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Apps for SharePoint: Microsoft Teams for Group Collaboration

By Cathy Dew on March 15, 2017

There is a new group collaboration tool on the block, how does it stack up?

In November 2016, Microsoft unveiled “Microsoft Teams” as a new feature for First Release Clients of Office 365. Described as a “new chat-based workspace,” the feature essentially took other services like Outlook and Yammer and made them native to Office 365. By using Microsoft Teams, Office 365 users (and SharePoint 2016) users) will be able to have conversations, share content, and collaborate more effectively. Now, as of March 14th , MS Teams has reached General Availability and will be rolling out to all Office 365 Customers who have Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3, and E5 plans.

Integration: The Big Selling Point of Microsoft Teams

The big boon with using Microsoft Teams—and arguably the biggest reason for businesses and teams to adopt the new app—is integration. Microsoft’s goal with this application was to build something that could be “naturally integrated with the familiar Office applications.” As a result, Microsoft Teams integrates more fully with the other features of Office 365 than either Outlook or Yammer can currently muster. In fact, when former Microsoft employee Chris Slemp wrote a post about how users should go about choosing between Outlook, Yammer, and Microsoft Teams, he gave Microsoft Teams higher marks than either of the other two apps in the integration category.

The integration of Microsoft Teams is considerable and is certainly something that Office 365 users will want to consider. For instance, because Microsoft Teams integrates seamlessly with Skype for Business, it’s easy to incorporate video and voice into team chat sessions—along with text messaging. Also, Microsoft Teams integrates with every Office program you could think of—including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Power BI, and yes, SharePoint 2016. The seamless integration will be ideal for teams that already do a lot of their SharePoint document work in Office programs.

The SharePoint 2016 Collaboration Tool Comparison

With all those words said about convenient Office integration, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft Teams is the best collaboration app for all organizations. On the contrary, Slemp’s post about Microsoft Teams was intended to show that, despite the arrival of a new player, Yammer Groups and Outlook Groups might continue to have a gravitation pull for certain businesses, depending on multiple different factors. We covered a comparison of the collaboration tools with a previous webinar.

These three Microsoft-owned tools aren’t even the only popular collaboration programs out there right now. Another major competitor is Slack, which offers its own twist on private and group messaging.

Slack is straightforward and easy to learn, which makes it popular among businesses or teams who want to set something up quickly and get to work. However, chat setups are incredibly simple and don’t allow for threaded conversations or searches, which makes it difficult to find or review chats older than a few days. (Slack also isn’t a Microsoft product, so it’s tougher to use with SharePoint document management.) Yammer is better for threaded conversations, which makes it preferable for longer project pipelines or more complex discussions. Built in the fashion of a social media network—think Facebook—Yammer might just be the ideal project collaboration tool.

If Slack is for quick, day-to-day chats and Yammer is for longer, more overarching projects, then Outlook Groups are useful for keeping everyone on the same page as far as communication is concerned. Projects that involve a lot of back and forth email with clients or customers are best done in Outlook Groups because the email interface makes it easy to share emails in an inbox that everyone can access. Outlook Groups isn’t as good for real-time chatting as Slack or Yammer, but it is the go-to collaboration tool for email-heavy projects.

So where does that put Microsoft Teams, and why did Microsoft see fit to unveil another collaboration tool when it already has Outlook Groups and Yammer?

More or less, you can thank Slack for the arrival of Microsoft Teams. The latest collaboration app from Microsoft Teams is similar to Slack—to the point where it seems like Microsoft saw the niche Slack was filling and decided to compete in that market. As such, Microsoft Teams will fulfill a very similar collaboration need to what Slack does now. Teams in need of email support will still use Outlook Groups. Teams who need a place to build online communities, collaborate on long-term projects, or share in complicated conversations will still use Yammer.

Teams looking for a simpler chat tool, meanwhile, might now opt for Microsoft Teams. Just like Slack, Microsoft Teams is an optimal place for smaller groups to meet up online, have quick chats, and work on simpler, shorter-term projects. Collaborate on SharePoint documents or communicate with other team members as project files go through a SharePoint workflow approval process. Microsoft Teams is terrific for making these communications quick and direct.

Microsoft Teams or Slack?

If your team collaboration tends to fit more in the Outlook Groups or Yammer space, then the arrival of Microsoft Teams probably won’t change much for you. However, if you have been looking for a simpler piece of chat software—or if you have been using one, such as Slack—then you should consider taking Microsoft Teams out for a test drive.

If you have been using Slack, you might wonder what you can gain from switching to a new chat tool. After all, you’ve gotten used to the Slack interface. However, Microsoft Teams has two things to offer that Slack doesn’t: threaded conversations and Office 365 integration. In other words, if you’ve had trouble staying organized in Slack, or if you use SharePoint and want all your collaboration apps to work well alongside your SharePoint intranet, then a switch to Microsoft Teams is likely warranted.

For a deep dive into all that SharePoint has to offer and how we can assist you with any functions and capabilities, check out our topic page SharePoint Consulting: Experts reveal SharePoint mysteries, eliminate confusion.

Need help picking the right collaboration app for your SharePoint 2016? 2 Plus 2 can help advise you on which tools are right for the specific needs of your SharePoint intranet team. Call us at 510-652-7700 or arrange a consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.