Of­fice 365 col­lab­o­ra­tion

Si­mon has worked with many busi­nesses to nd out how best to im­ple­ment O ce 365 for col­lab­o­ra­tion – and shares his ad­vice here

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - SI­MON HUD­SON SI­MON HUD­SON is an en­trepreneur, health sec­tor spe­cial­ist and founder of Cloud2 Ltd and Ki­nata Ltd

How best to im­ple­ment Of­fice 365 for col­lab­o­ra­tion .................................................

T he pre­vail­ing view is that O ce 365 is rather good. Even Mr Honey­ball says so, and he isn’t known for leap­ing to Mi­crosoft’s de­fence. The com­pany has cre­ated a tech­nol­ogy and brand that suc­cess­fully ranges from in­di­vid­u­als through small busi­nesses (O365 Busi­ness Essen­tials) and up to ma­jor en­ter­prises with 100,000+ seats. It pro­vides a gen­uine set of ca­pa­bil­i­ties that’s well matched to the needs of this dis­parate group and it con­tin­ues to im­prove. If you’re used to Mi­crosoft tech, then I’d al­ways favour O365 over the Google plat­form.

But it isn’t per­fect. In com­mon with other tech firms, Mi­crosoft of­ten takes some fun in­ter­nal project and launches it as a new com­po­nent of O365. I’m all in favour of the “min­i­mal vi­able prod­uct” ap­proach, but not when it’s com­bined with a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” strat­egy.

All of this is a lead-in to me talk­ing about the com­plex­ity of the O365 con­tent and col­lab­o­ra­tion story. In the old days, when my busi­ness part­ner and I launched Cloud2, the land­scape was sim­ple: you had file servers (which ev­ery­one used, but that were un­fit for this pur­pose) or you had SharePoint (which is com­plex and com­pels thought and plan­ning to be e•ec­tive – an un­nat­u­ral act for most users). And you had email…

To­day, the O365 stack is what you see on the right. Of th­ese 14 core items, the first nine are in­volved in con­tent and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Sev­eral tar­get doc­u­ment­based col­lab­o­ra­tion and stor­age, while oth­ers are more about shar­ing com­ments and ideas. Sev­eral have over­lap­ping func­tions or fill the same niche (SharePoint, Teams and Groups). You’d al­most think that there were three di•er­ent teams de­vel­op­ing them, nei­ther com­mu­ni­cat­ing nor tak­ing di­rec­tion from a mas­ter strat­egy.

So what do or­gan­i­sa­tions do about it? How do they de­cide what tool to use and where to put their stu•? How does this fit in with their con­tent and col­lab­o­ra­tion strat­egy? Re­cent up­grades to O ce 365 Groups and Mi­crosoft Teams fi­nally made me sit down and for­malise my think­ing on the sub­ject.

Let’s start with the doc­u­ment-based col­lab­o­ra­tion. At this point you need to know that SharePoint (and, by ex­ten­sion, Teams and Groups) stores files in li­braries. Al­though th­ese can ap­pear like a tra­di­tional file share – they even al­low fold­ers (shud­der) – the con­tent is stored in a SQL ta­ble. This means they can have meta­data at­tached: ad­di­tional data fields that are largely ab­sent in a file share. As an ex­am­ple, if you want to store a set of quo­ta­tions, you could set up the li­brary to cap­ture the client name, the tech­nol­ogy o•ered, the price and the dis­count rate as part of the doc­u­ment – so much more use­ful than try­ing to force it into the file name. With this in place, th­ese tools o•er clever ways to view your doc­u­ments: one view could show all doc­u­ments cre­ated in the past ten days, while an­other might dis­play ev­ery­thing grouped by client name.

Groups and Teams are de­signed to be a broad but shal­low col­lab­o­ra­tion tool. Mi­crosoft has long wor­ried that the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of SharePoint is too much for many or­gan­i­sa­tions – and it may be right. I see Groups and Teams as a dumbed-down SharePoint site, since both fail to ex­pose all the power of meta­data. For those who re­mem­ber Win­dows SharePoint Ser­vices (WSS) or SharePoint Foun­da­tion, Groups and Teams could be con­sid­ered their mod­ern suc­ces­sor. They fill the same niche, but Groups is email-cen­tric while Teams is (Skype) chat-cen­tric.

