According to Microsoft’s New Future of Work Report, the hybrid model of working is most preferred by employees surveyed. But now as the world remains in a precarious state, business leaders are also embracing hybrid work, as it’s a time-tested set-up that many companies — Microsoft included — have installed infrastructure to support over the years. While the hybrid model provides more flexibility, leading to more productive teams, it can be a double-edged sword. Flexibility, while having its advantages, may also lead individuals to feel more disconnected to their team members if there’s no infrastructure available that supports an easy transition from live collaboration to asynchronous work.
So as organizations integrate their product into their day-to-day workflows, they’re quickly learning about its features and improving it quickly. In fact, that’s what happened with the Microsoft Teams team.
“We learned a lot about synchronous and asynchronous working patterns,” says Clint Williams, principal product manager at Microsoft Teams. “I think we came to value tools like Teams and Freehand that allow us to continue to get work done even when everyone’s working with their own schedule.”
As part of InVision’s Picture the Future series, InVision’s Jeff Chow recently sat down with Clint to talk about simplifying workflows, getting your entire organization collaborating for a more human-centric way of working, and how Teams and InVision have unlocked a new level of visual collaboration across their teams. Here are Clint’s best tips:
Invite everyone to play:
With the Freehand dedicated app, you can collaborate on a digital whiteboard right within Teams. Pinning Freehands within its own dedicated space on a Team channel allows you and anyone you invite to contribute to the same artifact over time — whether you’re actively adding to it in a meeting live, or in your own time while working from home.
“With a whiteboard, the last thing that would happen is the meeting ends and someone would take out their phone and take a snapshot of the whiteboard,” Clint says. “We don’t need to do that anymore. It was always ineffective. It was always scrambling to remember where that screenshot of the whiteboard went. Having it stored in InVision Freehand, I think is super important. We can always refer back to it in the future.”
But diverse collaboration doesn’t mean solely working among internal teams. Freehand is great for working cross-functionally and across disciplines. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen team members from every corner of an organization (like recruiting and operations) get immense value out of being able to visually collaborate with Freehand.
“In situations where you have folks with different levels of experience, from different disciplines, giving everyone the opportunity to put their unique perspective into a Freehand board is the best way of ensuring that collaboration happens across the organization,” Clint says.
You can collaborate with stakeholders outside of your organization in real time, too. With Teams, you can add stakeholders and guests, and anyone without a license can join a Teams meeting. Similarly, with InVision Freehand, you can give external stakeholders access to Freehand while limiting their access to places where you want them. This is perfect for facilitating live workshops and project reviews.
Prep everyone ahead of time:
Set the stage for your live collaboration session by ensuring everyone involved is aligned on what you want to accomplish *before* the meeting so everyone is ready to share their ideas. Thankfully the folks at Microsoft Teams came up with a meeting agenda template, so you can provide maximum content without having to spend a lot of time on it.
“Having a real-time collaboration tool like Freehand to enable better collaboration breaks down information silos and essentially democratizes access to information,” Clint says.
Encourage participation from everyone:
Presenting via video conferencing tools often can feel like one person offering a glimpse into their world, but Microsoft Teams’ deep integration with Freehand transforms that to feel more like the whole team is in the same room together. To interact in real time, launch a Freehand using the share tool tip and include everyone on the whiteboard to create a more engaging and productive conversation.
“By using a tool like Freehand, everyone is able to go in and have input at the same time,” Clint says. “It empowers people that are more introverted to actually jump in and contribute in ways that we didn’t unlock previously.”