2017: A Look Back at Teams, Office 365 Groups, and Data Security

Well, 2017 has come and gone. We’ve changed out our calendars and are ready to take on the new year. Just kidding, nobody has calendars anymore. But, 2018’s here, and at AvePoint we thought we’d take a look back at some of the bigger stories, developments, and announcements from the year that gave us the Iphone X, fidget spinners (heaven help us), and the latest round of juice cleanses. But don’t worry, given our line of work, we’ll look at things through a technology lens.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, a platform for collaboration, along with other features including voice, video, and conference calling capabilities was launched worldwide in March of 2017 and quickly became an integral part of the Microsoft collaboration ecosystem.

Our Edmund White wrote a fantastic article around the time of Teams’ launch illustrating his likes and dislikes along with some best practices and tips. The following is an excerpt from that post.

Here is what I like about Teams that made me an early adopter:

  • Agility: Teams is an ad hoc tool (just be careful to choose good names for your Teams) but backed by powerful, featureful products like SharePoint. The best part is I get all this in my pocket thanks to mobile integration.
  • It works how I work: Transparent software promotes team connectedness and culture
  • It allows for multiple simultaneous conversations which lets us work out loud for greater transparency.
  • The collaboration process is now a business asset which builds institutional knowledge and redundancy.
  • Most of my communication and artifacts are now in a single channel so my teams don’t feel lost looking for information and collateral.
  • Teams helps me drive global connectedness and growth. We can standardize faster and can pivot faster globally which helps us maintain our leadership position in the market.

Final piece of advice: Make sure you use the reply at the bottom left of a conversation instead of starting a new conversation using the big box at the bottom of the screen. If you start too many conversations, it gets confusing because they will be reordered by most recent. Keep replying to keep all your thoughts on a subject grouped together.

When Teams came on the scene, some felt it created some functionality overlap, or redundancy with tools that were already available, such as Office 365 Groups. Because of this, Loryan Strant (@Loryan_Strant) wrote a brilliant piece for AvePoint outlining how to successfully deploy both, arguing that a direct comparison of the two isn’t necessarily fair. The post became one of our most read posts of all time. Below is an excerpt from that piece.

The reality is that creating a new Team is the best and easiest way to go, but that’s not really possible if you’ve already invested time in building out your Office 365 Groups. If, however, the amount of investment in your Office 365 Group content isn’t that great, you can shuffle some things around to make that work.

In my personal experience, I had three existing Groups with OneNote content, files, and emails. In only one of those three instances was there any Planner content. All I simply had to do for all the other content was:

  • Move the files to the appropriate channel folder created
  • Move the OneNote pages to the appropriate section created
  • Figure out what to do with the Planner tasks and buckets

Luckily there weren’t that many so we manually re-created them. But, that’s not necessarily practical in a larger organization or with users who are less in the know.

Staying in Control

It is important when considering the deployment of Office 365 Groups vs Teams that we give it some thought before “going viral.” While these technologies make it easy for end users to simply press a button and get going, we need to keep this behavior in check without stifling it.

We need to ensure these key areas are covered:

  • Governance
  • Security
  • User education
  • Data management (duplication and versioning)
  • Lifecycle

Instead of pitting Office 365 Groups vs Teams, the two together provide a very powerful disruptor in the way we work on a daily basis. However, we need think them through to ensure that the disruption leads to a positive outcome and improved user experience, not confusion and frustration.

As a takeaway, we’ve put together a one-sheet of things to consider when rolling out Teams.

Data Security (or Lack Thereof)

2017 saw its fair share of high profile data breaches – most notably was this summer’s data breach at Equifax, one of America’s largest consumer credit reporting agencies. In that breach, the sensitive information of nearly 150 million Americans was compromised, leading many to (continue to) question large corporations’ data security competency.

Breaches like this can rattle nerves. It’s pretty scary stuff honestly. If there’s one beneficial outcome from instances such as the Equifax breach, like any disaster, it’s that people are more aware of such kinds of attacks and can better prepare to protect themselves in the future. Our Dana Simberkoff wrote a great piece this year in the wake of the Equifax breach about understanding your data and, by extension, your data security. Below is an excerpt from that article.

“Over the course of the last few years, innovation in technology has truly accelerated at a breakneck pace, introducing a more complex and rapidly evolving ecosystem to protect and far more data than has ever been managed before.

