Key skills for coping in a Teams outage

This week there was a global outage. Not the full Teams application, but features across it.

Some people may not have noticed. Some had a major impact. Chat was a no-no. Not at all working. There were issues with calls and call queues. And for those users who thought “I’ll do a restart and see if that helps” they were actually worse off. Many found once they closed the app and did a restart, they couldn’t use the app at all.

What stood out to me in the outage, was people saying they couldn’t work at all. Comments like “we rely on Teams for everything and now cannot work” were messaged through friends venting, or in online forums. This was something I pondered… was it really that bad?

It became evident to me, that what was blocking some people continuing their work wasn’t just the technology and outage but also their capability.

Ooooh… is that a bit harsh?

Let’s explore.

For some, not having access to Microsoft Teams to many incorrectly meant no access to files. There are a lot of users who don’t have a depth of understanding across the platform, knowing key things like – a Teams channel file library is built on SharePoint and can be accessed without the app.

How can you work with documents in Microsoft Teams without the Teams app?

Firstly, syncing. If you sync the library to File Explorer, you can navigate through the library without the Teams app open, and you also have offline access.

Image showing the button in Teams file library to sync the library to File Explorer.

Obviously Files on Demand comes into play – many documents may have the cloud icon and only be accessible if you are online, and are there some documents you have selected ‘always keep on this device’.

They key thing for adoption and understanding here is ensuring people are aware of how to sync a library that they access in a Team channel tab, and then knowledge of the icons for Files on Demand or working offline and online.

Secondly, through SharePoint. Again, a knowledge gap in many. The fact that in the tab in a channel in Teams you can select ‘open in SharePoint’ and open that library on the SharePoint platform in your browser.

Image showing the option in Microsoft Teams to click and open the library in SharePoint.


Remember, in the outage it was the Teams app, not internet and browser access to things. It is possible if some staff know about ‘open in SharePoint’ they may still be unaware that you can go to office.com, click on SharePoint and find the ‘group’ that way, for that specific Team or channel, to access the site with file library. As much as these things can seem too hard for average users, some tips can help them build broader understanding across the platform and how it is all connected.

Essentially though, many were not aware that without Teams app they can access the documents.

What about other aspects we work on together in Teams?

A popular inclusion to your Team and channel is Planner. Again, many people access in their channel with a tab like ‘Team actions’.

This one is super quick. Ensure people know how to access Planner as a stand-alone app from the Microsoft 365 Portal, rather than just in Teams. Easy peasy. Saves them waiting to progress work thinking, “without Teams I cannot check actions to complete work”. Not a good excuse when you can access it in the browser without the Teams app open!

What about shared notes and information?

What I am referring to here is OneNote.
To be honest, why anyone would work in OneNote surfacing in the Teams app is a constant confusion. Why bother in my opinion. It is a much better experience to use the full OneNote application. So the answer is there for you, if there is a shared OneNote in a Team that people access in a tab in a channel, ensure they know how to open this same notebook in the full OneNote application. It’s a better experience to work that way anyway. Help them grasp storage and access to shared notebooks.

The list could go on…

We could talk about Lists – access in SharePoint.

Tasks – open Planner or To Do.

SharePoint sites or libraries – access in SharePoint.

While I know a major part of the outage was chat or issues with calls, we cannot fix those core features if they’re broken. We can perhaps pick up our mobile phone and go old-school for a phone call.

The key point is that for many, the outage impact could have been lessened. With the right knowledge people could have gone to the web browser, opened the Microsoft 365 Portal and used the apps there to keep across actions, issues, documents, notes etc.

Build the skills in your people so they can navigate the platform more confidently and these issues are lessened.

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