Office 365 Groups vs. Microsoft Teams (Revisited)

office 365 groups

This post is part of our Microsoft Teams Admin Guide series. Check out the other entries in the series as they’re added below: 


Back in February 2017 I wrote a blog that seemed like clickbait, but was actually intended to call out the confusion of the yet-to-be-released Microsoft Teams. This particular post has in fact been the most popular post on the AvePoint blog, has been referred to by IT journalists, and discussed/debated amongst IT pros in a variety of forums even to this day.

The reality is that many people find Office 365 Groups confusing, especially when it relates to Microsoft Teams. I still find this in conversations I see online, with IT pros, and when speaking with clients who are somewhat new to Office 365.

For users and organisations who weren’t thinking of SharePoint but want to use Microsoft Teams; well, now they have to. Weren’t thinking of OneNote? Well, you’ve got it now! And so on, across the features of Office 365 Groups.

I’ve seen a number of different approaches to provisioning and “lifecycle” management when it comes to both Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams.

Unfortunately, provisioning is either too simple (i.e. allow anyone to create a Group/Team any time), too restrictive (i.e. allow only certain people or just IT to create a Group/Team), or too complex (i.e. using PowerApps, SharePoint lists, Flow, Azure Functions and the Microsoft Graph to create a request & approval system).

Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams are not a “vs.” and they are not a “plus;” they are together. Click To Tweet

While a simple approach to provisioning is to restrict the creation of teams by limiting the ability to a group of users, this cripples the users’ ability to create anything else that uses Office 365 Groups. This includes Microsoft applications such as:

  • Stream
  • Outlook
  • SharePoint
  • Power BI
  • Yammer
  • StaffHub
  • Planner

Let’s assume you have put in a way to manage the provisioning of Groups and Teams. How are you managing the lifecycle? Sure, Microsoft has recently implemented the ability for you to expire and archive a Team—but what about the rest of the components attached to the Group? Are they treated equally?


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What do you do with all of the content across the elements attached to the Group? Do you have a process to archive that? And what if a team is disbanded and no longer needs their Group/Team – do you wait for the expiry process to kick in? How will you even know if the Group/Team is still required?

Since the publication of my original post, a lot of things have changed and improved with Office 365 Groups, the related components, and Microsoft Teams. Some examples of this are guest access, integration, expiry, archival, recovering deleted channels, etc. That being said, a lot of things still haven’t changed and quite possibly won’t.

Organisations often want “best practices” when looking to implement new technologies. The reality is that Microsoft Teams is barely 18 months old and adding new features rapidly. The same can be said for some of the supporting components (though not so much the speed side of things). Best practices are fluid; they evolve, change and, most importantly, are subjective.

When organisations look to implement Microsoft Teams, they are in fact implementing Office 365 Groups and need to cater for all that it brings and is connected to. As such, they need to plan for provisioning, lifecycle, directory & discovery, training on related applications, and so on.

office 365 groups

As many organizations adopt Microsoft Teams as their de facto way of communicating, they need to start planning for the future. Where people lament email because of how poorly it is used and how much is depended on, the same will happen to Microsoft Teams if attention isn’t given to naming conventions, data retention, security, external access, and a number of other factors.

Often the conversation around adoption, deployment and integration is focused around Microsoft Teams; make sure that that conversation provides equal attention to Office 365 Groups and the bits that come with it.

Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams are not a “vs.” and they are not a “plus;” they are together.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. “Some examples of this are guest access, integration, expiry, archival, recovering deleted channels, etc. ”

    This appears to be inaccurate. You cannot expire or archive a Channel in Teams as of this date and Microsoft appears to have back-burner’d this capability, which is sad, since … you know, there are LAWS about data retention and no serious corporation can deploy Teams as long as Microsoft fails to understand government regulation on corporations.

    https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public

  2. Thanks for this article (and the previous one). I’m trying to get my head around teams and how my main client would react to them – badly I suspect. They have finally grudgingly accepted Office 365 groups as a replacement for site mailboxes but still lament the loss of functionality. They work in pharma and email is king there. It will be for many years – esp. for auditing purposes. Instant or persistent chat sends the lawyers into meltdown. I’m going to keep quite about Teams as long as possible but worry that it’s slated as the replacement for Skype for Business. I’ve just managed to get them to adopt SFB across the board for instant messaging, audio conferencing and even the phone system. We just want a slightly better PBX in SFB, not a new interface. I’m not looking forward to that conversation.

    Anyway, sorry for ramble – my key question is where is there a good place to chew the fat on all of the above? You know, somewhere where peers can chat about their experiences or make suggestions?

    • Hey Rob, I completely understand where you’re coming from. A good place to discuss and read/get opinions from others is the Microsoft TechCommunity. What you probably need though is some independent advice and consulting around the roadmap and what that might look like for the organisation, and how to work with what’s in front of it. That’s what I do because of exactly this situation: Office 365 customers are confused, IT pros can’t keep up with everything, and what Microsoft marketing says doesn’t necessarily translate to the real world. Happy to chat further if you like.

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