my world of work and user experiences

March 31, 2022

How will this help us?

Filed under: Adoption,Digital Workplace,Microsoft 365 — frederique @ 20:24

Recently, I got involved in some training programmes, in which the people from a department could learn about Microsoft 365. These people were collaborating with each other, in a field different from my own: pharmacies and construction. What struck me, were their questions and even accusations: “You are from the head office and what head office tells us to do often does NOT work for our jobs in the field. So what does this mean for us, the people who are not sitting in an office all day working with Office applications? ”

My goal is not to sell as many Microsoft 365 licenses as possible, nor is it forcing users to adopt Microsoft 365 at knife point. What I try to do, is help people to do their jobs more effectively, efficiently and pleasantly. And in many cases Microsoft 365 can help with that, but if and only if they adopt it the right way. So:

  • From the one end, IT needs to make sure that the people get the tools that can actually help them. Not a one-size-fits-all toolkit & approach that does not fit their situation or their needs.
  • And from the other end, the people need to adopt the new way of working, with the new tools. For that they need to become aware of that new way of working, desire it, know enough about it, become able to do it in real life and be reinforced when they make the change. See ADKAR. And we can help them make the change, but only if the new way of working really works.

For example, I heard the following:

  • “Did your project actually ask the pharmacies what they needed, before you started pushing this change on us?”
    Fortunately, we had involved representatives from the pharmacies and done a pilot with them, so we could reassure these people. But we had not communicated this properly with the larger group, so they were still stuck in the sentiment of ‘those idiots from headquarters’ at the start of our training. Something to take into account next time.
  • “We don’t have a full computer or laptop, only a Citrix environment, without desktop applications. ”
    Fortunately, many of the Microsoft 365 application have a nice Online version. What we should have done better, is start with the story of the online versions, to fit their needs. I got catapulted into this training as a last minute resourcing fix, so I did not realise that only a few of the participants could use the desktop versions. Next time I will check, because you don’t want to talk about options that they don’t have….
  • “Why are you talking about Microsoft Teams as a ‘digital office’ for collaboration. In our pharmacies, we only have the one pharmacist who has a computer, what do you mean collaboration? ”
    Fortunately, we had also planned Teams for collaboration at the level of clusters, which made a lot more sense to them.
  • “The assistants in the pharmacies do not have individual Microsoft 365 accounts. How are we going to involve them in all this digital sharing? ”
    Good question, are aware of it. But the business still need to decide if they will get individual accounts and if they do: with which license.
  • “You show us how you can open a document in Teams and co-author it. But we are using a lot of files that can only be opened in non-Microsoft applications. We need these tools for manipulating models, schematics, plannings etc. How do we work with those files that seem exotic to you but are run-of-the mill for us.”
    Fortunately, we could show that they can synchronise the relevant libraries to their Windows Explorer and open those files from there. And yes, they were happy with the additional possibilities for opening links to work in Office files directly from Teams, for example. As long as we don’t try to suggest that this is the only type of files that they need to manage.

January 31, 2022

Using Teams to help people adopt Teams

Filed under: Adoption,Digital Workplace — Tags: — frederique @ 21:35

Recently I was talking to a group of people who do not use Microsoft Teams much. They do some basic Teams Meetings, but they do not use any of the other options in Teams to work more smartly. Ok, we can help them adopt Microsoft Teams more fully. And Teams is actually a great tool to help them adopt Teams itself to make their lives easier!

Microsoft Teams helped me help them to become aware of the possibilities of collaborating more smartly using Teams, to realise what’s in it for them, to gain knowledge on how it works and develop the ability to really use it themselves. And I also plan on using Teams to reinforce the change to working in Teams 🙂 See also ADKAR: are our users ready to adopt our solutions?

Richer Team Meetings

They have been conducting online meetings, like everyone else who had to switch to working from home when the pandemic hit us. They had conversations using their microphones and webcams, and usually somebody shared a presentation. So they were pleasantly surprised when I held a meeting with them to talk about Teams and we used some of the other features:

  • PowerPoint Live, where they could navigate back to a previous slide and forward. I know, sometimes you don’t want that, but this was a rather open session and they loved this feature. And you can even ask for a translation of the slides. (See also Microsoft’s instructions Share PowerPoint slides in a Teams meeting)
  • Sharing their own screen. A few times, a participant mentioned some specific issue or example and I asked them to share their screen with us, so that we could discuss it together. It turned out that many of them did not know how to do share their screen. But it is not rocket science, so I could simply explain which button to press and it worked. Quite an eye opener for them and very useful to know. (see also Microsoft’s instructions Share content in a meeting in Teams)
Sharing your screen or other content in a Teams Meeting
  • Emoticons to express their opinion. Not everybody could or would unmute their microphone and they were very pleased to see that they could communicate simple things such as ‘Like’ using the emoticons button we nowadays have.
  • Polls have become available in Teams Meeting last year and we can use them to ask multiple choice questions or do multiple choice quizzes. And I have had some very enthusiastic response to the option to generate a word cloud based on words the participants enter. (See also Microsoft’s instructions Poll attendees during a Teams meeting)
Using a poll in a Teams Meeting: the participants vote and then see the results

A Teams environment as our “digital office”

When people say they use Microsoft Teams, they often mean that they use online meetings. Maybe they also use the chat, but don’t count on it… And only a few teams use Teams as their “digital office””: the online environment where they can share and collaborate easily in channels, using the relevant apps made available in the tabs.

So I set up a Team for the group of people with whom I wanted to discuss Teams. Because I wanted to show them what a Teams environment is and does. But also because I needed a place to share information and collaborate with them. Of course I introduced them to their new Teams environment in our Teams Meeting.

  • Share files. I had some presentations, recordings and other information to share, and that Team was a great place to do so, once I had invited them all to join as a member. When I showed them how easy it is to add a colleague to the Team, they were very happy. (See also Microsoft’s instructions Collaborate on files in Microsoft Teams)
  • Share notes. A Team always contains a OneNote notebook, even if it is not visible by default. News for the group, as most of them only used a personal notebook. So that was the place where I put my notes. Again, this was a killer app for them: shared notes that they could all see and add to, by simply following my link – I sent them a link to the relevant page in the notebook.
  • Shared conversations. In our session, we discussed Teams and how it can help us communicate and collaborate more smartly. But the discussion does not have to end after we close the meeting. In their new Teams environment, we can share tips, ask questions and discuss the best way to make our lives easier with the help of Teams. And yes, they did see the advantage of having the conversation here instead of in an email thread. I did stress the importance of @-mentioning the people or group you want to involve directly (see Microsoft’s instructions Use @mentions to get someone’s attention in Teams).
Teams are like “digital offices”, structured with channels that each have tabs with apps relevant in that context.

Ok, I already knew this, but once again I saw how useful Microsoft Teams can be when it comes to the user adoption of tools like… Microsoft Teams.

July 31, 2021

What about the firstline workers?

