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How to achieve Teams integration with SharePoint sites

Depending on the complexity of a business's SharePoint sites, a Teams integration can benefit organizations by being cost-effective and simplifying user access.

SharePoint and Teams are both part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem and share a lot of the same back-end infrastructure, enabling SharePoint integration in Teams.

This integration of SharePoint sites with Teams is known is Teamification. Key reasons for Teamification include:

  • technology rationalization/simplification;
  • simplifying user experiences;
  • providing third-party access to content; and
  • supporting a cloud strategy -- moving away from on-premises data centers and installed applications.

Many businesses choose to integrate SharePoint sites with Teams. Here are some things to think about when deciding to make that move.

The connection between Teams and SharePoint

Microsoft Teams has a number of features including instant messaging, conference calling, document sharing and other types of content-sharing tasks. It integrates with other products and services from the Microsoft 365 suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Planner, Power BI and Stream. It also has extensive application integration capabilities with non-Microsoft products and services.

Teams is built on SharePoint Online, Microsoft's platform for enterprise content management and collaboration. SharePoint is a rich development platform with many capabilities that go beyond document sharing and collaboration. Other SharePoint capabilities include:

  • list-based data structures -- such as tasks, calendars and issues;
  • workflows using native SharePoint capabilities -- such as SharePoint designer;
  • webpages -- either static or dynamic content;
  • external data source integrations -- such as with CRM platforms and ERP systems;
  • document tagging and metadata; and
  • enterprise search.

A Teams channel has standard menu tabs of Posts, Files and Wiki. Adding more tools to the channel -- such as Planner -- creates additional tabs. Each channel in the Team has a folder within a SharePoint document library. Creating a Team automatically spins up a SharePoint site underneath the Team to provide this capability.

The Teams document sharing menu has an Open in SharePoint option, which enables users to get to the underlying, richer capabilities of the native SharePoint menu structures. Some of these capabilities include:

  • document versions;
  • tagging documents with metadata;
  • interfacing with Power Automate; and
  • viewing document compliance data, such as retention policies, data loss policies and legal holds.

However, Microsoft has also surfaced some SharePoint capabilities natively within the Teams interface, negating the need for Open in SharePoint for some features. Examples include:

  • moving a document to another location in Teams;
  • creating a copy of a document;
  • creating a link to a document that can be sent in an email or included in other content; and
  • checking in and out of documents to protect them from other people making changes.

Is it worth integrating SharePoint sites with Teams?

While Teams is built on SharePoint Online, many organizations also have SharePoint installed on premises, and others use a hybrid mix of content and collaboration from the on-premises installation, as well as SharePoint Online.

Organizations that work in a Microsoft environment may wonder if they should Teamify their legacy SharePoint sites or create a Team for existing SharePoint sites. Well, it depends. This decision will be based on an organization's overall strategy, where they are with SharePoint adoption and where they are with Teams adoption, and the complexity of their SharePoint sites.

Simple SharePoint sites consisting primarily of document filing, document collaboration and simple list- based data structures with few webpages are good candidates for moving to Teams -- and it is an easy process to do so.

Organizations should consider moving to SharePoint Online for the sites that remain, reducing or eliminating the need to maintain on-premises software. An advantage to this transition is the simplification of supporting remote workers, partners and even customers that businesses share content with. Simplification comes from:

  • SharePoint Online and Teams being in the cloud, so remote workers only require basic internet connection rather than something more complicated, such as a VPN; and
  • the ability for partners and customers to more easily receive logins or guest accounts with no need to connect through VPNs.

More complex SharePoint sites are poor candidates for moving to Teams. This includes:

  • sites with workflows that are driven by content from documents or list data structures;
  • sites that have significant customizations through SharePoint Designer; and
  • site with other custom enhancements.

While it is possible to move documents to Teams, there will need to be a more comprehensive approach for moving workflows, such as by using Power Apps and Power Automate. Custom-built workflows or workflows built with third-party tools or custom web parts may need to remain in SharePoint, since Teams may merely provide a different user interface or entry point to those tools. As with any SharePoint migration or upgrade, the more complex the environment, the more expense and effort required to make changes.

