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.

Microsoft Teams integration with Skype for Business

The voice/video/meeting component of Microsoft Teams is built on the next generation of Skype for Business infrastructure (which is touted to bring about the unification of the Skype consumer and Skype for Business platforms).

There is a number of integration differences when looking at Microsoft Teams as well as Skype for Business Server vs. Skype for Business Online. In short Microsoft Teams does not talk to Skype for Business Server, only the Online version as part of Office 365. This is documented so should not come as a surprise, and hopefully will be addressed when the product is fully released sometime early this year, if not in the near future.

However, it is important to note with the below screenshots that I am using Skype for Business Online, but the other users are on-premises.

The presence display carries between both systems:

Users in Microsoft Teams are presented with a feature limitation warning on talking to someone on Skype for Business:

There is a nice icon in Teams to show the user that the other person is using Skype for Business:

Users receive a toast notifications from both Skype for Business & Microsoft Teams:

Where the conversation continues depends on which toast notification you click.

Skype for Business meetings show up in Teams:


If the user clicks on the Join button on a Skype Meeting from the Teams client – it will re-direct them to the web interface of Skype for Business and from there launch the client.

A more in-depth look at the integrations is available on Richard Brynteson’s blog.