Taking command: How Microsoft employees are doing more with Microsoft Teams

Jan 21, 2021   |  

Collaboration is the name of the game in the age of remote work, and Microsoft Teams makes this possible at every level internally at Microsoft.

This resonates with Gayle Townsend, a senior customer success manager in Microsoft Midwest Region Sales, a role where she helps customers bring their vision for a modern workplace to life with Microsoft products and services.

“When I first used Microsoft Teams, I saw the potential for productivity to skyrocket,” Townsend says. “Now, we know how to get more out of the tool.”

She knows more than most because she helped build a new internal consulting service designed to help teams across Microsoft get more out of using Microsoft Teams.

Townsend drew inspiration from her role as a customer success manager, where she saw how sales teams could use Microsoft Teams channels to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

As she dove in, she quickly recognized something was missing—the experience customers had when going from one Microsoft Teams account channel to another wasn’t standardized. This meant that customers who worked on multiple accounts had to learn how a new channel worked every time they switched channels. Additionally, when a Microsoft customer account executive created a team for their territory and a channel inside that team for each customer, they couldn’t port over content from old channels.

In Townsend’s part of the sales organization, employees would create separate Microsoft Teams channels for each account executive and client they were working with. The challenge was that they were naming these channels based on the account executives who oversaw these customer accounts. However, when account executives moved to new solution areas or roles, it was impossible to move these teams. Often, the knowledge collected by the team was siloed, making it hard for account executives and customer success managers to find what they needed.

Townsend wanted to create patterns so the sales reps that she managed would have a consistent experience in Microsoft Teams, regardless of who was leading the account. That way, account team members could demonstrate the power of Microsoft Teams as a collaboration tool when talking to customers.

“We wanted a standard channel structure that account team members could rely on,” she says. “That way, there’s continuity and standardization when new account team members were assigned to a Teams channel.”

Her persistence in solving this challenge ultimately inspired the creation of Teams Command Center, a tool that Microsoft Productivity Studio and certified partner Avanade are building to empower teams across Microsoft to collaborate at scale using Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams has become a central place for day-to-day collaboration, and we’re here to help employees get the most out of it. When we moved past individual interactions and started thinking about entire teams, we felt like we could drive adoption at an organization level.

– Mykhailo Sydorchuk, a senior program manager in Productivity Studio at Microsoft

Enabling employees to manage Microsoft Teams channels, tabs, members, and apps

Sydorchuk stands in front of a bridge and smiles at the camera.
Mykhailo Sydorchuk, a senior program manager, has supported the development efforts on Teams Command Center. (Photo by Mykhailo Sydorchuk)

Mykhailo Sydorchuk, a senior program manager, and his team on Microsoft Productivity Studio were also on a mission to empower Microsoft employees. As an organization in Microsoft Digital, the engineering organization at Microsoft that builds and manages the products, processes, and services that Microsoft runs on, the team was uniquely positioned to see challenges as an opportunity and help employees get the most out of Microsoft technology at scale.

When looking for a way to help teams manage their Microsoft Teams channels, tabs, and membership, the Microsoft Productivity Studio drew inspiration from Townsend.

“Microsoft Teams has become a central place for day-to-day collaboration, and we’re here to help employees get the most out of it,” Sydorchuk says. “When we moved past individual interactions and started thinking about entire teams, we felt like we could drive adoption at an organization level.”

Jangir looks at the camera and smiles.
Naveen Kumar Jangir, the lead Microsoft 365 architect from Microsoft partner Avanade, helped build Teams Command Center. (Photo by Naveen Kumar Jangir)

This led Naveen Kumar Jangir, the lead Microsoft 365 architect from Avanade, and his team in Microsoft Productivity Studio to build Teams Command Center, an internal consulting service and tool that enables employees to manage Microsoft Teams channels, tabs, members, and integrated applications at scale using the power of Microsoft 365. With this tool, employees can set up teams with a consistent structure and updated in aggregate.

