The Teams craze seems as though has been spreading like wildfire, but until recently, I wasn’t very clear on what made it better than, say, Skype for Business or Slack. I had used both of the latter in the past and couldn’t think of many complaints. Shortly after beginning my internship with Concurrency as a SharePoint guy (not my official title, but I like how it sounds), I started digging around and learned that, while Teams comes with loads of benefits that Skype or Slack can’t compete with, there’s one major benefit that eclipses the rest: SharePoint and Teams are made for each other.
In short, SharePoint and Teams are moving in the same direction at the same time. While they are still separate services, they are becoming so intertwined that the lines are beginning to blur—and that means increased productivity and communication for you and your team. I’ve decided to write this quick article to highlight some of my favorite features of the integration of SharePoint and Teams and how it can help you stay in tune with your team.
- SharePoint document library folders are Teams channels: This point alone, in my opinion, sets Teams apart from the rest. You already use SharePoint, so why add extra moving parts with an instant messages and conferencing program that lives on an island? Folders in your SharePoint site document library are perfectly synced with channels in teams out of the box, meaning that content can be viewed, uploaded, and accessed in either location natively. A huge benefit to this is that content uploaded in Teams can be discussed with your coworkers in real time—no need to send attachments or even share live links over email anymore.
As an added benefit, forthcoming feature updates will enhance the user experience in Teams to more closely imitate the modern SharePoint experience. Additional features such as custom metadata, pinned items, creating views, column formatting with JSON, and even syncing content to your local machine from the default “Files” tab in Teams are rolling out soon. At this rate, it won’t be long before many end-users will find that they never need to type your company’s SharePoint URL into a browser again.
- Lists on the horizon: Another feature that’s on its way is adding SharePoint lists to tabs in Teams. The flexibility here is huge because you, as an admin or an end-user, can add a list tab to any channel that makes the most sense. With a bit of planning and consideration of team insights, this could be an incredibly useful feature. Similar to document libraries, all metadata, custom column formatting, etc. is pulled directly into the Teams interface. Another point worth mentioning for both list and library tabs is that all Microsoft Flow workflows set in any location are still active even in Teams thanks to the synchronization between the two systems.
- Shortcuts to each application, on each application: This one is short and simple. If you’re in Teams and, for some reason, need to be in SharePoint, there’s a button for that right in Teams. Conversely, if you’re in SharePoint and want to quickly see new updates in Teams, it’s incredibly easy to add a link to the quick launch menu on your site. Most cases won’t warrant leaving Teams for the end user, but it is nice to have a quick and easy way of getting around if needed.
- News archive: My hope is that you understand that tabs in Teams channels are as flexible as they are convenient. Flexibility doesn’t end with just lists and libraries, though! Say you have a very verbose and active team that’s constantly posting to Teams channels. Though Teams is pretty good at notifying you of new updates, at scale, important information might get buried in a feed. Thankfully, the Modern SharePoint experience comes with a News feature for the most important shouldn’t-be-missable information that—you guessed it—can be loaded into a tab in Teams. With just a few clicks, a tab can be created that elegantly displays the entire News archive directly from your SharePoint site so that you can rest easy knowing you and your team never miss a beat. How many times have you missed an important update in Slack?
- Pages in Teams: With a Modern SharePoint teams site, you have the additional advantage of adding entire pages—and all the webparts—into a tab in Teams. Pages scale and render just as they would in SharePoint, but it’s not in SharePoint. This goes back to some end-users potentially never needing to actually go to SharePoint in a browser ever again. My favorite part about this point is that the new development framework in SharePoint—aptly named the SharePoint Framework, or SPFx—gets along with Teams perfectly. Even custom webparts you’ve developed with the SPFx will load into Teams as you should expect and you can even manage the properties of webparts just as you would if you were editing a page in SharePoint.
- Governance and control: Teams offers a lot of control for end-users and some people don’t like that. Luckily, it also empowers administrators to manage who can do and see what. Using such tools as PowerShell, Microsoft Graph, Azure Active Directory, and the forthcoming Microsoft Teams Admin Center, administrators will be able to control who can create new teams (and, consequentially, Office 365 Groups and SharePoint Team sites), what types of naming conventions should be in place for new teams, and countless other controls. Additionally, membership and access for Teams channels is centered around SharePoint site membership roles, so it is easy to control who can browse your channels while knowing that nobody else has permission to even get a glimpse.
- Tabs, tabs, tabs: This isn’t so much about SharePoint integration as much as it is about how incredible Teams channel tabs are. Tabs work great with SharePoint and we will see more and more of SharePoint accessible through tab functions, but tabs can do tons of other things. You can pull in a Power BI visualization, a OneNote notebook, a YouTube channel, a Microsoft Forms or Polly survey, and a ton of other non-Microsoft apps and services into a tab—all optimized for the Teams interface. If all else fails, you can use the “Website” tab to link literally any website imaginable to your channel. If that’s not endless possibilities and flexibility, I am not sure what would be.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of all that Teams can do for you and your business. An ever-growing number of businesses all around the world are using Microsoft products and no other instant messaging and web conferencing software clicks in with the rest of the suite as well as Teams does.
Teams is young but impressive and if this article made you even the slightest bit curious of how it could help improve communications and productivity in your organization, I encourage you to try it out for free
. I, for one, am eager to see what the future holds for Teams.