by Megan Strant
We work with a large number of organisations using Microsoft Teams. Generally these businesses are either going through an enablement project and are new to the App or are requiring further support in the months after. Not all have the need to or have made the move to, work with external stakeholders as guests in their Teams instance. This can either be people who use Teams in their own tenant or complete non-Teams users.
The latter I find have resistance and confusion which can easily be overcome.
By non-Teams users I am referring to vendors, partners, stakeholders, suppliers, consultants, sub-contractors, researchers, or any additional attendees you invite into a call or as a guest in Teams who don’t use the Application.
These users do not use Microsoft Teams in their day to day jobs or organisations but by working with one that does, they are given the opportunity to be a guest and collaborate in the App.
In Teams they are given access to not only functionality but also invited into a way of working. As a collaborative team, people can share and store documents or notes, communicate, track activities and have meetings.
Are you aware of or have you considered the challenges for non-Teams users when working with your organisation?
I have come across 2 main obstacles to a successful collaboration with these guests.
Firstly, let's think through the way they join the team and activate guest access.
While working with a few different groups of Champions recently I asked questions about the experience they were having working with external stakeholders and found a surprisingly consistent response - trouble getting externals to even access the team with the blocker being people not understanding how, or not even wanting to create an account.
When a guest is invited to join a team, they receive a welcome email message that includes some information about the team, key features, and what to expect now that they're a member.
The guest must redeem the invitation in the email message before they can access the team and its channels. To do so, they can click on 'Open Microsoft Teams' in the welcome email. If they don’t have a Microsoft associated email address, they will be direct to create one for free.
This account belongs to the individual and can be used at any stage with an organisation they wish to collaborate with. It's not tied to that one-off access/ relationship.
This may seem straight forward to us, however, there appears to be resistance. Those stakeholders question why they need to create a new account and what is it for. There seems to be apprehension about more accounts, more noise in their inbox and distrust. I think if we give them an outline of what is expected upfront, and what it is for it can really change their attitude and push past this initial resistance.
When the individual is added to the team one great feature is that it is clear to all internal members that an external guest is present. All existing team members see a message in the channel thread announcing that the team owner has added a guest and who that guest is. Everyone on the team can identify easily who is a guest, as shown below.
As shown in the following screenshot below of a sample team, a banner indicates "This team has guests" and a "(Guest)" label appears next to each guest's name.
The second challenge for guests in Teams is gaining the knowledge of general Microsoft Teams features and also the specific ways of working for that collaboration experience. I find organisations focus on the staff adoption but there is a black hole with externals. We invite them to calls as external participants and they cope, but it’s the pulling them into Teams as a guest without even a quick cheat sheet that stumps them and impacts the effectiveness of the experience.
Guests need a quick how-to and some support to have a richer experience. If a person discusses the challenges they are having with guests in their team with me my first question is how was that stakeholder onboarded and supported to help them understand what is going on? This is often accompanied by a blank face.
So, more recently I have been quickly equipping our customers with some one-pagers to provide Guests. It is important to help them understand what is required in Teams and why they are being invited in, prior to sending the link to access. Ensure they understand the point, the process and supply cheat sheets on usage to help them feel part of the team to add input and have that richer experience instead of resisting or stumbling.