“We want Microsoft Teams to support the next phase of seamless collaboration,” Sydorchuk says. “Teams Command Center supports that second stage of Microsoft Teams adoption where users are much more familiar with the available templates and it’s easier for them to manage their channels.”

Currently, Teams Command Center supports:

  • Bulk creation and management of teams for virtual and in-person learning
  • Strategic sales pursuits
  • DevOps team creation
  • Project management
Martin sits at a table and looks to the left as he talks to someone.
Joe Martin leads the Productivity Studio team at Microsoft. He is a senior program manager. (Photo by Aleenah Ansari | Inside Track)

Jangir says that Microsoft employees were eagerly waiting until they could use this tool to manage their Microsoft Teams channels and use the predefined templates to offer an intuitive and secure experience to their teams.

“Manually setting up hundreds of teams with consistent patterns made it hard for teams to get the most out of this tool,” Jangir says. “Now, with one keystroke, employees can light up thousands of Microsoft Teams channels. It also frees up their time to focus on high-impact work.”

[Learn how Microsoft is enabling its employees to work remotely with Microsoft Teams. Watch this webinar about how Microsoft empowers remote work with teamwork and meetings.]

Driving seamless collaboration from the inside out

Employees and customers have also shaped the development of Teams Command Center with their feedback. Joe Martin, a senior program manager who leads Productivity Studio at Microsoft, and Greg Kriegler, a client executive at Avanade, are glad to see this. Throughout research and interviews, employees expressed interest in using these templates to drive their productivity.

“We’ve heard brilliant suggestions for how the solution could evolve in the future,” Kriegler says. “For example, one key stakeholder suggested that we auto-configure the Microsoft SharePoint template for each team, so we’re working on incorporating that feature in future versions.”

There’s so much power in innovating on top of what’s already in place. We get great ideas from the people closest to the work and make them available to everyone in a matter of minutes or hours.

– Greg Kriegler, client executive at Avanade

In the process of building this tool, Jangir prioritized security and productivity in tandem.

“While designing the Teams Command Center tool to align with Microsoft’s Zero Trust security model, we followed the least-privilege access principle,” Jangir says.

Microsoft Digital has published Teams Command Center in the tenant catalog, and they’re onboarding teams at Microsoft to be pilot users who can deploy hundreds of Microsoft Teams channels, tabs, and members in bulk and update each channel based on changes to their template. The Microsoft Productivity Studio team is also building out a reporting feature, which enables teams to track changes across all the channels they manage.

“As the person monitoring your Teams channels, you want to know when people add, delete, or modify the channels you provisioned,” Kriegler says. “There’s so much power in innovating on top of what’s already in place. We get great ideas from the people closest to the work and make them available to everyone in a matter of minutes or hours.”

In the future, Sydorchuk says the team may release Teams Command Center as a standalone app or integrate it into Microsoft Teams services. Teams Command Center has the potential to transform the work of district managers in retail stores. Before, these managers needed to go from store to store to make updates for each store’s Microsoft Teams channel and reference notes from each location to stay up to date. Rather than doing all this work manually, store managers can push updates to all their stores.

“With Teams Command Center, these district managers can go from store to store and know exactly where to find the information they need,” Jangir says. “The productivity gains from that alone are incredibly valuable.”

If you’re deploying Microsoft Teams in your organization, or building a tool to manage Microsoft Teams channels at scale, Townsend encourages you to listen to the needs of your users, whether they’re employees or customers.

“Rather than focusing on the tools you’re bringing in, think about the employee experience you want to create,” Townsend says. “By supporting employee productivity at scale, you empower your employees to spend more time with customers.”

Find out more about Teams Command Center and other workplace experience solutions.

Learn how Microsoft is enabling its employees to work remotely with Microsoft Teams.

Watch this webinar about how Microsoft empowers remote work with teamwork and meetings.

Read about how Yammer strengthens communications and improved employee experiences.

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