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Microsoft 365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:40

These days, we are all doing our best to provide employees with a great digital workplace, so that they can work from anywhere. This has been particularly important during the pandemic, when many of us worked from home. But of course this is only true for the knowledge workers or office employees. Firstline workers or frontline workers do real life jobs, which they cannot do from home. And they hardly get any attention when it comes to the digital transformation.

What do we mean by firstline workers

I am not trying to give a watertight definition of firstline workers, or frontline workers as they are also called. But basically, they are the people who in many organizations do the real work, in the real world. As opposed to the people who work on a computer all day.

Microsoft says: “Frontline workers are employees whose primary function is to work directly with customers or the general public providing services, support, and selling products, or employees directly involved in the manufacturing and distribution of products or services.”

So firstline workers are, for example:

  • In retail, the cashiers and people on the shop floor, whose job it is to help the customers.
  • In hospitals, the nurses who spend most of their days taking care of patients.
  • In a construction company, the carpenters and other people who actually construct the houses.
  • In maintenance organizations, the mechanics who go out and fix machines.

As opposed to the people who mostly work on a computer:

  • Staff in HR, Finance and of course IT who support the business
  • People like managers, project leaders, planners, calculators, coordinators who need to make sure that they firstline workers can do their job helping customers or patients in the real world, or building and maintaining real world things.

Ok, of course in other organizations – like the consultancy company where I work – just about everybody is an office worker. We all work on a computer most of the day. Many of us work with our clients a lot, but as far as I am concerned that does not make use firstline workers. Why do I say that? Because it would confuse the issue.

Why am I talking about the firstline workers now

In domains like retail, manufacturing and construction, about 70-80% of the employees are ‘real life’ firstline workers. And about 70-90% of the digital transformation efforts focus on the few office workers. The firstline workers are left out.

Of course, if your main tool is for instance a hammer, rather than a computer, a digital transformation would impact you less. But if you are passed over entirely, you will miss out. For example:

  • You may miss essential communication and be left out of the loop when the office workers are engaged.
  • You may not get staff support quickly and easily.
  • You may not have the right and up-to-date information at your fingertips, which you need to do your job.

Some lessons I learned

While I was working for a construction and maintenance company, I mostly worked for and interacted with office workers. Of course. But I did talk to some firstline workers and office workers who were the first line behind the firstline workers. So here the firstline workers are not the ones who are in direct contact with the customer, but the people who build the product. Their primary tool is, for example, a hammer. Not a computer, although some had an account and a computer or smartphone.

Here are some things I learned. Of course these also apply to office workers, and there are some very computer savvy hobbyist firstline workers. But nevertheless, you need to introduce new digital offerings even more carefully to your firstline workers.

  • Think carefully what the different groups of firstline workers need
    For example, the carpenters working at the construction site for a new building will get their news in the shed from the bulletin board pinned to the wall and from their foreman, so they may not want a digital news channel. But maintenance engineers who drive all over the country by themselves need to get their news in another way. Some carpenters like to consult the plans on an iPad, because then they can zoom in. But they find it easier to compare plans on paper, because that does not work on the small tablet screen.
    So find out what the firstline workers need and how digital tools could help. If an app can help them, develop it. If the old-school paper & word of mouth solution works best, fine.
  • Don’t offer digital stuff as an added burden. Make it useful for them
    I talked to a carpenter who had a laptop just for his timesheets. He did not want to fill in his timesheets anyway – nobody likes that – and now he got this annoying laptop to make it even worse than it was when he did it on paper. A maintenance engineer was grumbling that he got a new app to administer the work he did for each client. The administration was getting more extensive and complicated and he just wanted to fix the machines he was assigned. Then what’s in it for them?
    So if you give firstline workers digital tools, make sure you are not burdening them with additional administration and complications just to make the lives of others easier. Something needs to be in it for them too.
  • Do not assume that they will understand the digital stuff you offer.
    In that organization, IT decided everybody had to install Office Pro Plus on their computers themselves and activate Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), based on a few instructions. This caused problems for many office workers, but the firstline workers I talked to were completely at a loss. One guy was a great carpenter, but he got stuck when he had to set up MFA and I tried to help him out. First of all, I called him back in the evening, when he could use the computer his wife has for Facetiming with the grandchildren, so that he could see the screen with the settings properly. And then it turned out he did not know his Office 365 password. Oops…
    So if the firstline workers have to do something digital, make sure they get adequate help, as in: help that really helps them and not a document with some complicated instructions.
  • Make the digital stuff as easy as possible
    The firstline workers are outside in the rain at a construction site, in the bowels of some big machine covered in grease, on the shop floor with their hands full. And they want to get on with building the house, fixing the machine or stacking the shelves. Not necessarily optimal circumstances to fiddle with digital tools.  
    So don’t make them install things that can be installed automatically, make apps super user-friendly and optimize them for the devices and network conditions they have at their disposal.

I am glad that we start looking at and talking about the needs of the firstline workers. I am very much a knowledge worker myself – don’t give me a hammer, as I will probably hit my thumb. But talking to firstline workers who got mangled under IT’s rollout of Office 365 made it clear to me that we can’t just ignore their needs. Microsoft has also made this step: see Microsoft 365 for frontline workers. Now let’s see what we can do to make their jobs easier, safer and more pleasant.

January 31, 2021

You can use breakout rooms in Teams Meetings. If you are careful

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: — frederique @ 22:48

By the end of 2020, many of us were looking forward to the new option in Microsoft Teams Meetings, to split a large meeting into smaller breakout rooms. For brainstorming in small groups in online workshops, for deep-diving with subgroups, for doing joint exercises in an online training. We wanted the option and we got it! But we do need to be careful when we use breakout rooms, to avoid breaking our meeting experience. Let us take a look at the seven main steps of organising and managing a Teams Meeting with breakout rooms, and what you should be careful of.

1.Have the key organiser schedule the Teams Meeting

As always, we want to schedule all our Meeting meticulously: early to avoid calendar clashes, with a clear agenda explaining what we will do and why, invite the right people. By the way, you can invite external participants from outside your organisation to join a Teams Meeting with breakout rooms – nice! But we often determine the exact roles of the various presenters and moderators later. Not when you want to include breakout rooms!

Be careful: Only the organiser can set up and manage the breakout rooms, i.e. the person who scheduled the meeting. Being a presenter is not enough to see the breakout rooms option. So think carefully who should schedule the meeting…

I’ve had situation where a high-level manager scheduled the meeting, because that emphasised how important the meeting was. But then that high-level manager would have to create the breakout rooms and be present during the meeting, to assign participants to their rooms. Not good… So make sure that the person who will actually be in charge of the session schedules the session: the main moderator for example.

Be careful: I’m not entirely sure about breakout rooms in Channel Meetings. I like to organise meetings in a Teams Channel, to embed them within a Team that can provide more context. Especially for ongoing meetings for which we also share files and other information, and for big events that require a lot of work before and after the meeting. It looks like you can create breakout rooms in channel meetings at this time, but I have heard that there were problems with it and I haven’t tried this for real lately.

