Last month Microsoft fully released ‘Microsoft Teams’. In a nutshell Teams is Microsoft’s answer to the popular ‘Slack’ service, which is a cloud based service used by teams to collaborate and chat using various app plugins for various tasks or projects. In this post we look at how Microsoft Teams works, and where it fits in the Microsoft portfolio.
As you may know Microsoft already offers collaboration services such as Office 365 groups, SharePoint, and Yammer, leading many to ask why Teams was created. In our opinion Teams complements those services, and does not set out to replace them. (mostly) I’ll cover SharePoint and Yammer again later in the post. First it makes sense to understand what Teams can do.
Within the Windows application interface users have the ability to create their own ‘Team’, and add ‘Channels’ to those teams. The definition of those terms is as follows:
- A Team is a group of people within the organisation
- A Channel is a sub-section of a provisioned Team for a specific topic / project / activity / task etc
When a Channel is provisioned the following tabs are automatically created, unique to each Channel:
- An Office 365 Group in the background (used to integrate with other Office 365 services)
- A conversation area with posts / reply threads
- A private SharePoint Team Site for document storage
- A wiki section to add editable pages with information relevant to the Channel
The Channel tabs can be accessed using a single interface directly within the Teams application on a desktop, laptop, mobile phone app, effectively any device! Note however at present there are still some limits with the tabs which can be accessed on mobile apps.
After provisioning the Channel you can then decide which additional tabs to add using the plus symbol selecting from a list of default standard apps. Each new tab then appears on the main channel page as an additional tab:
For more advanced users, by editing the properties of the Channel itself (shown below), you can extend the list of apps you will be able to select within the ‘add a tab’ dialog above:
This all sounds pretty powerful for a number of people to chat and work on something with minimal effort so what’s the catch? In our opinion it’s a great tool in the right scenario, however there are a few generic limits when directly comparing to SharePoint for project management, or to Yammer for certain types of conversation.
When using a standard SharePoint project management app to manage tasks there are added abilities such as utilising a dashboard to see all tasks across projects at a glance, using workflows attached to task conditions, and if you use SharePoint document classifications then again this is something that is not currently present within Microsoft Teams unless you link an existing SharePoint site to your team.
There is no doubt that Yammer and Microsoft Teams are very similar services, leading many to suspect Yammer will be replaced. We don’t think this is the case at all, in fact Microsoft is pouring development resources in to integration of Yammer with Office 365 Groups.
We see Yammer being useful in scenarios where a group of users wants to communicate with external users, which isn’t possible in Teams at the moment as only organisation users can be added to a Team. Secondly Teams does not lend itself well to communications with massive groups of users, such as a company wide group for announcements. A team is typically going to be created to work on something, not to have a large number of people see posts for general use. Currently the user limit for a single team is 999, with a Yammer group it is unlimited.
Each service in this article has it’s place depending on the scenario, and there is no doubt Microsoft Teams has a place if the right approach is taken. I always stress that planning the use of these services requires time, understanding, and experience. In the end for most cases it may very well be a combination of all the services is utilised after proper planning.
Seeing is believing, try the services out! Microsoft Teams is available if your Office 365 administrator enables the service on certain plans, or can be tried through a trial portal. If you get stuck or have questions as always give us a call.