Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform enabling business teams to effectively collaborate through a single interface. Within Teams, members can share conversations, notes, files, have ad hoc or scheduled meetings, collect feedback, and so much more. In essence, Teams provides all the necessary tools for project management in one place.
Having the right tools is really important, but knowing how to use them is what makes a difference in managing projects efficiently. In this post we will cover some basic tools available in Teams that will help you throughout the project’s lifecycle, aiming at the most critical aspect of assessing a project’s success — completing the project on-time and on-budget.
1. Initiation stage
The central part of any project is the people involved. Microsoft Teams provides the right tools for communication, effective collaboration, as well as a range of apps and add-ons to facilitate the team effort. So here’s how you can get started and get the right structure in place.
Create a team for each project
Once the project’s objectives and deliverables have been identified and the resources have been adequately allocated, it is best practice to create a team in Microsoft Teams specific to the project, and invite all the people involved. In the project’s team, you will have everything you need in one place — people, files, apps, meetings, to get the project off the ground.
When creating the team, ensure you give a name related to the project so that it is clear to everyone.
Check the post An introduction on how to use Microsoft Teams for HR Professionals for more information on how to create a new team and invite people to participate.
Create channels per purpose in the project’s team
Within the project’s team, ensure that you organize everything by purpose. For example, you might want to create a dedicated channel for budget, a different one for design, etc. This will help you get everything organized and keep the discussions focused per subject. For a detailed analysis on how channels work inside teams, check the post How teams and channels in Microsoft Teams work like folders.
Add apps aligned to the channel’s purpose
In addition to the available tools inside Microsoft Teams, there is also a large variety of available integrations with apps you can download straight from Teams. Some of the apps are free and some require subscription, which your organization might already have a license for.
You can also add bots within the chat, which can show up either as tabs, or message extensions.
It is best to add all the apps and bots you need per channel, right from the start, aligning to the purpose of each channel.
Add the right sub-folders
Within each channel, there is a Files tab, where you can add all files related to the channel’s purpose. Note that each channel acts like a folder too and within the channel you can have subfolders. To organize your files, it is best to create relevant sub-folders in advance to ensure you have the required structure in place before the project starts. You can always create new sub-folders as you see fit during the project’s duration. For folders that will be used more regularly, you can create them and pin them when it makes sense so you always have them easily accessible.
2. Project planning stage
For the planning stage you can use some useful apps available in Teams to organize your work.
Some good examples are Trello and Planner. You can use these tools to assign tasks, set deadlines, visualize what’s happening in the pipeline, organize sprints, and so much more. You can get started with a Kanban board, which will help you have clear visibility of the tasks that are in the pipeline, the ones that are progressing and the completed ones, ensuring the team can collaborate effectively with clear deadlines.
Another useful tool for this stage when you are having kick-off meetings with the team is the Freehand by InVision, which allows the team members to visually represent ideas when brainstorming on a shared online whiteboard.
3. Project execution stage
During the project’s execution stage, it is handy to use the Calendar view to visualize what’s happening in the pipeline. Planner helps you get organized with the use of labels, sorting into weekly or biweekly sprints and adding checklists.
All project deliverables and the files that are relevant to the project should be stored within the project's team, so everything will be accessible to the members through the team's SharePoint. If needed and for specific files, you can restrict the access to specific persons.
In regards to meetings, in addition to the regular scheduled ones you have in your calendar, you can use the ‘Meet now’ button for ad hoc, urgent meetings.
It is also handy to use the Scheduling Assistant to look at everybody’s calendar before trying to find a time that suits everyone manually.
You can also try a bot to do the scheduling for you, like CalendarHero.
Remember to always record your meetings and get a transcript so you can share with any team members who did not attend or be able to review at any time.
Another important aspect for the smooth execution of the project is having feedback loops. To keep the feedback rolling, organize regular recurring stand-up meetings with the team and with the customers.
4. Project monitoring stage
During this stage, where the project is progressing, the project manager needs to monitor the budget, the scope and the tasks assigned to the team, ensuring that all goes according to plan.
Automating some aspects of the monitoring phase ensures timely communication with the team.
Always ensure that you check the activity feed to see all the updates that have been made within the teams you are participating in.
Another useful tool, is the Flow tab in Teams, through which you can set up proactive notifications that can let everyone know when a task has been completed.
Recurring meetings are also very important in monitoring the progress of the project. With the help of the Teams Calendar and the Scheduling Assistant, you can find a time that suits everyone and schedule recurring meetings.
In addition to the regular meetings, you might need to have meetings on the fly to discuss urgent tasks. You can do this through chat or by inviting the channel to participate in ad hoc calls.
Recording the meetings is very handy in case you want to revisit. In addition to this, you can use the wiki tool for taking notes.
Having transparency across all team members is very important for the smooth management of the the project. To this end you, with some tools, like Trello and Power BI, you can easily produce reports and view actionable analytics.
5. Project closure stage
Once the project has been completed and the deliverables have been met, you want to present the results to the project stakeholders through a meeting in Teams.
In advance of the meeting, prepare a document for the project stakeholders that has detailed information on the team, the work completed, the required maintenance tasks and any notes for related future projects.
Keep a file of all project deliverables in a SharePoint folder that all stakeholders have access to and can easily locate it. Since the team itself is a SharePoint and any channels in the team are folders within the SharePoint file system, the General channel of the project team is a handy location to announce and post this file. You can also post in the General channel the link that points to the SharePoint of the team and the particular folder/file for the stakeholders to check.
Last, ensure that you keep the project team open for any future reference. Transcripts and overall history can be useful for lessons learned.