2.Create the rooms beforehand

Of course you’ll want to set up your breakout rooms beforehand, so that you don’t have to worry about that when your participants are requiring your attention after the meeting has started.

You cannot include the breakout rooms when you schedule the meeting. But you can open the Teams Meeting days before the event takes place and create the breakouts rooms early. And rename them, to make sense to your participants. These rooms and their new names stay available when you close the meeting and re-open it.

Be careful: You need to use the Teams app on your computer for this. The breakout rooms option is not available in the Teams Online version yet. Fortunately, I prefer the Windows app version of Teams anyway. But you do need to pay attention as a consultant, that you cannot run a breakout meeting for a client in a browser, while you have Teams conversations with colleagues of your own organisation in the Teams app on your computer.

Be careful: You may give the participants a pop-up to trigger them to enter the meeting early too, if you have already invited the participants. So consider setting up the breakout rooms first, and then invite the participants afterwards. And again: you can only do this, if you scheduled the Teams Meeting in the first place.

Teams-BreakoutRooms-Add and rename-ann

Open the Breakout Rooms from the main Meeting toolbar as the organiser. Add rooms and rename them via the usual ‘…’ ellipsis.

3.Assign participants

So who should participate in which breakout room? When you start setting up the breakout rooms, you can choose whether you want to assign the people automatically or manually to the rooms.

  • You can let Teams decide and assign them automatically to a random room.
  • Or assign the participants manually, to select the right mix of participants for each groups. For example, do you want to respect existing teams or mix them up and have a representative of each team in every breakout room? Mix experienced participants with newbies? Mix enthusiasts with seriously critical people? I usually like to select my groups manually. Ok, maybe that means I am a control freak… 🙂


Choose if you want to assign people automatically or manually to the breakout rooms, when you create the rooms.

Be careful: The choice between automatic or manual assignment to the rooms only appears in the beginning, when you start setting up the breakout rooms. At least, at this time there does not seem to be a way to change it. So think about it before you start creating your rooms. Made a mistake? You can delete the rooms and start again via the ‘…’ ellipsis of the breakout rooms > Recreate rooms.

Be careful: You can only assign participants who are the your Teams Meeting to a breakout room. So you cannot assign them beforehand, from the invitation. If you value the participants input, you can do it together: assign them on your shared screen  – as the organiser, because that is the only one who can assign anyone to a room. If you want to avoid that discussion, ask the organiser to assign the people to their rooms, while the presenter explains what we will do.


Assign selected participants to a selected breakout room.

4.Start the rooms

When you assign people to their breakout rooms, nothing happens yet. But as soon as you start the rooms, the participants move to their assigned room.

Open a specific breakout room or start all of your rooms.

Open a specific breakout room or start all of your rooms.

Be careful: Warn the participants before you open the breakout rooms, because less Teams-savvy users might freak out instead of break out… How do they get into the breakout room and what happens to the original meeting? Will there be a host to help them there or how can they get help? How will they get back? The default setting is that the participants are automatically moved to their rooms in 10 seconds. They get a message to that effect in the blue bar that appears at the top, but they need to understand what is happening before they get confronted by this automated move.

The participant gets a message that the breakout has started and she will be moved in 10 seconds.

The participant gets a message that the breakout has started and she will be moved in 10 seconds.

Be careful: There is a toggle settings to enable and disable the automatic transition of the participants to their breakout rooms. If it is switched off, they themselves will need to click a button to move to their room. I prefer the automatic move, especially in these early days when people are still unfamiliar with this functioanality. People may get left behind… So please check if the setting is correct, before you open the breakout rooms in an important meeting.

Change the settng to automatically move the participants to their rooms, or not.

Change the settng to automatically move the participants to their rooms, or not.

If the participants do not get moved into their rooms automatically, they need to click a button to join.

If the participants do not get moved into their rooms automatically, they need to click a button to join.

5.As the organiser, manage the breakout sessions

As the organiser, you are responsible for keeping the Teams Meeting as a whole, with its breakout rooms, on track. You may want to moderate one particular breakout room, and ask other presenters to moderate other rooms. Or you can leave the participants to it and take charge of their own breakout sessions. Because once everyone is in their breakout room, they have presenter premissions, so they can interact freely.

But from time to time, they may need your help. As the organiser, you can join any breakout room in your Meeting. Click in the ‘…’ ellipsis for that room and then select Join room.

As the organiser, you can join any of the breakout rooms.

As the organiser, you can join any of the breakout rooms.

Be careful: Make sure the participants know how to ask for your help. Asking the question in the chat of their breakout room will work nicely, but only if they remember to @-mention you, so that you are notified.

When the participants need attention in a breakout room, they can draw your attention by @-mentioning you in their chat. You will see it in your Teams.

When the participants need attention in a breakout room, they can draw your attention by @-mentioning you in their chat. You will see it in your Teams.

And as the organiser, you can post announcement to all of the breakout rooms at the same time, from the central settings of your breakout rooms panel: click the ‘…’ ellipsis and then select Make an announcement.

Be careful: You only have room for a single line of text in the announcement, so make it snappy! Don’t start explaining things in announcements, or provide detailed information. Aim for concise, practical reminders like “If you have a question, @-mention me in the chat”. Might be useful if they do know about @-mentioning but they forget to actually do it… Or: “You only have 5 minutes left!”. Because someone needs to keep an eye on the clock. Of course you should also tell everyone how much time they have before they dive into their breakout rooms, but that is just the same as in real-life breakout sessions.

Make an announcement to all breakout rooms. It will appear in their chat as an important message.

Make an announcement to all breakout rooms. It will appear in their chat as an important message.

6.Switch between the main meeting and the breakout rooms

When you enter a breakout room, you open a separate Teams Meeting, which is connected to the main Team Meeting you scheduled. When you open that breakout room meeting, you put your original main meeting On Hold. When you resume the main meeting, you put the breakout on hold for you.

When I joined the breakout called 'Test Room 1', I put the main meeting called 'Breaking out Test' on hold.

When I joined the breakout called ‘Test Room 1’, I put the main meeting called ‘Breaking out Test’ on hold.

Be careful: In the online version of Teams, the meetings are not clearly labelled. In the Teams client, your meetings are clearly labelled with the name of the original meeting. But the participants who join online need to be careful of where they are.

Be careful: Either avoid using the lobby or avoid the option to manually return to the main meeting. You can allow the participants to return from their breakout room back to the main meeting manually. This is not the default settings, but you can select it via the ‘…’ ellipsis of the breakout rooms in general > Rooms settings > Participants can return to the main meeting. But if you allow your participants to return to the main meeting from their breakout rooms, the people who had to be admitted from the lobby when you got started need to be readmitted from the lobby when they return using the Return button. And I have seen examples where the wires got crossed somehow: the external participant was stuck in the lobby and meeting pane of the organiser did not that participant in the lobby, so they had no way to let her in… Fortunately, you don’t have this problem when you don’t allow them to return manually – when you pull them back automatically when you close the breakout rooms, they don’t get stuck in the lobby.

