Connect people across the entire organization through communities in Microsoft Teams

With a global health crisis compelling so many of us to work remotely, it’s more important than ever for leaders and communications to connect people across teams and organizations. Last November at Ignite, we unveiled the new Yammer, with a beautiful new design that powers community, knowledge-sharing, and employee engagement. The new Yammer includes a fully interactive Yammer app called “Communities” that brings your communities and conversations directly into Microsoft Teams. Put simply, it’s Yammer—in Teams. 

Starting today, this app is available in the Microsoft app store. Here, I’ll go over how your team can use it for company-wide communication, knowledge-sharing, and employee engagement, as well as how to install it and where to find it. By offering the full Yammer experience right inside Teams, we want to help you keep everyone at your organization engaged, informed, and moving forward. Let’s get into it. 

Animated image of the Microsoft Teams app.

The new Yammer app for Teams keeps everyone connected to what’s happening in their communities conversations, share announcements, attend live events, and connect with coworkers just as you would in the Yammer web or mobile apps. 

How to use the new Yammer app 

More than 44 million people are now using Teams every day to get work done. And while many of us spend more time than ever collaborating with our own teams, we also often need to reach beyond our core work groups to chase down information, share experiences and expertise, and voice feedback. 

With the Yammer app in Teams, customers can: 

Communicate broadly 

Leaders and communicators need modern solutions to ensure people have the information they need, wherever they are. The Yammer app enables them to share a poll or question at scale, and instantly notify people of important news by sharing an announcement targeted to the entire organization or specific communities. And the app offers easy visibility into the reach and impact of those communications, too. 

Image of a remote worker community in Microsoft Teams.

Announcements and pinned posts increase visibility for important messages. 

Connect with experts and answers 

The familiar social experiences of Yammer make it easy to discover valuable conversations, ask questions, loop in experts with at-mentions, and mark best answers. 

Image of a remote worker community member asking for resources in Microsoft Teams.

The personalized feed is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to show conversations and content that are relevant to you. 

Host company-wide events 

Leaders can use live events in Yammer to broadcast company-wide, town hall–style meetings with video, interactive conversation, and Q&A sessions to share vision, drive culture, and engage employees. 

Image of a company meeting in Microsoft Teams.

Users can attend company-wide live events in Yammer in the app. 

How to install it 

Starting today, admins and users can install the Yammer app, named “Communities,” from the Teams App store. Then, it can be pinned to the Teams app bar on the left. IT Admins can choose to deploy and pin the app for all users or particular departments through custom policies. Meanwhile, individual users can install and pin the app themselves using the options in the app bar. 

Image of the Yammer app being searched for in Microsoft Teams.

Install the Yammer app, called “Communities,” from the app store in Microsoft Teams. 

Further questions 

Now, you may have some questions on where this app will be available in Teams and whether it will impact the places you use Yammer today. For instance, you be wondering if the new app will be in Teams for iOS and Android. The answer: not quite yet! But while it’s currently available today for Teams desktop and web clients only, we’ll be bringing it to mobile soon, too. Meanwhile mobile users can enjoy the new Yammer mobile apps today. And you can also continue using Yammer for Windows and Mac and Yammer on the web (currently in preview, due for worldwide release soon). The new “Communities” app is available to all Teams customers today, even if they haven’t used the preview of the new Yammer experience. 

Looking forward 

By bringing Yammer into Teams, we want to make it easier for leaders and communicators to quickly and effectively communicate with their teams and organizations, even when they need to work apart. We’ll continue to create a more seamless Yammer communities experience within Teams, including unifying notifications and search and bringing the Yammer app to Teams mobile. We hope you find them useful as you navigate your organization’s remote work experience. 

Crafting the perfect voicemail greetings (examples inside!)

In a world of unified communications, video conferencing, bring-your-own-devices-to-work policies and other cutting-edge communications, the voicemail message remains essential. It’s a unique calling card.
If your greeting is engaging, callers are liable to be impressed, perhaps at a subconscious level. If, however, you come across as fuzzy or long-winded, you may plant seeds of doubt about your professionalism.
With that in mind, here are some tips and scripts for voicemail excellence. You might even make voicemail recording lessons part of your standard employee training.

