Microsoft Teams acknowledges that email still plays a vital role in communications, and provides a way for users to seamlessly integrate it into the platform. In her latest blog, Project Manager Lyndsay Ansell discusses when this 'handy' capability supports collaboration and when to avoid it - with suggestions for alternative actions.
While I'm a strong advocate of Microsoft Teams inside Modality Systems, I'm also happy to recognise that it's not a straight-up replacement for email.
For certain types of communication, email most definitely has its place (Microsoft's visual of the inner loop / outer loop can help to explain this further), so it’s not surprising that Teams has a "handy" option that enables an email to be sent directly into a Teams channel. This is great in some scenarios, but I've also come across many pitfalls relating to this feature.
Here are three key scenarios where emailing into a channel won't help collaboration, using examples from personal experience:
1. Emailing into a channel with an 'FYI'
This is what this experience looks like:
You'll notice that no useful information is actually visible from the snippet of email that you see. In this instance, the email is so big that the user would have to click 'view original email' to download and open it. Talk about the long way around!
I've also @mentioned the whole channel but again with no useful instruction. 'FYI' is pretty vague… is it just information sharing? Is any action required by certain individuals? Nobody knows. This is actually making collaboration difficult.
Better practice on this occasion would have been to copy and paste relevant points from the email and post them as a new thread in the channel, @mentioning anybody who needs to action a particular item.
2. Internal/external email trail ‘CC’ing the Teams channel
This is what this looks like:
The user has had good intentions by copying in Teams, but each time another user hits reply-all, the mails clog up the channel with disjointed conversations, making it simply another 'home' for emails.
A better approach would have been to start a new channel thread, to which other users could have responded in-line to.
3. External emails with documents that already exist in the channel
In this case, the user has had a customer-facing call on a project and wants to send around the meeting minutes. This time they've ‘BCC’d the Teams channel, so the customer responses won't spam the channel - but they've also attached some project documents.
The trouble with this is, the documents live in the channel folder structure already, as they are project documents. Now that they've been sent through to the channel attached to this email they exist twice, as two separate versions! Anyone who has had anything to do with version control will know how confusing this can be.
A better approach would have been to simply pop a thread in the channel to say "I've sent our meeting documentation to the customer".
Always one to finish on a positive note; here are scenarios where an email into a channel can help:
1. When you receive a customer request email that requires internal discussion
In this case, a customer has thrown me a curveball and I've no idea how to respond.
Why this works: By emailing into the channel, I can then reach out to subject matter experts for their guidance by @mentioning them on the thread. They in turn can see the email history in full for context and help me to respond, without it clogging up their own email inboxes.
2. Holiday handovers
In this case, my colleague is covering for me while I'm taking a few days out. I'd like to get a previous email chased up, so I've sent it to the channel, with instructions underneath in the thread.
Why this works: My colleague can follow up by downloading and forwarding the email without the risk of my instructions being passed on to the customer as well.
3. 'BCC' for important customer communications
Sometimes in our jobs we have to deal with tricky subjects and need to communicate to avoid taking the blame for issues further down the line. On these occasions, it can be useful to share emails in the channel.
Why this works: The whole team can reference all the related emails as needed at a later date.
In summary, email has its place as a communication tool, and Microsoft Teams respects this, but don't email into Teams just because you can. Think about the wider collaboration experience that you're trying to achieve.
If you have any questions relating to this topic, don't hesitate to get in touch in the comment section below or via my social media channels.
"Email has its place as a communication tool... but don't email into Teams just because you can. Think about the wider collaboration experience that you're trying to achieve."
Project Manager | Modality Systems
More in this series:
View all of Lyndsay's previous Teams blogs here.
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