For those of us that have been following the concept of Groups within Office 365—the announcements today at the Future of SharePoint event were a breath of fresh air and a chance for us all to collectively scream together in unison “finally”. In fact, I wanted to stand and clap, but I figured I wanted people to really remember the content of the keynote and not the overly excited lady in the audience.
In the new modern site experience, whenever a new Site is created, a corresponding SharePoint Group is also created. As you manage permissions for a group, they are aligned and in sync with the permissions for your site. From the team site you can easily navigate to group content and also do things like pin the group conversations to the sites quick launch. This means that all the features of groups are now backed by the power of a team site.
What this now means for our deployments is that we no longer have to worry about using a site versus a group or try to determine when to use what. In this new scenario, I can easily combine the best features of both scenarios into one easy-to-user experience. Let’s break it down into a real-world example: what if I have a team that wants to share threaded conversations, store documents using metadata for organization and workflows for approvals, and also use a quick and easy tool for managing their tasks. With the tools available today I would have to make a decision between using a group OR a team site, and in many cases due to the requirements around workflows and approvals I would likely go the route of a team site. It is an unfortunate path though, because by going with a team site we lose the richness of threaded conversations and task management (Planner).
With what we learned in the Future of SharePoint event, by the end of the year this problem will be resolved! Whenever you create a new site, it will be automatically integrated into a Group and have the same functionality of a Group. This means that instead of being focused on what to use when – we can go a level deeper and focus on using the right tool for the specific items. Instead of having to make a choice at the highest level (site vs group), we can make the choice at the functionality level (task list vs Planner). And the beauty of it is that we can use the best of both features to create simple and easy to use experiences for our users.
We have been hearing for a while that team sites and Groups were on a path to become one, but to be honest, we heard the same thing about Yammer and the results are still to be seen. What is different now is that we have seen the direction they are taking AND we have been given some high-level timelines. By the end of the calendar year, we should start to see some of these concepts show up in first release. I imagine they will be first released in an MVP (minimally viable product) state, but will continue to be updated and have additional features added. If we just look at history, we can see that this was the approach Groups has taken and we can see that they started small and they just keep improving. I imagine this is what we have in store for the modern team sites with Groups integration.
To best get ready for these changes, I think the thing I would stress the most is for you to get access to a first release tenant so that you can become familiar with the new experiences as they roll to first release. You will want to have a place where you can create content, play with dummy data and just try out the overall user experience. In addition to this, I also recommend that you spend some time mapping out your common user experiences and use cases. Spend some time learning how they work and the things that are most important to them. From the data you put together, you can create a few sample scenarios and run those through first release as a test case. I don’t think it will take you long to see how the new modern sites are really going to help make things much smoother!
There is a lot to watch in this space, and until we see it hit first release, we really won’t have too many details. The future seems pretty bright in this area and the wait isn’t really too much longer!