- Despite being a useful general tool, Microsoft Teams has problems
- Teams is meant for a wide variety of users, and requires extensive customization for manufacturing use
- The decentralized nature of Teams leads to many team rooms; thus users can have dozens of teams to monitor
- Teams can be siloed and disconnected from overall company goals, fracturing the organization and impairing alignment
Problems With Microsoft Teams
As many of us were forced into remote work in 2020, we quickly adapted to using remote tools to bridge the communication gaps and manage our work. One of the most popular tools to attack these problems is Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams allows you to create a Team and house all communication and files in that space. You can create wikis, track actions, integrate with Power BI dashboards, and more. It can be a powerful tool for project management, especially when the team is not all present.
Sounds great right? Well – yes, and no.
After using Teams for a few years now, I’ve come to the realization that there are many problems inherent to the software.
Teams Is Meant For Everyone – But Not “You”
One of the central problems is that Microsoft Teams is a tool meant for everyone to use. It has a lot of capability and customization. The downside of that means it takes a lot of work and configuration to get it in a place that works for the team.
Teams is like the Walmart of remote tools. Yeah, you can find some general things there, but more often than not you will need to go to a specialist to get something that really fits your needs.
I work in a manufacturing organization that uses Lean management principles. We have some people building out dashboards that integrate with Teams so that the team can hold their daily Tier meetings. It’s great once it’s set up, but the steep learning curve of tools like Power BI means it’s literally taking 6 months to a year before these processes are set up.
Most factories do not have the luxury of putting their personnel on such a project. They are already short staffed, stretched thin, and they have to get product out the door!
Too Many Teams
After getting used to Teams and seeing how things could be shared and communicated, many people jumped on board and created a factory team, a department team, a project team, or a technology team. The result? I’m in at least 15 separate teams now and have to keep track of every team separately.
Each team has its own collection of files, communication, dashboard (if configured), and actions. So a member of the team has to cycle through each space to check everything. This is not very efficient.
But this problem speaks to a fundamental problem. If you are in manufacturing, or really working in any large company, you may be resigned to the fact that you have to access multiple disparate systems to track all of your action items.
Adding Teams to this potpourri of systems can in fact make this worse if it’s not managed appropriately. Because Teams is designed to let any user create their own Team space easily, most companies will probably have a tough time managing the structure of Teams.
Besides cluttering up communications and action tracking, multiple teams can also disperse file storage. I know many files that are stored in more than one team and also on company drives in folders. Over time, it’s a poor and inefficient way to store and manage files.
Because of the way Teams are built and managed – in a decentralized, ad hoc manner – each team has its own goals. Thus members are pulled in differing directions as they work to fulfill individual team tasks.
How can they be sure what they are doing is the best thing for the organization when there are so many different teams, each with their own set of goals? Managing a remote team can be difficult if there is not alignment, and this can be made worse when Teams are individually managed.
This problem is a deep one at many companies. One study by Harvard Business Review found that “up to 95% of employees are unaware of, or don’t understand, company strategy”.
How would this be solved in a company that has been using the Microsoft Teams ecosystem? Would you scrap the existing teams, combine them, or have management review each team periodically? I’m not sure what the solution would be – this is a thorny problem without a clear solution path.
I enjoy many Microsoft products, but Microsoft Teams has some fundamental problems that cannot be easily solved. It takes too much effort to build into a holistic solution for manufacturing – and we know that manufacturing is short staffed and stretched thin already. Each team becomes a separate place for the members to have to follow and track, which is inefficient. Lastly, Teams leads to siloed groups working disparately on individual goals, potentially reducing organizational alignment.
Still want more info on how to manage a remote team? Download our free Remote Roadmap to Success here to get you started on the journey.