Be concise

Make your message crisp and to the point. Say hello, and state your name, your business name and, if you want, your job title. Relay that you’re out of the office or away from your phone. If you choose, provide your email address or another company phone number for urgent requests.
Then request any information the caller should leave for you. Most likely, you’ll want the person’s name, phone number and their reason for calling.
You might give the caller an idea of when you’ll return the call, but you don’t have to. It would be worse to provide a time frame you aren’t able to meet, so don’t overpromise.

Be warm

It’s best to avoid a monotone. Although you’re presenting basic facts, try to sound genial and somewhat enthusiastic. As you’re reciting your message, you might smile and think of something that makes you happy – a recent skiing trip, for example – or pretend that you’re speaking to an old friend.

Be serious

Going for voicemail humor is rarely a good idea. To those who call you repeatedly, your message will quickly lose its charm. A caller with a different sense of humor may misunderstand you. And for someone calling you in an emergency, your attempt at wit could seem dreadfully out of place.

Speak clearly

Before you record your voicemail, practice your lines a few times so the words are familiar. Find a happy medium between rushed and drawn out. And, if you trip over your tongue as you record, just start over.
When you’re done, play your message back. Is each word audible? Better yet, ask a few colleagues or friends to listen to it if you are unsure. Can they hear everything you say easily? Do they have any other useful feedback?

Sample scripts

  1. Hello, you’ve reached Jim Jimby, vice president of customer success at Winning at Life Industries. I’ll be out of the office until [date returning]. Please leave your name, number and reason for calling at the beep, and I’ll be happy to return your call when I’m back. For anything urgent in my absence, please contact our main call center. Thank you!
  2. Hi, this is Sarah Sarahson at Awesome Technologies. If you leave me your name and phone number, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And, if you need assistance right away, please call our main helpline at 1-800-555-1234. Have a great day!
  3. Thanks for calling. This is Willie Williams at Sweat It Out Fitness. I’ll be away from my desk today but please feel free to leave a message with your name and number. You can also email me at We look forward to serving you.

Whether your work phone is a mobile phone, a landline or a wearable, your voicemail recordings are important. If you can do relatively simple things like voicemail messages professionally, consumers will be more likely to consider trusting you with more important things – like securing their sensitive data. Every voicemail becomes part of your brand.

Disaster recovery drill best practices (2019 edition)

A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a great way to stay proactive about your data security. But a DRP is no good unless you test it—you have to make sure it actually works, after all.
There are some things you can do during your drill to ensure you get results—good or bad—that are reliable. The goal is to test whether the plan is effective as drafted or if something specific needs to be changed to improve it.
There are a lot of factors in play with a DRP, so it pays to be methodical.

Define your goals

First, before you conduct a test, you should define your goals.
We’re not talking about goals like “Have the server back up in 20 minutes.” For the tests they will be more like “How good are communications between departments?” or “How does stress make the IT team interact with each other?”
Your goal is to answer those questions, whatever they may be. Strategic questions that give you an idea of how prepared you really are. You want to test different variables to see how they influence your DRP’s execution.
Your IT crew will be trying to get the server up quickly, but you’ll be observing their performance through the lens of “communication.” Do they ask for help when they need it? Do they keep the other departments in the loop? Can they document what they’ve done and what worked?
You need to think of all the angles that could cause problems and test for each one.

Related: 7 typical disaster recovery plan mistakes (and how to fix them)

Get the team together

This may seem like a no-brainer but get the team together and on the same page.
If anyone is out of the loop, it creates a point where communication could break down. If everyone is on the same page from the beginning, everything will run more smoothly.
You may also want to include backup personnel, just so that they have an idea of what they are supposed to do. Running a disaster recovery plan 100% from the documentation can be difficult even without the pressure that a disaster provides.

Run different types of tests

There are all kinds of tests to you run, ranging from a simple conversation walking team members through the process to a fully simulated disaster.
Don’t rely on just one kind of test. You want a variety.
This is important because it will give you a more well-rounded idea of how your DRP  will actually function. Sometimes what makes sense in one test doesn’t make sense in the another. Or what the technicians might do to provide a hasty fix might violate compliance regulation.
You can use the culmination of all that data to make your DRP as solid as possible.

