Whether Microsoft Teams is new to your organization or you’ve been enjoying the benefits of Microsoft’s collaboration platform for some time, it pays to understand one of the key building blocks of the service: SharePoint. This blog will provide a quick refresher on what SharePoint (and more specifically SharePoint Online) has to do with Microsoft Teams. The post will then go on to explore how understanding more about SharePoint can help your organization get real value from its rich feature set.
Microsoft did not develop the entire Teams capability from scratch. Instead, it is built on a number of technologies that Microsoft had been developing for years, including Skype for Business, Azure, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and Exchange. This approach has enabled Microsoft to leverage a set of already mature technologies and simultaneously mask this potential complexity from users by presenting a single, unified portal in the shape of the Microsoft Teams application we all know.
So, what does SharePoint do for Microsoft Teams? Every time a team is created, a Files tab is automatically added to the team which shows — you guessed it — the files associated with the team. This is actually a SharePoint Document Library, just surfaced in Microsoft Teams. Uploading a document to Microsoft Teams? SharePoint. Sharing a document in Microsoft Teams? SharePoint. Updating a Wiki? SharePoint. The new Lists app? That’s SharePoint, too. SharePoint powers an awful lot of the collaboration functionality in Microsoft Teams.
OK, so why does this matter? Two reasons: the configuration of SharePoint can impact how Microsoft Teams behaves and updates to SharePoint can affect Microsoft Teams functionality.
SharePoint Powers a Cornerstone of Microsoft Teams: File Sharing
One of the biggest ways the configuration of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business can affect Microsoft Teams is sharing. Sharing allows documents and other items to be shared with colleagues both inside and outside your organization without having to rely on sending attachments — and the confusion and security issues that can bring. SharePoint can be configured to allow files to be shared with:
- New and existing guests
- Existing guests
- Only people in your organization
This, along with settings elsewhere in Microsoft Teams and Azure, is critical to how sharing works in your organization, all of which should be discussed in detail when considering the collaboration security aspects of Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft has recently unified the end-user sharing experience across SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, and Windows (or, more accurately, the OneDrive client). Now when sharing a file either with your internal colleagues or with an external customer or vendor, the experience is the same, providing essential familiarity to your users.
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SharePoint Surfaces Relevant Information in Microsoft Teams Through Metadata
How else can SharePoint configuration affect Microsoft Teams? One example is metadata. A document library in SharePoint is essentially a list whose columns can be customized to meet your business needs. So, for example, if there is a need to store a set of documents arranged by customer, a column (metadata) can be added to the library that (optionally) requires the author to indicate the customer name. This additional information is not just shown in SharePoint but flows through to Microsoft Teams as well. In a similar way, any views configured in SharePoint are also selectable within Teams. Files can also be previewed as well as pinned at the top of a document library directly in Microsoft Teams.
It’s also possible to surface SharePoint content directly in Microsoft Teams, reducing the need for users to context switch. Additional document libraries, lists, pages and news can now all be added as a tab in a team.
An Overview of SharePoint Functionality in Microsoft Teams
The full functionality of relevant SharePoint features isn’t necessarily automatically available in Microsoft Teams, however, and it’s sometimes the case that Teams is playing catch-up with SharePoint. Here’s a short analysis of some of the SharePoint features that Microsoft Teams leverages and their availability in Teams:
Beyond some of the simpler document management functions discussed here, there is, of course, a lot to consider around the information in the documents. It’s critical that your organization’s data remains confidential, available, and integrous. Office 365 provides some of the tools that can help you in this fight — such as sensitivity labels, information barriers, and data classification, to name a few.
But many IT admins find the native tools too inflexible to be practical, and this is complex stuff that requires a significant amount of planning to get right. In order to tune and correctly manage Teams as an IT Administrator, you will quickly find that only living within the Teams Admin Console doesn’t provide the breadth or depth of knobs and dials required. Extensive knowledge of, and access to, at least all of the following is a must: Azure Active Directory, the SharePoint Admin Center, and the Microsoft 365 Security and Compliance Centers.
New and Upcoming SharePoint Features That Affect Microsoft Teams
It’s clear, then, that Microsoft Teams benefits hugely from its SharePoint underpinnings, but the relationship is two-way: the rise of Microsoft Teams, combined with the recent increased focus on working from home, has accelerated the development of SharePoint and related technologies. What are some recent new features and developments which connect across Teams and SharePoint that we can look forward to, or which, in some cases, may have already recently shipped?
Here are some examples:
- New file sharing experience: As described above, you can now create a shareable link for any file stored in Teams and directly set the appropriate permissions; you can also set permissions for files stored in SharePoint or OneDrive while composing a private chat or starting a channel conversation
- Updated SharePoint pages app: You can now more easily add SharePoint pages as tabs in Microsoft Teams
- SharePoint Home site app in Teams: The upcoming home site app in Teams will provide users with global navigation across sites, communities, and teams, quick access to sites they use regularly and a personalized news feed
- Offline Microsoft Lists: You will soon be able to interact with lists whilst offline and benefit from improved performance whilst sorting, filtering, grouping and adding items
- Microsoft Lists Apps for iOS: Microsoft have developed the Microsoft Lists app for iOS; it’s currently in preview
- Undo button for Lists: you will soon be able to recover from a mistake made in a list more easily by simply clicking undo; you will also be able to repeat the last command with a redo button
- Meeting and Calling recordings stored in OneDrive and SharePoint: Teams meeting and call recordings can now be stored in OneDrive or SharePoint, simplifying the process of sharing recordings, enabling faster access to meeting recordings and leveraging the security and compliance controls available in Microsoft 365
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