Microsoft Teams as Hub of Office 365 Features

Microsoft Teams

Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365

  • 06 February 2020

Microsoft Teams has been on the market since 2017 and is becoming increasingly popular with organizations and users. Over 420,000 enterprises were already running Microsoft Teams by January 2019. In our view, Teams acts a bit like a ‘hub’ within the Office 365 family, because it can serve as a platform to run and integrate other services in Office 365, making it a central starting point for the user’s daily work. This blog article describes the Office 365 services and features that can be combined with Teams in a project scenario.

Getting Started is … Easy: Creating a Team

The first step involves setting up our ‘project’ in Teams, which is completed in no time by web browser or using the eponymous application – assuming your company allows universal creation of teams. A handy aspect is that the web browser and the native application offer an identical user experience.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 1: Creating a project in Teams (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

A new team can be created using either standard elements or based on an existing team or Office 365 group. This also means that a team can be defined as a general template, e.g. for projects. But templates do not include all functions and settings for a team.

You will have already used or enabled, consciously or unconsciously, the following Office 365 services after creating a team:

  • Exchange Online
  • SharePoint Online
  • Planner
  • Power BI

An Office 365 group will have been created in the background in Azure Active Directory. The Office 365 group is used to control access to the team and to the (modern) SharePoint team site, which is also set up in the background.

Building a Team

In Teams, a team is divided into channels. The default setting is to create a team with the ‘General’ channel. There are individual tabs for each channel. Conversations (chat), files (document library in SharePoint) and Wiki (Wiki in SharePoint) are the names of the tabs that are provided by default in each channel.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 2: Standard tabs in Teams (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

The tabs are used to add features from the Office 365 services or external apps (if authorized by the IT department) to the team.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 3: Additional tabs or apps (source: Microsoft SoftwareONE)

Modern File Experience in Teams?

For example, besides the document library (‘Files’) that is already included, another document library from the SharePoint site or even from another SharePoint site can be added as a tab. With the release of ‘Modern SharePoint Sites’, the document library was also given a new look & feel, as well as extended functionalities. At the MS Ignite Conference 2018, Microsoft announced that ‘full power’ will now be added to Teams as well. This means that a modern document library with all its functions such as views, filters, metadata display, and functional buttons can be used directly in the Teams tab.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 4: Document library view, ‘Files’ tab (source: Microsoft)

As we can see in the screenshot, the ‘List Formatting’ option allows the neat arrangement of lists, i.e. the document library.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 5: List Formatting (source: Microsoft)

So, Teams and SharePoint Online are converging increasingly. A feature release started its rollout in Q4/2019. We are eagerly anticipating the full release of this handy extension.

Using 'Modern Lists'

The integration of lists in the modern experience is already available for Teams. Visualization of SharePoint lists is among the benefits of the modern experience, enabling a graphic representation of the lists, i.e. the data, in Teams. Teams also shows the ‘complete’ SharePoint lists, so that the creation and editing of elements, or the creation and modification of views, work in precisely the same way as with the buttons in native SharePoint Online.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 6: Creating and modifying views (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

SharePoint News – Publishing in Teams

Another function of the ‘modern SharePoint site’ is available within the project team, e.g. to share news about the project. The new modern web part ‘News’ is used for this purpose.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 7: Modern web part ‘News’ (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

The web part is used to create news articles quickly and easily within the SharePoint site. As usual, a background process creates an ASPX page in the page library to do this. The ‘SharePoint’ tab is then selected to display news for the SharePoint Site in Teams.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 8: Displaying news in Teams (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

It is not necessary to leave the Teams application to read the news. Creating ‘News’ can be combined simultaneously with the ‘Chat’ tab, meaning that an informational message and a link to the news on the SharePoint site is posted in conversations when creating news. The connector ‘SharePoint News’ is integrated in the matching channel for this purpose.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 9: Connector for SharePoint News (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

Once created, a news article in the SharePoint site is shown in the Teams channel as follows:

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 10: View of all SharePoint News (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

Planning with Planner

As I mentioned at the start of the article, the Office 365 service ‘Planner’ is also used in Teams. Planner is a simple but effective tool for collaborative task planning. For example, Planner is a good way to design sensible project plans, as long as the additional applications in the Enterprise project management environment are not necessary. Project Online would be the suitable alternative in this case.

Planner can be added to a team in a new tab. A new plan is created when integrating the ‘Planner’ tab, unless a plan already exists.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 11: Using Planner in Teams (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

So-called ‘Buckets’ can be created within a plan. Buckets should be understood as a kind of container to which tasks can be ‘attached’. But buckets are purely organizational in terms of their usefulness. The following screenshot shows a Planner with different buckets and assigned tasks.

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Abb. 12: Planner with exemplary tasks (source: Microsoft SoftwareONE)

After a task has been completed, it is marked as ‘completed’ in the plan. In most cases, an email is also sent with this information. Alternatively, a workflow can be implemented that posts the relevant information in the chats once the task is completed.

Integration of Flows in Teams

The next Office 365 service can be used to perform this step, namely Microsoft Flow – the ‘out-of-the-box workflow tool’ in the Office 365 family. Microsoft Flow, i.e. the new name ‘Power Automate’, already provides excellent workflow templates for this purpose. For instance, there is a template to post a message in Teams when a Planner task is finished:

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 13: Message when a task is complete (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

It is advisable to use the proprietary web interface for Flow management when creating a flow. Users can immediately proceed to configuring the flow once they have clicked on the right template:

Microsoft Teams: Your Collaboration Treasure Chest Within Office 365
Fig. 14: Configuring the flow (source: Microsoft/SoftwareONE)

The required values for the fields are now added – to do so, we use the data such as plan, team and channel, for which we also possess the necessary authorization. The flow is all set to go, immediately after it has been finished and tested. If a task is now completed in Planner, the created flow adds the matching information to the specified team channel. The described example is a very simple flow. It is definitely worth taking a look at the flow templates to find other suitable templates.

Archiving a Team

Now that a team project has been completed in Teams, it is necessary to consider what happens to the team after the end of the project. Besides deleting the team and its contents, it can also be archived. Only the owner can archive a team. Archiving will ‘freeze’ the team. Team members will have read-only access – even to the SharePoint site if enabled during archiving. The team owners can still make changes to the team and change roles. This means that the information of the completed project remains available even after the project has ended, so that a completed project can be kept for reference purposes.

Summary

Overall, it is fair to say that Microsoft Teams can be used as a versatile tool for organizations. What’s more, with the additional ongoing integration of Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams is already more or less a standard application when using Office 365. Exciting and very useful new features for Microsoft Teams and the other products within the Office 365 family were presented at the latest Microsoft Ignite 2019. Click here for all of the announcements.

Do You Want to Integrate Teams?

We help you to start building your workplace of the future. Whether you are still using Skype for Business and you like to move to Teams or whether you already started with Microsoft Teams we know how to boost your productivity and to kick-off your modern work strategy.

Meet the User Productivity Experts
  • User Productivity, Unified Communications
  • Future Workplace, Microsoft Teams, Office 365

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