Microsoft Teams + SharePoint—Destined to be Lifelong Partners

Microsoft Teams, or as I like to call it, the Slack Slayer :-), has only been publicly available for one and a half years, yet it is already disrupting digital workspaces worldwide. We gleaned more insights into Microsoft Teams during the SharePoint Conference North America 2018, held in late May 2018, and I also provided some thoughts around where SharePoint is headed (SharePoint Today | Prepare For Tomorrow) based on what all we learned at SPCNA. 
One of my primary findings is that the traditional portal is starting to show its age and many requirements of the traditional portal may be better suited within tools such as Microsoft Teams. Traditional portals commonly offer only one-way communication, are difficult to add new content, or are monolithic in nature making them difficult to update with new technologies. Modern digital workspaces should be dynamic, leverage bots, AI, and other cognitive tools. Portals are trying to keep up, and often serve relevant purposes to be sure, I’m simply finding newer methods often provide better opportunities for our clients. 
Further, to the dismay of traditional SharePoint development houses and canned portal providers, organizations are finding that out-of-the-box tools provided directly by Microsoft, with the right guidance and support provided by partners such as PixelMill, deliver a more productive digital workspace, with a longer roadmap, and at a lower cost. 
Does this mean that SharePoint is no longer relevant? Far from it! As I said in my previous post,  Microsoft Teams and SharePoint work better together. In fact,  SharePoint powers much of the feature set that makes Microsoft Teams useful. 

Microsoft Teams vs. SharePoint Team Sites 

For those of us that have grown through the ranks of SharePoint, admittedly the name “Microsoft Teams” can be frustrating at times. Often, we shorten this to “Teams”, but the term “Teams” has been used in the SharePoint space for well over 10 years. Almost daily I find myself in a conversation where there is obvious confusion between Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Team Sites (modern or classic). Throw in Office 365 Groups and their connection to modern SharePoint Team sites (Office 365 Group enabled Team Sites, etc.), and it can get interesting. 
Microsoft worked with AvePoint to write a detailed overview of Office 365 Groups vs Microsoft Teams that you might find helpful.
SharePoint Team Sites, both classic and Office 365 Group connected or “modern” teams sites, are a type of website hosted within the SharePoint Online platform, designed for group communication and collaboration, in particular, for file sharing via document libraries. There’s a lot more that could be said here—the history of SharePoint teams site is long. 
Microsoft Teams is a completely new platform built by Microsoft to enable a very rich communication and collaboration interface. This product is new, generally available circa March 2017, yet the speed of evolution has been intense. Microsoft may not always make a big deal of it, but most see Microsoft Teams as a direct play against Slack. Microsoft Teams is built around enhancing collaboration using public conversations and private chat features. Each “Team” within the application is grouped by “Channels” and you can have multi-threaded, persistent conversations within each channel. Private or group chats are also available to team members for one-on-one conversations or non-channel specific discussions.  
The chat aspect of Microsoft Teams is just the foundation of the application. The true power comes with the massive integration points with external services. Let’s face it, much of what we do in an organization is communicate and collaborate on projects of all kinds, with many tools, across many ecosystems. Few projects involve only one person, most have two or more people that are interested in the output. 
For decades now, we have used email to communicate with project members—let’s not get me started on the shortcomings of email. Projects are not just about chatting, we need to collaborate on documents and we are using external tools such as Planner for project management, GitHub or BitBucket to hold code, OneNote or Evernote to store structured notes, PowerApps to build forms, this list goes on and on. Microsoft Teams quickly brings together all these tools into any given specific channel so that any given collection of people can access all their communication and collaboration tools in one space. 
As much of organizational projects are driven by document collaboration, one of Microsoft Teams major partners in its endeavors is SharePoint for document storage and collaboration. It makes complete sense that Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Teams sites work wonderfully together with little effort during set up and configuration. Create a team or channel in Microsoft Teams and you already have a SharePoint Team Site driving document storage and collaboration. 

