Office365 is growing at an enormous rate. Rich new functionality is added daily, or so it appears. In the last couple of weeks, organizations using the First Release option have been able to sample Office365 Groups and Office365 Planner.
These are great new functions, and in this blog I will show you some of these. But I do need to raise one question: how do these functions interact or counteract with the current SharePoint Online functions? Let’s take a look.
Office365 Groups (Groups for short)
Groups allow you to collaborate easily with co-workers. Just create a group, add you co-workers and off you go. An Office Group will give you document storage, an e-mail address, OneNote notebook and conversations. This latter function will also display any mails which have been send to the mailbox of the group. The calendar functions aggregates all calendars from all the groups you are part of.
Office365 Groups uses both Exchange and SharePoint functionality. For instance, the “Files” function is basically a SharePoint site collection. But….it’s hidden. It will not show up in your list of site collections in the SharePoint admin center. Calendar and mail functions are delivered by Exchange Online and the notebook is…..OneNote Online. In all, it does provide a very user-centric and user-friendly group to work in.
Office365 Planner (Planner for Short)
Planner is a low-key planning tool. Like Groups it’s intended for easy collaboration within a group 🙂
The planner works with a board, and is somewhat similar to the Delve interface. Using the board you can create buckets of tasks. Tasks can be created an assigned to a person within the plan (or group). You can also assign categories to the tasks, which you can use to aggregate different tasks.
Planner works with a Plannerhub. This displays all Planner-sessions you can access. You can add you most favorite Planner-sessions here as well – to display more detailed information. It also displays a MyTasks button. This aggregates all tasks from the planner. And not from SharePoint/Exchange Online. Important this one!
When you create a new Planner, this will become visible on your Groups page and visa versa. Also, the Groups functions are present from a Planner session. So Microsoft does intent this to be an integrated solution.
This is great, isn’t it?
So…. wow….this is great functionality!
Office Groups will need Exchange Online for it to function, so this might be a possible drawback. But how does this functionality fit or clash with the current SharePoint Online functions?
To be honest, we still have the standard SharePoint teamsite, site-mailboxes and community sites. And the standard teamsite still has the task and issuetracking lists. Even if people are not aware of the fact that a SharePoint task list can be managed from Microsoft Project, the task list in itself is a powerful tool. And the teamsite also offers one or more document libraries, calendars, and a multitude of apps to add.
So, when do I use a teamsite, community-site, Group, Planner, Yammer?
Here’s my take on this.
When looking at the functionality offered by Office365, I would make these distinctions.
Organization level collaboration, planning and document management.
This kind of collaboration requires management and governance. These are provided using content types, metadata, policies, audit trails, digital rights management, Active Directory and more. Within SharePoint Online you can use a variety of site templates: team sites, document centers, Office Video, record centers and even Microsoft Project incorporation. Management is either strict or relatively strict.
Inter-personal or team-based collaboration
This is the area of the newly Office365 Groups and Planner, but also Sway (and Yammer). This is the arena of ad-hoc, low-level collaboration. Let’s face it: you are not going to work on a “multimillion dollar three years in the making” project using Planner. But you will use Groups and Planner for easy and quick collaboration. Collaboration which is very user-centric and user-friendly.
Mobile apps will become available to use these functions cross-platform. Governance is less strict or nonexistent. Microsoft will undoubtedly enable administrators to employ some form of management (the site collections of Groups can be found by eDiscovery for example – see below), but this will not impede the working of these functions.
Personal storage and sharing
Here is where OneDrive (for Business) and Delve come in. A place to store and share your own information/documents. Available everywhere and from any device.
Social collaboration – Yammer
Yep. Still here and going strong (I guess).
In the end, we will have one integrated solution: Office365.
This looks great on paper, but will organizations understand the impact?
And will the members of this organization be able to differentiate between these functions?
Let’s be honest. For an employee within an organization using Office365 it still can be confusing. “When do I store my document in the team site and when can this simply be stored in my OneDrive? Oh: Microsoft just added a function to use Drop Box as-well. I’ll start using that too”.
So having Microsoft release another option to collaborate and share documents does not make this any easier to explain.
I figure this is really where consultancy kicks in. Supporting and advising organization of the proper use, governance, adoption and implementation of these kinds of platforms. And have a good think about a communications and adoption strategy, combined with your strategy for enterprise content management.
For organizations that are just beginning their journey to Microsoft and/or Office365 I have one important advise. Start with a vision or strategy which addresses questions like:
- What will an environment like Office365 solve for your organization?
- What kind of regulations does your organization have to adhere to (freedom of information act, archiving law, for example)?
- How are you going to support employees, partners, customers, etc. using the right tools?
- And many more…
Want to take a look?
Groups can be used using the People tile from the Applauncher. Planner is still in first release and is being evaluated (it is in preview).
For Planner your tenant needs to be in first release mode to be able to use this functionality. But that’s not all. You also need to explicitly activate the Planner feature. You can follow these steps for this: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-Office-365-Planner-Preview-to-your-account-1843f004-8309-4ecd-9b35-17b77998b420?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=U