Microsoft Teams and the challenge of cloud app management [Q&A]

MS teams

Microsoft Teams' pandemic-inspired rise within the enterprise hit a new milestone recently when the company announced the app had 145 million daily active users.

Microsoft has been the biggest beneficiary of the shift to remote work as thousands of businesses have adopted its 365 platform to support employees. However, due to the speed at which many organizations adopted the collaboration app, there are often pockets of employees resistant to using Teams because they're more comfortable with alternatives like Slack or Zoom.

How do enterprises overcome this user resistance? We spoke to CoreView's senior VP and chief evangelist, Doug Hazelman to get his advice on how to promote app usage among enterprise workers and manage shadow IT.

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BN: Why do you think Microsoft 365 -- and Teams, specifically -- experienced tremendous growth in 2020? What are the benefits it offers to employees and IT admins over alternatives like Slack and Zoom?

DH: In the software business, timing is everything. Unfortunately, the catalyst was a pandemic-induced shift to remote work, but it did accelerate the growth of Teams, Zoom, and Slack. Teams received an additional boost because many organizations were making the move to Microsoft 365 before COVID. Remote work accelerated enterprises' digital transformation, so, from a cost standpoint, it made sense for many businesses to standardize on Teams because it is included in most Microsoft 365 licensing plans. Why pay more to use Zoom or Slack if you already own a platform with similar functionality?

A secondary reason for Teams' growth is that Microsoft is discontinuing Skype for Business (except on-premise).

BN: Do you think one of the main reasons for Teams' growth is its attachment to the M365 platform?

DH: I believe so. The first reason, as I mentioned before, is licensing. The ability to present companies in crisis mode during the early pandemic days with a proven enterprise platform a simple licensing structure is a massive advantage for Microsoft. It's like the old saying goes, 'No CIO was ever fired for buying IBM.' Microsoft is now that company, and its sheer scale dramatically simplifies life for IT leaders.

The second factor is the tight integration that Teams has with SharePoint, OneDrive, Outlook, and various other M365 products. This makes Teams a ready-made, highly integrated collaboration platform.

BN: Do you expect to see Slack and Zoom usage decrease over time?

DH: Organizations that are 'all-in' on Microsoft will stay with Teams and reduce their use of Slack and Zoom. However, organizations that aren't as committed to Microsoft will continue to use best-of-breed platforms. For organizations that use Microsoft 365 but had developed business processes around Slack, the move to Teams will be more complex, and users may demand that they stay on Slack. Microsoft is putting a lot of effort and resources into Teams development and adding features constantly.

Zoom currently has brand recognition in popular culture, so much so that it’s becoming a common word instead of a brand. It's become the Kleenex of video calling apps. That type of mindshare gives them instant credibility to tech leaders, and they’re rolling out updates to make the app more enterprise-ready after some initial hiccups last year.

BN: What about businesses that migrated to Microsoft 365 but also made heavy investments in Slack, Zoom, or other enterprise apps before the pandemic? Will these be more open to 'best-of-breed' strategies?

DH: If users feel that Teams is being forced upon them, they will revolt. Before any push to move to Teams occurs, IT needs to thoroughly research how other platforms' usage and how they’re integrated into other products and services. After this research, every effort needs to be made to integrate Teams in the same way (or better). Each department should establish pilot groups to test and verify that Teams can do 100 percent or more of what the other platforms could. During the trial period, IT leaders should select champions to help the 'marketing effort' get people interested in using Teams. The move to Teams needs to be seen as 'bottom-up' rather than 'top-down' to succeed, a process that takes a significant amount of time in large organizations.

BN: History has shown that when enterprises adopt an app or platform en masse, challenges constantly arise. What are the Teams-related problems that many enterprises are facing right now?

DH: The biggest challenge we've seen is Teams sprawl. Teams sprawl is when users create too many groups or channels with their colleagues and leave them unattended, often after a significant project. Unless companies completely lock down the creation of new Teams groups, they often proliferate across the organization and must be cleaned up. Unfortunately, Teams' lack of detailed reporting makes that process difficult.

Another Teams-related issue that enterprises must deal with is finding information within Teams. While search has been improving, many users still find it challenging to find information in Teams.

BN: How do businesses deal with employees that continue using unsanctioned collaboration and productivity solutions? What methods would you recommend to help enterprises deal with shadow IT?

DH: The first step is discovery. Once CIOs and tech leaders identify all the instances and users of unapproved (or unsupported) applications, they must execute an adoption campaign to change behavior and gain employee buy-in.

Much like the initial rollout, businesses need to enlist non-IT champions within every department who can evangelize the benefits of using Teams. There may be some departments with critical processes tied to other platforms, so tech leaders must work with these groups to determine if Teams is the ideal replacement or if an exception should be made.

BN: Is 100 percent adoption of a single app realistic? Or should businesses understand that a percentage of their employees will always use unauthorized apps?

DH: 100 percent adoption will be difficult. There will always be people who use other apps, even if it’s on their phones. Only through continual discovery can you determine if rogue applications are operating within the organization's IT infrastructure.

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