Over the years, Evernote has made teamwork easier by building integrations with a host of powerful apps, including Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce, Google Drive, Slack, and many others. Today we’re pleased to add another big name to that list.
Introducing Evernote for Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is the communication hub for productive companies, where teams can chat, share messages, and move projects forward. As part of the Office 365 suite, it enables colleagues to share emails, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and manage the flow of information.
Our latest integration brings Evernote into the context of your conversations in Teams so you can easily reference specific notes within a conversation, and access notes without having to leave the Teams experience.
With Evernote for Microsoft Teams, you can seamlessly share, pin, edit, and search your Evernote content—right from the Microsoft Teams app. This helps you work without interruption and keeps everyone on the same page.
We sat down with Mansoor Malik, Principal Product Manager for Microsoft Teams, and Leo Gong, Senior Product Manager at Evernote, to get their thoughts on this new integration. We asked them why the partnership between Evernote and Microsoft is so exciting, and what it means for customers and the future of teamwork.
Q: What does integrating with Evernote bring to the Microsoft Teams product, and how will users benefit?
Mansoor Malik (Microsoft): Microsoft Teams democratizes information. It makes it available, brings transparency to it, and ensures everyone has access to it.
With this integration, users can now access their Evernote content and share it with the whole team—in one place, and in the same channel. You don’t have to remember a URL or switch back and forth between Teams and Evernote. It’s all right there.
Leo Gong (Evernote): For a lot of our customers, Evernote is their second brain. It’s where they collect all their information and the ideas they’re working on. Combining these two places allows them to easily tap into that knowledge hub and share it with everyone.
Let’s say you’re trying to plan logistics around a product launch in Microsoft Teams. Being able to access Evernote allows you to keep a record of what people are agreeing upon, and what the current plan is—in parallel to the conversation.
Q: What is the problem that this solves for users?
MM: You may have to-dos that you want to add in Evernote, and you may want to start talking about them. You can either share a snippet of it in Teams and start a conversation that way, or you can pin it as a tab and have the conversation around that tab.
What’s cool is that the conversation you have, in context with the note that’s pinned, happens right there. It can also be persistent so it stays within the chat. So anyone from the team can either jump into that conversation in real time or, if they come in later, reply to it in the same thread, with the same context.
LG: Many people use Evernote as a repository for their business’s information. This integration helps them very easily share that information whenever they’re asked.
Also, the same questions often get asked again and again. The Pinned tab allows you to pin a note in the channel with answers to all those frequently asked questions, so it’s easily accessible for others.
Finally, there can often be 10 to 20 different messages that you need to consider when you’re making a decision. It gets unmanageable very quickly. So it’s good to have a tab, one place to keep a list of “What’s the decision we just made, and what are the next steps?”
Q. What do you think people struggle with the most when it comes to sharing information within a team setting?
MM: Before, if you wanted to share something, you’d have to open up your email and attach a Word document or a file, and send it to somebody—even your colleague who’s sitting in the next office. Then you’d have to wait for their reply, then revise it, and so on. This integration means that those conversations, those decisions, can be documented, edited, and captured in real time, so you don’t have to wait for the back and forth.
LG: I think it’s the friction around sharing information. Even beyond this initial launch, we’re interested in making that easier. How can we automate the sharing of information? That’s something we think about.
Q: In your experience, how have workflows evolved over time? Do you find that people are asking for integrations with their favorite tools often?
MM: Employees today are on twice as many teams as they were five years ago. The amount of time that employees spend engaging in collaborative work—in meetings, on phone calls, or answering emails—has increased about 50 percent. It takes up to 80 percent more of employees’ time. Notwithstanding that, productivity experiences are getting fragmented over time, leading to reduced productivity, change fatigue, and reduced employee sentiment and morale. This integration tries to reunify the experience to address these issues.
LG: Workplaces are evolving to include more specialized tools, so more than ever we see a lot of different teams, and a lot of individuals, wanting and expecting choice at work.
Even with note editing, which is a relatively simple use case, there are so many tools out there and each of them has different strengths. Integrations allow customers to use the tools that will make them effective, because they’re able to bring their own tools into their collaborative work.
Evernote integrates with all types of documents and helps people share notes very easily, so that they can choose the tools they need to make them effective. With Microsoft Teams, you don’t have to use a specific database or a specific task management tool. Teams becomes the glue that helps you and your team work together—even if they’re on different systems.
Q: When integrating with another product, is there a typical checklist you go through? What makes this partnership a good fit?
MM: We look at how we can add value to our mutual customers. Specifically, we look at common teamwork productivity scenarios and ways to make it easier for people to get their job done, to make their experience more valuable, and enhance it so that they feel like it’s easy.
Evernote is a great fit for Teams because people are already working together in teams. Having Evernote integrated there just makes sense, to help them get their job done faster.
The other thing we look at is shared vision with our partners around the digital and cultural transformation that’s happening in the modern workplace. We certainly have to snap to that.
