Getting to Know Office 365’s Newest Addition: Teams!

By John Bath

Last week Microsoft announced Teams as the next upcoming addition to its Office 365 suite of app. Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool is designed as a digital workspace for teams to communicate and work on projects. In nearly every sense of the word, Teams can be seen as a direct competitor to Slack, with a few key differences.

While Teams is slated to be available in early 2017, current subscribers of Office 365 can try it out in an early access preview that went live with last week’s announcement. Us at Metro CSG have been using the preview client for about a week now, and we’d like to take an opportunity to let you know our first impressions.

What is Microsoft Teams?

I will start by saying that I have spent time messing around on the free tier of Slack, so I have a basic reference point for how Teams will compare. And similar to Slack, Teams is a persistent chat-based collaboration tool, with built in search features to call up past content. Chats are divided by teams, which can then be divided into Channels pertaining to specific groups of people, projects, etc. In addition to posting messages, users can also share documents and message privately.


Here’s how your message stream will appear in the Teams app

Also similar to Slack, companies can build customized Teams experiences by integrating other apps that are used every day, such as, Google Analytics and DropBox (among many others). In that sense, Teams can serve as a centralized hub for groups of users to work within, rather than operating across several different windows of apps. Doing so can also allow users to automate certain functions (such as publishing a Google analytics report), thereby making the team more efficient!


Here are a few sample Connectors and what they can do in Teams

How is it different?

Rather than just displaying one continuous stream of messages, however, Teams features threaded conversations, allowing users to reply to individual messages and keep them grouped together. This will help messages stay in context when they are read by team members, so the entire chat does not have to be reviewed to understand every detail.

The biggest difference between Teams & Slack, however, is Teams’ close-knit integration with the Office 365 ecosystem, and that’s where the tool really shines. As a part of Office 365, many of the features are accessible directly within the Teams app. For example, users can both schedule a team meeting (Exchange Online) and then host a video conference (Skype for Business) as easily as you might attach a file to the chat.


Meanwhile, when users add documents to the channel they can be pulled directly from the user’s OneDrive for Business and edited there as well. As a result, users can work on documents without taking them outside of the Office 365 tenant (Yay data control!)

Tabs, Tabs, Tabs!

But besides displaying a team message feed, each channel can have a series of tabs that correspond to Office 365 features or file types. For example, if there is a PowerPoint presentation actively being worked on by a sales team, it can be attached as a separate tab for quick access and group editing. An accounting team, on the other hand, my opt to embed an Excel spreadsheet to track purchases and payments. On the feature side of things, users can attach Power BI dashboards for data analysis purposes or an Office 365 Planner board to track the progression of a project.


How coauthoring looks in a Teams tab


By default, however, each channel includes a SharePoint document library and OneNote. This makes sense as it is a quick reference for documents related to that specific team, as well as offering an easy place to jot down relevant thoughts. It is worth noting that these default features are also present in Office 365 Groups, which are heavily intertwined with the new service.

A hub for Groups

When a new Team is created, it also creates a corresponding Group in Office 365. Groups was rolled out last year as a new means to organize users into their own personalized workspaces throughout Office 365, such as inboxes, Planner pages, and SharePoint sites. Up to now, however, Office 365 Groups features have been spread out across all of Office 365, often resulting in many apps and windows being open at the same time with little centralization. For example, users can view Group messages in Outlook, but if they want to view their shared files they must click out into a OneDrive page.

Teams seeks to resolve this by providing one centralized app in which everything can be viewed. This means that there can now be one single window to engage with the previously disparate messaging, calling, collaboration and file creation features attached to each individual Group.

And because Teams is based on so much of the Groups DNA, administrators will have the same level of control over both, which then brings me to…


Productivity features aside, perhaps the most notable feature is that related to cyber security and compliance. As part of the Office 365 suite, the tool itself gains the security features ingrained within the Office 365 platform. Since all channel documents are stored within a SharePoint document library, for example, those files can then benefit from the same data governance features extended to the SharePoint platform. This includes data loss prevention, rights management and permissions. This level of security also extends to that of integrated apps, such as DropBox.

Things to Note

The service also does not currently allow you to add external users to the service, which may be something highly valuable to companies that collaborate with clients and partners on the project s that run their business. Whether or not this is a feature that will be added to the service when it becomes generally available, however, remains to be seen. High demand, I suspect, would cause Microsoft to add it at some point if not at release.


Overall the addition of Teams to the Office 365 lineup serves to make collaborating within the platform far more fluid, and boosts the viability of Groups by adding in a central hub for everything to intersect. In the last week, I have had little need to IM or email coworkers, favoring Teams as a means to communicate. The app will is to be made available for all Office 365 Business and enterprise plans, which will see no price increase as a result.

How can I try it?

Current subscribers to Office 365 can enable Teams by going to the admin portal in Office 365 and selecting Add-ins from the left had settings tab. Once enabled, users can access the service and download the desktop client from

Office 365 Migration Preparedness Checklist

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    Teams in your organization can communicate in groups
    or through semi-private or private chats, share folders
    or files simply (just drag and drop them into the
    correct channel), and refer back to previous conversations
    with the searchable archive that slack to ms teams migration builds.
    Ultimately, Microsoft Teams comes out on top due to the simplicity of their file access and organization capabilities.

    Inline message translation in 36 languages is also due before the end
    of the year, Microsoft said. It works via SMS fallback,
    so if you start a chat with someone who doesn’t have the app,
    they’ll be able to reply via text message – although Microsoft
    will also send them an invitation to download the app for richer
    messaging. Slack Incoming Webhooks expect a JSON request with a message string corresponding to a “text”
    key. Either try to acquire the popular collaboration app Slack
    or attempt to create a better version. There’s no doubt,
    I am a big defender of Teams, and there’s a lot that
    I really like about the collaboration service, but there is also a lot that I don’t like.

    The pace of the modern workplace can be fast, with a lot of different small to-dos you need to complete at different times throughout
    the day.

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