Better Together, SharePoint and Teams

Bob German

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This eBook will highlight all the integration points between SharePoint and Teams and provide ideas on how to use them. You’ll learn about the storage architecture, and how SharePoint and OneDrive help to make Teams secure, compliant, and convenient. You’ll also learn how SharePoint and Teams each relate to Office 365 Groups, and how to set security between a Team and its underlying files. Learn to use these two amazing collaboration tools together!

Many people seem to be trying to compare Teams and SharePoint to find out which one they should use and if Team’s is going to make SharePoint go away. “Should I keep my SharePoint sites or switch over to teams?”

This eBook should answer that question and will show that it’s Teams and SharePoint working together that is needed. When referring to SharePoint in this eBook we will also include OneDrive pretty much throughout. As you may know, OneDrive for Business is built on the old MySite infrastructure from SharePoint with of course has had many modernizations, but its structure is still the same, so it makes sense to think about them together.

What we will cover

The items we will cover are:

  • An Architecture overview so you can see how SharePoint and teams really do fit together.
  • File experience and all the ways that files and SharePoint and OneDrive can show up in teams and how it all fits together.
  • The page experience and how you can bring pages and parts of pages like web parts from SharePoint into Microsoft teams.
  • Finally, an overview of upgrading from classic to modern to teams. Taking an old classic SharePoint team site and upgrading it to a modern site and then on to a Teams Team, with the old classic information still showing up inside of the Team.

Architecture

Do you remember this picture of SharePoint back from 2010?

Everything had to be in one big package because everything was going to be installed on-premise and it was hard enough for an IT group to upgrade SharePoint but to also have to upgrade exchange, active directory, and all the other services at the same time would have been too much. This meant they had to make each product self-contained and SharePoint had everything within it.

Since it has moved to the cloud, SharePoint has expanded. The things that were originally in SharePoint are now in a variety of products and it makes sense. Why should forms, workflow, and business data access only be for SharePoint? It makes sense for these things to be services under their own right and to let SharePoint be best at what it was always best at, which is content, collaboration and, easily composed webpages along with excellent world-class file and list management.

Big Bang of SharePoint

As you can see the Teams little planet coming out of the big bang has got an ‘S’ for SharePoint and an ‘E’ for exchange showing that it’s using SharePoint and Exchange as services underneath the covers. This kind of architecture is possible because of the cloud. The cloud allows everything to be upgraded automatically and at the same time. It is possible for them to coordinate deep integration between these products while they’re running and thus make things a lot more useful and consistent across the Office 365 suite.

Team’s Architecture.

Teams is a cloud-first to cloud-only service. It was specifically designed with the idea that we are never going to run this on-prem.

We’re going to take full advantage of everything the cloud has to offer, and here you can see that it’s not really a microservices architecture because some of them are pretty big, but it does resemble a microservices architecture. Teams is a brilliant facade that sits on top of the entire suite of Office 365 services.

You can see at the top of the picture:

  • Web browser,
  • Desktop client, which is based on a technology called electron on both windows and Mac OS.
  • There’s a native iOS application and native Android app;
  • and of course, the Microsoft graph API for accessing the team’s information and experience.

On the services layer, there is still a fair chunk of Skype running under the covers here and the gold-coloured boxes are all Skype services that are still serving Skype users even now.

If you look at the purple services, these are specialized services just for Teams. Everything else is building on the shoulders of giants with One Note, SharePoint, Office Online and OneDrive for business all providing their services but within Teams.

Then on the right, Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Search are powering the identity and search story whilst Microsoft stream is handling meetings, recording and any kind of video playback. Finally, Exchange is handling email or messaging and calendars.

Everything is built on bringing all of Office 365 together. Another thing that makes this possible other than the cloud itself is Office 365 groups. Because if you had to keep the permissions on all those services in sync by hand, you’d go crazy!

Office 365 groups are a membership service that’s common to all Office 365 products. If you’re not familiar, take a look at the two links. One thing worth highlighting is that every Office 365 group has a SharePoint team site, so since teams are built on top of groups and every team is a group the team ID and the group ID underneath the covers are the same globally unique ID.

That means that every Team has a SharePoint site by definition of the group that they’re both parts of. So, every group has a set of owners, a set of members and they also have some ‘other stuff’; they get a shared calendar, a shared mailbox, a shared OneNote, and a Planner.

File Experience

The files are stored in SharePoint and OneDrive, the way that this works is that if your files are in a Team, suppose you just attach a file to a message or you click the Files tab and you start uploading files, the default location for those is in the SharePoint site that’s affiliated with that same Office 365 group as the Team.

