By Robert Watts
Many Department of State employees have discovered the value of Microsoft Teams on the Department’s network during the past several months. Now auto-starting on OpenNet desktops, available on GO Virtual, GO Browser, and mobile apps, Microsoft Teams combines the abilities of Skype for Business, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Office 365 Groups, a SharePoint document library, and the ability to post messages and hold threaded conversations. The application also adds in features like Microsoft Planner, a link to Streams video, and the ability to have audio/video meetings—all on one application.
The Department is replacing Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams in the third quarter of calendar year 2020. Teams expands on Skype capabilities by providing the ability to create and manage persistent chats within Teams, conduct online meetings, and share desktops. The integrated Teams application brings together files, chats, and other Office 365 apps, combining communication and collaboration functions. Teams is also available on GO Virtual and GO Browser through the browser version of Teams, and as a mobile app on government-furnished or personal smartphones or tablets.
Understanding that Teams can greatly improve productivity, many bureaus and missions began using the platform in 2019, and it has proven to be an invaluable tool for teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of individual Teams, or groups, on OpenNet in the Department increased from 2,496 in February to 14,195 in June. Active users of the Teams application went from 9,623 at the end of February to 65,078 at the end of June.
“Teams ramped up our ability to promote collaboration and knowledge transfer in a large office with multiple units and a high rate of turnover,” said Jeremy Cornforth, consular chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou and one of the early adopters of the Teams platform. “Employees now have easy shared access to key resources, work together on documents in real time, and easily get up to speed when they assume new responsibilities.”
Robert Watts is a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Information Resources Managements Office of eDiplomacy.