Understanding Office 365 Groups and Teams

A while ago I wrote an article that detailed:

Where to put data in Office 365

and in typical fashion, technology has now moved on. This means that I need to revisit the concept of where you should be putting inside Office 365.

We of course now need to remember that we have new locations like Microsoft Teams and Staffhub, as well as improved locations like Office 365 Groups to house our business data. So let my try and broadly explain the the data locations that are currently available to you in Office 365.


Let’s start by considering the two major types of data we have to deal with in today’s businesses. As the above slide shows, we can typically categorise data it shared and personal. Personal data is typically created and owned by a single user in the business. Personal data is also only shared between a handful of people at most. By contrast, shared data is data that is not owned by any single individual and typically needs to be seen across a wide wide audience.

You also typically tend to find that shared data is a much greater percentage of the overall amount of data as illustrated by the size of the bars above. From here on in, we’ll consider shared data locations being green and private data locations being blue. We will also consider shared data locations to be on the left while personal data locations will be on the right.


Office 365 provides us a location into which we can store all business data, whether shared or personal. It is the box into which everything will live, both shared and personal.


We store business data inside a number of serviceswithin Office 365. These include Exchange for emails, SharePoint for files, Planner for tasks, Yammer for social conversations and Skype for meetings.

You’ll notice that the majority of these services are designed for the storage of shared data, however both Exchange and SharePoint have the ability to store both shared and personal data. Thus, they appear twice in the above slide as locations in which we can store data.


Into the personal data location for Exchange we place a users individual mailbox. This is designed for them to receive emails from outside the organisation and also typically from individuals inside the business. A personal mailbox is not a good location for generic email addresses like accounts@ or info@. It is designed for personal correspondence to and from an individual.

Likewise, SharePoint provides the OneDrive for Business location designed for a user’s personal files. These files are owned by the user and typically shared with a very small number of people. OneDrive for Business is NOT designed as a file server replacement, it is designed as repository for an individual users to store files they typically have on their desktop, on their local hard disk, or on an external USB drive or a home directory on a network.

Thus, Office 365, thanks to both Exchange and SharePoint, provide each and every licensed user a distinct location in which to save their own own personal information. Because that information is still within the Office 365 environment it remain secure and compliant as well as being easy to manage for the business owners.


Now Exchange and SharePoint also provide locations to save shared data into. Exchange provides this via shared mailboxes. Best practice is for shared mailboxes to be things like info@, sales@, etc that may need to be shared between a number of people and will also persist beyond any individual currently performing that task.

Likewise, SharePoint provides Team Sites as a location to save information into that all people in the business can access. You can of course provide custom security around all shared Office 365 services as needed.

However now in this space of shared data in Office 365, you get additional locations to store your information. Services like Planner allow the organisation of tasks and schedules across a team. Yammer allows the business to get out of email and work in an enterprise social network. Not only does that reduce email overload for users but because information is shared publically, it makes it more searchable and shareable. Finally, Skype for Business allows people in the business to meet virtually. They can chat, conduct meetings, share desktops, whiteboards, files and more.

Each one of these shared locations can be used stand alone if desired. Thus, you can have a Team Site to fill a single need. Likewise, you can use Skype as a way of chatting to people. As I have written about before:

The modern way of collaboration

To get a job done these days, people need more than stand alone tools. They need all the power of the individual services that Office 365 provides but they need them rolled together in a single place that is easy to work with.


Enter Office 365 Groups. If you combine a SharePoint Team Site, an Exchange shared mailbox, a Planner plan and a Yammer network you get an Office 365 Group. However, an Office 365 Group also provides you with an additional service, called ‘Connectors’, that allows you to bring information from services outside your business (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and more) directly into the Office 365 Group.

You can create as many Office 365 Groups as you need and when you do each one will get its own dedicated SharePoint Team Site, Exchange shared mailbox, Planner plan and Yammer network. You can also still have each service stand alone, like a stand alone Team Site, but each Office 365 Group you create automatically provisions all the individual services inside it and links them together.

Why might you still need a stand alone service like a Team Site?  Maybe you just want a single location to put all your brochures for people to sent to customers. That function might not need email or plans or chat, so you simply provision a stand alone Team Site to perform that function. However, when the people who create those brochures need to actually collaborate, then an Office 365 Group makes sense and you can mix and match as needed.

