Office 365 continues to develop, and it seems like something changes more or less every fortnight. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as Microsoft continue to make reasonable business decisions about the features and functionality; though the pace of change continues to present some challenges for partners and users alike.
One of the most recent announcements is the release of Microsoft Teams, an apparently new component in Office 365. Actually, not quite so new as this looks an awful lot like the immediate successor to Groups.
Groups was always a little odd; it started out as exactly that, pretty much a permissions group on to which Microsoft then tagged some collaborative functionality, initially as a shallow end alternative to a SharePoint collaboration or team site; this has evolved over a few iterations to now usefully include Skype-based group Conversations, Files (actually a SharePoint library, but with limited customisability), Calendar, OneNote Notebook (we really approve of that), Planner (their Trello competitor) and a related SharePoint Site. However, the Groups strategy was clearly work in progress. For example they got as far as introducing them into the Outlook online client and OneDrive for Business, though not really into SharePoint, which was odd. There are mobile apps, but no Group tile in the O365 App Launcher. Jeff Teper shared some of this thinking early in 2016 and indicated that there would be a change that would see Groups becoming Teams, removing the confusion between permissions groups and collaborative sites. It’s good to see this come to fruition.
Microsoft are describing it as an entirely new experience…
With the introduction of Microsoft Teams, Office 365 now has mail, social, and chat connections to SharePoint and OneDrive. When you create a team, you create or connect to an existing Office 365 group, and the group gets a SharePoint team site.
It is worth reading Dan Holmes pleasantly marketing-spin-free description.
So with the imminent launch of Microsoft Teams (it is currently in preview) there have already been some changes. Groups appears to have disappeared from most places and Microsoft continue to tweak the positioning against full-blown SharePoint Online.
Microsoft Teams is available in preview to eligible Office 365 commercial customers beginning November 2, 2016. We expect the service to become generally available in the first quarter of calendar year 2017.
There have been some immediate refinements to the Office365 offering plans:
- Business Essentials explicitly references including Teams, with no mention of SharePoint
- Enterprise plans such as E1 take business essentials and adds SharePoint Online, Delve, Video Portal, Skype Broadcast, without the 300 user limit.
It’s not yet clear whether Business Essentials no longer includes SharePoint at all or whether it simply hidden away as being perceived as too complicated for simpler use cases. Whether you agree with that or not, is likely that Teams are here to stay for a while and they do provide a simpler means of creating a rich collaboration and team site than ever before.