The permissions are then set depending on who’s in the group chat, then if you add somebody to the group chat, it goes and adds them to the permissions of all the files you’ve referenced previously. You can actually go see this folder inside of your personal OneDrive, it’s called Microsoft teams chat files and everything that you’ve ever shared in the chat is there.

Now we are going to look at Teams, firstly by heading into a Team.

Then going into the Teams File Tab.

These files are actually stored in SharePoint and a getting the advantages of SharePoint:

  • Compliance,
  • eDiscovery,
  • Backup,
  • Permissions,
  • and, SharePoint previewers.

If you select a file in this example a pdf document, it opens the PDF in a preview window without downloading it.

Notice that Teams has added a conversation panel over on the right-hand side, and that’s because we were previously discussing, or someone was previously discussing and commenting on this document from within Teams.

If we type something in that conversation and close the preview , you’ll see that it actually goes into the main conversation tab area, under that document.

If somebody else in this Team notices this activity, they can join the conversation. They can click into the same view directly from here too just by clicking the file link. The conversation about the document is stored along with the document it was and it comes back if you open that document again.

Another example is this picture out at Niagara falls, this is a Canon raw format photo, so quite an unusual format, however as you can see it displays no problem at all.

It didn’t have to download this huge file, it just rendered it for the browser to save a lot of waiting around.

Another great example would be an Excel spreadsheet, where if we open it within Teams from the File Tab, we have full co-authoring support. As you can see on the screenshot this file also has a related conversation with it.

It means that as long as your files are in SharePoint or OneDrive more than one person can edit at the same time, a very useful feature when needing to collaborate remotely. We will cover this in more detail later in the eBook however it is the WOPI protocol that allows this functionality to work. This is seamlessly knitting together the Excel online \ SharePoint functionality with the Teams functionality for the conversation.

Cloud Storage

Next, let’s take a look at cloud storage. You can add these cloud storage folders into your file tab.

As you can see there are several options:

  • SharePoint
  • Dropbox,
  • Box
  • Share file,
  • And Google Drive.

So for instance, if you have a team that is using Dropbox, you can bring that in and it will just show up as a folder in here, or if you have another SharePoint site outside of Teams, maybe a legacy SharePoint site that you need access to still.

You can come in here and find the SharePoint site and add it. This even works if it is in another site collection.

Pick the document library you want, in this case, it’s a list of new home listings, it will show as a Subfolder.

If I click into that, it will behave just like any other Sub Folder in the Files tab.

However, it’s actually in this other site collection halfway across my tenant.

Be aware that the permissions are all going to work as they’re configured on the other site. So not everybody may be able to see that folder when you add it.

Behind the Scenes

Let’s take a look behind the scenes. Click open in SharePoint.

This will open the SharePoint site that’s behind this Team and it takes you into the document library where your files are.

If I go up a level, you’ll see there’s a folder for each channel.

Those are the four channels from the Team.

Once here inside of SharePoint, we can come in and do other things like look at the details of the file, the preview, who has access to it and view the version history. Etc etc.

There’s going to occasionally be a reason to come here.

The SharePoint team and the Team’s group are working together to make that file experience richer and richer but be aware that it’s really designed to work across all those different platforms, so it may look a little bit different from SharePoint.

Restore

Another little advantage of the fact that Teams is storing its files in SharePoint rather than having stored them somewhere else or putting them in some other kind of Teams-specific storage is that SharePoint and OneDrive have file restore built-in.

You can see the files have been edited several times and if we wanted to unravel those, we could just kind of turn back time and restore it to yesterday.

Sync and Files OnDemand

Another fantastic feature is the ‘sync’ button.

In this example, we are going to sync just one channel, by clicking on the sync button within the channel.

However, one thing to be aware of when you’re synchronizing is that you could go up a level and be synchronizing the whole site with all the channels, or as we are here you can synchronize just one channel. It has been said that there will be a sync button directly inside of teams at some point, but it’s not there yet, so watch out for that.

For now, we must go inside SharePoint to do it and having done so it is sinking to my local hard drives.

As you can see the same files are now shown in Windows Explorer as files on demand. This means every file has a little cloud next to it, and the file isn’t really taking up space on my drive. This is less important with only a few files of course, but with a huge SharePoint site with terabytes of files you wouldn’t want to bring all those down to your hard drive.

If you’re in windows 10 or Mac OS, you get this file on-demand experience where when you click the file and you are online it opens and allows co-authoring to start.

