Office 365 Groups vs. Microsoft Teams blog post

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MVP

There’s still a lot of confusion around Office 365 Groups and how they work with Microsoft Teams, so I’ve partnered with the team at AvePoint to write a post about how they work together.

The post covers confusion around product names, integrations, and scenarios where users would find challenges around creating both of them.

The AvePoint team also created a great infographic covering the 4 considerations before rolling out Microsoft Teams.

Check it out here!

86 Replies
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Good stuff, I literally cannot imagine rolling out Teams without having a firm grip on Groups, more power to the people that do, but it seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

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Martha I have no idea what I meant to write there.

 

This is a great article. A must read!

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The article does a good job explaining the shortfall of the groups/teams story.  Unfortunatly does very little to explain how to actually make use of both at simotaniously.  In real world this has become a huge mess.  Forcing us to not only not adopt teams but we ended op dropping groups.  Opting for slack instead, and becasue slack has por microsoft integration, we are now task with a migration to google g suite.

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That's true, but there's only so much that can be conveyed in a single article or even in written form.
The reality is that the way to make use of both is case by case, both at an organisational level as well as each department, group and team.
I work with a number of customers on the journey of productivity transformation in which we apply a customised roadmap and strategy - not one-size-fits-all.
I do feel that certain elements of groups should be able to be suppressed so "team" owners can choose a-la-carte what they want to use - and that functionality is coming at some point.
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I sure hope so. My biggest challenge is the overlap between the email chat of groups and the chat of teams.

Everything else is easily managed ounce configured.

I am not certain how best to fix the chat/conversation issue. Some groups can accept email from the outside so need the email portion perhaps it is just user training to direct the internal team to use the team chat but so far this is proving difficult.
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More half-baked solutions from Microsoft that provide confusion for their customers.

 

Why create a whole new 'product' rather than just enabling persistent chat in the existing O365 Groups? That's supposedly what groups is right? A placeholder that connects you to different services.

 

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Well. I think teams is looking nice and it's looking like a nice ui for the entire groups experience. Nicest UI/UX to come from MS in a long time. It really should have been how groups was introduced. Groups through outlook and the mobile groups app is painful.
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Persistent communication does exist in Groups but it's all email based which most organizations are trying to move away from. Truthfully, I wish they never rolled that out. Groups should have just been the background membership that links all the different products together instead of membership plus a form of communication. Hopefully they'll remove it at some point in the near future to simplify their offerings and remove some bloat from Outlook.

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I couldn't agree more. Groups should have been the background membership that connected resource. They should have left the UI/UX out of outlook, except a way to see the group calendar and tasks, since that is an outlook/exchange resource anyway. And they should have had teams be the main UI/UX entry.

The issue that has to be worked out is the email of course. I can see why you would want a mail-enabled group. Especially, from external people who are not technically part of the group. Just call it an group inbox. Don't try to make it feel like a chat adding @mentions and all this other inline media options, etc.
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Disagree with the statement of most organizations trying to move away from email. Email is about the only constant that is left IMO. It will present the same futile argument as "trying to move away from folders in SharePoint". That's where I see the beauty in Groups conversations, you are basically tricking end-users into using more modern functionality under the guise of email that they know and love and USE.

I (and my users) have a harder time distinguishing between persistent chat and the group inbox. How different are they "REALLY"?

Things do need to be simplified. IMO, the unification is simply this:
- The conversation is the same (Group inbox + Yammer + main Team Chat), it doesnt matter which interface you use, you SEE the exact same threads of discussion
- Choice is in the tool you use to access the unified Conversation, not in the Conversation within different tools
- Teams can introduce sub-conversations, but don't recreate a Group-level conversation
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I agree email and group inbox should stay. But is should stay clearly email. The chat functionality they tried to implement cannot be as functional as it could with a pure chat system. Since group inbox has to keep compatibility with non-outlook email clients that communicate with the group inbox.

To to your point. I sincerely hope MS will not unify the conversation between group inbox and teams. I would hate to see teams take a step back and become another bloated email client. And please keep yammer separate. Or give people the choice to integrate. So my team doesn't even need to know yammer exists.

As far as choice of tools to see the conversation. I personally like the separation of concerns. Email over on this end. Team collaboration over here. Email is how you communicate ideas to the world outside of you teams. if you integrate you unnecessarily clutter each business concern.

As far as the team sub-conversations this is how it works today. Aside from the group inbox not being part of the team channel.

If the do implement as you suggest I hope the allow some users to disable the general channel in teams (the one that would most likely share the group conversation). And then allow us to disable the chat features of the group conversations to make it a simple everyday mailbox.
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It feels like Microsoft is launching products with no overarching vision. No product manager to look across the full spectrum.

 

Groups and Teams are so similar any reasonable person would assume they are competitive, not complementary. And they both seem to mimic Yammer. 

 

In the meantime, real people are creating all the duplication and rabbit holes the authors feared. Organizations who try to use this stuff suffer greatly. People start fighting. Important information gets lost (where "lost" means a person who needs it cannot find it in the time required.)

