Office 365 offers a fantastic set of collaboration tools but there are times when I wish they were just a little more tightly integrated. The basic Exchange-Skype-SharePoint trio are fine – and OneDrive is finally sorted after years of transitioning to a new client but what about Video, Sway, Groups, Yammer, Planner, etc.? Well, I recently got myself along to a Microsoft Cloud User Group event where Al Eardley (@Al_Eardley) gave a really informative talk about Groups vs. Teams – and what you should be aware of. This post attempts to merge some of the main points from Al’s talk with some other information I’ve been tracking in recent weeks to hopefully give a better idea of how these two apparently competing (but actually complementary) products can be used.
— Mark Wilson (@markwilsonit) February 9, 2017
Office 365 Groups have been around for a while but Teams are new (at the time of writing, Teams are still in preview, having been launched in late 2016 and being lauded as “Microsoft’s Slack competitor”).
Groups vs Teams
Let’s start by thinking about the Office 365 tools we use to collaborate:
|Me||OneDrive||Personal file storage|
|Us||Teams||Working as a team, to collaborate on content. On a project, bid, system, area of business|
|Us||Groups||Similar functionality but can share with partners outside the organization|
|Everyone||SharePoint||Publishing content the traditional way (can also share through Groups/Teams) with governance and approval processes. Records to keep.|
Then, if we look at the features we use:
- Distribution list – so we can easily get “stuff” to “people” using Exchange Online
- Files – and sharing them with shared document libraries in SharePoint Online
- OneNote – collaborative note-taking
- Calendar – a “proper” Exchange calendar, not just a SharePoint calendar!
- Planner – for task management; things to complete as a team, with criteria to step through, simple interface – a Kanban board like Trello
- Landing page – that’s editable/customisable
- News – keeping everyone informed
- Yammer Group – because Office 365 Groups and Yammer Groups are now integrated
- Persisted Chat – within Teams. Another way to record conversations
- Channels – the ability to have a team with multiple channels to segregate content by project/activity
- Connectors – the ability to include information from other sources, e.g. Twitter, Visual Studio, PowerBI, etc.
Woah! Information overload! And some of these features are in Groups. Some are in Teams. Neither has them all!
So consider this: with Groups we create a container for content, integrating various services and applying security using a common identity; Teams sit above Groups – and creating a Team creates an underlying Group. Also, Groups can be public, private or external but Teams are public/private only (there is no external sharing in Teams).
That’s the easy part – access to the features depends on the application you’re using (Outlook, Outlook on the Web, SharePoint Online, Planner, a Group site, Teams in-browser, Teams in the desktop client… etc.). We get different views of the same elements from different locations – which can feel a bit disjointed but I expect (sincerely hope) it will get better as Teams moves closer to release.
It might help to look at what goes where inside Office 365 (this information is taken from a recent webinar from AvePoint):
|Skype for Business Online||Exchange Online||SharePoint Online||Planner||Yammer|
So which tool has which features?
|Landing Page||Yes||Not visible|
Items marked * in the table above are segregated by channel
Pros and cons
- Office 365 Groups vs Teams: how to successfully deploy both (by Loryan Strant/@TheCloudMouth, writing for AvePoint), including this useful guidance on considerations before rolling out Microsoft Teams: