Microsoft Teams: Group chat or a solution to SharePoint collaboration UX?


I’ve been refreshing myself on the Microsoft collaboration stack for some upcoming work projects. While at first, I didn’t find much original in Microsoft Teams in group chat world dominated by Slack, I find myself changing my mind about it and here’s why.

Microsoft Teams could be the new collaboration layer

Mention SharePoint in any mixed tech and business company, and you’re bound to hear a litany of complaints ranging from poor user experience, to performance, to poor search tools. Now with Microsoft Teams you can add tabs that enable access to SharePoint data directly from the app. As if it can’t get any better, you can add tabs to access Microsoft Office file types, Microsoft Planner, and even a range of third-party tools such as Wrike, Smartsheet, and even GitHub. Giving knowledge workers access to multiple tools from such a clean UI can make users forget about their previous problems with SharePoint and other platforms

Wiki

I wasn’t a fan with the wiki in SharePoint 2013. It was slow and hard to use for the average user. The wiki in Microsoft Teams is clean and easy to use. While it’s not exactly Atlassian Confluence, it’s good enough for team to use it to centralize light content development such as capturing decisions. It certainly is a way better option than emailing Word documents around.

Bots

Microsoft Teams includes T-Bot, an AI bot that helps you learn more about how your team can use Microsoft Teams to your full advantage. You can also create bots for Microsoft Teams using the Microsoft Bot Framework. If your company runs off the Office 365 stack, the ability to develop bots can be another tool to help turn user attitudes around about SharePoint and collaboration if done right.

Conversations around Work

Creating conversation around work has been a promise I’ve been hearing for years. Microsoft Teams and the Office 365 stack do a commendable job of giving users the tools to create online conversations around documents and data residing in Office 365. With so many enterprises dependent on email, such a feature may seem appealing to those in management but ultimately it means culture change.

Files Access

Out of the box, Microsoft Teams enables users to access files across Office 365 whether it’s on SharePoint or OneDrive. You can also add access to the following:

  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • Sharefile
  • Google Drive

Skype for Business in going away

While the Microsoft acquisition of Skype made sense, the application hasn’t exactly flourished as part of the Office 365 platform. Skype as a group chat solution has always felt like it was more of a “me too” versus anything new and dynamic. Making video calls directly from Microsoft Teams isn’t anything new. It does keep Microsoft Teams competitive in the market though.

Final thoughts

I’m not about to compare Microsoft Teams to Slack because I think that’s not the right thing to do because to me Teams is more about Microsoft Office 365 not just Group chat. Being able to access files and data across Office 365 and other third-party cloud platforms is testimony to the changing Microsoft.

How Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition will influence the future of collaboration

Image courtesy of the LinkedIn Press Room

I‘ve been reading all the coverage and analysis of Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn, and I fall squarely into the camp of the whole deal being a data play that will help Microsoft build out their Office graph. While the LinkedIn acquisition will have a direct impact on their Dynamics CRM platform but my interest is in how LinkedIn will influence the future of Office 365 and online collaboration.

Collaboration and communications with context

I’m rounding four years working from home more or less and see the need for collaboration with more context. It’s one thing to know things about colleagues in the cubicles around you; it’s another thing to have a level of context about co-workers, contractors, and partners that might be working on the same project.
 
 For example, I just finished up a large contract and while I’ve enjoyed working part-time for the past few weeks I’m also pitching new projects, talking to recruiters, and having calls with prospective clients. I like to do my homework about people I meet with for the first time. I’m using LinkedIn even more than usual to prepare for calls and meetings. Now, if I could do this research within Office 365 or an Office application that would be something very useful to me and a key differentiator for the Office 365 platform. I was a fan of the late great Mynd Calendar because they gave me that level of access prior to meetings.
 
 The LinkedIn acquisition could also give Microsoft an edge on analytics giving Office 365 administrators even more granular insights into how their users collaborate and communicate with each other.
 
 I once wondered if there was ever such a thing as a corporate LinkedIn culture and haven’t thought about it again until I heard news of the Microsoft acquisition.There’s a dark side to all of this integration in my opinion because it’s hard enough to get workers to use a personal space on a collaboration platform and now you are asking them to maintain a robust and up to date LinkedIn profile to get the full benefit from LinkedIn data.