 

My suggestion: hire a product manager to coordinate, filter, and edit the various products your people are building in isolation. And feel free to kill the products that don't survive. Just provide tools for moving stuff from those dying products to the surviving products. 

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It's a very pretty article with some pretty graphics but it is just a sycophantic let's say everything is OK by saying everything is OK. It makes no real suggestion as to how to coexist which, is of course the problem. If teams could see everything that groups did that might work.

Email is not dead and external users will still use it even when your team decides to use teams fro all. A tab called "mailbox" or something in teams migt help.

But for now it's a confusing disaster for most organisations who have started using groups and a graphic of two cooperating superheroes does nothing to improve the situation.

 

What do I do if some users prefer the outlook interface and create files and comments there.? (Adding outlook files as a FB in teams is agood hint (no details though) and the Pollyanna "let's be postive" that apart era who wants the work is forced to adopt it doesn't even query why n Earth the bit of code that "converts" an existing group to a team doesn't offer to do this I.e. Add a team tab called outlook group files (that migt at least help some users get some clue around the baffling disconnect).

 

THis very much has a "come back in a year when we have decided what we are actually going to do" feel to it.

Sorry but in 30+ years I have been around Microsft (many of them internally) they've never been much good at a clear story.

I remember the launch of Windows (v1) in which the product team said it was the future and that all programmes would now develop for Windows; followed shortly by the launch of  a new version of Word that didn't run in Windows and the corntortions that team went through to make this sound like a good thing. (Groove, modern apps, oblige etc.  the list of confusing products where other bits of MS cclearly have not bought in, is huge).

 

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I share the pain with what is being said here. The infographic is a perfect example of the meaningless hype around Office 365 and the reality that it is a confusing morass of functionality that our customers, now used to the ease of use of consumer grade software apps in their persoanl lives struggle with when they walk into work and have to start working with O365.

 

Just ask how many people love working with Microsoft solutions in their personal lives. Answer . . . big fat zero.

 

By now Office365 should be a beautiful thing. It isn't and Microsoft need to smash some senior heads together to take responsibility for delivering a solution that is intuitive. Left too long we are going to see our customers depart for alternative solutions.

 

 

 

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Here's another way to look at it. This is just a snapshot; review the full infographic for more info.O365 Twitter Post.png

 

 

 

 

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This just highlights the issue to me.  There is so much overlap and there is no way to discover things within the overlap.  

 

Espesially with the conversations. the only way this seems to work is if everyone is check every office tool Outlook/Teams/Yammer. on a regular basis.

 

The fact is you can draw these types of infographics all you want but it doesn't help users in the reall world use the tools.  It is flat out not intuitive how these tools fit together and how they interop with one another.

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Can you juggle these three messaging platform in your personal life, and understand when to use which one?

 

Gmail

Twitter

Facebook Messenger

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Much more useful than the what was originally posted - the silly superhero thing.

 

But I see loads "wrong" with this still and if you can bear with me I'll explain:

 

I think the premise that outlook groups is not an app is hardly helped by the fact that I can, today, go the Apple App Store, the Windows Store and the various Android store and download an app called Outlook Groups. Why wouldn't anyone think that Outlook groups are an app - clearly Microsoft do.

Try this https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/outlook-groups/9nblggh1pbr5 (but someone needs to change the button from "Get the app" to "Get the NOT app" otherwise those of us who have posted here that the whole implementation is currently rather baffling and nothing like the well planned universe of the infographic might feel their point is made.

Oh and the group landing in page in outlook also encourages you get the GROUP APP for these platforms. (Confused - you will be). [I get the technical point but it makes a fine distinction as to what an apps is and impossible one for most users to appreciate. App is not a well defined word in the first place.]

On the info graphic text I have a couple of suggestions of additional text that might make things clearer: [#, $. ! * are all footnotes see below for more info]

Outlook Group

When you create an Outlook Group, you get:

  1. An Outlook email inbox to record conversations between Group members;
  2. A shared Outlook calendar to post events and appointments that affect Group members;
  3. A SharePoint site collection (which you access through the Files tab) * bafflingly this is not the same a files tab that will appear in teams if you also create a team at the same time as or based on the group;
  4. A OneNote notebook (which actually lives in your SharePoint site collection);
  5. A Plan in Planner; # bafflingly this plan does not appear as a plan in the team of the same name [perhaps the user is beginning to see pattern at last - same item name, same team/group name but not actually the same thing!] This happens even if you create the team and create a group as a coincidental part of this process. Even more confusingly although this a plan belongs to an "outlook group" you can't actually see this in Outlook in any case and have to use a program called Mail from the SharePoint waffle. (Don't use teams as this automatically created group plan won't appear there at all!)
  6. A Power BI workspace (if you have premium Power BI licenses for all members).

