With the significant increase in cloud adoption recently, many companies have started moving their daily operations to the cloud. In this transition, you will inevitably encounter two of the biggest collaboration tools – SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. At one point, you will probably ask yourself: “Which one do I need?“ and “What are the differences between SharePoint and Microsoft Teams?“. To make the best possible decision for your company, you need to better understand what each one of them does. So, let‘s dig into some basic history and use cases to help you decide.
SharePoint is the older one here – it‘s been around for more than a decade. It allows you to organize, store, and share your documents with both colleagues and external partners. Where SharePoint shines is document collaboration, as it offers advanced features like:
- Document versioning control, approval workflows
- Document co-authoring with the online versions of Office applications
- The OneDrive sync client works on Windows or Mac, so it’s easy to sync all the files
- SharePoint provides previews for more than 300 file types
- SharePoint has comprehensive data governance and compliance features. These include:
- Automatic classification and labeling
- Data loss prevention
- Document retention policies, disposition review, and event-based retention
- eDiscovery and legal holds
- Files are discoverable in Delve and SharePoint search
SharePoint gives you a lot of freedom on how to organize your sites, document libraries, and folders to better suit your needs. Although not recommended in modern sites, you can even create subsites and SharePoint groups to apply advanced permissions structure just the way you want it. SharePoint has a lot of options to customize it to boost the efficiency of your business processes. Depending on your needs, you can use low-code solutions like Power Apps and Power Automate to automate your processes or full–blown custom code solutions calling SharePoint APIs.
So, stating all of the above, what could possibly be the downside of SharePoint? It is people and how we collaborate to accomplish our work. As we mentioned, SharePoint is a 10-year old technology, and the old way of doing things was to use separate apps to perform your tasks. When you need to send an email to your manager, you will switch to Exchange, if you needed to chat with your team member you would probably use Skype for Business. There was a lot of context switching and tabbing, as there was no direct link. For instance, you would need to switch from your SharePoint team site to Exchange when you wanted to send an email to your team members. You would have to enter each email one by one manually.
SharePoint did try to combat this problem by making it more social with features like Newsfeeds and Discussion Lists. However, they had limited success. But something changed in 2017. Microsoft introduced Microsoft Teams – a solution that swept away all the challenges of this new, ever–connected modern workplace.
Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and application integration. It provides a single UI for multiple Office 365 products like:
- SharePoint Online
- Power BI
- Integration with custom apps
This multifunctionality reduces the number of tabbing and context switching during your work. Microsoft Teams uses Office 365 Groups to ensure all the products share the same security context. It simplifies management as all group members‘ permissions are automatically applied to all Teams resources.
You can create a new team inside the Microsoft Teams interface for each of your business teams or projects. Inside a team, you can create channels – each for a different area of your project. It‘s easy to chat, email, share documents, or have meetings within a team.
All files shared in Microsoft Teams are stored in SharePoint Online, so you keep all the advantages that SharePoint offers. Each new team automatically creates a SharePoint site, and each new channel will create a folder inside the document library on that site. It’s also worth mentioning that files shared in a one–on–one chat are stored in the sender’s OneDrive.
Final Verdict: Which one do I need?
There is no obvious winner. Which tool will you choose depends on your needs – it could even be both. Let‘s look at the following use cases to understand possible choices.
For teams and projects where there is a lot of daily collaboration, Microsoft Teams would be the better choice. It allows you to be more productive and focus on your work with less unnecessary context switching. Most of the Teams users won‘t even know there is a SharePoint Online site behind the Files tab, and that is completely fine. Microsoft Teams simplifies sometimes overcomplicated SharePoint and gives you a central point for all your conversations, meetings, files, plans, etc.
However, remember that not all communication should happen in Teams. Imagine that you are a marketing team leader who has an important announcement to make about the web rebranding project deadline. If you post that in Teams, only currently active members will see it. There is a good chance that members who are unavailable at the time or out of the office will miss it. On top of that, Teams’ search experience for messages is poor, and history scrolling is very slow.
That being said, it’s a better choice to post such an announcement in a SharePoint site’s Newsfeed, from where it is visible on your site’s Home page. Exchange is another preferable option – if you send an email to every team member, you can be sure that everyone will get a message. It will also make it easy for them to find it in the future if they forgot about some details.
On the other hand, if you rarely chat and you just need a repository for your documents – stick to SharePoint. SharePoint is a better choice when you need the advanced structure of subsites, with multiple document libraries and custom folders that are not related to your Teams channels. SharePoint classic sites allow you to apply more advanced permissions structures using SharePoint groups. At the same time, in Teams, you are limited to managing team members and sharing documents one by one. All in all, SharePoint offers more options but can be a lot more complicated for an average end-user.
Now that you understand what both SharePoint and Microsoft Teams are and what their advantages are, it should be easy to figure out which one to use, should you move to either one of them. If you want to keep everything that’s going on inside both platforms in order, you might want to check out SysKit Point. SysKit Point is a SharePoint and Office 365 governance tool that specializes in permissions governance and Microsoft Teams monitoring.