Changes to the document model

I got my start in the word processor and print document world to later transition into online help and PDFs finally to today’s world of wikis and content management systems. Recently, I read an article about Microsoft’s future is in decomposable documents, content based on component parts. Microsoft GigJam is an early example of Microsoft’s work in this emerging area.
 
 Access to the full spigot of LinkedIn data combined with document components could enable a reimagining of documents and collaboration that could lead to another evolution of content. Could we see the next generation of content that’s personalized based on the data from your LinkedIn profile? Such a technology could have implications for online knowledge bases, technical documentation, and a range of other online content. 
 
 The addition of LinkedIn data raises some questions with me about how it may or may not influence document and site metadata if at all.
 
 I also wonder how the Microsoft acquisition will affect the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. I had high hopes for the platform but like a lot of contributors to the platform, my posts seem to come out short in their algorithmic and content dance. While I still publish to the platform, it is more for fun these days. Would the LinkedIn Publishing Platform become more collaborative with Microsoft in charge?

Security and identity management

What nobody is speaking about yet is what influence could LinkedIn data have on the security of Office 365. Could their new found trove of professional data ever find itself as part of a security or identity management feature? Would that prove a challenge to Okta and other identity management solutions?

Final thoughts

Like a lot of you, I have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn since its launch. Looking past that, I’ve watched analytics and big data entering cloud security and project management for the past few years. Microsoft owning and integrating the full spigot of LinkedIn data into Office 365 could mean a richer collaboration experience.
 
 LinkedIn augmenting Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud applications is also going to be a game of execution for Microsoft.


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by TechBeacon, Network World, CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

Are we at peak SharePoint mobility, yet?

Image by Wynand van Poortvliet via Unsplash.com

I’ve been following the news leading up to the recent release of SharePoint 2016 with keen interest. As a technical writer working with corporate and government client, I follow SharePoint and other collaboration developments religiously. Furthermore, I’ve long been a proponent of SharePoint and in turn Office 365 for the mobile workforce. With SharePoint 2016, Microsoft finally delivers on their SharePoint mobile app.

Haley Frank writes in Sharepoint’s going mobile with a new app on PCWorld.com:

The SharePoint Mobile app is aimed at helping people get quick access to four types of information from SharePoint: news from across the company, the sites that people use the most, quick links to important pages and a list of their coworkers. It will work both with SharePoint Online and some on-premises versions of SharePoint Server.

Being a veteran of a few SharePoint deployments, turnarounds, documentation, and training engagements in business and government myself, I latched onto the potential of enterprise mobility and SharePoint early on. When I was freelancing for CNET TechRepublic, I covered early innovators in the mobility and SharePoint space in particular harmon.ie and Colligo. The iPhone and iPad user experience (UX) just plain trump what I was seeing done with SharePoint UX out in the real world so I saw the potential of these apps to open up SharePoint sites and the documents they hold to a class of less technical knowledge workers and business users.

Then came the rise of Office 365, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and mobile-first strategies. Harmon.ie and Colligo were right there with their mobile apps. Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie and Barry Jinks, president of Colligo are also true thought leaders in the areas of SharePoint/Office 365, enterprise mobility, and mobile collaboration.

Microsoft has had an opportunity to study and learn from harmon.ie and Colligo when it comes to SharePoint and mobile apps. I always questioned Microsoft’s hands off approach to mobilizing SharePoint and leaving it in the hands of partners. Although after Satya Nadella had become CEO, and early rumors about SharePoint 2016 began to trickle out, I thought that either company might become an acquisition target for technology and talent.

Huddle is another collaboration platform I’ve written about in the past. One of their strongest selling points until this news was that they own their cloud platform and impressive mobile client app. Alastair Mitchell, their co-founder is another one of the great thought leaders around mobility and cloud collaboration.

I hope with the launch of SharePoint 2016 and the SharePoint mobile app mark a new chapter in mobile collaboration where enterprises gain another tool to help them crack the mobile collaboration code. There could be a unique technology push and pull being set up between the Microsoft SharePoint 2016 team and early innovators like harmon.ie, Colligo, and competitor Huddle. These companies have an early edge in terms of innovation but for how long? As Microsoft’s entry into enterprise mobility management (EMM) with Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) shows, they are very adept at studying new markets, and none of us should dismiss their enterprise mobility expertise too quickly even with their previous mobile product launch issues.

Will we finally see the peak level of SharePoint mobility once Microsoft’s SharePoint Mobile app launches?


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.