Teams at two — a look at how collaboration is changing in the workplace

Brian MacDonald
Mar 19 · 5 min read

This month Microsoft Teams celebrated its two-year anniversary in the market. We are proud of its growth in reaching more than 500,000 organizations and 91 of the Fortune 100, and we have learned a lot these past two years.

We have learned from our teammates, our partners, and most importantly our customers from around the world, who are using Teams in 181 markets and 44 languages. Along the way, we’ve seen how the workplace is changing and how Teams is playing a central role, and there are three trends that really stand out:

Moving from “me” to “we.” For decades, the office software category for information workers has been focused on “personal productivity” — one person getting more done themselves. With the shift to the cloud and Microsoft 365, our goal has changed to enhancing how users can achieve more together.

We embraced this with SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and collaboration features across Office 365, and Teams is the hub that really brings it all to life. The fact that all these tools can be integrated in one place with Teams makes it a unique offering that helps workers stay focused even while they’re switching gears.

This approach has become not just relevant but necessary as the speed of communication keeps changing. As we moved from writing letters to writing email, two things happened: Far more emails were written than letters, and they were smaller in size. And that matched the more productive and fast-paced world we lived in.

The world once again is changing, and we are collaborating with even more people. We have to make decisions at a faster pace and in consideration of much more data. Chat matches this need, allowing people to send far more messages than email — and in smaller sizes — to many more people. In this way, history is repeating itself, and Teams has succeeded in helping users collaborate more frequently with a wider number of co-workers, partners, and customers.

Aiding in cultural transformation. Around the world, we see the leaders of organizations recognize that they need to transform not just what they do, but how they do it. At Microsoft, we have been on our own cultural transformation journey to embrace what we call a “growth mindset.” Our CEO Satya Nadella talks about this as moving from being a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all.” As he discussed when we first announced Teams back in 2016, we believe that if the 20th century was about the art of leading, the 21st will be about the art of teaming.

The structures in Teams encourages working in the open rather than fostering a “need-to-know” culture. The informality and expressiveness made possible by the chat format helps teams grow together. As team members become more closely knit, they enjoy working together more, and they are able to be more engaged and productive. Online meetings are easier, and the ability for everyone to communicate on an equal footing via posts in Teams fosters a more inclusive culture.

Supporting digital transformation. At some level, virtually all organizations in the world are becoming software companies. Processes are evolving from analog inputs and outputs to digital, and the data collected is exponentially expanding. Even with AI handling more and more repetitive tasks and rote data processing, more people still need to process more data together more frequently.

This increasing volume and velocity of information has caused switching context from different workloads in different places to become overwhelming. Tracking who needs to know what, whom to bring into a discussion, and how to preserve the outcomes can be untenable.

Against this backdrop, we saw a key need for having a secure hub that could unify the sources of disparate data, along with easy means to expose it in the context of real-time communication through chat, voice, and video. Today, only Microsoft Teams brings chat collaboration, calls, meetings, and Office 365 apps together in one place. Its team structure with chat-anchored workspaces tied to topics in channels has become a much-needed solution.

A peek at the next two years. The last two years have been an exciting journey. What could the next two years bring? We see four things that will play a big role in what we enhance in Teams:

1. Expansion of the intelligent edge. Teams endpoints are spreading rapidly on phones, desktops, and laptops, but it’s not stopping there. An array of devices are emerging to support spontaneous collaboration in hallways, factories, retail floors, delivery trucks — marrying the physical and digital work environment wherever it’s needed to support workers in these environments. Our partners are building many new categories of devices with Teams embedded. Even IoT devices can be Teams-aware, providing signals and coordinating with intelligent cloud services as a part of Microsoft 365.

2. Embracing all workers. When it comes to technology for work, the world’s more than 2 billion Firstline Workers have the same expectations as any other group. They often have complex tasks and workflows to coordinate with peers, and need an inclusive, collaborative digital environment to support that. Earlier this year, we made Teams customizable for mobile workers, with features that enable them to communicate, collaborate, and even manage shift schedules more easily. We will continue to address the unmet needs of Firstline Workers across industries.

3. Enhanced integrated security. With a more connected world comes an exponential increase in vulnerability and attack vectors. Teams will expand on the best-in-class security and compliance features we offer today by integrating new innovations that we’ll see from Microsoft 365 security offerings around identity and access management, information protection, and automated threat protection — all with a security control experience consistent with Microsoft 365.

4. Broader deployment of commercial apps and workflows. Teams has integration points for organizations to add their own solutions, which allows organizations to adapt Teams to their own unique mix of processes and apps so people can stay in the flow of their work. We will expand and enhance these aspects of the interface, along with further and deeper integration with the Microsoft Power Platform — PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI — and with Dynamics 365.

Just this week at Enterprise Connect we’re announcing another new set of features designed to help remote participants feel more included, like live captioning in meetings and a virtual whiteboard that can incorporate content from physical whiteboards. These join other features to really knock down the barriers to communication and facilitate a new culture of collaboration in the workplace.

Overall it has been a great two years and a wonderful time of learning how to help organizations transform digitally and culturally, while enhancing the ability for everyone to achieve more together. It will be interesting to see how the art of teamwork evolves in the coming years, and we’ll continue to enhance Teams right along with it.

Brian MacDonald

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Brian is the creator of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Project and Microsoft News. He also created and serves as the CVP of Engineering for Microsoft Teams.