Be careful: Avoid leaving and rejoining the meeting as the organiser. The participants may be able to continue in their breakout rooms after you have left. But when you rejoin and then close the rooms, the participants do not get back automatically. And when you try to reopen the rooms for the next round, the assignments have disappeared. At least, that’s what I experienced recently. So try to make it work by leaving the meeting with the breakouts on hold, while you join another meeting. Or even better: just stick with the meeting you organised for these breakouts and don’t try to multitask…

7.Get everyone back to the main meeting

When you want everyone to come back from their breakout rooms to the main meeting, for example because you want to get started with the next topic, you can close the breakout rooms: just click Close rooms in the breakout panel.

Close all breakout rooms with one button

Close all breakout rooms with one button

When you close the breakout rooms, the participants again get a message in the blue bar at the top: “This room will close in 10 seconds. You will be automatically moved back to the main meeting”. They also see in the chat that the organiser has removed them from the breakout meeting. And yes indeed, they do automatically get back to the main meeting, This even works for external participants joining in the online version of Teams.

The participant of the breakout room gets a message that this room with close in 10 seconds and that she will be moved back to the main meeting.

The participant of the breakout room gets a message that this room with close in 10 seconds and that she will be moved back to the main meeting.

And when you want everyone to move into their breakout rooms again for Round 2, just open the rooms again. This will transfer the participants back to their own breakout rooms, where they will find the chat that they had in the first round. It is like going back to the room where the blackboard is still filled with your scribblings…

So breakout rooms are not fully mature yet in Microsoft Teams. But we can already take advantage of the new functionality. If we are careful.
See also Microsoft’s announcement Breakout rooms generally available today in Microsoft Teams (december 2020) and instructions Use breakout rooms in Teams meetings.

December 31, 2020

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year 2021

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 18:25

I wish you all the very best for the new year: happiness, health, conviviality and whatever else you may need. I hope that we all will be able to travel again and meet face to face. And that we can keep the good things we learnt this year.

This year was quite strange, for me and for most of us, I think. Working from home not sporadically but systematically. Being locked down, which is similar to locked up but not quite the same fortunately. Meeting virtually instead of face-to-face.

I feel privileged, most of all because my nearest and dearest are doing fine.
And I have an apartment with sufficient space, peace & quiet and a nice view, so my home office is not bad at all. It complements my digital workspace nicely.
Also, in my consultancy job I can work remotely. Of course, it is better to discuss things face to face, for example in workshops, training sessions, and deep dive conversations. But for me, it is definitely possible to work online.

The funny thing is that when this all started, spring 2020 in my neighbourhood, I was involved in an adoption programme to help end users make the Microsoft 365 toolkit their own. These users all had Microsoft 365 at their disposal, but they were not really using the tools, like Microsoft Teams. In some of the training sessions, participants told me that they were always working together in the same office or at the same constructions site. So why was I going on about remote collaboration?

Well, that certainly changed! All of the sudden, everyone was working remotely. Or at least, everyone who was working primarily on a computer rather than actually laying the bricks at the construction site for example.

From that point onwards, the question no longer was why you would use tools like Microsoft Teams, but how to use them. If I were a cynic, I’d say a global pandemic is the best way to make people adopt the tools for working remotely…

Yes, people still prefer face to face meetings. But I hear quite often that they do see the advantages of, for example, online meetings. For a short meeting, you can save travel time by doing it online. The chat functionality and Yammer do allow you to ask a question without interrupting your colleagues quite a much as a phone call does, or you standing at their desk. When many or even some of us work from home, there are less traffic jams, and the air gets cleaner.

So it is good to know that there are online alternatives to face to face collaboration. Now we hope that we can soon get face to face alternatives to all of this online collaboration…


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

November 30, 2020

How to organise executive meeting using Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:09

Now that most of us are working from home and joining meetings remotely, we often discuss our best practices for online meetings. In our case that means: meetings in Microsoft Teams. A special case is the Executive Board meeting. For such meetings, the requirements more stringent than for the informal meetings that I have with my colleagues. In this article, you read how we set up those executive meetings.

Of course, the regular tips for online meetings also apply to executive meetings. So can also check out the 12 Practical tips for online meetings using Microsoft Teams and the 20 tips for presenting online.

But for the Executive Committee it is even more important that they can:

  • Join a secure meeting that others cannot access
  • Allow guests to join (part of) a meeting, without seeing the rest of information
  • Have a secure place to collect input for meetings
  • Have a secure place to store and collaborate on information
  • Quickly & easily find meeting documents for current and past meetings

The short version of what we advise is: set up a Team for the ExCo, plan the meetings in a channel of that Team, invite guests separately, ask the guests to upload their meeting documents in a separate library and enable the meeting lobby when you expect guests.

Now lets take a look in more detail….

1.Set up a Microsoft Teams environment for the ExCo

A Microsoft Teams environment is a great place to collaborate with a clearly defined team, like an Executive Committee. Only the members of that Executive Committee and the executive assistants are members of that Microsoft Teams, so only they can access the information shared within that Teams. Nobody else can see it. Actually, usually the assistants are the owners: they manage the Team.

In this Team, we include elements like: general information about the Team and instructions on the Teams meeting, an agenda topics list, a decision list, the OneNote notebook, and a Planner plan board to manage tasks.

Microsoft Team for the Executive Board, with details on how to join online meeting.

Microsoft Team for the Executive Board (a demo, Team to avoid leaking sensitive info), with details on how to join online meeting.

I know some executives are wary of a plan board in which tasks are assigned to them, but I have seen it work. The executives obviously did not have detailed tasks, because they delegate a lot, but they were responsible for high level actions. Most of them updated their tasks in the plan board before the next meeting, and the others did so after some prodding by the executive assistant.

The Planner plan board in the demo ExCo Board Tem.

The Planner plan board in the demo ExCo Board Tem.

2.Plan the meetings in a channel of the ExCo Team

Once you have set up a Team for the ExCo, you can organize the ExCo meetings in a channel of that Team. We usually create a channel called ‘ExCo Board meetings’ for that purpose. These are the advantages of setting up the meeting in a Team channel, instead of a regular meeting scheduled from Outlook.

