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Using Microsoft Teams for Documentation

Teams is the next version of Skype for Business, Microsoft’s unified communications platform. Right now in preview, Microsoft Teams is a combination of Skype for Business, SharePoint and Office 365 Groups. Collaboration software is moving to a cloud-based platform, so let’s take a look at how this new addition to Office 365 can help you be more productive.

One of the myths about using Microsoft Teams is that it won’t work well for document management & collaboration. But recently microsoft teams came out with a lot of improvements in team sites making it much easier to manage and organize documents. This could become the preferred solution over Onedrive for Business which was probably better suited for storing binary files such as images and videos. As a Microsoft Server platform engineer who frequently has to clone environments, I often find working with teams to be much quicker than downloading large files via one drive for business. Also, as someone involved in a project management role, having access to my spreadsheet or finding where I stored files is instantly available on the homepage of my public site from anywhere.

I have recently been thinking about Microsoft teams and how to make the best use of it for documentation. I have a lot of documents so I thought it would be useful to work on them together. As you might know, there are other platforms that offer this type of functionality as well but I will focus on Microsoft Teams in this blog post.

Chances are you interact with multiple systems on a daily basis. You deal with inefficient communication with clients, colleagues and vendors. Feel like something is not efficient enough? Teams is here to help. Teams can be a great solution for effective communications and documentation throughout teams. Learn how teams can benefit you as a team member, manager and/or an organization in general.

What is a document management system?

A document management system is for managing digital files such as Word, Excel, PowerPoints and more. In this era, we need secure, robust and customizable software that gives a great user experience. Switching from a legacy document management system to a newer system has the potential to improve performance and cut costs.

With Microsoft Teams integration with Dynamics 365, you can use document management with Microsoft Teams. It allows a user to co-author documents and automatically sync documents to customer engagement apps using SharePoint. For each tenant, there is a single SharePoint instance. Documents in Dynamics 365 and files in Microsoft Teams are all on the same SharePoint site. The subsites may be different but the root site is the same.

There isn’t an automatic relationship between SharePoint permissions and permissions to customer engagement apps. To access documents between Microsoft Teams and customer engagement apps, you need explicit permission to use document management for customer engagement apps and SharePoint. For information: Permissions required for document management tasks

Use the Files tab in Microsoft Teams or the Documents tab in your customer engagement apps, to store and manage documents in the context of a record on a SharePoint Server. Documents are stored on a SharePoint Server that allows a user on Microsoft Teams to access the documents on the SharePoint Server – as long as the user has appropriate permissions.

A user’s access to files in Microsoft Teams or customer engagement apps depends on their access to the SharePoint site the file is stored in.

What is the SharePoint location of the Microsoft Teams files tab versus the associated Dynamics 365 app record’s documents tab?

The information below applies when SharePoint integration has been enabled for a Dynamics 365 entity.

When adding a file to a Dynamics 365 app record that is linked to a Microsoft Teams channel from the document location for the Microsoft Teams channel, the document is stored in a SharePoint folder with the file path [Team Name] > Documents > [Channel Name] > [File Name]. The file is visible in both the Microsoft Teams channel’s files tab and the Dynamics 365 app record’s document associated grid in the document location for the Microsoft Teams channel.

When adding a file to a Dynamics 365 app record that is linked to a Microsoft Teams channel via the document location for the default site, the document is stored in the default SharePoint site that was set up with the Dynamics 365 environment. The document does not show up in the Microsoft Teams files tab for the channel associated with the record.

When adding a file from a Dynamics 365 app record that is not linked to a Microsoft Teams channel the document is stored in the default SharePoint site that was set up with the Dynamics 365 environment.

When adding a file from a Microsoft Teams channel that is linked to a Dynamics 365 app record, the document is stored in a SharePoint folder with the file path [Team Name] > Documents > [Channel Name] > [File Name]. The file is visible in both the Microsoft Teams channel’s files tab and the Dynamics 365 app record’s document associated grid in the document location for the Microsoft Teams channel.

When a Microsoft Teams channel has multiple Dynamics records associated with it, the document is stored in a SharePoint folder with the file path [Team Name] > Documents > [Channel Name] > [File Name]. The file is visible in the Microsoft Teams channel’s files tab and the document associated grid in the document location for the Microsoft Teams channel for all Dynamics 365 app records associated with the channel.

When a Dynamics record is linked to a Microsoft Teams channel, files already added to that Microsoft Teams channel show up in the document associated grid for that Dynamics 365 app record in the document location for the Microsoft Teams channel.

When a Dynamics record is linked to a Microsoft Teams channel, files already added to that Dynamics 365 app record (on the default SharePoint site that was set up with the Dynamics 365environment), the files are not visible in the Microsoft Teams channel’s files tab and they remain on the default SharePoint site that was set up with the Dynamics 365 environment.

