Hubs, Groups, Teams, Sites – trying to understand them all

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.

But Office 365 is just the same as on-premises functionality!

Clearly the title of this blog post is incorrect, but I had to raise it as recently someone made this comment to me. Their view was that they can run Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Skype for Business Server on-premises which would deliver the same functionality as Office 365.

What does Office 365 provide that you simply CANNOT deliver with on-premises systems? Focusing on the core feature set (without bringing in Project Online, Dynamics 365, EMS or others into it), it’s not a small list:

Product Description Where you see it
Exchange Online Protection Mail filtering service built into Exchange Online Behind the scenes
Advanced Threat Protection Protection against unknown malware & viruses, real-time protection against malicious URLs at time-of-click Behind the scenes
Exchange Online Archiving Yes you can have archiving on-premises, but not unlimited Client & web
Office 365 Groups Mix of document library, OneNote, Planner, Skype for Business, and SharePoint team site functionality Desktop, web & mobile
Microsoft Teams Chat-based workspace integrated with Office 365 Groups Desktop, web & mobile
OneDrive for Business Similar to Exchange Online Archiving, organisations can run OneDrive for Business on-premises but not provide unlimited storage Desktop, web & mobile
Skype Meeting Broadcast Host online meetings for up to 10,000 attendees Behind the scenes
Clutter / Focused Inbox Email sorting using machine learning, based on individual mail habits Behind the scenes
Delve Personal search & discovery of content Desktop, web & mobile
MyAnalytics (formerly Delve Analytics) Behavioural analytics based on mail & calendar Web
Yammer Enterprise social network platform Web & mobile
Office 365 Video Share & manage business videos Web & mobile
Planner Manage tasks on graphical boards (similar to Trello) Web
Sway Visual storytelling service Desktop, web & mobile
Power BI Interactive business intelligence dashboards Desktop, web & mobile
PowerApps Build mobile apps & logic flows Desktop, web & mobile
Microsoft Flow Automating workflows across apps and services (not just Office 365) Desktop, web & mobile
Office Graph Machine learning mapping connections between people & content Behind the scenes

 

Kirsty McGrath of OnPoint Solutions has created a wheel of the Office 365 services available, building on a similar one from Sharegate.

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