A (slight) rant about Microsoft Teams on macOS

It doesn't use native notifications, and its value is limited if not everyone uses it.

I know I’m not the first person to complain about Microsoft Teams, but I recently started using it, and I have some thoughts.

Collaboration software is sort of part of the definition of end user computing, and employee experience is definitely part of EUC now. With most of the enterprise on Office 365, and Teams at 20 million users, it’s increasingly relevant in our world.

Most of my complaints have to do with how Teams works on macOS, but I also have some observations on adopting it in general.

Teams on macOS

When I started using Teams, the first thing I tried to do was open Safari and launch it from our Office.com web portal. I got a page explaining that Teams was in preview on Safari. The issue is that Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention can cause issues with single sign-on, so in order to use Teams, I’d have to turn it off.

I happen to be on Safari right now because I went on a kick to use as many first-party apps as possible a while back, but that’s another whole story.

And I should give Microsoft a little credit, since Intelligent Tracking Prevention is out of their control, and Teams does work fine in Chrome. (Though similar issues could affect Chrome in the future.)

Anyway, I may be a bit picky, but I didn’t want to turn off Intelligent Tracking Prevention or use Chrome. Being this level-headed might soften my rant a bit, but bear with me.

Foiled in the browser department, next I headed to the Mac App Store. Chat apps are kind of easier to use when they’re freestanding instead of in a browser tab, so this was fine after all. There was a lot of excitement around the Office apps coming to the Mac App Store, so I figured Teams would be there, too. It was not there. I headed back to Safari and clicked on the link to download Teams directly from Microsoft.

I installed the Mac Teams app and was on my way, but very soon I realized that instead of using the native macOS notification framework, it uses proprietary notifications. The notification banners were kind of big and ugly, but the real issue with the proprietary notifications in Teams is that they don’t respect the Do Not Disturb setting in macOS. I really like Do Not Disturb, so getting a notification in the middle of concentrating on writing was the moment I said “ugh... seriously Teams?!”

I’ll also note that the Teams Mac app is based on Electron, a cross-platform framework that uses Chromium, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Some people think that it’s cool that Microsoft is using a popular open source framework, but on the other hand, a lot of people also complain that Electron apps don’t feel native and they use a lot of resources.

Deploying Microsoft Teams company-wide

So, I’m finally in Teams. I know that there are a lot of Teams versus Slack arguments, revolving around shortcuts and integrations and stuff like that, but mostly I’ve used Slack in the past for individual and group chats, so my needs were pretty basic.

At our company, like many others, we had a lot of organic, shadow IT Slack instances, which were mostly in departmental silos. So, I was pretty excited about having a company-wide Teams deployment. I imagined talking to editors in other media groups about their stories, or chatting with co-workers in my office about the best new lunch spots.

As it turned out, not everybody has started using Teams, and nobody has set up any larger or broader groups. Right now, it’s just as siloed as our Slack deployments were, even though this is our officially sanctioned chat and collaboration app. Unfortunately, it’s still just less valuable than I hoped it would be.

Lessons learned

Employee experience is the biggest new buzzword in EUC today, and Microsoft has been much more supportive of Apple devices over the last couple of years. So, as a user and as a blogger, it’s disappointing that my experience with Teams on macOS fell short of expectations.

It’s also clear that these tools require some investment on the part of the customer. I’m sure there are some awesome best practices for setting up company-wide chat platforms, but they’re not going to implement themselves.

These lessons both touch on concepts we talked about back in the early days of the consumerization of IT and “FUIT.” Users may organically pick some of their own apps and tools, but we also talked about how the official corporate apps had the advantage of actually containing the institutional data (or chat connectivity, in this case) that users need. It’s just that these apps need to have a good experience (provided by the vendor) and have buy in (provided by the customer organization) to be successful.

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If you agree with this rant (I do) vote for it to be fixed here at the Team's User Voice site: https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public/suggestions/16941685-use-built-in-notifications-for-macos
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