In this post I want to share some SQL Server Product Owner tips to make the most out of Microsoft Teams. Because I have shared tips about it with others recently.
With the very real possibility people that people will have to work from home for longer I am hoping this will help. In reality, a lot of aspects in this post also applies to other roles as well as Product Owner.
Earlier this year I explained what a SQL Server Product Owner was and shared some advice. You can read that post in detail here.
In addition, in my last post here I covered how I was coping with the pandemic. Within that post I mentioned that I had to work a lot smarter with Microsoft Teams. So, you can think of this as a follow up post.
Because there are things you can do to use Microsoft Teams smarter in certain situations. For example, when you want to keep the flow of meetings going and keep others engaged. Something that is very important if you have adopted a DevOps related way of working.
Before I go any further I do want to point out other communication platforms are available. However, Microsoft Teams is more welcome in some enterprises than other applications. In fact, I know some enterprises forbid at least one of the other applications due to negative publicity.
Personally, I use Microsoft Teams a lot. Both during the working day and out of hours for community work.
However, a lot of points in this post will also apply to other platforms.
Research and current events have highlighted the fact that fatigue can occur to some when in too many online meetings. If you are experiencing this you are not alone. In fact, if you type in ‘meeting fatigue’ into Google you will get back plenty of results as you can see here.
Of course, there are a lot of things people can do to reduce or prevent this such as taking breaks or declining meetings.
However, there are more subtle things you can do as well. For example, not having your webcam on if you feel you are not contributing to a discussion that is taking place.
Now I know a lot of people insist on everybody having their webcams all the time. However, I personally feel that people only should if they are expected to take part in active discussion for the entire meeting.
If you are in team meeting it helps to have your webcam on as much as possible to show your colleagues you are engaged in the meeting. Doing this can really help whoever is hosting the meeting as well for reasons that I will explain shortly in this post.
In larger meetings for multiple teams where they might not have to contribute as much it’s probably a good idea to keep them off unless you are contributing.
Another thing to consider here is call quality. Because at times there can be issues with the network quality due to various reasons. People turning off their webcams can also help with this.
If you are hosting a meeting then I recommend you have your webcam on as much as possible though. It adds a more personal touch when discussing topics.
In addition, I think it’s always good for people to see you in person when you are the host. I think it gives people the impression you are distant if you always present with your webcam off.
However, if others are sharing their screen I personally think it’s fine to turn your webcam off for a short while.
In fact, one thing I have been doing during meetings is turning my webcam off to look for additional material to help whoever is presenting. For example, links for various SQL Server related features if they are being asked about them at the time.
Because it’s not nice for people to see you tapping away on a keyboard whilst somebody else is presenting.
If you are hosting a team meeting it can be to your advantage if some of the team keep their webcams on. Even if it’s only for short periods of the meeting.
Because you can observe how people are reacting. Doing this can help make sure the team are engaged in the discussions. If you sense they are becoming disengaged you can then adapt to the situation.
Another thing I can recommend if team members have their webcams off is to give everybody the opportunity to speak during the meeting as well. Doing this ensures that everybody is engaged in the discussion.
In addition, if using the Scrum framework or something similar it helps promote the fact that everybody in the team is equal. Plus, it actively promotes inclusiveness which is vital for teams that have adopted Scrum.
Another useful tip is to copy the links of Backlog Items into the Teams chat. Especially, if it contains a lot of text. It saves you audience having to watch you scroll up and down the screen.
Which leads me onto another important point. I think we can all agree that since earlier this year the need for online meetings has increased dramatically.
In reality, sometimes we cannot always attend meetings that we are invited to. Now, I know the easy answers are this are to either decline or reschedule. However, it is not always possible to reschedule because of the schedules of the other attendees.
It’s a real challenge for a lot of people at the moment. Especially when you have a busy agenda. For example, the week new sprints start for multiple teams.
With this in mind, if others cannot attend the meeting for some reason record it for them.
In addition, if you are using Microsoft Teams and they are invited you can also add to the chat that the session was recorded. If they were originally invited you can add to the chat during the meeting it’s being recorded. You can even tag them in the chat as well if you really want their attention.
Even if people are not invited you can still share the meeting with them afterwards if needed.
I have been known to address the camera at the end of the Scrum related meetings as well. To ask those who have not been able to make it if they can provide feedback. Because as well as being polite it also helps get the point across the team wants their feedback.
Of course, this also applies if you cannot attend meetings. Because you can ask people to record the meeting for you. Doing this will allow you to watch it afterwards when you have more time and provide feedback.
It goes without saying that if you sit through a lot of meetings you should make sure you are comfortable. So, make sure you are sat correctly. I invested in my first new seat for a long time this year and purchased a Secretlab chair. It was a very good investment.
In addition, make sure your audio setup is good. Especially if you take part in a lot of meetings every day. Because I can tell you from experience that some headphones are just not good enough for long term use.
Personally, I recommend having at least two monitors if presenting using Microsoft Teams. I find sharing a second screen so much easier.
Especially if you are presenting a session. Because you can have all the applications you use for your demos on one screen. I really like how easy it is to select which screen to share when using Teams.
Now, the next tip in this section is an awkward topic to cover. However, it’s also an important topic to cover for all involved.
If it looks like you will be working from home long term make sure the quality of your internet and home equipment is at a decent level.
Other people in the meeting have to put in a lot of effort to listen to you and view your content. With this in mind, consider the long-term effects it can have on them if your internet keeps playing up or your audio is bad.
Just to be clear here, I’m not saying to invest in the fastest internet that you can and invest in state-of-the-art hardware.
Just pay enough attention to your home setup to keep everybody else in the meeting engaged and does not become a burden for them. Especially if you are a frequently play a vital part in these meetings.
I know this because I experienced some internet issues myself a while ago. In fact, I ended up working an entire morning using my mobile broadband once.
I hope me sharing some SQL Server Product Owner tips to make the most out of Microsoft Teams helps others. Because I know what it’s like to take part in a lot of meetings during the day.
Of course, if you have any questions or comments about this post feel free to reach out to me.