  • Everything is in one place: before, during and after the meetings
    • All meeting files are in the same place, in the Files tab of the Team channel: this meeting as well as previous meetings.
    • The meeting chat remains available in the Team channel after the meeting.
    • The recording is available in the Team channel after the meeting.
    • You can use channel posts to have discussions or ask questions before and after the meeting.
    • Integration with Planner tasks and SharePoint lists like a decision list
    • The MS Teams meetings notes become part of the channel (in a tab). We actually don’t use the meeting notes option offered by the Teams meeting, but we use OneNote. We include that OneNote notebook in the Team channel.
  • Everything is secure: before, during and after the meetings.
    • Only Team members have access to the meeting content
    • New ExCo members have access to the meetings and all materials, as soon as you add them to the Team.
    • You have the option to invite guest participants without sharing the meeting files or chat

Note: Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to organise a channel meeting on behalf of someone. Delegation still only works for meetings scheduled from Outlook for individual participants. That means that the Executive Assistant who schedules the meeting is the organiser. Fortunately, Microsoft will address this point, according to the User Voice item MS Teams meeting delegation. In the meantime, you may get by without delegation, because the invitations are sent in the name of the Team, not in the name of the assistant. And the assistants usually join these meetings anyway. Even if the assistant is not present, the executives all have presenter permissions, so they don’t need the organising assistant to get started with the meeting.

Schedule the meeting in Teams. Tip: first connect to the channel, before you configure the recurrence - otherwise you can no longer connect to the channel... Invite the guests separately.

Schedule the meeting in Teams. Tip: first connect to the channel, before you configure the recurrence – otherwise you can no longer connect to the channel… Invite the guests separately.

A Teams channel meeting as seen in my Outlook calendar: the invitation comes from the Team, not the organiser.

A Teams channel meeting as seen in your Outlook calendar: the invitation comes from the Team, not the organiser.

3.Invite guests separately

In the ExCo meetings I’ve seen, they often asked guests from elsewhere in the company to join part of the meeting, to present and discuss specific agenda topics. For example, somebody from HR to talk about an ambitious programme to find, hire and onboard new talent.

These guests are not part of the Executive Committee, so they are not members of the Microsoft Team for the ExCo. But you can invite them separately as individuals, in addition to the ExCo team members who are invited automatically via the connection to the Team channel.

If you invite the guest in this manner, they can join the meeting in a secure way:

  • The guests can
    • Join audio and video: hear & speak, see & show their video feed.
    • See the PowerPoint slides and desktop shared by others while they are in the meeting.
    • Present their topic: PowerPoint slides or share their desktop.
  • The guests CANNOT:
    • See the chat. So they cannot take a peak at what was discussed earlier
      (This is different from a regular Teams Meeting organised in Outlook, where they can see the entire chat).
    • Read the meeting notes.
    • Read the meeting documents, except when they are shown in the meeting at the time the guest is present.
    • View the recording afterwards, even if the find the address: they don’t have permission.

This is what a guest sees in a channel meeting, especially: no chat option.

This is what a guest sees in a channel meeting, especially: no chat option.

Please note: you can only invite guest from your organisation to a channel meeting. Not external guests from outside the organisation. In the cases that I have seen, the guests always had accounts from the organisation, because they were either regular employees or consultants provided with such accounts.

A table summarising what Team members, guests inside the organisation and guests outside the organisation can do in a Teams Meeting organised in a Teams channel or in Outlook

A table summarising what Team members, guests inside the organisation and guests outside the organisation can do in a Teams Meeting organised in a Teams channel or in Outlook. (click for the readable version). See also Roles in a Teams Meeting.

4.Ask the guests to upload their meeting documents in a separate library

The executives want to have the documents to pertaining to a meeting all in one place, so the executive assistant creates a folder for each meeting in the Files tab of the meeting channel. The ExCo Board members can simply upload their own meeting documents in that folder – it is just as easy as mailing them to the executive assistant.

The meeting documents are gathered in a folder per meeting, in the Files tab of the meeting channel.

The meeting documents are gathered in a folder per meeting, in the Files tab of the meeting channel.

However, guest invited to present a specific topic in a Board meeting do not have permission to see, let alone upload, files in that Teams library. So we set up a separate library in the Team, which we call the upload library. The assistants ask the guests to upload their file in there, with an email that offers them a direct link to that library.

Mail to a guest: please upload your meeting documents in the library - just follow the link.

Mail to a guest: please upload your meeting documents in the library – just follow the link.

We configure that library in such a way that all guests can upload their documents into the library, but they can only see their own documents. After all, other guests may be invited to different sections of the meeting, to discuss sensitive topics. So we configure the ‘Upload library’ as follows:

  • Add a separate library in the SharePoint site associated with the Team.
  • In the Library settings > Permissions for this document library, stop inheriting permissions from the site and give ‘Everyone except external users’ contribute permission on this library – ONLY this library.
  • In the Library settings > Versioning settings, switch on content approval and specify who should see draft items: Only users who can approve items (and the author of the item). Then the guests uploading their files cannot see the files uploaded by others.
  • The executive assistants set an ‘Alert Me’ on this library, so that they receive an e-mail notification when somebody uploads a file.

Then the executive assistants move the uploaded files to the meeting folder where the other document for that meeting are being gathered, so that all documents can be found in one place.

The executive assistant moves the documents uploaded by the guests to the meeting folder.

The executive assistant moves the documents uploaded by the guests to the meeting folder.

5.Enable the meeting lobby when you expect guests

The standard setting for meetings is usually that the participants can enter the meeting directly, without waiting in the lobby. The lobby is quite annoying for the regulars after all.

However, if you have invited guests, you may want them to join only for their own topic and NOT join the meeting for previous, sensitive topics. In that case, activate the lobby. The meeting organiser can do that before the meeting or during the meeting, after the regulars have already joined.

Changing the Meeting Options from inside the meeting, to activate the lobby.

Changing the Meeting Options from inside the meeting, to activate the lobby.

Please note: Only the meeting organiser can change the meeting settings to activate the lobby. So if an executive assistant has scheduled the meeting, he or she should activate the lobby.

So: in this manner you can help the executives collaborate and meeting in a safe and user-friendly way.

October 31, 2020

15 Tips for virtual classroom training with Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:26

Now that we cannot conduct a classroom training in an actual classroom, due to the threat of COVID-19, we do our training in a virtual classroom in Microsoft Teams. Actually, this is also a valid alternative after the pandemic, because it can save a lot of travel time. But how can we ensure that the training participants learn something for real in this virtual classroom? Here are 15 tips for things you should to do before, during and after the virtual training session.

Of course there are other ways of learning in the virtual world instead of classroom training sessions, like instruction videos and self-paced e-learning modules. But in this article we focus on virtual classroom training, where a group of participants can learn together, interactively. We use classroom training particularly in scenarios where a shared experience is important. For example, in a department that starts working in a new way with Microsoft 365, where the employees not only want to learn how they should use the tools to get their jobs done but also want to discuss how to apply the tools in their team and how it will change their way of working.

A virtual classroom training session is a special case of a virtual presentation. So these 20 Tips for presenting online also apply.

Before: Set up the training and invite the participants

1.Plan the training in the right set-up

How you should set it up, depends on the type of training your envision. For example, if you aim for a large-scale presentation, you can set up a Teams Live Event, where the presenters tell their story and show their demos, while the attendees can only ask questions via the Q&A panel.

