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Virtual team platforms: What’s best for your set-up?

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Which of the new generation online meeting tools gives accountants the best facilities for internal coordination and client communication? Maddy Christopher investigates.

11th Aug 2021
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Thanks to the pandemic, hybrid working and virtual team platforms are now staples for accountants. But which of the new generation of online meeting offers the best fit for accountants looking to co-ordinate their internal teams and reach out to clients and prospects though video meetings?

Within the profession Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Connect4 are the most frequently used video tools used for these purposes. While Zoom remains the most popular videoconferencing tool for general business use, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet come as part of integrated suites offering a whole host of additional functions.  Connect4, meanwhile, is specifically designed for accountant-client meetings.

All four include the standard video conferencing functions, including screen sharing, mute and blocking tools and recording options for the host.

Connect4 does not include a direct chat function and is also the only meeting tool not offer the blurred background feature for participant privacy; these features, however, might not be so necessary for professional client meetings. Zoom has a chat function, but this only works within the video meeting, so users have to relay on email systems from the likes of Google and Microsoft to stay in touch afterwards.

Battle of the suites: Microsoft Teams vs Google Meet

The big two app suites suites will always hold sway in hybrid workplaces because of all the other tools they can offer alongside virtual meeting rooms. So it makes sense to size them up against each other and to review the other two contenders separately. And the ultimate decision comes down to the organisaion's broader technology strategy: is it a Microsoft house or does it favour Google? Or, more likely, does it shuffle along using a bit of one and a bit of the other?

Microsoft and Google both include shared document, spreadsheet and presentation tools within their suites, so meeting participants can quickly jump into a file and work on a project together.

Teams works well with OneDrive and all the other Office 365 programs, so all of a working team’s files, chat, threads and to-do lists are stored in the same collaboration space. Accountancy’s strong Microsoft Office and Excel tradition worked to Microsoft’s advantage and contributed to the rapid adoption of Zoom over the past 18 months.

Many who use Teams, including AccountingWEB member AS, also mention “noticeably better” sound and video quality than Zoom.

Teams is more complex to use than Zoom and Meet, however, and the Microsoft environment needs administrators to set permissions to enable features such as the ability to invite external participants. But the overall integration offers many advantages such as linking assigned tasks to your Microsoft ToDo app. “You can push your Outlook diary into Teams,” explained AccountingWEB user johnt27.

Other handy features for internal coordination include sharing documents on Sharepoint or OneDrive and submitting internal feedback using Microsoft Forms. Microsoft Stream allows users to create videos for training that can be uploaded to channels for individual groups – making the information readily available to new members without the need for repetition or recording.

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