Discover How Microsoft Teams Is Closely Connected with SharePoint and How Loop Further Enhances Collaboration

SharePoint has been an indispensable tool in project work for over ten years now and supports many project management activities. Microsoft Teams was launched in 2017 as a competitor to other successful collaboration products like Asana, Slack or Zoom and has since then successfully established itself—especially in project teams. What many don’t know is that Teams is closely connected with SharePoint and plays an important role, e.g. in the exchange and storage of shared documents. Now the first Microsoft Loop components have also appeared in Teams and this makes collaboration even more effective. Curious? Then read on and learn how to further improve your project collaboration.

How to Use Teams

Microsoft Teams is an essential tool in project collaboration. Teams is a competitor to collaboration products like Asana, Slack or for video conferencing like Zoom or WebEx. In addition, Teams is replacing Skype for Business in the Office world. In this article, I give you a brief overview about Teams in Office 365 and you discover how SharePoint is closely connected with Teams.

You can use Microsoft Teams in your web browser on any supported operating system (such as Firefox on Linux or Safari on a Mac), but if you are using Windows, you can also download the Teams app to your local computer—if the app is not already automatically installed on your computer. As a third option, you can also download Teams as a mobile app to your mobile phone.

Once you open Teams, you will see on the left side of your screen all the teams you’re part of. In each team, you can have several channels. For example, in your Apollo19 project you may have a team with a channels for your requirement engineers, one for your marketing activities or one for one for team events. Channels are where the communication takes place, where you hold meetings, have team conversations, and share or work on files with your colleagues. At the top of each channel, you’ll find tabs. They’re like links to your favorite files, apps, and services.

When you share a file in a channel conversation, you and your team can edit it at the same time and share thoughts alongside it. To find all the files that have been shared in a channel, go to the Files tab at the top of the channel. The files are actually stored in a channel folder on the  associated project SharePoint site. To see all the files ever shared across the team, click Files on the navigation bar on the left side of the Teams window.

Files that you upload in chat conversation are stored in your OneDrive for Business folder “Microsoft Teams Chat Files” and are shared only with the people in that conversation. You can access them from the Files tab in the chat, the Files page in Teams, and your OneDrive mobile app.

The New Loop Components in Teams

Microsoft Loop is currently still in development as a competitor to the well-known collaboration products such as Trello, Asana or Notion and should offer a lot more in terms of collaboration with documents, according to the motto: Think, plan, and create – together. A good preview of what Microsoft may deliver in the coming months can be seen in this Video. Microsoft Loop Explained: this will change how you work

In spring 2022, Microsoft introduced some Loop components in Teams. You find the Loop symbol below the text input field when using chat.

Microsoft Loop functionalities in Teams
the first Loop functionalities in Teams

These are any components — like a table, numbered list, checklist, or paragraph—that you open inside your Teams chat and which everyone in that chat can then edit in real time. Everyone sees the changes as they are being made. This takes Teams chat to a whole new level: Now you are no longer just talking about your work, but are actually doing the work together during the chat.

Every Loop component in Teams is saved as a file in your OneDrive for Business in the chat files folder. Now you have the flexibility to access the work from anywhere, at any time. And you also have the ability to open the component outside of the chat if you want to, for example in the browser, if you need extra workspace. Here is a video How to use Loop components in Teams

It makes no sense to explain you Teams in this article. This would need too much space. You can learn about the most important functions and possibilities in the following great 10 Minute video. More interesting is, how SharePoint is connected and used in the background of teams and how teams is used in projects.

Video: Microsoft Teams Tutorial in 10 Minutes

Each Team Has an Associated SharePoint Site

Teams is strongly connected with SharePoint. Every Microsoft Team automatically has a modern SharePoint team site associated with it in the background. Most users will probably never know they are using SharePoint when they are using features like the Teams wiki or sharing documents when chatting with colleagues.

A SharePoint site is created for every new team, used for storing content. Two of the most common scenarios are uploading files to teams and adding content to the teams wiki.