Again, it is totally up to you how and when you use these services. You may choose to only use stand alone services and no Groups. Likewise, you may choose to only use Groups. The choice if yours. That’s the flexibility Office 365 provides


If we now take an Office 365 group and add a Rostering service we get Staffhub. So when you create a new Staffhub for your business to manage rostering and employee times you also get a dedicated SharePoint Team Site, Exchange mailbox, Planner plan, and Yammer network. Do you have to use them all? Of course not, but they are provisioned automatically for you when you create a Staffhub because chances are that you will find use for the services.

Imagine you need to create a roster for your business. You will also probably need to share documents with your staff about their duties. That’s where the SharePoint Team Site fits in. There also probably be the need for staff to chat about their work. That’s where Yammer comes in. Hopefully, you get the idea here is that when you create a Staffhub or Office 365 Group Microsoft automatically gives you a range of stand alone services integrated together because the chances are you’ll find a need for them. It’s bundling at its best!

Again, you don’t need to use them all immediately, but they are there from the start, ready for your to use, whenever you need.


Finally, if we ingrate Skype for Business and add persistent chat to our Staffhub resources (that were a superset of Office 365 Group resources) we get a Microsoft Team.

As with Staffhub, when you create a new Microsoft Team you get everything Staffhub provided plus additional integrated services. If all you want to use is persistent chat then you can use that but again, chances are you are going to need more options down the track so they are automatically provisioned for you.

Everything in Office 365 is built on core services like Exchange for email, SharePoint for files and Skype for Business for communications. You can use each of these services stand alone or you can combine them together in an Office 365 Group, a Staffhub or Microsoft Team.

Of course, there is more planning involved than what I have laid out here when it comes to collaboration but I hope that I’ve made things a bit clearer and shown you all the options Office 365 provides you for storing your information. The trend today is certainly to provisioning something like a Microsoft Team first to give you everything you want immediately, even if you don’t use it all. However, the choice is yours. Go with a single service or go with them all. Do what makes the most sense for your business today and don’t too much about what will happen down the track as you can easily scale up into all the options that Office 365 provides, because typically, you’ll find that what you want is already provisioned thanks to Office 365 Groups, Staffhub and Microsoft Teams.

Learning Collaboration in Office 365


A little while ago I announced that I’ll be conducting a new course focused on showing you the best practices when it comes to collaboration in Office 365. This will answer questions about whether you should use Microsoft Teams over Yammer, what roles Groups plays and to drive adoption for your business to ensure that everyone makes full use of the Office 365 suite they have been allocated.

You’ll find all the original information about the course here:

Understanding collaboration in Office 365 course

The course gives you the opportunity to participate in the learning live. You’ll be able to complete the hands on tutorials right there and then. You’ll get immediate feedback on what you’ve learnt and you’ll also be able to ask questions and most importantly get your questions answered right there and then. If you think this is just going to be a boring webinar style presentation, then you in for a shock as nothing could be further from the truth. This course will be more hands on than if you were sitting in a classroom!

Best of all is that all the sessions will be recorded and made available to you, along with all the training materials (notes, links, whitepapers and more) FOREVER! That’s right, you can continue to come back to the course and watch the training at your leisure. You can even download it all and watch it offline. So if you are too shy to attend the live events you’ll still get full benefit from all the material.

Those lucky enough to have signed up already have been able to take advantage of the initial substantial early bird discount, however if you missed that then you need to act now to get a $30 discount. Use the coupon code EAERLYBIRD2 at checkout or click here to have the discount automatically applied upon registration:

Understanding collaboration in Office 365 – $30 discount

Remember, you need to use the link or the coupon code to get the discount.

An additional offer is that if you are not already a CIAOPS Academy affiliate you should sign up so you can offer this course to others and receive a commission. That’s right, just refer this (or any CIAOPS Academy course) to others and you’ll receive a percentage of the course direct to you. To become an affiliate simply sign up for free at the CIAOPS Academy and then contact me (director@ciaops.com) to let me know you want to be an affiliate and I’ll send you all the details and get you signed up asap.

The count down to the course kick off on the 1st of June is on and I’d encourage you to take advantage of this discount before it expires on the 19th of May. Remember, the course includes over 5 hours of hands on training, video recordings of all sessions as well a lifetime access to all the course materials including video replays, course notes, links, white papers and more. All of which you can download and view offline.

If you want to learn how Office 365 can give your business a completive edge by being more effective and productive then sign up today to take advantage of this discount.

I’ll also point out that if you sign up as a CIAOPS Patron you’ll not only receive discounts starting at 25% on this course but you’ll also get access to my private Office 365 Facebook community where you can get your questions answered by myself and other in the community daily. For all the benefits of being a CIAOPS Patron head over to:


I hope to see you on the course with me and those who have already signed up.

