Microsoft Teams & Office 365: Collaboration Overload?

Microsoft Teams & Office 365: Collaboration Overload?

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Welcome to my first blog for ShareGate in the year 2017. This year, I am dedicated to share my SharePoint & Office 365 encounters and experiences with all of you. You can expect me to be honest, brutal, fair, fun, emotional and entertaining. It’s going to be awesome!

Impact of Microsoft Teams on the State of Collaboration

The dust has settled, Microsoft Teams has been released for a while now. Have you recovered? Oh boy, it created quite a stir in the community. From “Yammer is done!” to “Should I still use Groups?” and “Too many choices!”, many community members shared their thoughts. Looking at the fact that I have a strong opinion because of my Dutch heritage, I decided to share mine with you.

The release of Teams hasn’t come as much of a surprise to me. Slack was gaining huge popularity and starting to hurt Microsoft. I must admit, I never really got into Slack. I found it too noisy. Felt too much like IRC. An opinion not shared by some of my colleagues. Mainly developers - they love Slack. One of them even started to call me old. Ouch!

That said, I am really impressed by the release of Teams, and Microsoft is very committed to its success. You can clearly see this with the release of Apps for every device and platform. That’s unheard of with the announcement of a new service within Office 365. Next to the release of the Apps, the worldwide announcement by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was also a clear statement to the world: Watch out Slack, Teams is here to stay!

Microsoft Teams is built on the Groups Framework, and that’s fantastic news. After creating your first Team, an Office 365 Group is created. You automatically get Office Online, Skype for Business, SharePoint Team Site, Planner, and even connectors. Powerful tools for collaboration within a group of people. One of my favorite features is tabs.

Tabs allows people to browse through the different tools of the channel, such as OneNote or Planner. The tools open within the context of the channel. For example, you can open OneNote without having to open the online App.

Microsoft Teams Tabs

Very impressive! I also like the ability to add a tab to an additional SharePoint document library.

SharePoint Document Library

The use of tabs gives people a lot of flexibility in getting the job done. To make it even more powerful, you have tabbed conversations. For example, you created a new tab referring to a project proposal in Microsoft Word. The tabbed conversation allows you to share ideas and feedback with each other. Empowered with Office Online you directly apply changes within the browser. How cool is that? We've been using the feature at Sparked, and it has been a huge success.

Yammer Takes Another Punch to the Gut

You've probably been waiting for me to start talking about Yammer. Ok, let’s go: Yammer took a beating. Again. As if things weren’t going badly enough already for the once very popular Enterprise Social Network (ESN).

Let’s be honest, it didn't really help when the CEO of Microsoft calls Yammer a daily announcement system in front of the whole tech community. Ouch. That must have hurt some Yammer people in Redmond.

I am not afraid to say it. I have been a Yammer fan for many years. Why? I have seen organizations bloom using Yammer within Office 365. Apart from certain flaws, which I discussed in an article last year, Yammer is easy to use due to its similarities with Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. User trainings are basically an informality. The breaking barriers analogy is true.

You connect with people from everywhere, no matter their role or department. This doesn’t do anything to the fact that time has caught up with Yammer. The popularity of ESN is fading, and Yammer is having issues transforming into a collaboration service for the modern workplace. For example, Office 365 Groups have made more progress in a single year than Yammer has accomplished in several years.

A spark of hope is the announced integration with Office 365 Groups. I have seen a demo, and it actually looks very promising. The integration with Groups really pushes Yammer more into the collaboration space and out of the social space. Is it too late though, especially with the launch of Microsoft Teams? To Yammer or not to Yammer, that’s the question. Please keep on reading. I will get there.

SharePoint Activity Feed: Keeping Track of All These Collaboration Tools

Although I am very impressed by Teams, I am worried about something. Imagine your organization makes use of Teams, Groups, SharePoint and Yammer. How are regular users going to find anything? Are you going to look in Teams? Yammer? SharePoint? Groups? Finding content, such as documents, will probably be fine. You can use SharePoint Search.

What about conversations though? Did someone ask a question in Yammer or in a Group? Or perhaps in a channel within Teams. Help! Overcoming this struggle, I see a role for the SharePoint activity feed. The feed was introduced with the release of the modern SharePoint Team Site.

Modern SharePoint Team Site

The conversations should be indexed by the Microsoft Graph. The activity feed is powered by the Graph. 1+1=2? I sincerely hope so. Otherwise I see serious adoption issues on the road ahead. That would really be a shame.

With the release of Teams, we have another collaboration tool at our disposal. Microsoft’s vision around collaboration is as follows:

“We offer Office 365, the collaboration toolkit. Every group of people has different needs. Groups are going to pick the collaboration tools suited for their business needs.”

Perhaps. There is a new generation entering the workforce living by this vision, but there are many, I repeat, many people who aren’t ready for this. They need advice & guidance in this new world.

The release of Microsoft Teams made me rethink my advice & guidance around collaboration within Office 365.

Everything was relatively simple. Yammer was Social, SharePoint Team Sites & Groups for collaboration. Now, Teams has been thrown into the mix, and Yammer is getting a Groups integration. What to do! Let’s take a step back shall we. What do all these collaboration tools have in common? Conversations! It’s all about conversations! Puff Daddy should write a song about it.

You must sit down with your customers and discuss their requirements around collaboration with a focus on conversations. Show them Teams, show them Yammer and show them Groups. They are going to work with one or more of these tools. Help them, guide them. You have a vital role to play.

Yammer Still Plays a Role in Collaboration

Almost there. I promised to get back to you about Yammer. Let’s do this thing. At Sparked, we have been using Yammer for years. We share stories, collaborate and ask questions. We are now making a transition towards Microsoft Teams while maintaining Yammer. All the collaboration between a group of people is moving towards Microsoft Teams. We are going to use it for team & project collaboration.

For example: our marketing department has their own Microsoft Team, and is creating channels for all their 2017 marketing campaigns. We are still going to keep using Yammer for posts related to the whole company. Just think of HR announcements, introducing new employees, new customers & projects, or general questions. Why? You reach a larger audience with Yammer: The whole company.

Microsoft Teams is narrowed down to a smaller group of people, and not meant for these broader types of conversations. What about the Groups integration with Yammer? I mentioned it earlier, it’s not here yet and we have no idea how it’s turning out. Microsoft Teams, although in preview, is ready. We'd rather use Teams for collaboration and Yammer for general announcements and questions. You must make this decision for yourself.

Good luck, you will need it.

Let me know, in the comments section, whether you’re planning on switching to Microsoft Teams or sticking with Yammer for the time being!

Jasper Oosterveld
Jasper Oosterveld @jasoosterveld

Jasper Oosterveld is a frequently requested speaker, Microsoft MVP, blogger and a co-author of two SharePoint manuals. During the day Jasper is a Cloud Consultant at InSpark, he facilitates seamless implementations of SharePoint Online and Office 365.