Microsoft Teams turned 2 years old in March, and already has more than 500,000 organisations using it, with 150 organisations having 10,000 or more users, and supports 44 languages so far, and 91% of the Fortune 100 companies in the US are using the product.
Teams will soon be getting some exciting new features such as:
- Using the new Intelligent Capture tool, Teams will focus, resize and enhance images and text on whiteboards, even when someone is standing in front of the content, so those watching remotely will see everything clearly.
- The ability to hide the background in your webcam video and replace it with an alternative background, perhaps show an office environment when working from home, add a company logo, all enhancements to simply blurring the background to minimize distractions during conference calls.
- For meeting participants who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have different levels of language proficiency, Teams will soon support live captions.
However cool and useful these features may become, and despite how much Teams is used already, there are some basic challenges that many organisations still face when looking to adopt Teams, particularly those who are already used to using SharePoint team sites and are looking to switch to Teams for their day-to-day team collaboration.
The challenges do not seem to be so much around what Teams can or can’t do per se, but mostly around what important features they will lose by switching from using SharePoint Team Sites to Teams, even though Teams brings a whole host of new features that don’t exist in SharePoint alone.
So, what are these missing features that concern them so much, and when will Teams be ready in their eyes?
Having recently completed some research on this topic for a client, I am pleased to report that the Microsoft Teams Roadmap seems to cover the major concerns on their roadmap this year.
The main concerns I have encountered are around the Teams/SharePoint interface around document management, where to perform some common actions against documents they need to open the library in SharePoint and perform those actions directly in SharePoint rather than in Teams, e.g.
- View version history, or manage versions
- View or set additional metadata
- Sync to OneDrive
- Set restricted permissions on folders or files
- Share a link to a document with permissions set appropriately for the recipients
- Declare document records or manage existing records
- Recover deleted files
Then once users are conditioned to going into SharePoint to perform these actions, inconsistencies start cropping up when going back to Teams, e.g.
- Creating new top-level folders, or files in the root folder of the document library do not appear in Teams
- Folders that were created for channels can be renamed in SharePoint but no longer match the channel name, that can be confusing to users
- Channels renamed in Teams no longer match the folder names that Teams created in the document library, also confusing to users
- Metadata columns created in SharePoint do not appear in Teams
Another significant concern appears when organisations have more than 1 O365 tenant, often due to the result of acquisitions and mergers, inheriting additional O365 tenants, and users from each original organisation still using different tenants. Teams requires the user to login to a single tenant and can work in that tenant only.
Although it is possible to have the users guested into the other tenant, and then they can switch tenants within the Teams user interface, so that they can collaborate with users in the other organisation, this is far from ideal as the user must actively switch between tenants before they will receive any notifications from that tenant, and cannot collaborate in 2 teams from different tenants concurrently. Also switching tenants can easily take 15–20 seconds to complete, so switching back and forth feels cumbersome too.
Fortunately, it appears most if not all these concerns are being addressed on the roadmap in the very near future. Here are the roadmap items that relate to these concerns, and a few other important related roadmap items, with a summary of each and an indication of when Microsoft says they will be made generally available for use at the time of writing this article:
- SharePoint and Microsoft Teams: new Files experience
Manage files in Microsoft Teams with the full power of SharePoint. With the new Files experience, you will be able to add and manage custom columns, sort and filter files with custom views, trigger workflows, and sync files to your PC or Mac.
Availability: June 2019
- SharePoint and Teams: folder in site visibly connected to channel
Now it’s easy to tell which folders within your library have an associated Teams channel & chat associated to it — right from within the SharePoint user interface
Availability: Q2 2019, previously slated for May 2019
- Files restore for SharePoint and Microsoft Teams
Files restore for SharePoint and Microsoft Teams is a complete self-service recovery solution that allows administrators and end users to restore files from any point in time during the last 30 days. If a user suspects their files have been compromised, they can investigate file changes and allow content owners to go back in time to any second in the last 30 days. Now your users and your administrators can rewind changes using activity data to find the exact moment to revert to.
Availability: June 2019 — Rolling Out Now
- Private Channels — coming “later this year”
Secure private channels allow you to customize which members of the team can see conversations and files associated with a channel. You can restrict channel participation and exposure when needed without having to create separate teams to limit visibility. This is one of our top requested features and we’re excited to be actively testing this internally and with select customers.
Availability: Later this year
Whilst not appearing on the public Teams roadmap this has been demonstrated in the SharePoint Virtual Summit in May, and the Microsoft blog post confirms the availability later this year.
- Microsoft Teams — Improved Channel File Tab Experience
We continue to bring the power of SharePoint into Teams. The new experience in the file tab of a channel includes the ability to sync files to your computer, more view options, and lifecycle signals. Additionally, you can pin and check out files.
Availability: June 2019
- Microsoft Teams — Manage discovery of private teams
Teams is making it easy to discover and join private teams. Admins and team owners can control whether they want to allow private teams to be discovered by Teams users. When a private team is discoverable, it shows up in search results and is included in suggestions in the team gallery alongside public teams in Teams. This makes it easy for people to search for and find the private teams that they want to join. People can request to join a private team which a team owner can then approve or deny.
Availability: June 2019
- Microsoft Teams — Shared links
Streamline sharing with Microsoft Teams. You can now create a shareable link for any file stored in Teams and directly set the appropriate permissions. Additionally, you can also set permissions for files stored in SharePoint or OneDrive while composing a private chat or starting a channel conversation.
Availability: Q2 2019, previously slated for May 2019 — Rolling Out Now
Other than “Secure Private Channels” which has no formal roadmap date (but has already been demonstrated at a recent conference), all other items on the roadmap appear to be about to be released or are already rolling out. I am hopeful that these improvements will open the way for many more organisations who currently use SharePoint Team Sites to feel they can make the switch to Teams comfortably knowing that users are not missing out on common important document management functionality or having to get used to switching back to SharePoint and being aware of the quirks and inconsistencies that may crop up by doing so.
It seems to me that Teams is now coming of age!