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Office 365 Groups Revisited

21.8.2019

On May 4th 2016 the SharePoint team in Redmond published an article proudly titled as “THE FUTURE OF SHAREPOINT”, written by Jeff Teper, and with a welcoming message from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. In his message Nadella promised that Microsoft will re-invent productivity and business process to help businesses coping with explosion of digital systems and data. And employees struggling with discovering and acting on information they need. One of these re-inventions was the modern Team site which at that point became available as a group connected version only. Each new team site came with a group and vice versa.

Many other innovations, e.g. SharePoint Mobile App, that have since become necessities were introduced at the same time. It often happens that a plethora of exciting details obfuscate a less attractive but just as important a change. This was something, that can now be called a shift in the paradigm of enterprise collaboration. If we want to really understand collaboration within Office 365, we should take a closer look at the shift that took place in 2016 when creating workspaces for teams and projects became self-service.

A lot changed and as usual, early adopters were involved in finding a way out. Behind each Office 365 tenant there is an Azure AD tenant and behind each Team, there is an Office 365 Group with SharePoint, Outlook and Planner workloads by default. The File tab in Teams is a great thing, and we have become accustomed to it, but it requires understanding of the relatively complex architecture behind to take full advantage of SharePoint document management capabilities through Teams.

Since the days of 2016 Team sites have become available also without an associating Office 365 group, and Microsoft Teams has become the go-to solution for collaboration in Office 365. However, Teams did not obliterate the very real risks of information sprawl and ever-growing information overflow, the “struggle” as Nadella put it back in 2016. Organizations are still coping with arbitrary and bloated information architecture, silos and other governance issues just because they have no control over groups’ life cycle or they are not controlling it in the right way.

Things have improved since 2016 and they will continue to do so in the future. The File tab WILL IMPROVE in 2019 to include the ability to sync, more view options and document lifecycle signals. What remains unchanged, I hope, is Microsoft’s mission to “empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.” Basic human needs change very little over time, but by providing people with better tools and by encouraging them to learn new skills we can, in fact, achieve more. If we collaborate.

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