Another amazing webinar in the books! Thank you to all who joined us. In typical PixelMill Webinar Series fashion, we had a speaker who was so excited about their topic that we had trouble fitting in all their information into our usual timeslot! This month’s speaker loves his topic so much, we decided to let him write up the recap for us (and the $20 he slipped me to let him do it didn’t hurt either). So thank you Christian Buckley for not only providing a brilliant and informative session, but also for making my job easy.
Now excuse me while I go buy $20 worth of beef jerky and big-league chew.
When Microsoft announced the availability of the new Microsoft Teams communication and collaboration solution, the first question out of most people’s mouths was “Does this tool replace SharePoint, Yammer, or both?” There has been so much innovation flowing out of Microsoft headquarters over the past couple years that it has been difficult for even the seasoned MVPs to keep up with everything, at times. But I have to say that I am excited by the more recent updates out of Redmond, and can finally see the disparate tools and systems coming together in a cohesive platform under the banner of Office 365 – and the rate of innovation will not be slowing down anytime soon.
In a webinar hosted by the team at PixelMill last week, I presented a 101-level walkthrough of Microsoft Teams, and talked about how traditionally SharePoint-centric organizations could get instant value out of the platform. If you’re new to Teams and would like an overview of the basic features, I would encourage you to check out the recording of the webinar:
You can also find my slides out on SlideShare.
While there is too much to unpack in a single blog post, I thought it would be of value to answer a few of the questions that arose during my presentation – which should give you insight into some of the gaps that exist around a still very much new platform, but also help you understand how to get value from Teams today:
Q: Can you privately message anyone in the company in which you are added as a guest, or just the people in the team you are added to?
A: Within the Chat feature (private messages), your permissions are limited to the Teams (and their Channels) into which you have been invited, and therefore you can only chat with people within those areas.
The guest access permissions are somewhat locked down – you cannot add Tabs, Connectors, or Bots to a Channel, but there’s a polite message suggesting you talk to your team owner if you feel one of these items is warranted. I suppose this makes sense, as the primary function of a guest is to consume information and chat with fellow members, not run wild on your own adding tools and links without oversight. Having said that, a guest does have some control (that I’m not sure I agree with) such as the ability to add new Channels, edit an existing Channel (change the title and description), or even delete a channel.
Q: What is the best practice to govern teams? Do you start with a structure similar to your SharePoint structure? I want to be able to control who can create a team and what connectors you can add in relation to your team (template).
A: Microsoft has provided some guidance on how to best manage Teams, which you can find through www.SuccessWithTeams.com. While a “best practice” for my organization may not be a fit for your company, you hit the nail on the head on one thing to consider in your planning: what is your existing governance model for SharePoint and other tools, and how will Teams fit into that model? Your naming convention for Teams is often the #1 mentioned issue for organizations that decided to open up Teams for everyone, and are now experiencing some issues. Provisioning a new Team creates a new Office 365 Group, which auto-provisions other resources, such as a SharePoint team site. If you create a Team called Project XYZ, the O365 Group will provision a similarly named SP team site….which may cause issues if you already have a team site of the same name.
Microsoft will very soon provide customers with the ability to discard the newly provisioned SP team sites, and instead point your new Team to an existing team site, which will help resolve this issue. You may have heard the terms “groupify” and “swapify” being thrown about during Microsoft Ignite in September, which have to do with connecting existing assets to newly provisioned assets. Watch for more news on this in the coming weeks.
While Teams is light in the shoes on management capabilities, that is not to say that it is without security, auditing, compliance, and other management capabilities. Quite the contrary – Teams was architected on the backbone of Skype, Exchange, and SharePoint, which means it leverages the management capabilities of these other workloads, as shown in the image below:
Having said all this, there are many organizations who are locking down their Teams provisioning process, restricting who can create and manage them, until the technology matures and/or their understanding of what is possible matures. I think that is a reasonable approach, as to avoid the “wild west” experience that so many of us battled against with SharePoint team and sub-site proliferation.
Q: When will Teams be available to Government Plans? Right now, it is only available to commercial plan.
A: This is a question that we have been monitoring since the spring, but still do not have a firm date. However, there is news. In a Nov 6, 2017 update to the roadmap site on the availability of Office Online and OneDrive for Business capabilities for Office 365 Government F1 and K2 customers, Microsoft mentioned that Teams, StaffHub, Flow, and PowerApps will be introduced once these services meet the compliance requirements of Government Community (GCC). You can follow these updates by tracking Feature ID: 15109
Q: How do you use the classification in Teams? Is it only for a whole Team or for Channels?
A: The short answer is that this feature is not-yet-ready-for-primetime. Classifications are set via PowerShell, allowing you to classify Groups (not Channels, at least for now) as internal-only, confidential, etc. Eventually, your ability to create channels, invite external guests, download content, or add bots and connectors could be regulated by these classifications.
If you’d like to test the classification waters, there’s a detailed blog post by fellow MVP Drew Madelung that walks you through the steps, available here.
Q: Due to the 100-channel limit and Teams lack of archiving functionality, what do you think companies should do when they are close to the limit of channels?
A: Why would anyone need more than 100 Channels? Or 640K of memory, for that matter? All joking aside, this is one reason why you should not just open up a new technology to end users and wait to see what happens. There should be some logic and organization to how you provision your environments. Teams is not SharePoint, nor is it Yammer – both of which you can invite all 50 or 50,000 of your employees to leverage. Teams, on the other hand, is meant for small teams. If you’re building out that many channels within a single Team at this early of the technology, you may need to rethink the scope of your Teams.
I really like the new messaging from Microsoft around inner-loops and outer-loops as a way of answering the “which tool do I use when?” question that has been plaguing the company for the past couple years (since the Yammer acquisition). As I discussed in the webinar with PixelMill, the direction Microsoft is headed is away from the SharePoint (or any other tool) as the “Swiss army knife” solution that can solve all ills. Instead, use the tool that best fits the scope and purpose of your communication and collaboration, which could be Teams, email, SharePoint, Yammer, or a combination of tools and services.
The benefit of Office 365 is that, increasingly, all of these solutions will be tied together through shared permissions (via Office 365 Groups) and a common search substrate (the Microsoft Graph). In other words, the documents you upload and conversations you have in Yammer will be searchable through the related SharePoint team site and Teams channel, and vice versa. Search from within any of these user experiences, and get access to content from all of them – based on your permissions, of course.
In the meantime, the only way to manage the limited number of Channels is through community management. Delete old, unused Channels, archiving their documents and conversations within SharePoint and Exchange, respectively. And then split out highly active Channels to new Teams. There is not yet an automated way to move a Channel to another Team, but I suspect that feature will be created by Microsoft or the partner channel soon enough. Until then, leveraging the other workloads will ensure nothing is lost, and it’s a manual effort to then delete the old Channel, create a new team and Channels, and then import (“importify”??) that archived content into your newly provisioning space.
Thank you again to the team at PixelMill for hosting the webinar, and providing me with a platform for sharing my thoughts on this exciting new platform. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Teams, and would be happy to continue answering any questions you might have. I can be reach via Twitter at @buckleyplanet and email at email@example.com