership and community engagement

We’re encouraging our employees to engage openly across the organization so that we can reinforce our company’s mission and values. We’re providing employees with a community environment in which they can use integrated tools such as Yammer, SharePoint, and Teams to take advantage of each other’s ideas and experiences. We’re increasing knowledge sharing across the company by using live events in Microsoft 365 to provide clarity and build trust in corporate leadership and company strategy.

Key initiatives

We’re pursuing leadership and community engagement in the upcoming year through CSEO efforts and in partnership with Microsoft product groups. Specifically, we’ll:

  • Enhance publishing to portals. We’re using self-service and collaboration capabilities in Microsoft SharePoint Online to improve publishing experiences that encourage more sharing across the company and that reduce costs for our publishers. With the modern portal experience, we’re significantly reducing the time and effort required to make content available to our employees on our portal sites. We’re engaging end users in the publishing process and encouraging them to take control of and responsibility for publishing by using the modern portal experience of SharePoint Online. Portals will become simple to create and easy to publish, providing consistently great employee experiences in which knowledge is captured and surfaced for the employee when they need it. A key focus of our efforts will be to launch three of our major internal portal sites as modern SharePoint portal experiences and to establish our main employee portal as a renewed foundation for employee experiences.
  • Strengthen community ties. We’re bringing governance and structure to the Yammer space to tighten up our Yammer communities, create an integrated and compliant Yammer network, and empower employees to find and connect with relevant and active communities. We’re creating a broader set of access points for Yammer communities through integration with our portal sites. Communities will be places where an employee can seek out peers or an answer to a question and know that they’ll receive a response. Better yet, over time, employees will be able to simply identify the best community answer to their question. Specifically, we’re seeking to increase weekly active users in Yammer and the SharePoint portals and to engage employees with our leadership and communities. This is a core part of connecting with our company values and mission. Our work here includes migrating Yammer to Microsoft 365 Native Mode to create a more community-focused experience.
  • Expand live events. For video and live events, we’ll continue to drive engagement of live broadcast video, improve the reliability of our services, and retire our legacy Microsoft Office 365 video service in favor of Microsoft Stream. We want to create a full-service streaming video platform for our entire corporate video environment where users can go to access any video resources that they need. Specifically, we want to increase average monthly live-event participation, increase knowledge sharing across the company, and drive more clarity and trust in leadership and Microsoft strategy. Key parts of our efforts here will be to fully transition Skype Meeting Broadcast to live events in Yammer and Teams, prepare for future management of our on-demand video services in Stream, and retire our legacy Office 365 video functionality.

Moving forward

We’re investing in better-integrated, connected, and managed communities and portals. The specific areas we’ll investigate and pursue include:

  • Establishing community-moderation standards and surfacing best practices where employees are seeking them out.
  • Converting legacy communities such as Microsoft Outlook distribution lists so that engineering and team knowledge is retained and mined for future answers in searches.
  • Simplifying navigation across all portals and first-party experiences with role- and organization-curated destinations.
  • Creating templates for divisional hubs, navigation, and portals to improve divisional branding, targeted news, and events.
  • Providing better aggregation experiences for employees, with targeted and subscribed content.
  • Mining, enhancing, and connecting content to build sets of knowledge.

Empowered self-service collaboration

We’re emphasizing empowered self-service collaboration to help ensure that employees have trusted, self-service collaboration tools that they can use to work successfully and seamlessly with colleagues inside and outside of Microsoft. Our strategy is to encourage self-service creation and the use of Microsoft 365 services so that employees and divisions can and want to:

  • Create and customize their collaboration experiences and workspaces.
  • Integrate with their unique business solutions and processes.
  • Trust that they can protect highly confidential information while sharing as openly as necessary.
  • Work with partners and guests in place so that files and conversations don’t have to leave the tenancy, while also improving overall guest integration.

We’re balancing our strategy by examining exposure and providing business assistance. We’re also establishing guardrails to enforce policies that protect boundaries, detect leakage when content doesn’t match expectations, and hold employees accountable. This strategy should help avoid third-party software usage and reduce costs by retiring legacy solutions such as our extranet. It also fosters employee and business trust in security and data access, and we’ll continue to drive joint projects with Digital Security and Risk Engineering (DSRE); Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs (CELA); and the Microsoft 365 product group to improve guest management, sharing, labeling, and policy management. We also want to collaborate with other teams to improve how apps and experiences access and integrate with services.

While we’ll empower employees, we’ll also enforce security, legal, and IT manageability policies such as:

  • Ownership, which will help ensure that shared containers have FTE-associated accountability.
  • Sharing limits, which will help protect content from being overly exposed accidentally.
  • Lifecycle, which will help make sure that we keep only the content that we need.
  • Product feature and service onboarding, which will help determine the best feature configuration that empowers employees without creating new exposure points for privacy and security.

Key initiatives

Our key efforts over the coming period center around:

  • Improving compliance. We’ll increase compliant Microsoft 365 groups through enforcing classification and ownership policies. We also want to achieve compliance for employees’ Microsoft OneDrive for Business accounts, specifically around geo-location. And we want to do all this without negatively affecting the user experience.
  • Enhancing security. We’ll establish a higher number of Microsoft 365 groups with validated external members and guests while helping reduce the risk of oversharing and data loss, specifically for SharePoint sites.
  • Strengthening manageability. We’ll fully move to the cloud across all remaining legacy services, thereby reducing our cost of operation and increasing experience consistency. This also includes decommissioning our on-premises SharePoint infrastructure in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, in addition to any remaining on-premises Microsoft Exchange accounts, migrating the Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging Service to cloud voicemail, on-premises Cloud auto attendants, and decommissioning on-premises Skype for Business Server.

Moving forward

We want to make self-service even easier to use for employees while increasing our automatic protection capabilities. Areas that we’ll investigate and pursue include:

  • Sharing. We’ll simplify and protect processes for sharing content so that content exposure matches the intent of the user who’s sharing the content.
  • Labeling. We’ll cascade divisional and reach boundaries from a project container to anything within.
  • Compliance notifications. We’ll aggregate IT compliance alerts and actions for employees within the context of their current experiences.
  • Group management. We’ll establish standards for group management and reuse. We want to fully use groups as the definition of team membership that gets reused and automatically managed.
  • Divisional policies. We’ll empower divisions to enforce collaboration rules in addition to those that CSEO provides for items such as sharing limits, ownership policies, and templates.
  • Retention and archival. We’ll further address CELA’s need to control data management while enabling businesses to keep histories beyond the lifecycle of the project team.
  • Application empowerment. We’ll provide applications with granular, less-risky access and streamline application submission.
  • Service and feature change. We’ll create better integration with first-party rhythms and tollgates so that CSEO is informed of changes in enterprise posture and the impact of those changes.

Conclusion

We’re realizing our vision for seamless teamwork by building and championing experiences that promote collaboration and increase employee engagement. We’re connecting our employees so that they feel productive in all work activities, from individual focus time to virtual meetings, team interactions, and engagement across Microsoft. We’re transforming how teams work together, which not only empowers our employees but also illustrates for our customers how Microsoft 365 can help large enterprises make a similar transformation and realize its benefits. Finally, we’re building on a solid foundation of cloud centricity and modern tools to transform and maximize the productivity of our interactions with each other and truly work together seamlessly and successfully.


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