For complex sites, the decision criteria are more complex. The overall effort and cost of moving complex legacy SharePoint Sites to Teams may outweigh the soft benefits of simplifying user access to content.

How to integrate Microsoft Teams with SharePoint

Before deciding whether to Teamify SharePoint sites, businesses should do a full assessment of their SharePoint environments, listing out all SharePoint features used. This includes:

  1. Cataloging SharePoint sites by determining types of content and content volumes. This includes documents, structured list data and webpages. Identify any complex implementation models -- including content controlled or manipulated by workflows, rich forms or integration with other systems -- and identify any third-party add-in web parts.
  2. Mapping alternative approaches for the complex implementation models. This includes whether workflows, forms and integrations are still relevant and necessary for the business.
  3. Identifying software costs and potential engineering effort.
  4. Sketching out a cost-benefit analysis to understand business benefit.
  5. Developing a high-level roadmap on time scale and sequencing.

After the assessment, businesses may conclude that none, some or all of SharePoint sites can be Teamified. To Teamify a site, businesses use one or a combination of the following techniques:

Pull content through from the existing SharePoint sites using the Teams "Website" app functionality. An app is a generic name for a Teams add-on. The "Website" add-in essentially acts as a web browser, enabling web-based content -- including SharePoint pages -- to be displayed within the Teams window. This type of Teamification will provide the illusion to the end user of integration, a one-stop shop for content. For the organization, however, it leaves the existing technology platforms in place.

Example of website displaying through Teams app
Any website can be displayed in Teams using the Teams website app. In this example, the TechTarget website is shown through the Teams app.

To pull website content through a Teams tab, take the following steps:

  1. Choose the Teams channel to add website content to.
  2. Click on the + sign at the top of the window.
  3. Click on the "Website" app.
  4. Create a name for this tab and in the next box, paste in the URL.
  5. Hit Save.

Migrate content from legacy SharePoint sites to Teams. Organizations that primarily use SharePoint as document storage can move documents into Teams and remove the legacy SharePoint document stores. The "Files" section of Teams is the same as the SharePoint document library concept. For small numbers of documents, businesses will require the use of content migration tools. Various content migration tools are available from vendors such as AvePoint, Metalogix and ShareGate.

Example of documents stored within the Files tab of a team
In this example, a SharePoint legacy site has been migrated to Teams, where documents can be found under the Files tab.

To migrate content from a legacy SharePoint site to a Team using a migration tool will require following the tool's specific instructions. Broadly, the steps will be to:

  1. Install the migration tool.
  2. Configure the migration settings and target the Teams document library URL. This includes choosing whether to retain document versions or not and retaining document creator and editor usernames or mapping to new usernames.
  3. Select documents to migrate.
  4. Execute the migration.

Add a team to a SharePoint site using the SharePoint "Add a Microsoft Team" capability. For SharePoint sites that are online, there is an Add a Microsoft Team button. This button spins up a Team, makes the document library in the original SharePoint site, the Teams document storage area and creates a General folder in it to support documents stored in the Teams General channel.

This approach may lead to some user confusion, as it creates a hybrid model where original documents in the SharePoint site are only accessible from the SharePoint site and documents created from Teams can be accessed from either Teams or SharePoint.

To add a team to a SharePoint Online site using the SharePoint "Add a Microsoft Team" capability, take the following steps:

  1. Open the SharePoint Online site in the web browser.
  2. Click the Microsoft Teams, Add a Microsoft Team to collaborate button.

How to add a team to SharePoint sites, step 1
  1. Wait a few moments and the Microsoft Teams, Add a Microsoft Team to collaborate button will change to The Team site is ready button.
  2. A notification, "The new Sharepoint site name group is ready," will appear in the sites Activity feed. A Teams menu item will also appear in the site's navigation on the left.

How to add a team to SharePoint sites, step 2

How to add a team to SharePoint sites, step 4

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