Traditionally, our collaboration tools have been divided into silos based on the mode of communication. In the Microsoft space, we've used Outlook and Exchange for persistent messaging, Skype for Business for real-time communication, and SharePoint to provide a place to share documents and other information.
These tools work together to provide for our communications needs, whether they're real-time, message based, or documents and other content. They work well together, but they're still separate programs we have to run, and constantly flip between. As we do, the information is organized differently in each tool: most of us view email by date, Skype by person, and SharePoint by project or team. That's a lot of context switching! Of course we're all used to this, and probably don't even notice how much of our attention goes into it.
Microsoft Teams aligns all these modes of communication under a single "pane of glass", so we can focus on collaboration rather than collaboration tools. For certain kinds of communication - specifically anything involving a team of people - it's a lot easier than juggling multiple tools.
Most electronic communication and collaboration tools have evolved from the real world. Mail was the first to make the leap from real world to online when, in 1971 at BBN, Ray Tomlinson combined features of two pre-Internet programs, SNDMSG and CPYNET, to send the first email. One by one, electronic implementations of the other ways of communicating came along, as shown in the table below.
|Telephone, telegraph, pagers||Chat, voice, video, conferencing||Real-time communication||Skype for Business|
|Paper: files, documents, pages, bulletin boards, newspapers||Shared workspaces||Shared storage and presentation||SharePoint|
This led to a world where our collaboration products are metaphors for things in real world, along with their incumbent limitations.
Like their real-world forebears, email and real-time communication tools are organized by recipient; that is, communications are delivered to a person or a group of people sharing an inbox or Skype identity. If that recipient is a modern information worker, this soon leads to chaos, as communications from everywhere about every topic piles up in a big heap on the doorstep. No wonder keeping up with email is such a Sisyphean effort!
Shared workspaces are different because they're organized by topic rather than by recipient. Let's share everything about Project X here, and everything about Topic Y over there. You might end up with a big heap of information, but it won't be random, it will all be related to a single topic that you've already indicated interest in by your membership. That's a big help!
Teams, and other tools like it, align all forms of communication to topics instead of individual people. This has a number of benefits:
Working day to day in Teams feels a lot more streamlined, and is a welcome change from the traditional tool set.
Both Teams and SharePoint team sites are organized by topic, project, organization, or some other focal point for a team of people. Hence, in any given organization, Teams and channels will often follow a similar structure to SharePoint team and project sites.
In fact, this is inherent in the design. Every Microsoft Team automatically has a modern SharePoint team site associated with it; that's where channel documents are stored. Each channel is associated with a folder in the SharePoint site's document library. In addition, files sent between users outside of a Teams channel are stored in the sender's OneDrive for Business folder.
Users don't have to leave Teams to work with their files; they appear in the Files tab. There's an "Open in SharePoint" option that brings you right into the SharePoint site.
It's also possible to add SharePoint pages as tabs in Teams. This provides a much easier approach to building tabs compared with the typical approach of building a custom website from scratch. All the information on a team site home page can appear there, providing the best of both SharePoint and Teams in the same user interface.
It's also possible to put a whole document in a tab. This can be useful, for example, to share a key presentation or to track information in a spreadsheet that's easily accessed by the whole team.
There have been a number of (mostly failed) attempts at bringing conversations into SharePoint. Discussion lists and news feeds were part of SharePoint but never caught on (perhaps because of usability challenges with discussion lists and immediate backpedaling by Microsoft on SharePoint Social). A number of 3rd party offerings have worked to address this as well. Many of the more successful 3rd party offerings focus on the "outer loop" of communication - that is, broader corporate communication. Yammer is the tool of choice for this within the Office 365 suite; perhaps next year I'll be able to post a similar article about Yammer integration but so far it's not nearly as extensive as what we have with Teams and SharePoint.
For the "inner loop", Teams puts the conversation on center stage, which makes a lot of sense; SharePoint augments this with documents and other shared information. In fact, you can even (finally!) have a conversation about a document directly.
The same conversation is shown in the channel along with a link to the document, so people can't miss it.
But what about team news that transcends the conversation? Perhaps a new phase of a project is starting, or you want to highlight a success. Those things could easily be lost in the Teams conversation thread, so SharePoint news is a perfect vehicle for those kinds of messages.
Modern SharePoint sites include a light-weight publishing system for news pages. These pages bubble up on web parts, in Hub sites, on the SharePoint Home page, in the SharePoint mobile app, and now in Teams as well. Soon new news items will be announced right in the channel.
At the recent SharePoint Conference North America, Vesa Juvonen demonstrated a new feature on the roadmap that will allow SharePoint Framework web parts to be used as tabs in Teams. This will allow easy reuse of web parts, and bring Teams tab development in easy reach of SharePoint developers. It also removes the question of where to host a custom tab: the hosting is automatic, and tab properties are set using a variation on the familiar web part editing experience..
Hopefully by now you're getting the idea that Teams and SharePoint are indeed better together, but how do you get there?
First, you need to determine if you have a classic or a modern team site collection. In the top-level site, start by clicking the gear and looking for an option called, "Site Information". If you don't see "Site Information", you're on a classic page in a classic site - how classic! If you see "Site Information," click it; now you know you're on a modern page but you still might be on ac classic site. A panel will swing out from the right; if it includes "Group usage guidelines" and "Privacy settings", then you've got a modern Team site that's backed by an Office 365 group. If not, you've got a classic site with a modern page. This picture shows the classic Site Information panel on the left and the modern one on the right:
OK so now you know if your site is classic or modern... if it's classic you need to "groupify" it (add an Office 365 Group) before you can add a Team; instructions are here. Once that's done, or if your site is already modern, it's easy to add the Team.
Just go to Microsoft Teams and click "Join or create a team" near the bottom left of the screen, then click the Create a team button.
Instead of filling in the "Create your team" form, click the link to "Create a team from an existing Office 365 group."
You'll be shown a list of all the Office 365 Groups you own; pick one and click "Choose Team"
That's all there is to it! To add the home page to any channel, click the "+" sign to the right of the channel tabs and pick the "SharePoint" tab. Choose a page you'd like to display and click "Save" to create the tab.
The result is a new tab that displays your page perfectly!
There's no reason to be left out - please try it out and let us know how it's working for you in the comments!
(Cross-posted and updated from Bob's Vantage Point)
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