Microsoft is releasing new features into Office 365 at an unprecedented level – and it’s taking quite a lot of effort for experts in the field to stay current on what is what, let alone customers and end users!
Historically in Office 365 we had key product workloads:
* Azure is not technically part of Office 365 but powers several of the services
Then Microsoft acquired Yammer and worked to integrate it.
Then Microsoft released Office 365 Groups (aka Outlook Groups).
Then Microsoft released Planner.
Then Microsoft released Teams.
Then Microsoft released StaffHub.
And there is more coming…
As an example, Microsoft’s latest release StaffHub utilises ALL of the above workloads, as well as the Microsoft Teams chat service (not the actual product or interface).
Where previously IT admins would need to stitch together each individual component, Office 365 Groups has surfaced as the one substrate to rule them all – and that is a very good thing which continues to improve.
While the various integrations between workloads are still being rolled out, even when they are we will be left with things like:
- An Office 365 Group gets a SharePoint team site, BUT a SharePoint team site does not require or create an Office 365 Group
- A Yammer group can exist on its own, BUT can also create an Office 365 Group, BUT an Office 365 Group does not create a Yammer group
- A Microsoft Team creates its own Office 365 Group or can be connected to an existing one, BUT an Office 365 Group does not provision a Team
- A Planner creates an Office 365 Group, BUT each channel within a Microsoft Team can have its own Planner – BUT these cannot be accessed currently from the Planner/Groups interface
- Each Microsoft Team channel creates a new section in the OneNote within the Office 365 Group, BUT you cannot access the sections of the OneNote file that existed before the Team channel was created
- StaffHub creates an Office 365 Group, BUT an Office 365 Group does not create a StaffHub
- StaffHub uses the Teams chat service, BUT you cannot access the StaffHub “chat” service from the Teams interface
Clear? No? Then you’re with the rest of us. Let’s not throw in marketing spin in there like the Surface Hub – which “unlocks the power of the Group”.
The reality is that the experiences and cross-integrations are improving at a rapid pace, so while this is currently confusing it is important to remember that in the past year Office 365 has taken a huge lurch forward away from siloed product-based workloads, and towards integrated experiences and services.
It is important to remember:
- Microsoft Teams is still in preview and is expected to move to General Availability sometime in Q1 of this calendar year (let’s assume mid/late March to be safe)
- Yammer is currently rolling out it’s Office 365 Groups integration
- Planner has only been available since July 2016 and is iterating rapidly
- Office 365 Groups integration with SharePoint team sites has only just begun rolling out in production
- StaffHub was just released to General Availability in the past week
So strap in and hold on, it’s a wild ride!
However, on a serious note: while the pace of change is fast and not everything works the way we want – in some instances we need to be patient and wait for integrations or rollouts to finish. In other instances, ensure that we wrap customers and end-users with a big blanket of change management and hand-holding to get the greatest chance of successful adoption, actual productivity improvement and ultimately user satisfaction.