If a Dynamics 365 app record has been previously associated with a Microsoft Teams channel, and a user associates it with a new Microsoft Teams channel, another document location is added in Dynamics 365 app for the new Microsoft Teams channel associated with the record. Users can switch back and forth between the document locations.

Who can see which location?

Permission to see the location depends on the user permission to the folder in SharePoint. If the SharePoint folder was created in a Microsoft Teams channel, then the user will have read and write permission.

I have removed a user from the Microsoft Teams channel, but they still have access to the associated record from Dynamics 365. How can I restrict their ability to open, edit, and delete the document from Dynamics 365?

Access to the files depends on a user’s permissions in SharePoint. To restrict a user from accessing these files, remove them the user from the SharePoint site.

What happens when I delete the Microsoft Teams account?

The files are removed from Dynamics 365 and SharePoint.

Using Rich as an example of what NOT to do, below is a summary of our recommendations of some best practices working with documents in Microsoft Teams.

1) Understand how files are stored in Microsoft Teams

Many users who start using Microsoft Teams don’t have a clear understanding of where the files are actually stored. Files shared in a team channel in Microsoft Teams are stored in SharePoint. Each channel gets a dedicated folder in the SharePoint library associated with the team. Everyone in the team has access to these files – perhaps other people as well, depending on if the team is private or public.

Files sent as an attachment in a chat message are stored in the submitter’s OneDrive for Business, in a folder called “Microsoft Teams Chat Files”. Access permissions are automatically given to the people in the chat. It’s important that users are aware of this, and that they understand the underlying technologies so that they don’t get confused.

For instance, if we go back to our dear friend Rich (in the video), when he sent files as attachments in chat messages, he was actually creating multiple copies of the same document, which led to confusion and multiple versions of the same document. To share and collaborate on a document, make sure the document is stored in a SharePoint folder, and work jointly on that document.

The beauty of having your documents saved in the cloud is that multiple people can work on the document simultaneously – from anywhere, and all changes are saved automatically. If you accidentally make changes to a document you can revert back to an earlier version of the document.

2) Think twice before naming your channels

A common mistake a lot of users do is that they think of channels in a team like document folders. Don’t! Channels in teams are places where people get together to collaborate – a document folder is created for each channel, but there is so much more to a channel than just files. At Storyals, we always use the analogy of a house with rooms to illustrate how to think of a team with channels.

What is Microsoft Teams | © Storyals

When you name a channel, you need to make it easy for people to understand what goes on in that channel. If you use codes, numerators, or other prefixes in your channel names, it will be very hard for users to know what the channel is for. Also, there is a limit to the number of characters you can see of the channel name, so if you need to put codes, numerators, put them at the end. Another reason why you should think twice before naming the channel is that if you change the name of the channel, the name of the document folder associated with that channel does not change. If you go in and rename the folder manually  – you break the link between the channel and the document folder. So think twice before naming your channels!

3) Use additional document libraries

Quite often you need to share documents with other people than the ones in the team. Also, you might need to have a more organized document structure where you have proper metadata in place. For that, we recommend setting up another SharePoint library.  One example from our organization is our video transcripts. We have a separate SharePoint library set up for all our transcripts with metadata for learning topics, languages, etc. We can then share that document library with people across teams – and externally if needed. To provide team members with easy access to other document libraries you can just add the additional document libraries as tabs.

For an even richer integration, you can add additional SharePoint libraries as cloud storage to your channel. Click “Files” – “Add cloud storage”, and select your SharePoint Document Library. That way you can access the library directly from within your Teams channel.

Using the full power of SharePoint you can benefit from really advanced document management functionality with rich metadata and automated processes. You can also leverage new enhancements such as SharePoint Syntex – where you can build data models to automatically apply metadata to thousands of documents – but that is a topic for another blog.

4) Place files where they belong

When you upload a file in a channel conversation in Teams, you don’t get to choose what folder to place it in – it’s automatically added to the root. You can move the file later on, and as long as you keep it in the same SharePoint site your links in the posts won’t break. But even so, a good practice is to upload the document to the folder where it belongs right away, and then share a link to the file. You can attach a link to the file by clicking the attachment icon and then selecting the link, or you can press the shortcut key CTRL + K on your keyboard and paste in the link.

Sometimes you might not know where a document belongs. This is great to bring up with your team. Where do we place our various documents? Who do we share them with? Do we have a structure for our documents?  We always recommend doing an Information & Document Architecture Workshop before going all-in using Teams and SharePoint for your documents.

5) Synchronize your favorite document folders

Even though it’s extremely convenient to be able to access your files from anywhere via Teams, sometimes you can benefit greatly from having access to your favorite document folders in File Explorer. I recommend you synchronize your favorite folders to your computer so that it’s easier for you to work on them. If you want to be able to access documents even without an Internet connection, right-click and select “Always keep on this device”. Be aware – don’t delete the files if you no longer want them on your computer. If you do, you will delete them for everyone! Just select “Free up space” and the documents will no longer be synchronized to your hard drive – however, they will remain in the cloud!