Related: Disaster recovery testing: A vital part of the DR plan

Run tests often

If it’s been more than a year since you’ve run a test, do you know if it’s still applicable? How much could change in your company in a year? Or six months? In one month?
You don’t have to test every day, but decide on an interval that makes sense based on how you do business and how often your network configuration, staff, tech tools and compliance requirements change.

Take good notes

Good documentation of these tests is a must. Not only will it help you remember what exactly happened when, but it will help anyone else who reviews the test see the results, which keeps everyone on the same page.

Post-test assessment

Of course, you want to take any new insights learned during testing into account to make your disaster recovery plan better. Valuable data does no good for anyone just sitting in a drawer.
This is especially important when things go wrong during a test.
If the downtime is double what was expected or if a new aspect comes up that no one saw before, then it is important to determine what caused the holdup and how you can overcome it in the future.
What if the disaster that you’ve been planning for happens tomorrow?

In conclusion

Communication is paramount.
Whether that means meetings with the team or solid documentation. A good DRP drill should be about setting everyone up for success so you’re well prepared for whatever the future holds.
We’ve covered a lot of ground, but everything really just boils down to the scientific method: Ask a question, perform a test, observe the results, refine your understanding.
Disaster recovery is a lot like science in many ways, so treat it like science. Reach out to experts in the field and ask for guidance if you need it.

How to enhance business collaboration with the right technology

It goes without saying that the right business technology can improve productivity. For example, a software upgrade or switch may mean that employees can now telecommute more. They can create, write and edit documents with one another in real time even if they’re on opposite sides of the world.
However, not all small business owners think about collaboration and technology strategically. Some may look at a collaboration tool and decide to use it without 100 percent understanding why they’re choosing this specific tool over another. Is it really the right tool? What makes it the strongest tool for the needs of the business? Is it trying to fix something that is not broken? Strategic thinking helps SMB owners recognize the areas in which collaboration gives them the greatest value.

Anticipate the needs of the business

Your business won’t be the same in two years as it is today. Even a mere week or month from now, it’ll have changed. One thing that’ll remain constant, though, is the need for collaboration. The right collaboration technology will be able to grow or evolve with the needs of the business, at least for the next year or two. A basic example: If your business plans to expand its telework options next year and you’re choosing new software now, it makes sense to factor in how friendly a program is for teleworkers or any telework-specific options it has (ex: does it have time tracking? Video calls?).

Streamline processes instead of bloating them

Collaboration isn’t always effective. In fact, the wrong tools or approach can seriously hamper a business. Take an SMB owner who would like employees to work together more on creating project presentations. One question to ask before implementation would be whether there actually is a need for more collaboration in this area. Have project presentations been lacking? If so, why? If they have not been lacking or the underlying reasons aren’t addressed, then the SMB owner risks tying up his or her employees’ time with an unnecessary or wrong collaboration tool.
Similarly, if new collaboration software means that the employees in your department have to take an extra step to collaborate with workers in another department, it may not be the best choice.
Collaboration is supposed to make things easier, not harder. There’s such a thing as collaboration burnout. Managers today may spend 85 percent of their time in meetings, on email and on the phone. It could be that the right technology for your business decreases this percentage and frees up more time for managers to do other things.

Fit the technology or approach with the company culture

This point expands a bit on “collaboration burnout.” The culture of some SMBs is 24/7 work. In other words, employees are expected to be reachable at any time. That works just fine for some employees and companies. However, if you don’t own this type of business, it’s important to choose collaboration programs or goals that reflect your norms. Alternatively, you can take extra steps to uphold your values when collaboration is so easily available.
For instance, if an employee calls in sick and your company uses a BYOD policy, you may be tempted to ask her to work from home that day. Depending on how sick she is, this move could actually result in less productivity and collaboration.

Learn more about the business

Here’s how you can maximize your collaboration tools:

  •    Focus on the problem/goal and not so much on the technology itself.
  •    Give serious consideration to tools that employees already love and that have been proven.
  •    Take a look at the big picture and the total cost of using this collaboration technology.
  •    Make sure that your IT services provider understands your needs.

To address these issues, you have to learn more about your business, and that’s a good thing!