Understanding collaboration in Office 365 course


I’m happy to announce a new course is available from the CIAOPS Academy. This course will focus on the collaboration tools available in Office 365. This means SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, OneDrive and more. You’ll not only learn how these products work but you’ll also learn how to use them effectively to increase the productivity of your business.

The course will divided into 5 live sessions held every Friday in June. Thus:

Friday June 2nd 2017 – SharePoint & OneDrive
Friday June 9th 2017 – Groups, Teams and Staffhub
Friday June 16th 2017 – Yammer & Skype for Business
Friday June 23rd 2017 – Delve & Planner
Friday June 30th 2017 – Migration and Driving adoption

The sessions will run for 1 hour and be recorded. Session time are:

8am – 9am – Sydney, Australia
3pm – 4pm – PDT, USA
6pm – 7pm – EDT, USA
11pm – 12am – BST, UK

The recordings of each session will be available shortly after each session is completed. Although each session will run for 60 minutes, there will be an open Q and A at the end that will continue as long as people have questions not answered in the session.

All the material, including recordings, course notes and additional offers will be available for download after the fact.

The material presented during this course is a great way to fast track you understanding and adoption of Office 365 adoption tools in your business. Not only will you see the technology in use but the sessions will include hands on material for all students to participate in, so you’ll be directly interacting with the technology during the time. This way you’ll get to see and experience exactly what is possible with Office 365 collaboration technologies.

If you are keen to jump on board then I have a special early bird discount as a reward. Normally the cost of the course is US$299 but if you sign up before the 12th of May 2017 at 9:00am you’ll receive $60 off the cost using the coupon code EARLYBIRD1 or this direct link:

Understanding collaboration in Office 365 – $60 early bird discount

Remember, you need to use the link or the coupon code to get the discount.

An additional offer is that if you are not already a CIAOPS Academy affiliate you should sign up so you can offer this course to others and receive a commission. That’s right, just refer this (or any CIAOPS Academy course) to others and you’ll receive a percentage of the course direct to you. To become an affiliate simply sign up for free at the CIAOPS Academy and then contact me (director@ciaops.com) to let me know you want to be an affiliate and I’ll send you all the details and get you signed up asap.

In summary. Sign up for the upcoming CIAOPS Academy Office 365 collaboration course here (and get an early bird discount):

Understanding collaboration in Office 365 – $60 early bird discount

and contact me (director@ciaops.com) if you want to become an academy affiliate and receive commissions for courses you sell.

I hope to see you in attendance at the course in June.

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 3

This is the third article in a series of typical customers questions around Office 365. These questions were part of presentation I did with two other resellers at the Australian Microsoft Partner Conference in 2016. You’ll find the first part of the series here:

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 1

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 2

The question for this article is:

My team has to manage a lot of documents for a lot of clients and we have trouble working effectively with this information when you also combine it with data from email and other sources. How can Office 365 be used to allow my business to be more effective with the information we are producing?

There are so many ways that this question can be answered with Office 365. Consider the following as simply an overview of what is possible.

The most important thing to appreciate about Office 365 is that all the information you put in there is searchable. The results from any search are ‘security trimmed’. That means you only see results that you have access to view.

For most users Delve provides a single pane of glass across nearly all of your Office 365 services.

How can I find people and information in Office Delve?

I have written articles about the importance of Delve but this one probably sums up things best:

Delve should be the centre of your Office 365 universe

Delve is available across all Office 365 suites and if you haven’t as yet looked at it then start here:

Introducing Office Delve

Powered by Officegraph

What is Office Delve?

How does Office Delve know what is relevant to me?

Also importantly, you can get Delve on your mobile devices:

Introducing Office Delve Mobile Apps

as well as you Windows 10 desktop:

Delve on Windows 10 app

Most Office 365 users also get a personal location called OneDrive for Business in which they can store all their documents.

What is OneDrive for Business?

They will get around 1TB of space into which they can store and share their personal files. This means they can move information stored on their local desktop, PC, USB drives, etc into a secure location that only they have access to and that they can share from with others, inside and outside the organisation if they want. It is important to note that OneDrive for Business is not designed as a file server replacement, it is designed for personal use. SharePoint Team Sites and Office 365 Groups are more the locations for information that needs to be shared with a teams of people.

There are many other products that do personal file sharing but here’s an overview of why OneDrive for Business is a superior technology.

