#OTSTWIT E16 – Boot Camp: What is Teams?

After weeks of new features and deep dives into various capabilities that compliment the Teams platform, Jay and Craig decided to go back to basics. This Week in Teams we provide an introduction to #MicrosoftTeams. We talk about what Teams IS: the hub for M365 but also the hub for the enterprise with its ever-expanding extensibility. We also talked about the base for Teams: SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange Server. And, we discussed if a Team should be Organizational or Functional (sneak peek: It depends).

The Hub for Teamwork

Microsoft Teams is described as The Hub for Teamwork in Microsoft 365. At its base it pulls together SharePoint, Exchange, and all of the Office 365 capabilities into a single, user-friendly interface which is much more simplistic than interfaces like SharePoint. This is a good thing, as the complexity often confuses end users. For membership, Teams utilizes Office 365 Groups, which simplifies what we were used to as 4 different membership types in SharePoint down to two very simple things: Members and Owners.

Beyond Microsoft 365, though, Teams can be The Hub for your enterprise thanks to its extensibility!

SharePoint and OneDrive … and Exchange? Oh My!

Behind Teams is the ever-familiar SharePoint interface, brought to you by SharePoint Online. Within Teams the interface is MUCH more simple — files with minimal metadata and configurations. However, with power comes a FULL SharePoint Site collection. For power-users this means endless functionality as always provided by SharePoint, but for end-users, it means not having to navigate them.

But what about OneDrive. I hear this all the time. The key here is to keep it simple: OneDrive is an app built on SharePoint, so it’s still SharePoint. That said, the differentiation is WHERE are those files being shared: if you are sharing a file in a Team, your files are stored in the SharePoint Site Collection; if your files are being shared in a one-to-one or one-to-many private chat, your files are being stored in OneDrive and the app is smart enough to set the participants of the chat as “contributors” — they can edit the file. Nifty feature.

The connection with Exchange is much less often discussed. Discussion threads for private chats are stored in each user’s mailbox that is participating in the discussion. Channel threads from a Team are stored in the inbox created for the Office 365 Group. NEITHER OF THESE are available to the end user. These are primarily for discovery within the M365 Security and Compliance Center. Even the APIs to these are limited for 3rd part app developers. So, it’s there, but it’s not for the end-user to touch.

Function versus Organization

The answer to “when should I create a Team” is, unfortunately, “it depends”. We recognize the usefulness of Teams as a department home for collaboration; so yes, go create your “Information Technology” Team. But don’t stop there. Cross-functional teams allow you to bring together individuals from multiple departments to create mission-centric teams for short (or long) periods of times. Create a Team for collaboration on your hardware modernization. Create a Team to support a customer project. Create a Team to engage with your officemates (and channels for the different office clubs like Coffee Club, Pie Club, Runners Club … yes these are all real clubs in Jay’s DC office!).

In other words: there’s tremendous value in Teams outside of department-based Teams, but there’s value in both, so get started simple and then consider expanding the allowed use cases over time!

Extensibility

From Planner and the Tasks App to Dataflex, we’ve talked a lot about extensibility in recent weeks.

In short: there are a series of first party apps available (website tab, planner, SharePoint pages and Lists, Word and Exchange, etc). These apps enable you to really embrace Teams as the Hub for Office 365.

There are also a TON of 3rd party apps integrating into hundreds of non-Office 365 solutions: Jira, Polly, Trello, AppBot … even AvePoint have solutions that may be useful to your enterprise. Start exploring and reviewing these 3rd party apps; you never know how they may increase your organizational productivity.

You can also custom create your own apps to integrate across your enterprise. Put them in the marketplace and help others with their problems! Or, “sideload” them (install them across your systems but without using the marketplace. Sideloading ensures that only your organization can use them so it’s great for keeping your solutions and potentially proprietary information private.

The key here is, as it has always been with SharePoint, that Teams can take your enterprise to the next level of collaboration across geographies and departments. Take it one step at a time and the sky is the limit!

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