The top 5 instant messaging apps for growing businesses

It’s hardly a secret that technological innovation, mobility, and cloud applications have dramatically impacted communication habits.
North American adults now spend over 3 hours and 35 minutes each day engaged with mobile apps at work and home, per eMarketer. The continued explosion of mobile has contributed to speculation that cloud-based instant messaging apps could one day replace email in the workplace. There are now 4.1 billion worldwide messaging app users, according to a recent Business Insider report.
A recent Forbes analysis declared crowded email inboxes (which monopolize 6.3 hours of worker attention each day) are “one-dimensional and simply outdated.”
Today’s talent force prefers real-time, mobile-optimized tools to communicate, and cloud vendors have responded with an extensive selection of workplace instant messaging solutions. The leading chat apps for business can allow your organization to drive growth with productive, engaging workplace communication.
Here are the top 5 business instant messaging apps available today.

  1. Skype

Business Skype is currently the most widely-used instant messaging app with a 43 percent market share, according to NewsDay. This multimedia platform offers collaboration features, integration with Office 365, and video conferencing capabilities for up to 250 people.
Despite its popularity, Skype for Business isn’t a permanent solution. Microsoft has announced the intention to shift Skype capabilities into the Teams app.

  1. Teams

Teams is the enterprise instant messaging app Microsoft designed as an embedded part of the improved Office 365 suite.
A robust freeware version can support chat and conferencing features for up to 300 users and seamless integration with many external apps, like Facebook and Twitter. Despite these remarkable pros, Teams isn’t the best choice for every company. You can only use it in conjunction with the Office 365 suite.

  1. Slack

Launched in 2013, Slack was among the first purpose-built cloud apps for workplace instant messaging. With 15 percent market share and eight million daily users, it remains a popular option for startups and SMB.
Affordable, flexible pricing is a beloved feature. Workers can perform content searches, create custom “channels” or chat one-on-one from desktop or mobile. User reviews sway largely positive, though some adopters believe the app is difficult to navigate.

  1. Google Hangouts

Hangouts first soared to popularity for one-on-one chat communications and video calling among consumer Gmail users. As part of Google’s expanded offerings for businesses, the Hangouts app can offer an intuitive extension to Google business apps on desktop and mobile devices.
The app offers a free trial and flexible, low-cost pricing which may appeal to first-time chat adopters at small organizations. Compared to other options, Hangouts has limited enterprise conferencing capabilities. For example, HD video calls are limited to 15 or fewer users.

  1. Facebook Workplace

With 1.2 billion active users reported by Business Insider, the consumer version of Facebook Messenger is now the most popular chat app in the North American market. Chances are, your employees are well-familiar with using Messenger and will require little training to adopt it for text, audio, and video calling.
While it is reasonably priced on a monthly basis, Workplace offers limited integration with other cloud apps for business. There are also few purpose-built productivity features for business beyond consumer Messenger capabilities.

The Best Instant Messenger for Business

While it remains to be seen whether instant messaging apps will replace email as the dominant form of workplace communication, conversational apps have undeniable momentum among personal and business users.
Incorporating instant messaging solutions can fuel business growth with flexible, cloud-based tools for real-time communication.

3 of the best online meeting platforms

Online meetings are only as good as the platform you use for them. An easy-to-navigate, well-designed platform can make online meetings a breeze. A platform that doesn’t fit for you will make them torture.

And there are so many to choose from. It can be difficult to know which one will work best for you.

If you’re searching for the right online meeting solution, we can help. Here are three of the best options out there right now.

The online meeting revolution

First things first. Before diving into our recommendations, it’s important to have a solid understanding of why online meetings are helpful.

An online meeting makes use of your internet connection to seamlessly connect participants from any location. This makes conducting business with people in different states or countries much easier and more efficient.

And that’s the benefit. All the collaboration of a face-to-face meeting within the time, expense and hassle of travel. For teams located in different cities and states, it’s an invaluable option.

Now, on to the recommendations.

  1. Adobe Connect Pro

You know Adobe’s name. The company is famous for Photoshop, their industry-standard image editing application. But you may not have heard about Connect Pro, their online meeting platform. It’s a great option for online meetings.

On the plus side, the interface is beautiful and it’s certainly feature-rich. But this option has a higher learning curve than your other options. It may not be well suited for novices.