LG: It’s the same for us. The top bar that we need to clear is: Is there a natural fit in the users’ workflows? Does this measurably make their lives better? And second, what do we have to offer Microsoft? How does this make Evernote users more successful as well? And lastly, it’s a feasibility consideration, which is: Can we build it and how quickly?
Q: From a strategic product perspective, how do you keep up with the needs of an increasingly demanding customer?
MM: We’re always listening to our customer feedback, whether it’s on Twitter, UserVoice, or within our end product feedback tool. We also look at the way people are working and features they’re asking for, whether it’s apps for mobile, or even desktop.
We’re also trying to envision what the future of work will look like on a longer-term horizon. As the workforce changes, as Millennials get on board, they definitely have new demands. We look into that, we prioritize it, and we put it in the backlog. Whatever is most asked for gets done first, and we go down the stack from there.
LG: One, it’s having an ear to the ground. We spend a lot of time talking to our customers, and often we’ll see opportunities for improvement.
Two, is doing pretty extensive testing with features that we want to launch, and making sure that we’re doing it in a way that’s actually helpful to our users. You don’t want to necessarily implement exactly what the customer is requesting because often it’s a symptom of a greater or undiscovered need. So we think about what they’re really trying to say, and what they’re really struggling with.
Q: I imagine that can be hard at times, like doing a bit of detective work.
MM: Yep, totally agree.
Q: There has been a shift from having competitors to the idea of “playing well with others.” What is your view on adopting this approach from the technology standpoint?
MM: We’re building a product for collaboration, so we have to be collaborative. By working and playing with others, we help our customers and users get the most value. And in this particular case, it really helps increase their productivity, and users love it. So if we can increase productivity, if we can keep the user engaged, even if it’s working with a competitor or a partner, so be it. That’s why we are open and willing to let people use the tools they want to use. Because we believe that tools and technology facilitate productivity and enable customers to get more done faster.
LG: Playing well with others has always been a core value for Evernote. We help you capture your thoughts and information—wherever it comes from.
As to how we adopt it from a technology standpoint, it means building our product in a modular way so we’re not just supporting a single document type. We’re architecting the app in a way where it can accept any document type as a module, so you can plug-and-play additional ones in the future.
It’s a win-win because building a product in a way that supports integrations speeds up your own development. Your developers will thank you because when they’re trying to extend functionality into the product in the future, they will also benefit.
Q: Advancements in technology have made it possible for people to work anywhere, from any device. How can we keep up with the demands of such a highly connected workforce?
MM: Every team is different. Every individual is different, and they have their unique preferences and needs. As a platform, Microsoft Teams enables people to bring anything they want in terms of the apps and services they use the most. By doing so they can customize Microsoft Teams to fit their needs better for their increased productivity.
By allowing these types of integrations, by working well with other partners and competitors, we’re meeting the demands of a highly connected workforce. At the same time, we’re making sure, as Evernote is, that we’re cross-platform, cross-device, multi-screen. We want to make sure that wherever you are, however you’re connected, you can get your work done.
LG: In a way, the causation is a little fuzzy because having integrations enables you to work from anywhere and from any device. At the same time, integrations help you live better in a world like that.
I think where Microsoft Teams is really helpful is that it provides a hub for you to manage a lot of complexity. Because if everybody’s using 20 different apps, it becomes very difficult to manage. But if there’s some way for you to start centralizing your communications, with all of your sharing in one place, it helps people manage the overload of information.
Q: What do you see changing in the next five years with regard to the way people are working? And how are you looking to solve that with new product features and/or updates?
MM: Everybody is looking to get stuff done faster. What we are thinking, with these integrations, is how we can use machine learning or AI to help them do that.
For example, imagine you’re making a note that you need to send marketing materials for review and approval. It’d be cool if, as you’re typing or talking about it, an AI bot senses that this is actually a task that needs to be created and assigned to somebody, and then followed up on. Those are ways that we can improve productivity by doing things for people on their behalf.
Call recording, transcription, and translation is also something that we are looking into. All this stuff can get done automatically.
LG: I see there being two related trends. One is that there’s a rapid acceleration of the amount of information that people are consuming. Number two is that technology has gotten to a point where it’s actually possible to help users manage that overflow of information, so we’re at a really interesting time.
The first thing that will really help people is better aggregation and integrations. I see Evernote being the place that helps you manage your information by integrating with the tools you use to create information, and collecting all of that in one central hub.
The second piece of technology is, as Mansoor mentioned, AI and machine learning. The interesting thing that we’ll be able to do in the next five years is apply machine learning to help users make sense of information that they’re getting. Because it’s really important to be able to sift through it all and figure out what’s important.
The analogy I love to give is: If I walk into your kitchen, it might be really tidy, but I don’t know where anything is kept. Machine learning allows us to surface your items in your kitchen, in a context that makes sense with regard to how I organize and how I think.
To find out for yourself how much more your team can achieve, simply head over to the Microsoft App Store and install Evernote for Microsoft Teams today. For more information, check out this Quick Start Guide.