Updated on June 12, 2019.
Microsoft Teams is a relatively new member of the Office 365 collaboration family and—in my eyes—a promising tool that’s going to revolutionize the workplace.
Teams brings together the best parts of Office 365 in a single tool. You can:
- Share ideas and expertise in private, chat-based conversations.
- Create Office Online documents within the browser.
- Integrate internal or external content & tools with different tabs.
- Leverage bots to support your daily activities and tasks.
I’ve already dedicated two blogs to the topic of Microsoft Teams if you're interested in reading those first:
- Microsoft Teams & Office 365: Collaboration overload?
- Collaboration with Office 365: Making choices in the real world
I want to continue to share my passion and love for Microsoft Teams with all of you. My goal is to bring you up to speed, fast—so you can start using Teams within your company, or set it up for your customers.
In this series of blog posts, I’ll share valuable tips, tricks, and real-world advice. Here are the topics you'll be able to read about in the coming weeks:
- Teams and Office 365 Groups
- Business scenarios
- Teams and channels
- Governance and adoption
The series is kicking off with a discussion of Microsoft Teams, Office 365 Groups, and some of the business scenarios where you might use them. Let’s go!
Microsoft Teams and Office 365 Groups
Microsoft Teams (Teams) is built on top of the Office 365 Groups (Groups) platform. You can learn all about Groups by reading Benjamin Niaulin's series on the subject, here and here.
Because of the way Groups is set up, there are a few important decisions you have to make before getting started with Teams. You will need to consider:
The name you choose for your newly created team impacts several aspects of Office 365, so it's important to take this step seriously.
Naming will especially affect your:
- SharePoint site collection
- Outlook email address
Imagine that one of your users gets creative and names a new team: The Project Team for the Fabrikam Project.
This results in the following email address: TheProjectTeamfortheFabrikamProject@yourdomain.com.
Not great, right?
The name and email address also appear in the Global Address List. Other users unfamiliar with the team will have no idea what the name and email address refer to.
Thus, I highly recommend looking into multiple domain support.
We are using this feature within InSpark, and our teams are displayed as email@example.com.
That’s great, because my colleagues immediately recognize that the name and email are related to a collaboration space within Teams.
For organizations with similar departments in multiple countries, having a naming convention is crucial.
Imagine that Contoso is present in Europe, the US, and Japan—each country with its own marketing department. This results in three marketing departments, and perhaps a global marketing department as well. Jack Jones from the US creates a team and calls it Contoso Marketing. What happens when Marieke Huizing, from the Netherlands marketing team, also creates a team?
Unfortunately, Teams doesn’t give you a heads-up to let you know that a team with that name already exists. Each team also comes with its ownmodern SharePoint team site, so Office 365 adds a random number behind the name of the site collection if that name already exists.
For example: https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/contosomarketing372.
Not only does that look ugly, it’s also confusing, and isn’t user friendly at all.
The different teams also appear in SharePoint home:
Imagine the confusion! That’s why implementing a naming convention is key to maintaining an organized environment. For example:
The above is just an example, but you get the drill—right?
SharePoint Online managed paths
The SharePoint site collection connected to each team is, by default, created with the managed path /sites/. This managed path is often used for classic SharePoint sites.
I recommend creating modern team sites with the /teams/ managed path, because the SharePoint Online admin center has an option to change the managed path:
Finally, you need to think about who is going to be allowed to create Teams.
By default, every user in Office 365 can create a Microsoft Team. Every time a new team is created, a new Office 365 Group is created, too.
If you’re an Office 365 administrator, this probably sounds like a horrible situation. But if you’re an end user, this might actually sound great. You need to find a balance between maintaining control and letting it go—you need to figure out what works for your IT admin as well as your customer.
I always advise against disabling collaboration features because people will find a way to get their job done, whether it’s within—or outside of—your company walls. You do, however, want to prevent a situation where hundreds of groups are accidentally provisioned, yet nobody really knows which ones are actually being used.
For more on Groups governance, check out these three ways to manage Office 365 Groups.
Currently, I suggest that my customers turn off self-service team creation for all users within Office 365. The next step is to create a security group containing a select pool of people who can create teams, and then configuring a SharePoint list where users can request a new team.
At the end of the day, Microsoft Teams is all about collaboration.
The business scenarios where you’re most likely to benefit from using Teams is collaboration within a team, department, or project. How do you organize Teams for these scenarios?
Let’s look at how we do it within InSpark and with our customers.
Every department in our organization (e.g. HR and marketing) receives its own designated team within Teams.
We also usually create a channel (more about channels in the next part of this series) for each collaboration topic.
For example: Templates & procedures. The members of the team share expertise and collaborate on documents—all within this channel.
All of or our collaboration happens through team channels, but what about communication?
I would be lying if I said that also takes place in Microsoft Teams. Actually, all of our communication happens in Yammer. We are heavy—and enthusiastic—Yammer users. Yammer works for us, so why change?
The use of two different tools—one for collaboration, one for communication can be confusing for some people. Because of that, we’ve decided to dedicate time to driving adoption internally moving forward (more about adoption in a future blog post in this series).
A technical approach to narrowing the divide between the two tools is working with tabs. To integrate Teams and Yammer, you can use links or create a website tab:
All of our colleagues are already working in Teams daily, and they also have easy access to Yammer within the Teams app itself. Perfect!
We create a new team for each one of our customers, and every assignment or project for that customer gets its own channel. When you create a new channel, a new folder is also generated in the SharePoint document library. All content related to that project is now centrally stored in SharePoint, enabling everyone to work from SharePoint as well as Teams.
Remember, choice is good. People want to work the way they want to work. So we tried to make their lives easier by adding a link to Teams in SharePoint’s Quick Launch menu. Quick Launch allows you to link to a URL, so you can go to Teams and retrieve the URL of the general channel:
For in-depth instructions on how to add a link below one of the standard Quick Launch headings, refer to Adding links to Quick Launch in Microsoft docs.
All team members can now switch between Teams and SharePoint easily. Currently, there is a limit of 100 channels per Team. This should be sufficient for a while, but there are of course exceptions.
I hope you enjoyed the first part in this series. Stay tuned for more!