Stand­alone, Groups and Teams are great for light­weight in­tranets and team col­lab­o­ra­tion. Com­bined with other parts of O ce 365, they o•er the abil­ity to build out mid-range dig­i­tal workspaces. Com­bined with the ex­tra power of SharePoint, en­ter­prise-class ap­pli­ca­tions and workspaces be­come the norm, with Teams and Groups filling a role for un­man­aged or lightly man­aged col­lab­o­ra­tion. Some or­gan­i­sa­tions will

choose OneDrive for Busi­ness for the for­mer, leav­ing Groups and Teams for the lat­ter. In this case, a sen­si­ble ap­proach is to have a stan­dard folder struc­ture that con­sists of: Pri­vate Shared with Team (<owner name>) Shared with Ev­ery­one (<owner name>) Shared Ex­ter­nally Th­ese would be used as shown in the de­ci­sion tree op­po­site (top right).

Then there’s Yam­mer. This can also store and share doc­u­ments and al­low a form of col­lab­o­ra­tion. Us­ing Yam­mer in this way hasn’t felt nat­u­ral to me, but it was part of the orig­i­nal de­sign of the prod­uct, and it may well suit some or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Where Yam­mer ex­cels is for pub­lish­ing a stream of con­scious­ness of the or­gan­i­sa­tion; you can liken it to a com­bi­na­tion of a group dis­cus­sion, miniblog­ging, an­nounce­ments and cross­com­pany comms. What re­ally makes Yam­mer rock is when it’s struc­tured to mir­ror or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­tures and pro­cesses, es­pe­cially when dis­crete parts of the Yam­mer stream are em­bed­ded within a SharePoint page in an in­tranet. In this case, it be­comes use­ful for wrap­ping a shared con­ver­sa­tion around a project, team site or doc­u­ment.

So, there’s a lot to go at with just this part of OŽce 365. Tools such as SharePoint Search and Delve can look across all OŽce 365 con­tent, en­sur­ing that find­ing things is straight­for­ward (pro­vided you added meta­data where pos­si­ble). We call this “Find­abil­ity” – and it’s pretty good given the con­text.

But there re­mains an un­spo­ken chal­lenge: users just don’t know where to put things. We call this “Putabil­ity”, or know­ing where to store your con­tent.

Chris Spar­row at Tata Steel has been bat­tling this is­sue, and be­tween us we’ve de­vel­oped a generic OŽce 365 Putabil­ity De­ci­sion Tree (be­low). As you can see, it’s com­plex; this re­flects the na­ture of the con­tent we ex­pect peo­ple to deal with daily. It is, how­ever, sim­ple to ex­plain:

1. Keep your own stuž in OneDrive. If ap­pro­pri­ate, put it in a “Shared with Team” sub­folder to make it avail­able to your col­leagues.

2. Put Team and Project con­tent in the rel­e­vant site on your in­tranet; this could be a Mi­crosoft Team or OŽce 365 Group if you don’t need so­phis­ti­cated pro­cesses, meta­data and con­trol.

3. Put stuž you don’t ex­pect peo­ple to col­lab­o­rate on in your in­tranet, in a pub­lish­ing area (such as the Comms De­part­ment News site or a Doc­u­ment Cen­tre).

4. If you need to share ex­ter­nally then con­sider a ded­i­cated ex­tranet built on SharePoint. You could use OneDrive for Busi­ness for non-sen­si­tive con­tent with min­i­mal tag­ging or con­trol needs.

5. If it isn’t a doc­u­ment, or you just want to talk about a doc­u­ment, use Yam­mer (email, if you must). Use Skype for Busi­ness if you need to talk in real-time.

Most of all, don’t panic. While this looks com­plex for users to re­mem­ber, I hold the to the view that there are re­ally only five places users need to re­mem­ber be­cause there are only five types of con­tent: My stuž, My Team’s stuž, Project stuž, Cor­po­rate stuž (things that be­long to the com­pany as a whole and are prob­a­bly some­one else’s prob­lem) and Mis­cel­la­neous stuž. The last one is prob­a­bly one of the first four for some­one else; you just need to find the right per­son. So don’t for­get that O365 also has user pro­files and great Find­abil­ity tools too…

The Of­fice 365 Putabil­ity De­ci­sion Tree of­fers di­rec­tion over where con­tent should go

Use Groups and Teams for light­weight in­tranets and team col­lab­o­ra­tion

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