Set Yourself Up For Success 

The explosive, quick rise in Microsoft Teams adoption and utilization has been met with gaps in current enterprise knowledge of the new platform. CIO’s, IT Pros, Corporate Communication managers, in fact, anyone charged with improving organizational communication and collaboration, I’d say Microsoft Teams is trending right now. Thus, it must be right for you, yes? 
Great! Turn it on, and your 10-person to 110,000-person organization will just use it correctly, yes? 
Likely not. 
As we move away from the stone age of email and don’t worry, email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, organizations need to find the right combination of tools that will work best for them, and then configure and maintain them in the right way that fits the organization’s culture.  
There is always more than one way to solve a problem and Microsoft Teams, when combined with SharePoint, is no different. Organizations all have processes and workflows in place. It’s possible that adding workflows in a threaded chat driven by Microsoft Teams could make sense. However, every workflow and process is unique, and forcing your workflows to fit into Microsoft Teams the first way you think of may not work the way anyone would have preferred. 
Before adopting a new platform such as Microsoft Teams, know your use cases, ensure that you are solving for what your organization needs. Define the problem and find the right solution for those problems. This comes down to Business Analysis, i.e.  BA, BA, BA 
Once you’ve clearly defined what the problems are and the user’s needs, then you can begin to solve for these. Microsoft Teams may be the answer, maybe not. Even if it is, what’s best way to utilize Teams, Channels, and tabs, and how will you define and enforce security, governance, and more? Every organization will be different, although, common threads across certain structures are beginning to emerge. 
Bottom line…success comes from proper research, analysis, planning, and governance. This process should be an uplifting experience, especially if you have an idea of the different available technologies and how they are best configured depending on use cases. If you need help, you’re going to find in-depth ideas on the web, but they may not be tailored to your specific use cases. Or look to experts such as PixelMill who can help guide you, building a successful roadmap and solution. 

Save Time and Budget 

Portals such as intranets and extranets were designed to help with communication across an organization, as well as provide digital workspaces, among many other tasks. These SharePoint driven portals often require customizations, commonly driven by SharePoint development consultants or canned portals. Custom work often did not migrate well to the next version of SharePoint for a myriad of reasons including lack of following best patterns and practices. Canned portals grew to fill that gap, but that locked you into long-term subscription models with additional fees above and beyond what Microsoft charged and normally limited customization options. 
Modern SharePoint driven by hub sites, communication sites, and modern team sites are beginning to drive down the need for large custom projects because of the quickly improving and evolving set of OOTB features found within Office 365. Customizing SharePoint continues to be actively supported by Microsoft, and via the SharePoint Patterns and Practices (SharePoint Dev Ecosystem) initiative, the ability to customize SharePoint the right way increases customized solutions’ longevity and lifespan.  
As an example, with the proper research and analysis, you might find common provisioning scenarios that may best be pre-packaged. No problem! No need for deeply embedded custom code. Utilizing tools such as PowerApps, Flow, and open-source provisioning models such as PnP Provisioning, you can now quickly build and maintain your own tailored communication and collaboration systems driven by Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. 
PixelMill proudly embraces Microsoft’s direction and recommended best practices as we believe it will save headache, time, and money, delivering a better solution with robust integration. I cannot recommend strongly enough for you to follow the same principles when working with Office 365, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams. 

The PixelMill / Microsoft Teams Journey Continues…

PixelMill adopted Microsoft Teams nearly one year ago and we’ve seen impressive results in record time. The setup is simple and intuitive, and we found user adoption was faster than anticipated, even from upper management. 
How did we do it? We clearly defined our needs, piloted features and use cases, set governance, empowered champions for change, and most importantly, we committed. We’ve integrated nearly all our workflows into the Microsoft Teams interface, utilizing SharePoint for file storage, and we’ve made use of additional tabs such as ones for OneNote, Planner, Stream, Trello, and many more. 
Forms and Flow have become our allies in improving communication and collaboration, making us more efficient in the process. Skype has been primarily replaced by Meetings and video chat has helped make our remote workforce more connected. 
We certainly did not have to start from scratch. For years we have been using SharePoint Online for collaboration. When we migrated to Microsoft Teams, we were able to link up new Channels to existing libraries, OneNotes, and other files stored with SharePoint. No need to start from scratch or migrate much data even. I am looking forward to upcoming opportunities of embedding SharePoint pages and SharePoint Framework based webparts directly into tabs as well. 
I, for one, have been happy to see the nearly complete replacement of email for internal communication. The Microsoft Teams mobile app keeps me fully connected no matter where I am, with almost full-feature parity for primary functions. That is not to say that we aren’t continuously updating our workflows and finding new ways to make our Teams and SPO use as effective as possible. It’s an ongoing journey—a simply amazing journey and one I recommend you undertake or at the very least consider. 
Are you interested in integrating Microsoft Teams into your organization, or possibly in the middle of a migration or implementation and need assistance? Are you stuck or looking for answers to your communication and collaboration needs? Let us know, our team of Office 365 experts address these questions each day and we would like to help you too.

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