Congratulations, your construction contracting company is now migrated to Office 365, and you’ve heard there are more capabilities but aren’t sure where to start. We’ve got some great ideas on how to leverage Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in a construction trade.
We realize there are many types of construction companies and the trades which provide key services to them, so this blog is focused on a single electrical contractor with 20 staff electricians and 10 office workers. This fictional company called EssBee Electrical Experts (EBEE for short) is mostly commercial focused with about 85% of their jobs in the commercial space and the remaining amount in the residential space. They have been in business for 15 years and recently migrated an in-house Small Business Server over to Office 365 and a cloud-based file repository located in Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.
Before EBEE migrated files and email to Office 365, they had been running on an industry-leading job costing and management software designed to accurately bill every job from estimate to final bill. The software is cloud based, so the server migration didn’t impact this part of their business. At Solution Builders, we strongly recommend any contractor invest in a software solution written specifically to their industry to manage the costing and billing portion of their business. Not having a solution in place will lead you to reduced profitability in relation to your competitors and just might run you out of business. It is just that important.
EBEE’s Operations Director (Charlie) is interested in further leveraging their new Office 365 environment to enhance team communications among the project management staff and the electricians in the field. Here are Charlie’s challenges:
- Project managers and electricians in the field need a way to share the latest documents in regard to ongoing projects they are contracted for. Updated drawings, schematics and job documentation are just a few of the items Charlie would like the entire team to be able to view at any time, from any location.
- Charlie would like to enable customers to contribute to their documentation repositories.
- Charlie would like to standardize the email platform used across all mobile devices they own and make it easier to wipe devices that get lost or stolen.
- Charlie would like a way for him to manage internal projects without having to use their job costing software. These projects aren’t billable – he just needs to track their progress.
- Charlie would like to implement daily huddles to the project teams – enabling them to come together once per day and update the team on job status and their current workload and issues discussion.
Let’s jump into a Microsoft Teams based solution to Charlie’s challenges.
Out of the box, Teams is good for sharing files – if you know some of the quirks of how it works. Since Teams files are based on the underlying SharePoint system, many, if not most, of the file management features in SharePoint are available in Teams. The important thing to remember is that Teams files inherit the security of the team itself. A very determined administrator can independently change the security structure of Teams files by manipulating SharePoint directly, but inexperienced users will likely break other things in the process. Here are our recommendations for Teams files:
- Security – every member of the team should have the same security level and be able to read/write every file. Trust us on this one – keep it simple.
- Reduce the number of channels down to the minimum necessary for your team. The more channels you have, the more likely you’ll have problems finding files and managing them.
- Keep the file structure under the General channel if you can. Then, create folders under the General file structure. This simplifies synchronizing the files to local computers using the OneDrive sync tools. If you don’t keep the files under General, you then must synchronize each channel’s files one by one, making ongoing maintenance more complicated.
Customer Access to Files
You can configure Teams to allow customer (guest) accounts to access files in a Teams files repository. You can grant a guest read/write access or just write access to the team and all files in the team. In addition to full team access for guests, a new feature called Shared Channels is coming soon and might make management of guests easier and more secure.
Standardized Email Client (Application)
Microsoft offers a mobile and tablet friendly version of Outlook – making training and managing your staff’s mobile email clients very easy. If someone’s device gets stolen, you can wipe Outlook off the device remotely – protecting corporate data.
Internal Project Management
Charlie can manage his internal projects (non-billable projects) using Microsoft Planner. Planner is a lightweight project management tool designed for simple projects.
Daily Team Huddles
By utilizing Teams video and audio, combined with shared file access, every person on every team within his organization can have productive daily huddles to keep projects on track. Not only can you video conference with every team member, but team leads can also play videos and share documents in real time – allowing all members the opportunity to provide input into the project progress.
Your Call to Action
Get to know Teams better than just using video conferencing and messaging. The built-in tools are a great way to manage your organization and manage teams in a construction trade more efficiently.
What projects are you working on? We’re always here to help.