So how did it go for Rich in the end? Well, I’m happy to share that it went very well! He signed up for one of our Digital Bootcamps where he and his colleagues got access to our expert guidance and story-based learning on how to simply work smarter. The results? See for yourself!

Start a conversation about a document in Microsoft Teams

I frequently collaborate on documents with other team members. In this post I show a few ways to hold a conversation about the document and keep the coauthoring going while working remotely. I demonstrate the Conversation pane, Word comments and assigned tasks. What happens when I start a second conversation about the document? Will all the previous conversations remain in the conversation pane? How do I start an approval process to ask my team to review the document?

Start a conversation with document open

The aim is to start a conversation that remains with the document. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. Either create a new conversation in the Teams channel, or open a document in Teams and click the Conversations button. With the document open, it’s easy to continue a conversation about the content of the document as you read and review it. The conversation thread is helpful to others who might read the document later. However, if while co-authoring a document you need to talk about specific content, it’s best to use the Comments feature in the Office application.

Comments in doc

Using the Comments feature in an Office document is still the best method for targeted feedback. Highlight the text or the object in the document, right-click and choose to create a new comment. It draws attention to the selected text. If your comment @mentions a person by name, it sends a notification email letting them know they have a comment to review. This feature can be used while editing and reviewing a document in Microsoft Teams.

Assign task from a comment

While @mentioning someone in a comment, you can assign a task to respond to the comment. The task is simply a check box on the comment within the document. It doesn’t create a task in Microsoft ToDo or the Tasks app in Microsoft Teams. But the check box can serve as a visual signal that the task has been resolved, once the comment request has been actioned.

Conversation in channel

Starting a conversation while the document is open also makes the conversation available in the team channel. Team members can read the discussion and respond without needing to open the document. This is the advantage over in-app comments. When a team member does need more context to the conversation, they open the linked document and the conversation pane to give more input into the co-authoring activities.

Opinion: I want to see the next development from Office online applications, providing deep links to comments and positions in the document. I would reference a comment in the Teams conversation using the deep link, so that team members can open the document and jump directly to the comment. Also today, @mentioning a team member from the comment in the document sends an email notification. I would like to see the mention also send a Teams Chat, drawing attention to the comment and position in the document.

Add a subject

When a conversation is created from an open document in Teams, it doesn’t give the opportunity to add a subject. Subjects in Teams conversations are like signs on a store front. If you were to walk down a street or mall filled with shops and non used signage, it would be more difficult to find what you are looking for. Conversations without subjects require more effort to identify what the conversation is about.

Add a subject to the conversation you begin from an open document. From the channel, edit the conversation and use the Format button to add a subject.

Collaborator’s view

Content and conversation keep a collaborator in the flow of work. When your team member opens the document in Teams, they can view the conversation and the comments. If there a team member is mentioned in a comment or a task is assigned, the document Activity bubble will let them know.

Most recent doc conversation wins

If the same document is attached to another conversation, the most recent conversation will be displayed alongside the open document. This can fork and promote the most recent conversation over the previous conversation and context can be lost. I think this area needs improvement. It would be great to see multiple conversation threads in the conversation pane, much like a channel displays multiple conversation threads.

Add an Approval

Some documents require a review and approval from team members to finalise and send it onto a client or publish it. Use the Teams Approvals app in the conversation to start an approval workflow. Add the name(s) of people who need to review and approve.

I experience a few minutes delay after saving the approval, before it appears in the team member’s Approvals app. But this isn’t a problem. If you are working in real-time with your team member and approver, they already know the approval request is coming. If the approval workflow requires a response from a team member who is busy, they will eventually get to it.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Microsoft For Document Management?

Microsoft Office 365 provides various software solutions such as SharePointMicrosoft Dynamics and OneDrive for document management that have unique perks based on their application and your needs. However, each offers you;

  • Easy access to the information you want
  • Ideal for mobile devices: You create, edit, collaborate anytime anywhere
  • Overall security: More secure than an internal server
  • File and folder level security: Give access to only the people who really need it
  • Compliant
  • Version control so that there aren’t multiple copies of an item floating around

Conclusion

Holding a conversation alongside a document improves the co-authoring experience. It keeps co-authors on the same page as they work together to create and finalise the document, ready for sharing and publishing. Comments in the document are useful for feedback about specific text and objects, while the Teams conversation thread aides in sharing, discussing a wider context, and approval workflows.

Microsoft Teams is an exciting new product on the enterprise market. With its neat features (like chat and voice calls), it not only allows you to stay in touch with your colleagues but also increases your productivity. But getting a grasp on how teams work can still be a little challenging at times… especially when it comes to document management!

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