Even though this was clicked on from the hard drive and someone else also has opened it from within Teams or using a web browser, we can do co-authoring because it’s against the same copy of the file.

Now you will notice that the cloud has turned to a little hollow green circle that indicates that this file is a locally cached copy and can be used that way as much as you want. But perhaps you want to make sure that you have an offline copy because you are going to be taking a trip and be offline. You can right-click on the file:

Select ‘Always keep on this device’ option.  That’s going to make the little green circle turn solid and the OneDrive sync client will keep a local copy of it.

You can use this for all your files in teams.

As soon as I join a team or get added to a team, 10 minutes later I’m in here and if I am going to be actively doing a lot of document work, I synchronize.

Document Library Tab

One other thing to show is the document library tab

If you click the plus sign to the right of the tabs on any channel within a team, you get this dialogue. Select ‘Document Library’.

Choose one of your document libraries, notice again that these are not all from your own site collection. If for any reason your site doesn’t appear on the list, you can just go grab a link to the site in question, it has to be in your tenant and then you can go ahead and bring in those document libraries in as a tab inside of your team. Very useful if you have a SharePoint library outside of teams that everyone needs to see and work on.

Website Tab

One other useful thing to show is how to bring in a SharePoint list using the website tab.

This website tab is great because you can put anything in here as long as it’s willing to run in an Iframe.

This means if you have an external website or some news site or similar, you could put it in a tab. It doesn’t have to be SharePoint, but in this example, we will add a SharePoint list.

If we go to a SharePoint List and get the list URL. In this example a list of old tweets. Copy the URL from the top and paste it into the Teams dialog box.

Click save and in comes the SharePoint List.

Notice, it has trimmed away most of SharePoint’s navigation to save on confusion. You can still work with the list e.g. order it, sort it, and group by, allowing you to work on the list right here in Teams.

All the while still being able to go into the teams conversations by using the navigation at the top.

WOPI

We mentioned WOPI earlier and it is worth explaining a little bit about what it is. It has been said that it is some of the secret sauce that makes SharePoint work.

WOPI does something that was so simple on early graphical user interface machines like the Xerox star. You could click on a file and it would open an application based on what kind of file it was and display it there on the screen. Functionality has been there since the very beginning however it was much harder to implement on the internet.

Here we want to click a button in a webpage and have it launch the document in that same browser window.

The way WOPI works is with three parties; The browser, The WOPI server (is SharePoint or OneDrive), and the WOPI client (Word, Excel or PowerPoint):

  • Your browser calls the WOPI server, makes a little rest call, gets back some information on the file.
  • Then we go to the WOPI client and pass that information over there. So, it might be like, Excel, open this file and by the way, here’s a security token that proves that I’m allowed to view the file. Obviously because we don’t want you to show it to just anybody.
  • After that WOPI client and Server do a little handshake, figuring out about the storage provider.
  • File is then passed from WOPI server to WOPI client and the a won’t be
  • Finally, the view of the file is shown on the browser screen.

Pages Experience

How does this work? What are the different ways that you can bring SharePoint pages into Teams?

Connectors

Let’s start by creating a Teams connector. Connectors are a way of sending notifications to a team or into a channel. Notice on the screenshot we have selected the three dots next to the Channel and not the team itself.

This connector is going to be the SharePointNews connector. We just click the ‘configure’ and it’s going to come up and let you save

There are no fields to fill in because it always does the same thing every time.

It takes SharePoint news items from the attached SharePoint site and displays them with a notification whenever a new one comes in. There’s no configuration, and once setup we do get a little message in the channel telling us.

So now let’s pop back over to SharePoint and put in a News post item on the home page of the site,

Let’s call it ‘Teams and SharePoint are Better Together’ and add a nice background image.

Add as ‘Highlighted content’ as there is no easier way to get some activity on your site.

Click ‘Post Item’ and there we have our news item on the home page:

You can see the news story is the first one listed and shows in Teams.

The team’s connector automatically notified the team about that news item making this a great way to get people’s attention whilst still having the persistence and the richness of a SharePoint based news story.

Calendar Webpart

The next thing we are going to look at is the team calendar and it turns out in this example that the team are doing a lot of customer visits, but it’s hard to really see the details of what is going on.

I wrote a SharePoint Framework web part, this demo has been around for a while so you may have seen it before.

The Web part goes in, it looks at the calendar, in the team of the current channel.

If you click on one of the items, it’s will bring in data from all Office 365 and beyond.