However, if you want to conduct an interactive training, set it up as a Teams Meeting with few restrictions as to who can present and use their microphones. And most of all: keep the group small. Technically speaking, you can squeeze 250 people into your virtual classroom. But if you want to allow for real interaction, keep the group to 10 – 20 participants at most.

We used to organise training sessions that would take an entire day or an entire morning. In the virtual world, we split them into sessions of at most 2 hours, because video conferencing it is more tiring. Don’t forget to plan for a short break after an hour, if not more often.

2.Set up a training environment

For your training, you need more than just a meeting room. Even when I conducted real-life classroom training, I set up a training environment in Microsoft Teams: a Training Team where we could share information before, during and after the actual training session. Not only from the trainers to the participants, but also the other way around and amongst the participants themselves.

We did a training programme for different departments, with sessions on different themes. To facilitate this, we created a Training Team for each department and in that Team set up a channel for each training on a different theme. In each channel, we had information about that training, conversations, shared files and notes.

A Training Team for a training programme on Office 365, with a channel for each training theme.

A Training Team for a training programme on Office 365, with a channel for each training theme.

3.Set up your physical and hardware environment carefully

In the real world classroom training, we had to make sure that there were enough chairs in the room and that the screen/beamer was working. In the virtual world, the set-up is like the one we need for virtual meetings. Only for a serious training, you may need to pay even more attention to your set-up than for an information get together with your colleagues. See for more details: 20 Tips for presenting online.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle.

4.When you invite the participants, explain how it works

For any training, you’ll want to make sure you invite the participants plenty of time in advance and state what they will learn in that training. What is different in the virtual world, is that you may need to explain how the participants can actually enter the virtual classroom. Not everyone is sufficiently familiar with Microsoft Teams Meetings…

Include brief instructions in the invitation (“Click on the Join Teams Meeting”) and provide a link to a more detailed help page / user manual with full instructions including screenshots. And I offer to help anyone who cannot figure out how it works following these instructions, to schedule a practice run with them so that they can try it out before the important training session begins.

We also invite them to the Training Team, and explain that they can find all the relevant information in there. We schedule the meeting as a Teams Meeting in the appropriate channel, so that the chat of the meeting and its recording automatically become available in the Training Team afterwards.

5.Ask input beforehand

In order to finetune your training, ask your participants for input. For example, do they have experience with MS Teams Meetings? Or: which version of Windows do you have, so that you can pick the right demo laptop? For this purpose, you can use a poll in the Training Team. You easily create a poll in the Team conversation: in a new conversation, click the … ellipsis, select Forms and enter your questions and answer options.
Note: if you select the checkbox that the poll should be anonymous, it really is anonymous. In the past, the author of the poll could see the names of the voters, but that has been fixed now.

Create a poll in the conversation of the Training Team.

Create a poll in the conversation of the Training Team.


During: Deliver the training

You conduct the training inside a Microsoft Teams Meeting, instead of real world classroom.

6. Share the right content

As the trainer, you tell your story, presenting for example a PowerPoint slide deck and a demo. In the real world classroom, you had the presentation and demo on the big screen and you were standing next to it. In the virtual world, you need to determine how you want to share your content in your Teams Meeting.

You can share a specific PowerPoint presentation. The advantage for you, as the presenter, is that you see the video thumbnails of the participants when you share your presentation in this way.
Please note: by default, the participants can browse through your PowerPoint by themselves. If you want them to stay with you, click the eye icon to block them from clicking through the slides.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation. Click the eye icon to stop the participants from browsing through your slides on their own.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation. Click the eye icon to stop the participants from browsing through your slides on their own.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation is less practical when you want to switch between the PowerPoint presentation and one or more demos. For that scenario, sharing an entire screen, and everything on it, works better. I tend to show a lot of demos in my training sessions, usually in different apps, so I share my screen: screen 2, and I keep screen 1 for my own notes and application I don’t want to show at that time. However, when I do a bit of PowerPoint and switch PowerPoint to its presentation mode on the shared screen, I no longer see the video thumbnails or the chat or anything like that. So I depend on my moderator to keep an eye on the participants.

Share an entire screen, I have two screens, and I share the second screen.

Share an entire screen, I have two screens, and I share the second screen.

7. Avoid a monologue and use your video to make your presentation more lively

In a virtual classroom, it is more difficult to keep the participants’ attention. So make sure the participants don’t fall asleep listening to you drone on. It helps if the moderator breaks up the monologue: relay questions that were asked in the chat, add remarks with an example from their experience etc.

It also helps if you leave your video feed on and the participants can see you talk. You are not a robot after all.
Please note: be careful with the spotlight functionality. If you really want to look the participants in they eye and talk to them, you can put a spotlight on yourself. But that means that your ‘talking head’ replaces the screen you are sharing in the spotlight. The participants can find the shared screen in the row of thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and click on it to get it back. But I have often heard participants get confused by this. So be careful.

Later this year Microsoft will gives us an option to transpose your video feed onto our presentation. That will make your story look more personal.

Display your video feed on top of your presentation in a Team Meeting [Microsoft screenshot]

We will be able to transpose our video feed on top of our presentation (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

8.Facilitate the conversation

In an interactive training session, conversation is key. So if you can trust your participants to behave, do not restrict their access to their microphones. In my training sessions I could fortunately trust my participants to mute their microphone when they were not talking and to refrain from talking over each other.

Ask the participants to raise their hand when they want to talk; the moderator can give them the floor by just telling them to go ahead and unmute. Please note that either the participant or the moderator should lower the hand after the participant has started talking – I often see ‘old hands’, which are still raised to flag an earlier question.

The participants can also ask questions or make remarks in the chat. If it is a simple question, the moderator can answer in the chat. This is the best way to ask and answer practical questions that don’t concern all of the participants and would interrupt the flow of the presentation (“where can I find the slides”, “I have to leave early”, “How can I access the demo environment”). More interesting, complex questions should be asked in the main presentation via the microphone. The moderator can do that, if the participant cannot unmute for some reason.

9.Use polls and quizzes to interact with the participants

From time to time, shake things up and do something different. For example, ask the participants to vote on a poll or do a quiz. At this time, you can for example create a poll in Microsoft Forms, allow the participants to scan a QR-code or click a link to open it, and share the Forms page with the result in the session.

Allow the participants to open the poll via a link or QR-code and then vote on the poll. Show the results via your shared screen.

Allow the participants to open the poll via a link or QR-code and then vote on the poll. Show the results via your shared screen.

Later this year, we will also get poll functionality inside Teams Meetings; these seem to be the same polls we can already create in a Teams conversation. The new poll functionality will allow us to set up polls before the meeting and then launch them at the right moment inside the Teams Meeting. For such polls, the participants to not have to scan any QR-code or navigation to some other location in any way.

