In the new hybrid world of work where in-person interaction is limited, Microsoft Teams has changed the way we drive project collaboration by helping organisations transition their working methods to a collaborative team-based approach. Rather than having to schedule in-person meetings for example, all relevant parties can be online at the same time and respond to requests and questions quicker. This ultimately contributes to faster, more efficient project delivery.
Less commute time, more project focus
When it comes to project initiation, pre-Covid this would typically be carried out on-site and require the project management team, and sometimes the customer, having to commute. This experience could sometimes feel frustrating and taxing when losing productive time during the commute, and stressful due to longer days or unforeseen travel issues. Undue pressure can, inevitably, be placed on a packed agenda and because of the obvious time constraints necessary for in-person meetings, collaboration can feel limited or restricted.
Today, Teams enables us to make much better use of our time by removing the need to commute. The hours required for travel to and from the project site are now saved and re-invested in more client engagement and driving the project forward. We not only have the flexibility to attend more meetings or work on other tasks, without the stress of the commute we have even more energy to dedicate to providing an exceptional customer service. These gains also apply to our customers, who find they can get more done by saving on travel time and ultimately get more value from us thanks to the extra time we have to work on their projects.
Maintaining the human touch
With less opportunity for in-person meetings, it’s more important than ever to build rapport and develop authentic relationships. In a world where situations can change at any time, Teams enables this to happen virtually. Our Project Managers can still get to know our customer’s core and wider teams and continue providing that highly personalised service through Teams video calls. Even something as simple as being able to see facial expressions enables us to connect and manage projects with a human touch, something that’s not possible with phone calls. While any video calling platform would enable us to do this, Teams offers so much more in the way of a central communication hub for chat, secure information sharing, and engagement that’s convenient for all.
Always-on communication channels
Teams facilitates a constant flow of communication that helps maintain project cadence and allows us to continue to build engagement. For example, for every technical workshop we run, our tech team needs to send out an agenda. In Teams we can share this directly with our customer and discuss anything they may be unsure of at a time that’s convenient for them, via a Teams conversation. Unlike scheduling a meeting, we no longer need to find and book time in everyone’s diary to discuss the agenda. And instead of being interrupted by an impromptu phone call, both our team and our customer can respond and pick things up when ready, so everything is understood ahead of the workshop to maximise output.
While this can be done over email, Teams chat functionality provides more people with visibility over everything that’s being communicated and allows for real-time responses. Information can be uploaded for all to access, rather than being sent by email which runs the risk of people dropping off the thread or finding it hard to locate attachments. This also means that if someone is too busy to respond, a wider team member can plug the gap. Both our and our customer’s team can drop in and out of the virtual world as and when needed, enabling us to take control over our priorities and driving a more efficient way of working.
As Project Managers, we get a far better view of the bigger picture than we ever could through emails or conversations we may not be included in. We can see more clearly where things aren’t working as they should, what other team members are doing, and whether our customer is understanding everything that’s happening. If they don’t, we can quickly and easily join a conversation or ask other team members to jump in and help where needed – which all helps keep up the project cadence.
This worked exceptionally well for one customer we worked with, who was able to answer specific questions concerning a migration when uncertainties arose, or clarification was needed. Receiving near real-time responses in this way kept us all focused on the project, maintaining momentum, and enabled the Project Manager to constantly review progress. This eliminated the need for a daily conference call to seek clarification and answer questions, as we were able to post requests on Teams where our customer could instantly reply. This not only sped up delivery, but it also created an enjoyable experience where people were interacting in a timely and responsive manner to collectively get the project completed.
Enhancing engagement in a new world of work
Being able to get a real feel for our customer’s business is vital, and nothing can replace the depth of engagement that results from face-to-face interaction. From being introduced to the wider team to sparking new conversations around the office, to building rapport over coffee, when we meet in person there are far more ways to interact and network on a deeper level. In fact, according to recent research, 80% of executives prefer in-person events to virtual meetings because it allows them to build stronger relationships, read body language, and enjoy social interaction1.
As things gradually return to some level of normality, there may once again be the opportunity for more in-person interaction. However, while there will always be a need for face-to-face contact, there are a multitude of new efficiencies to be gained through running projects virtually using platforms like Teams. Rather than replacing the value of direct interaction, Teams offers Project Managers the chance to communicate, track projects, and share information in a faster, more efficient way. Many business leaders already recognise this, with the top three reasons for preferring technology-enabled meetings being time gains, money savings, and more flexibility in location and timing. In a world where hybrid working is here to stay, it enables us to work more productively with increased structure and control around project communication, helping transform the role and effectiveness of today’s Project Manager.
If you need to improve your collaboration experience or processes, talk to us about how we can help you design and use Microsoft Teams to really make a difference.