More and more applications and transactions happen over the Web, the cloud is completely changing our notion of a “perimeter” around which we can build protective walls, worker mobility is redefining the IT landscape and personal employee devices of “Shadow IT” are now becoming enterprise IT.

Security isn’t necessarily about security in the normal sense. It’s about mitigating risk at some cost, and it can be expensive! This means that in the absence of metrics, we tend to focus on risks that are familiar or recent.

Unfortunately, that means that we are often reactive rather than proactive and it does become very important to understand how data, people, and location weave together to create patterns — good and bad — across and within your organization. Only by understanding the data you hold, can you effectively protect it! Monitoring websites and web applications for potential hacks and exploits is now as common place as virus scanning.

However, the other side of that coin is that this may lead some organizations to improperly rely on their existing scanning technologies. It’s imperative to keep in mind that most costly breaches come from simple failures not from attacker ingenuity, as it appears may have been the case with the Equifax breach.

Whether through a web exploit, social engineering or a phishing attack, every company has at least one person who will click on anything, so building a layered approach to security becomes critical in dealing with particularly sensitive data.

In the absence of security education or experience, people (employees, users, and consumers) naturally make poor security decisions with technology. This means that systems need to be easy to use securely and difficult to use insecurely.

This is a critical point and probably one of the single largest opportunities for security programs to be revamped. Make it easier for your end users to do the right thing than the wrong thing. Specifically, create policies, rules, and IT controls that make common sense and make it easier for your end users to do their jobs effectively with the systems and controls that you want them to use.”

Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups were another hot topic from our most recent year gone by. Groups were considered polarizing by some — loved by some, tolerated by others. There were quite a lot of updates, features, and information in general that came out in 2017, and confusion over when to use what was on the minds of many folks.

Despite the myriad nooks and crannies contained within Groups, the key is to not be overwhelmed. At AvePoint, we wrote quite a few pieces on when to use what, including a great piece by Shyam Oza, which broke down how and when to use Office 365 Groups. Below is an excerpt from that post.

Adoption is Hard and Figuring Out When To Use What is Frustrating.

With Microsoft’s introduction of Groups, there’s been a lot of confusion about how to use Office 365 Groups and around when to use what. To start, let’s take that complex topic and simplify it – adoption is hard. From SharePoint Server to the latest Microsoft Office 365 offerings, adoption is hard! That conversation and sentiment hasn’t changed in more than 15 years.

Office 365 Groups connects your business with six different communication tools: SharePoint, Yammer, Teams, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, and Outlook. With all these tools at your disposal, it can be pretty tricky to know which tool to use when. We’ve put together a quick three-step mental exercise you can walk through every time you need to deliver a message a work, whether it’s to a teammate or the entire company.

When Do I Use What in Office 365 Groups

When deciding which Office 365 tool to use the first factor to consider is the size of your audience. Think about how many people you want to send your message to.

Large Audience

The following tools are intended for communicating with and across large audiences.

SharePoint

SharePoint is designed to help you share information. SharePoint houses your documents and files, and lets you communicate and collaborate on them with everyone in your organization. You can use SharePoint to collaborate on a document or file with anyone or to share an organizational chart with your company.

Yammer

Yammer is designed to broadcast messages to your entire organization and start a company-wide conversation. You can ask a whole department for feedback on a pressing issue or send out a company poll.

How to use Groups in Office 365

AvePoint Yammer thread with an announcement being broadcast to the largest audience, the whole company.

Small Audience

The following tools are intended for communication with a small group of peers and colleagues at work or on the go.

Teams

Teams is designed to help you communicate within a group on a focused channel and topic. Teams is excellent for a small audience because you can directly communicate and share information while maintaining a conversation history, which will let your team build on its collaboration.

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business is a personal content repository that allows you to share information such as documents and files with people you invite. OneDrive for Business is designed to act like SharePoint, but on a more personal level.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is designed for live chat sessions among small groups to facilitate collaboration. Talk one on one or in a small group to get your message across.

Any Audience

When you’re looking for a tool that can deliver your message, no matter what size your audience is, good old fashion e-mail will work.

Outlook

Outlook is designed for sending discrete messages to one person or to the entire company. Send a individual follow-up e-mail or evangelize a new initiative company wide.

Well, we hope you enjoyed our look back on a very busy 2017. Here at AvePoint, we’re thrilled to see what 2018 will bring. If 2017 is any indication, prepare for another eventful year in the world of tech. At AvePoint, we’ll be here with you every step of the way. Check back throughout the year for original, informative content from your friends at the Microsoft Cloud Expert!