antelope (?) skull on a wall
Microsoft made Teams generally available in March and has been steadily adding collaboration features. Is it worth a move? PHOTO: Vincent Erhart

Microsoft made Microsoft Teams generally available to Office 365 customers in March. Since then, it has made its way into the realm of those making decisions about technology. Our customers are starting to ask questions about the tool and how they can best use it. 

Let’s explore some of the positive aspects of the tool, highlight a few of the potential “gotchas” and finally take a look at what to consider when moving from a SharePoint team site to Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams: The Good

Teams comes with an abundance of features that are extremely useful for modern collaboration. Chat is at the center of the Teams offering and eventually, it's reported, Skype for Business and Teams will become one. You will be able to do all chatting and meetings from within Teams. 

A common requirement we hear for SharePoint team sites is the need for some form of discussion around a specific document. The chat feature allows users to easily do this. By adding a file as a tab within your channel, users can chat directly on the document. Other people with access to the Team can also view the correspondence.

Microsoft Teams start of a conversation

The adding tabs feature can also be extremely powerful for collaboration. Through tabs, Teams can add direct connections to many external sources, including existing SharePoint sites or to a Planner for easy task tracking. The list goes on and includes tabs for PowerBI dashboards, YouTube videos, Microsoft Forms, and even PowerApps, as well as a ton of options outside of Microsoft products. One common complaint about Office 365 is how you have to access numerous “apps” to get the information you need. Effectively using tabs could make Teams a one-stop shop for an organization’s collaboration needs.

app integrations available in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams: The Not So Good

Overall the cons are pretty minimal, but there are a few things to know. Teams introduced “guest access” in September. This allows businesses to invite external users into a Team to collaborate. This is a great feature and a continuation of what we see with Office 365 groups. 

However, at the time I wrote this article, guest access was still limited to users with an existing Azure AD account (i.e. other Office 365 users). This could potentially limit those who would normally use a generic Microsoft account to gain external access. This may not be an issue for some, but is good to know. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as Skype for Business becomes a part of Teams and the demand for collaboration outside of your organization grows. 

Side note: when testing with an external Azure AD account I had a hard time logging in and have heard of others having similar issues. Also with some of the tab options mentioned above it is clear that some kinks are still being worked out. For example, we noted some limited functionality with a specific PowerApp when utilizing the PowerApp tab. Any new product will have issues like these and Microsoft will most likely address them in time.

Microsoft Teams: Is it Ready?

The short answer is yes. Even with some of the issues noted above, Microsoft Teams is ready. The trick is deciding the best method for rollout in your organization. Keep in mind that Teams is a new application. It does not work the same as SharePoint so there is training to consider. The good news is the learning curve is not steep and Teams should be simple for users to pick up.

To start, choose a few pilot teams that already have a SharePoint team site they actively use for collaboration. Teams is not a replacement for a public department site on an intranet portal, but more in line to replace internal/private department team sites.

Once you create the Team, speak with the users about how their content could be organized into channels within the Team. Do they have different subsites? Do they have specific projects? Different libraries? All of these could be candidates for channels. Once you figure out the structure, you can begin adding relevant tabs for each channel. 

Keep in mind that a Team will come with an Office 365 group. You can, of course, move content to this group from an existing SharePoint site, but to save time you can create tabs that link directly to their existing libraries. Allow the pilot teams to utilize the tool for a month and then meet with them to gather feedback and see if they are using it and what they like or don’t like. Use that information to better prepare for the next wave of people going on the tool.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of where to start. There are a lot of features I did not mention here that may make the tool even more valuable for your organization.