Using Microsoft Teams Software in Implementing Planning

Private business owners implementing planning find the execution of the plan to be the most difficult aspect of achieving planning results. The reason execution is so difficult is that the plan format is often segmented, with written plans for long-term (strategic) and short-term (operational) in different documents and not integrated in any meaningful way. Often goals set strategically are unreasonable or become unreasonable and operational plans are continued without any real intent of meeting the goal. Information about the reasonableness of a goal is often delivered on a delayed basis – too late to make a meaningful revision. In this way, strategic plans are often changed (goals ignored) by operations without authority.

One practical solution is to use a spreadsheet for each strategic goal describing the operational plan with the metrics or milestones for measuring the progress to attaining the goal. The spreadsheets can reflect the progress toward the plan goals and immediately advise of the situation where a goal becomes unreasonable. A more elegant solution is available by utilizing communication and planning software, which can be adapted to a business’ requirements.

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers. Microsoft with its cloud system provides businesses with a software product called Teams. Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration. The service integrates with the company's Office 365 subscription office productivity suite and features extensions that can integrate with non-Microsoft products. Microsoft Teams is a competitor to services such as Slack. Teams can be utilized to provide a plan format that supports effective execution of planning by providing an opportunity to integrate strategic and operational planning through flexible communication.

Microsoft defines a “team” as a group of people gathered to get something done. Essentially Teams is a way of communicating by chats, emails, and sharing files with designated team members. Within the Teams structure are “channels,” which are conversations dedicated to a specific topic. These channels are available to every member of the team. “Chats” may be had, which are private conversations between specific team members. The opening screen of Teams shows tabs. The default tabs are for selecting “conversations” (posted messages and replies in email), “files” shared with the team, and a “wiki” page which can be used to provide information as initial guidance (the plan narrative) and as a knowledge base as the process evolves. Adding a new tab provides access to various apps, one of which is called “planner.” When the planner tab is added, the screen features a “board” which contains columns or “buckets.” There is a column for to-do tasks relating to a calendar or “schedule” column. A “charts” column can be used to show a graphical representation of task status. New buckets can be added to show various sorting of information.

A plan is a grouping of decisions. One way to organize the decisions is by set goals. One way to utilize Teams would be to provide the written plan documentation in the wiki. This documentation is revised as is appropriate. Each goal is the subject of a channel, and an important part of that conversation is information about the execution of the operational plan including reporting on the appropriate metrics and milestones to monitor progress to a goal. In planner, the to-do list and other buckets could reflect actions to be taken and monitoring to be done. The scheduling of these tasks could be reflected in the calendar column which could reflect the progress of all channels (goals) if desired. Since all members of the team would see the Teams information (except for chats) the execution of the plan would be transparent.

The importance of having the execution of the plan be transparent by means of the plan format is that where a goal becomes unreasonable (unattainable), the goal may be revised as quickly as possible. Assuming the goal is reasonable in the first place, the execution of the plan and the discovery of the nature of the goal as unreasonable is often first known by the operational elements of the business. It is important that their reaction not be to the impossibility of attaining the goal, but to understand what can most productively be done with this new information. When policymakers do not react to a goal that has become unreasonable, the void will foster a lack of respect for policymaking with the operational side of the business and will cause poor morale. Immediately providing information to policymakers allows them to react quickly, making appropriate adjustments to invoke as much progress as possible in a meaningful direction and not waste time and effort on unreasonable goals. In this way, the plan can become dynamic and the planning process continual.

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