Why OneDrive for Business

Given that Office 365 is much more than just emails and file storage I’d recommend you review my article:

Where to put data in Office 365?

to give you a better idea of what all the options are.

Now I mentioned Office 365 Groups as another location in which you can save your information. Office 365 Groups is great if you simply need an email distribution and single place to store common files. For a better idea of what Office 365 Groups are all about have a look at:

Office 365 groups: A quick tour of new user and admin experiences

If you then needs to add tasks to your collaboration you should have a look at Office 365 Planner:

Get started quickly with Microsoft Planner

However, if your needs exceed the functionality of both Office 365 Groups and Planner then it is time to consider SharePoint Team Sites for a fully blown ‘intranet’ style experience.

What is SharePoint

Getting started with SharePoint

Remember, that everything you put into a SharePoint Team Site is searchable, including the text inside documents. Team Sites allow you to create a hierarchical structure much like a file server but add in collaboration features like calendars, wikis, lists, etc.

You can get more functionality by using ‘metadata’ to tag your information to make it easier for your users to filter and sort.

Create managed metadata column

Set up metadata navigation for a list or library

The great thing is that you can customise your metadata to exactly suit your needs.

Another service available to Enterprise Office 365 Plans is a private video portal called Office 365 Video. In here you can place and share videos with your team. This is a great place for training resources as well as recordings from Skype for Business.

Meet Office 365 video

Manage your Office 365 video portal

You can also embed these videos directly into your SharePoint Team Site quickly and easily.

Another member of the Microsoft Cloud family is CRM. This allows you to manage contacts, sales, etc. but will soon also allow you to manage your financials thanks to the recently announced Dynamics 365.

Dynamics 365

Turning business process into business advantage for organizations everywhere

The big advantage these additional Microsoft Cloud products provide is the fact that access is governed by the same login users have for Office 365. This provides greater integration and management that few other services can match.

Another location that your team can collaborate together is in Yammer. Yammer provides an enterprise social network to share information publically which has so many benefits to the business. I’ve outlined many of these here:

The Business of Yammer

Don’t forget also that many Office 365 suites provide your users with the latest Office desktop software on their PC’s, Macs and mobile devices. They get at least 5 installation on each platform to ensure that everyone has the same version of the software. As an Office 365 subscriber you receive continuing free upgrades to this software automatically so you don’t need to worry whether everyone has the ‘latest’. They will.

Finally, Office 365 is also going to provide you the ability to automate your business process and information via a number of different tools such as:

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Powerapps

SharePoint Workflows

In summary, Office 365 gives a lot of ways to manage and work more effectively with your information. It also provides you with the opportunity to improve the way you work today, become more effective and save time. It really is a single platform dedicated to better information management, accessed via a single login that is always constantly evolving and improving. In short, Office 365 is more than email and file storage, it is a full suite of productivity services to help your business better manage your information.

Watch out for the answers to more common questions with Office 365 coming soon.

Enabling Office 365 Planner Trial

The information is thanks to fellow Microsoft MVP Darrell Webster and his original blog post on the topic here:


I’ve been busting to get a look at Office 365 Planner. I know it has now become available and that I need to have First Release enabled for my whole tenant turned. However, I still hadn’t seen it appear. Then along came Darrell’s blog post to the rescue.

The first step to enable Office 365 Planner Preview is to open a new browser using in-private or incognito mode. This will ensure that you don’t automatically log into an existing tenant because we want to all the Planner Preview to an existing Office 365 tenant.

In this new browser window navigate to:

Office 365 Planner Preview Trial


You should see the page above displayed. In the top right corner select the Sign In option to add Planner to an existing tenant.


You should be then taken to the familiar Office 365 login page as shown above. Login here as a global administrator.


You’ll then be asked to confirm adding Planner to this tenant. Select the Try now button to continue.

You’ll then be given a summary of the order. Select the Continue button.

This will then complete the process and take you to the Office 365 admin center.


It is unlikely that the planner tile will appear immediately in your Office 365 app launcher as shown above. It may take up to 24 hours for this to appear.


You’ll need to then go into the users you want to give access to Office 365 Planner and assign them a license as shown above.


Until the tile appears you can access Office 365 Planner directly using:


You might need to login as a valid Office 365 user that is licensed for Planner. If all is good you should see the above screen and you are now ready, like me finally, to start using Office 365 Planner.

Once again, thanks to Darrell Webster for taking the time to document this.

More information about Planner once I’ve had a play.