Team Chat

When you create a Team, you get:

  1. A Teams chat for communicating;
  2. A Teams wiki for collecting notes and knowledge; [Confusingly OneNote in Outlook! - although I personally think this is more useful than a wiki]
  3. A SharePoint site collection (which you access through the Files tab) * bafflingly this has nothing to do with the File tab that will be created simultaneously in the corresponding outlook group despite the tab name and group/team name being the same! [Obviously they are in different collections, Oh stupid user!]
  4. A OneNote notebook (which you have to add as a new tab if you want quick access because the wiki is meant to replace this);
  5. A Plan in Planner; # but only if you create it and not the same one as you get with the outlook group (even if you can't see it in outlook)
  6. A Power BI workspace (if you have premium Power BI licenses for all members);
  7. An Outlook email inbox to record conversations between Group members; and % but not team members
  8. A shared Outlook calendar to post events and appointments that affect Group members. ~ Baffling for any user who think they are getting the hang of the same name, same group/team name but different content this IS the same calendar as the team sees and, is thus the only same content. The fact that the infographic describes it in the same way without making this point is hardly helpful to the typical user.

* By baffling I meant that from a users point of view I have a team called "production" which has a teams chat etc. in an "app" and a group called the same thing in outlook/ One has a tab called files (with a SharePoint modern view where I and team members can put and share files) whereas the other has a tab called files (with a SharePoint modern view where I and team members can put and share 

files) - but they are not the same place. So when a colleague say I have put it on the files tab fro production I have to have enough knowledge to either know there are two and look in both places (or someone has to put the outlook tab into the teams system) or I have to guess which tool the other guy might have used e.g. outlook or an app. God knows what happens if two users create the same filename with similar contents in each location - presumably everyone gets totally confused?

 

% As I understand one benefit of the group e-mail address is that you can open to e-mail from outside the organisation. Whilst I understand that chat supporters hate e-mail, what is the logic of hiding the e-mail interface from the team (it should at least be an option). That way ordinary users of outlook who are in the group can e-mail and have it at least spotted by their more savvy teams colleagues and external users to send e-mails to groupname@organisation if you allow it with the off-chance that a team member might see it. Fair enough that those who use only outlook miss out on true chat and channels but where is the business benefit when my own staff or partners send an e-mail to the "team" e-mail address and none of my teams users can see it?

 

# I am baffled - the author of the infographic seems to think there's an automatic plan created in teams - I don;t see one - I can create my own plan on a tab and I can open an existing plan but apparently not the one from the outlook group (i.e. the one that is created automatically but inaccessible in outlook despite it's name - and only accessible from the mail web app)

 

! whilst this same calendar in outlook group and team is the only bit that makes any sense (and fits with the implications in the infographic and accompanying text) as far as I can see the team meetings doesn't have the useful feature of outlook (and Windows calendar) that let's you see other calendars at the same time e.g. your own, other teams etc. so would appear to be pretty useless for anyone who doesn';t work in just one team (I may have missed something here as I have not investigated this hard as the other bits seem to unhelpful)

 

So I go back to my original point (as in my 1st post)  the whole thing seems to be a complete and baffling mess.

The 2nd infographic is lovely but I can only conclude one of the following:

 

a) the writer has been instructed to say lots of things that are sort of true but to cover up as much as possible the reality of the chaos.

b) the writer is not using the same version of the software that I have.

c) the writer is working from some master plan document and has never seen that actual software or tried it.

d) I am using the wrong software.

e) I am an idiot.

 

Sorry to be mean but something is wrong...

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Kevin, this is overly generalized.  You point to 3 different services that have very little overlap as far as communication and sharing go.

 

gmail is email, if i need to send a person an email I do that.  I use outlook (office 365 the same way).  Twitter, is a social platform to send basically public announcmets to anyone who wants to listen.  Facebook messenger is only used when I have to communicate with someone and who is a facebook contact.  These three services are 3 very different sets of people.  I would never use email/twitter/messenger to talk to the same person.

 

Each of these office tools are designed to comminicate and share with the same audience of people.  I have a message for the team.  Do i send A) and email to the team mailbox (outlook) B) a message to the team channel (Teams) C) post to the yammer feed (if I created the group there).  The fact is either can be used to get the job done.  And this is the problem.  Now the team members recieving it have toconstantly be chacking all these different tools becasue who knows what tool someone will decide to sdend a message in.  There is no distinct seperation in the audience and know really intuitive way to infer where a certain conversation should be had.  Yammer is less of an issue becasue if you creat a yammer group that is all you get you dont get the others.  The issue seems to be more with outlook groups, and the group inbox and Teams.

 

Even for the customers who use and are used to using slack this becomes hard.  Becasue with Slack the group inbox just doesn't exist.  But in office 365 you get both.  You can try to explain to them to think of the same workflow as they had with slack and ignoire the group in outlook.  But it is right there staring them in the face, the files and calendar ar the same, as is OnNote (sortof) so the seperation gets blurred and before you know it you have split conversations.

 

It all really is a partially implemented mess. right now the best method I have come up with is to tell people to send messages in each tool.   if you send an email to the group inbox then also post a message to the main team channel.  I am working on a way to automate this.