One appealing aspect of this software, however, is the fact that it is completely secure. Not only that, but it can host meetings of up to 200 people. Also, people can easily connect via their smartphones or tablets.

  1. Cisco WebEx

Cisco’s WebEx software is the oldest and most commonly used online meeting services in the market. The options are solid, with all the features you’re likely to want or need. The interface is also very user-friendly, making this an online meeting service just about anyone can jump straight into.

You can install the WebEx plugin on any desktop computer. It allows you to quickly join or host meetings and makes screen-sharing convenient and easy. You can even pass the “presenter” role to others who are connected to the meeting so that anyone can take the lead.

It’s a dynamic, well-rounded option, and one you should certainly consider.

  1. GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting can support meetings of up to 15 people and allows you to record the meeting, chat between participants and screen share. If you choose the corporate version of this software (which costs a bit more), the potential meeting size goes up to 25 participants.

One of the most appealing features offered by GoToMeeting is the fact that it is very easy to use and extremely intuitive. As a result, it’s not going to take much time to get to know the features and capabilities of the program.

One of the biggest downsides, however, is that before meetings can start, everyone participating has to download the client. This may take some time, which can delay meetings if folks aren’t prepared ahead of time.

Which meeting platform is right for you?

When it’s time for you to choose a meeting program, you need to consider your options carefully. Make sure you factor in things like security and find a way to back up any information shared.

All this will ensure that your meeting is both safe and successful.

If you need more information about what online meeting service to use, then it may be a good idea to reach out to a managed IT service provider.

5 ways employee education can make IT support infinitely easier

IT support is an important part of any company’s technology plan, but there is another important component that should go hand in hand. Employee training is the perfect complement to strong IT support for many reasons. In fact, according to a workplace study, over 65% of employees prefer to learn at work, and more than 55% prefer to learn at their own pace.

There are options for employee training including online courses, face-to-face classes, training offered by your IT providers, and even technology classes at local community colleges or technological organizations. And for basic training, you likely have someone on staff who can lead the charge.

All of these are great ways to give your employees some additional training, which in turn makes your IT support more effective. Plus, employee education has added benefits like reducing turnover and helping employees feel valued.

Here are 5 ways employee training helps.

1. Better communication with IT professionals

Whether your IT support is provided by an off-site managed IT services partner or in-house staff who work in your office right along with other employees, employee training can help communication between teams.

Employees should have some guidelines for communicating tech problems with IT support. The better your staff is at accurately summarizing support issues, the more effectively they can explain those issues to the support team. And when IT support starts with a well-documented ticket, they can often resolve the issue much more quickly.

Less research and legwork means better network performance and faster recovery when things don’t go as expected.

2. Avoid simple issues

There’s a joke in the IT world about the most common troubleshooting suggestion: “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” But here’s the irony. A surprising number of IT issues really can be solved by power-cycling a device.

Of course, IT professionals are more than happy to help if the problem is more complex. But there are several simple tips and tricks that any employee should know to try before contacting IT support. Power-cycling is one of them.

Training employees to check for basic issues before reaching out to IT could save resources and time on both ends.

3. Better security

Your IT team can do everything possible to secure your servers and important data, but if your employees don’t know about the latest phishing schemes, ransomware, and trends in strong passwords it can all go to waste.

Employee education is essential for securing company data, especially with the increasing prevalence of sophisticated modern targeted phishing attacks called spear phishing, voicemail phishing (vishing) and SMS/text message phishing.

4. Get into the cloud

As many businesses transition to the cloud, some employees may get left behind. Help them catch up with some education not only about your specific cloud technology but what the cloud is and how it impacts their work.

Any transitional to a new tech solution can be stressful. But proper training will set your employee’s minds at ease and help to avoid hassles. Any time your company adopts a new technology, it’s important to offer training to employees to smooth over the transition.

5. Stay calm in a crisis

With extra technological knowledge, your employees will feel more confident when things shift into crisis mode—whether it’s a natural disaster, a cybersecurity attack, employee error or a hardware failure. Employee education can lead to less downtime after a disaster, faster identification of a problem by IT professionals, and faster access to data backups to get essential information and keep things running.

Are you ready to take your IT support and employee education to the next level? Contact your managed IT services provider (MSP) for specific tips on things your employees should know about. Your MSP may even offer direct employee training assistance.