The Files tab in the upper part of each team channel is associated with a documents folder in a document library in the backend SharePoint site. Each channel has a separate folder in this library. You can view the SharePoint site by selecting the Open in SharePoint link and the backend SharePoint site opens. You will notice that this is a brand-new SharePoint site which has the same name as your Team.

How to Open Teams files in SharePoint
Open Teams files in SharePoint

If you open files in Teams, then by default they are opened in the browser or even in the Teams app itself. This is rarely ideal from my point of view, as not all menu functions of the native app, such as Excel or Word, can be used here and the layout is also often not correct. To change this, go to the document menu (three dots) according to the next figure and change the default from Teams or Browser to Desktop App (default).

How to open files in the native App

Using the Teams Wiki and Finding It in SharePoint

In addition to the Files tab, a Wiki tab also appears on every team channel. When you click the Wiki tab, you will see the wiki for the channel. A wiki is a shared web page that can be edited and updated by multiple people—similar to Confluence. This Wiki is stored in the associated SharePoint site in the “Teams Wiki Data” document library in the folder of your channel.

How to Create a Team

A Microsoft team is not automatically created when you create an Office 365 Group or a modern SharePoint Site. You have to connect/create it manually after an Office 365 Group or a SharePoint Site is created. However, if you create a new team as a first action in Microsoft Teams, then a Microsoft 365 Group is automatically created for this team as well as in the background Planner and the other elements—and also a SharePoint site connected to this team. There are two scenarios when creating a team:

  1. You already have a project SharePoint Site for your project. Now you would like to create a Microsoft team and connect it to your SharePoint site, respective to your Microsoft 365 group, which belongs to this site. This should be the normal case.
  2. You started a project and already created a Microsoft team in Teams in the first place and now would like to create a SharePoint site to store all your project related content. You don’t need to create the SharePoint site, because you have already one connect to your team.

From my point of view it is essential to know what Microsoft Groups are and how they define the Microsoft 365 environment, how such permission groups are created, used and what impact they have on SharePoint. This article explains this in detail: How to Use SharePoint Groups and Microsoft 365 Groups in Your Project Site

How to Connect a Team to Your Existing Project SharePoint Site

On the left side of Teams at the bottom of the teams list, click Join or create a team, and then click Create a team.

The next step is important! If you already have a project SharePoint Site for your project, then on the next window select: From a group or team.

On the next screen you can choose which template for your team you would like to use. It is obvious that you use the template Manage a Project. On the next screen, you can define whether it’s a private or a public team. As a private team, only those people who you invite can participate in your team. If you set it to public, anyone in your organization is able to join. Once you’ve created the team, invite people to join it. You can add individual users, groups, and even entire contact groups.

How Teams Are Used in Projects

Teams is a tool with a great benefit for your project. In the first months, project team members will preferably use the chat and video function of teams to communicate with each other. It needs time to get used to the teams and channel itself—and some project teams see no benefit in them at all and will never use them and only use the chat and video functionalities.

I don’t want to withhold an interesting use case for the Teams mobile app. One project manager in our company did his weekly one-to-one meetings with his sub-project managers with his Teams app on his mobile phone. During this one-to-one “walk and talk” meetings he received the subproject status when walking in park next to the office building or outside of his home office and the other person was somewhere else walking. This is a great idea and certainly also good for their health!

Don’t Use Teams Channel Folders as Your Primary Document Repository!

It is not uncommon when starting a new project that a Microsoft Team is first ordered from the IT Admin—and the associated SharePoint site is only considered later. Then the project team starts working and uses the Teams Channel Folders (which are located on the SharePoint site) as their primary document repository. Don’t do that! The channel folders are only there to store shared files in channels.

Independently, make a logical structure of libraries and lists on SharePoint itself, based on your project needs, and expand this structure, if useful, as your project grows over time. Although Teams is almost a Swiss Army Knife, it is not a document management system. You can still link SharePoint Libraries or lists to the Teams top bar if needed.

Here You Can Find More Knowledge

Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with SharePoint? Save time and money and get firsthand experience with my book “SharePoint Online for Project Management“. It takes you an important step further!

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SharePoint Online for Project Management
Posted in SharePoint.