Set up polls inside the Teams Meeting and launch them at the right time inside the meeting (by the end of 2020)

Set up polls inside the Teams Meeting and launch them at the right time inside the meeting (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

You can also make a more fancy poll or quiz, that give the audience more of a ‘wow’ factor. A Kahoot quiz for example is quite playful, with music, colours and pictures. Please note: Kahoot quizzes and third party poll apps do not live inside your tenant. So if security is strict in your organisation, you are not allowed to use these third party apps.

Create a Kahoot challenge, with questions and multiple choice answers. The participants who has the best answers and the quickest response wins.

Create a Kahoot challenge, with questions and multiple choice answers. The participants who has the best answers and the quickest response wins.

10. Let the participants do exercises in breakout rooms

For me, what distinguishes a training session from a presentation, is that the participants are able to try it for themselves: do exercises in a safe playground environment. I like to let my participants do these exercises in couples, two by two, so that they can explore together and learn from each other.

In the real world classroom, they would sit together at a table. In the digital world, I give them a digital room where they are in charge: they can talk, share a screen with each other, take a minute to grab a coffee. And they can ask me to join them in their digital room if they have a question, by @-mentioning me in the chat of the main meeting or in their own meeting; the @-mention is key! We did this as ‘Meet now’ meetings in the channel or in separate exercise team channel meetings in the Training Team. But soon we will get official breakout rooms functionality in Teams Meetings! It is expected by the end of 2020.

With these breakout rooms, you can assign the participants to a breakout room beforehand. When the exercise time starts, you can open the breakout rooms and move everyone into their assigned breakout room automatically. As the trainer, you can hop between these rooms and post announcements to all rooms (“We have 5 minutes left”). When the exercise time finishes, you close the breakout rooms and everybody gets moved back into the main meeting automatically.

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, for brainstorming in sub-groups for instance [Microsoft screenshot]

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, to do exercises in small groups (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

After: Collect feedback and keep in touch

Learning should not stop after your training session…

11.Get feedback

After the training, you want to collect feedback on what went well and what needs to be improved. You can ask for quick feedback in a poll or more elaborate feedback in a survey. Microsoft Forms can facilitate both.

Offer a QR-code and link at the end of the session, so that people can give their feedback right away. But also provide it in the Training Team, for participants who have to run at the end of the session and want to consider their answer more carefully. You can include the survey in a tab in the Training Team.

A Microsoft Forms survey to collect feedback after the training, included in a tab of the Training Team.

A Microsoft Forms survey to collect feedback after the training, included in a tab of the Training Team.

12.Launch a quiz

Do you want to check if the participants learned anything in your training? You can create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. If this is an informal quiz, you can just make it available after the training in a tab of the Training Team and ask the participants to take it. For an informal quiz, it does not matter that the participant looks the answer up; what matters is that they go through the material and think about it.

Create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. You can indicate the right answer and explain what is wrong with the other answers.

Create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. You can indicate the right answer and explain what is wrong with the other answers.

If you need more of a formal exam, you have to guard against cheating. So you cannot let the participants take the quiz in their own time: they should do it during the Teams Meeting, with their camera and microphone switched on to monitor them. And in Windows 10 there is a ‘Take a test’ app that clears their clipboards and disables the participants’ access to the outside world. In MS Forms, you can sort the questions randomly and shuffle the options in the multiple choice. Fortunately, I never had to organise real exams for my trainings…

13.Share all relevant information with the participants

Make the latest version of your materials available via the Training Team in MS Teams, so that the participants can check back. Did you make a recording? That can be found in the Training Team too. A recording of the central ‘auditorium’ part of your training can be useful; the decentral exercises, not so much.

If you have an information portal with more information about the training topic, promote that everywhere: tell the participants during the training where it is and link to it from the Training Team, in a tab, in an announcement in the Posts, in the information tab…

14.Get back to ‘parked’ questions

Were there any question that you could not answer straight away during the training session? I usually ‘park’ those in the OneNote notebook associated with the Training Team. Do not forget to get back to those questions afterwards! Answer the question in the conversation of the Training Team, @-mentioning the person who asked the question.

15.Invite the participants to the knowledge sharing community

The participants may have new questions when they start working in the new way. They may find interesting new solutions. The toolkit will evolve. So it is very helpful if they keep in touch after the training, in a knowledge sharing community.

We had a community in Yammer. Everyone could join, but we specifically invited the training participants, because they were clearly part of the target audience.

So yes, you can organise and conduct virtual classroom trainings in Microsoft Teams, and you will even get more options by the end of 2020. A virtual training mirrors the real life classroom training, but you do need to prepare it specifically as a virtual training and test everything thoroughly. We don’t have to stop learning and we don’t have to stop training people just because we have to work from home…

May 31, 2020

Developments I like in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: , — frederique @ 10:54

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Teams, to cater for our needs in remote meetings and conversations. Teams was already the go-to tool for online collaboration for the enthusiasts. But now that so many of us are working from home, it has become indispensable for a lot of people. So it is absolutely necessary that the tool works easily, seamlessly and robustly. After all, there are so many new users who are not particularly computer savvy and who just want to get their jobs done in these difficult circumstances. Well, Microsoft is working on it! There are quite a few new and newish developments. Let us discuss a few.

In Team meetings

1.Raise your hand

Large online meetings get very messy if everyone just activates their microphone and jumps in. What you need is a moderator who can give people the floor – or rather: the microphone – one by one, when they want to ask a question or contribute something.

Fortunately, we now have the option to raise our hand digitally: you use the hand icon and the label explictly says this is to raise your hand. Very classroom isn’t it? I would not be surprised if this option was asked for by the educational community. But it is also handy (sorry…) to be able to raise your hand in an enterprise meeting. I recently attended a Teams meeting where I did not have permission to use the chat, as I was not a member of the Team where the meeting was organised, but I was still able to ask my question by raising my hand and activating my microphone when the speaker addressed me.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

2.Up to 9 video feeds in the main screen

When I am conducting a meeting, I often share my screen to allow the participants to see my presentation or my demo. But we also have “talk meetings”, where we just have a conversation without any slides or demo or anything. For example, the virtual coffee breaks that we are having regularly these days…

In Microsoft Teams, you could see up to four video feeds of participants, in a 2×2 format. Since two weeks, we get see up to nine video feeds in the main screen of the meeting: 3×3. And if there are less people, the video tiles are distributed neatly. Ok, if you have more people in your meeting than nine, the participants who do not talk are still only displayed as thumbnails at the bottom. But still, nine is better than four, and it is just matter of time before we get more…

3.Choose your own background in your video feed

I am working from home these days, and conducting my meetings online. I often switch on the camera, so that I can look my colleagues in the eye. After all, this is the only way we can see each other. But that does not mean that I want to show them my messy home office. Or the living room where I’ve also put my laundry out to dry.

Fortunately, showing my face does not imply I have to show my room. Earlier this year, we got the option to blur the background of our video feed. And a month or so ago Microsoft added the option to select a background image, to make your video feed more attractive.