As you can see from this mock data, there are some activities here, recent account activity, and some documents that have been tagged for this customer as being related to the customer in SharePoint. Then there is the weather at the location, and a map of the location, giving you a lot of the information, you need if you are going to this location and visiting this customer.

This means that I can click each teammate and have a look at what they are doing, and also interact by filling in a message in the message box on the right-hand side and clicking send, this will post the message to the teams conversation directly associated with this visit and with a link back to this page.

This kind of deep linking is possible. This hopefully helps show you the art of the possible. If you want to customize teams, the SharePoint framework makes it a lot easier to customize teams because I don’t need to worry about where am I going to host my web application. I don’t need to worry about keeping the permissions of the web application in sync with the team because they’re the same as the group permissions that are on the SharePoint site.

It all fits together. I don’t have to worry about getting an access token to call the T the graph API. All the security and single sign-on are handled for me automatically by SharePoint. This makes things a lot easier.

PowerApp as a Tab

The next example of great integration with Teams is a PowerApp. In this example a Site Inspection PowerApp.

This does not involve SharePoint directly, but many SharePoint people are into PowerApps and all you have to do is add the PowerApp as a tab and share it with everyone in the team or the people you want to use it.

This means a PowerApp can be used from within Teams, and of course, the related conversation is always there, so you can have conversations about this PowerApp from within the tab.

Adding a Homepage to your Teams Team

This is a really simple way to get a nice homepage in your Team. All you have to do is click the ‘+’ to add a new tab, choose the ‘SharePoint’ tab and the local SharePoint site list of pages and sites will come up. Like this:

Select the page that you want as your Home page, name it ‘Home’ or whatever you want the tab to be called in Teams

Move the tab to where you want it to be, normally somewhere over to the left so that people can just come right in and view the conversations and homepage as the first things they see.

Promoting a Team Site to a Team

So now for something slightly different, showing you how to promote a team site into a full team. Imagine all the classic sites that were migrated from some other on-premises environment and they are perhaps still in classic mode. The users are probably feeling kind of jealous, as they are not getting modern pages, or Teams and Office 365. It turns out it’s really easy to fix that and put those older sites on equal footing.

Starting with your classic Team site home page, click on the ‘Settings’ and select ‘Connect to new Office 365 Group’.

You will then be shown an information screen telling you what it is about to do and checking that you still want to continue. As you can see in this example it has already detected what the permissions on your site are.

As you might expect we then click ‘Let’s get started.

You will then see on the following page that you can change the Group name, the Group email address alias, site description, and Privacy settings.

You can see in this example it has already picked up what our privacy settings were previously and suggested a setting for the group. Once you have updated these to what you would like them to be you can then ‘Connect group’.

The next step is to add and assign members and owners to the group. It will automatically pick up a list of owners and members based on the permissions of the exiting team site.

Of course, permissions, members and owners can be changed at a later date in the admin center.

Once it has finished you are able to see that we are straight into a modern SharePoint site automatically.

You can also do this with a patterns and practices library and there will be a link to that at the end. Rest assured that SharePoint saves your old homepage in the pages library and you can switch it back, simply by setting that page to be your welcome page.

You might notice that on the left of the screen, there’s a button that says that you can create a Microsoft Team for your Office 365 Group. If you click that it will go ahead and create a Microsoft Team.

Once the Team is created you get a message “Success! Click here to go to your team”. Which of course if you click takes you into Teams.

Once in Teams you will notice that you have a full Team, with the same name as the SP site we started with and Group we created. The Team has a General channel and within that has the Conversation, Files, and Wiki tabs as you get with all Teams.

Then if you upload a file and click Open in SharePoint you can see how the SharePoint site relates to the Team.

There is a ‘General’ folder, or more accurately a folder for each of the Channels in your Teams team. The file you have just uploaded will show in that folder on SharePoint.

You will also notice that SharePoint has now started to warn you that “This folder is connected to a channel in Microsoft Teams”, this is to help ensure that you do not change the name of this folder as that will break that association. Also, you will see that Teams has been added to the navigation on the left-hand side and will take you to Teams when you click it.

Also, if you go up to Documents level, you can see the folders and documents that were already in the SharePoint site are still there right next to each of the Folders for the Teams channels.

From this point onwards we can use that Team just as with any other, we can add the homepage in as a tab, create more channels, and do all the things we discussed.

Resources

Here are some resources for you to take a look at, these cover very similar subjects to what we have discussed in this eBook, along with some other juicy bits that are worth looking at:

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