What does health care need from communications solutions?

Health care is an incredibly fast-paced industry. Even a few seconds’ hesitation can result in a patient’s death, so medical professionals are almost always strapped for time. Although this is simply the nature of the job, a solid way to improve efficiency is by implementing a robust communications solution.

A doctor needs a hefty amount of information to treat a patient, and other health care workers simply need to be able to talk to each other in order to complete their daily tasks. However, this sector has some very specific needs that can’t be solved by just any system.

So, what should health care administrators be looking for in a communications solution?

Security and compliance are the first concerns

“Health care is a huge target for hackers.”

Health care is a huge target for hackers, and for good reason. Those working in this industry need a lot of information about the patients they are treating, ranging from financial data to descriptions of potentially embarrassing diseases that could be used to blackmail the person.

The storing and transferring of these records through digital means has increased the attack surface, which is why lawmakers enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is designed to protect the privacy rights of patients and ensure anyone involved in the medical process, whether they be doctors or insurance agents, take proper steps to increase security.

While keeping patient data out of the hands of hackers is a noble goal in itself, medical facilities also have a selfish reason to avoid a breach. According to a study from IBM, the average cost of a hacked medical record totaled $355. This is well above the overall average of $158, showing just how expensive a breach can be for those working in health care.

This is why it’s so important to invest in a secure and compliant communications system. Hackers know how much medical information is worth, and they’re eager to intercept messages containing this data. What’s more, overall security in health care is extremely lacking. A study from HIMSS Analytics and Symantec found that 80 percent of health care institutions put 6 percent or less of their IT budgets toward security.

While this issue needs to be addressed in its own right, allocating some of this spend toward a better communications infrastructure could be a huge step forward.

Uptime is vital

Another major aspect of health care communications that must be addressed is the importance of uptime. Medical workers need to be able to trade information on a regular basis throughout the day, and losing this ability could be incredibly dangerous.

A great example of this is the ransomware attack that befell the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California. This hospital was hit by a piece of malware that basically encrypts all the data stored on a network, which means staff members couldn’t access any patient information. After realizing the extent of the attack, hospital workers attempted to work around the issue by using fax machines and written notes, according to Digital Trends contributor Trevor Mogg.

While the hospital did end up getting its systems back online after paying a ransom to the hacker, this situation very clearly shows the fragility of a health care organization’s communications system. A single attack was able to send the facility back to the 1980s, causing an enormous headache for administrators.

Of course, hacking isn’t the only way that a communications infrastructure can go offline. Everything from lightning strikes to simple human error can easily have the same effect, and health care officials need to set up a system that can deal with these kinds of threats.

Your organization needs scalability

Stepping outside the realm of scary possibilities, medical facilities also have to plan for inevitable growth. A business is only doing well if it’s getting bigger, but this means that local systems need to increase as well.

Such an ability to grow is called scalability, and it’s incredibly important in all things IT. However, it’s perhaps most relevant in health care communications. As these organizations increase in size, they must hire new people and take on more patients than ever. When this happens, older solutions will start to show their age and won’t be able to handle the increased load. Therefore, a communications infrastructure needs a high level of scalability.

Your organization might need to scale up in the future. Is your current solution’s scalability enough?

What about continued support?

When it comes to any IT solution, administrators need two things: training and continuous support. Although modern technology is becoming much easier to work as IT literacy increases, the only way to get everything out of a system is to be taught exactly how to use it. On top of that, employees need to know that they have an experienced professional they can call if they run into any issues that they can’t solve themselves.

This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced vendor like ISG Technology. We have a history of creating communications solutions for health care organizations, and we know what this industry needs. Our security procedures will help your facility stay HIPAA compliant and your systems online. On top of that, we can help you scale your communications system to meet your specific needs, and we offer training and round-the-clock support.

Communicating is incredibly important in health care, and administrators shouldn’t wait until their current solution fails in order to find another. Contact ISG Technology today to see how we can help your employees collaborate better.

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Click this fun animation to see how ISG supports IT teams with managed services and infrastructure solutions. Our experts help you manage innovation projects such as shared storage, virtualization, disaster recovery, security, mobility and UC collaboration projects.

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