So far, however, there is no button to upload your image, to make your video feed not only more attractive but also more personal. But you can “hack” the image collection and add your own photos via Windows Explorer: just put your pictures on your computer in C:\Users\[you]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads (please note, most people don’t see the Appdata folder, so go there by entering %AppData% in the address bar. I have resized and cropped my photos to the same size as the Microsoft images: 1920×1080 pixels, because otherwise the horizon was in the wrong place.


Click the ellipsis (the …) to get the option to use background effects. There you can select an image.

Update June 2020: And now we also have a button to add our new photos from the Teams-meeting.

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

In the chat

4.Read receipts in the chat

I sometimes check if my colleague has read my chat message yet. Since January this year, I get a checkbox icon if the message has been delivered and an eye icon if my colleague has seen my message. Of course seeing does not automatically imply understanding or taking action or anything, but it is a first step towards confirmation.

Note: Only the latest message that has been seen gets an icon, to avoid clutter in your conversation.


When your colleague has seen the message, you get the eye icon. If he or she has not seen it yet but the message has been sent, you get the check icon.

Also note: You only get these read receipts in the Chat section of Microsoft Teams. Not in a Team channel, where the posts are open to all team members. In a group chat with more than one colleague in the chat section, it looks like the message only counts as read if all participants have seen it.


In a group chat with more than one person, everyone needs to see the message before it is labeled as ‘Seen’.

5.Pop-out a chat

I like multitasking while I am in an online meeting. I know, I have to pay attention to that meeting and I do! But it is efficient if I can ask another colleague for some details or prompt him to finish a related task in a 1-on-1 chat, while still having a full view of, for example, the shared screen in the Teams meeting. I usually have enough space on my monitor to do this. But up until now, the meeting was minimized when I opened a chat.

Fortunately, now I can pop out the chat window and position it next to my Teams window with the meeting. I had already read about it, but I literally saw it for the first time in my environment just now 😉 For now, we get this option in the desktop app; not in the online version or the mobile version of Teams yet. See also Microsoft’s support page Pop out a chat in Teams.


Click the icon to pop out the chat in a separate window, that you can move and resize. If this functionality is available to you, you will see the icon at the top right of the conversation and in the overview when you hover your mouse over the item.

December 31, 2019

Best wishes for 2020

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 17:24

I wish you all the very best for the new year. Personal health and hapiness of course. But also all the best on your journey in the cloud and on your journey to help our innocent users improve their lives by adopting the new tools and taking advantage of the new possibilities.

The year 2020 is famous: many organisations had 20|20 visions and plans for this year. Then we were trying to see forward clearly. And we keep looking forward and moving forwards. With Microsoft’s continuing development of Microsoft 365 we are even accelerating. And at my client, we are also making progress with the adoption of the new toolkit by the users.

For example, we aim to achieve & explain:

  • A series of on-site training sessions for the local Office 365 champions.
  • The transition from Windows 10 to Windows 7. We already know that this will be quite a hassle, so I have high hopes for the new Edge browser, which could give our pour Windows 7 users a modern browser soon.
  • The transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. We are experiencing some hiccups in Teams: our videoconferencing tools don’t work with Teams yet, we need to configure the tenant properly and provide the required guidance. But in our experience, online meetings are more stable in Teams, so we will transition as soon as possible.
  • New templates in Modern SharePoint to facilitate formal projects. Standard Microsoft Teams is a nice application, but in these construction projects, we need sophisticated permissions, metadata and views, which requires a SharePoint template.

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2020

So we don’t have to get bored yet! On to the next year 🙂

August 31, 2019

Careful with Modern SharePoint on old browsers and Windows

Filed under: Digital Workplace,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:14

At the client where I am working at the moment, most users have Windows 7 and the standard browser still is Internet Explorer 11. We are starting with the Modern experience of SharePoint Online, And that is not a good combination.

The Modern experience of SharePoint is quite powerful. For example, our users are clamouring for the functionality to download multiple files in one go. In the Modern interface, the Download button does work like that; in the Classic experience it does not. But Modern SharePoint does not work smoothly in Windows 7 in any browser and works badly with Internet Explorer 11 (IE11).

So what can we do from IT?

Keep up to date

Of course the key thing is to provide users with a modern version of Windows, in this case replacing the antiquated Windows 7 with Windows 10. We all need to upgrade anyway, because Micosoft announced Windows 7 support will end on January 14, 2020.

This obviously is not easy in a large company with many legacy applications. But we can no longer get away with leaving a fossil Windows version on everyone’s computers…

Allow a browser that does work

Internet Explorer 11 is terrible with Modern SharePoint, as well as many modern websites You cannot get Edge on Windows 7. So you have to allow users to use another browser, like Chrome or Firefox.

Even if you insist that the official standard browser is the old school Internet Explorer 11, make sure you have a consistent story for the alternative: which browser should they use, in which situations. Especially if the company has doubts about the security of a browser like Chrome. Ok, then tell us what we should use.

Plan the roll-out of Modern SharePoint carefully

Don’t push the Modern experience of SharePoint while the users are still on Windows 7 and Internet Explorer if you don’t have to. If they are already using SharePoint in the classic mode, keep it until Windows 10 and a modern browser has been rolled out.

For example, we are currently updating a project site template for one of our units. Our key users were very clear on it: we keep it classic. They have many innocent users, who won’t be able to handle the bad experience with the Modern version on the old computers. We will transition to Modern some time next year, when everyone has Windows 10 and a reasonable browser…

What can the end-users do?

Switch to a different browser when IE11 does not work

As long as you don’t need support from somebody who adheres to the official story of Internet Explorer as the standard browser, switch another browser (like Chrome of Firefox) for some tasks. In particular, editing site pages in a Communication site.

Switch to the classic view when the modern does not work

In document libraries and lists, you can switch back to the classic view if the modern gets stuck. The views tend to be “sticky” when you expand a group for example. This trick is useful for people who have worked with the classic SharePoint and who don’t mind experimenting with views. I know I use it from time to time..

Link to return to classic SharePoint from a modern library

Link to return to classic SharePoint from a modern library

Enter metadata via ’i’ > ‘Edit all’

In classic SharePoint, conscientious user uploading a document filled in their metadata in a dialog box presented automatically as step 2 of the upload. In modern SharePoint, the user no longer gets prompted to fill in the metadata in such a dialog screen. Even if some fields are required, the uploaded document just lands in the library, The fields that are required are marked with an orange ‘Required info’ label though.

You then need to select the document and click on the I-icon to set the metadata. In the pane that opens on the right hand side of the screen, you can enter the metadata directly. However, the fields in these panes are “sticky”. Sometimes, the value you enter does not get saved… If you want to enter several fields, it works more robustly if you click ‘Edit all’.

To enter metadata, select a document and click the i in the top right corner. To make sure the metadata are properly saved, click Edit all.

To enter metadata, select a document and click the i in the top right corner. To make sure the metadata are properly saved, click Edit all.


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