Does Microsoft Teams Replace SharePoint Online?

I was recently asked the question during a training session – ‘Does Teams replace SharePoint?’ That is actually a very sensible question… 

If you think from a user perspective rather than a technical one, you can see how the question would occur. I spend a lot of time showing business value solutions that can be delivered in Microsoft Teams using SharePoint, Power Automate, Power Apps and Power BI. My goal with these solutions is to make the technology as invisible as possible. I am a firm believer that the end user does not need to know how the technology works to get efficiency and business value from it.  

So, end users are now being delivered solutions to every day productivity challenges via Teams. They also have permission managed SharePoint / Files, as well as tabs that have Apps and reports that are easily accessible.  

With SharePoint managing documents under the hood for all Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) workloads, it is possible to predict that it will become a layer of the platform rather than its own service.  

However, although Teams has been designed to remove the complexity of the Site Collection permission management overhead, it does not provide easy to implement granular security. So, files in Teams are managed by permissions that allow: 

  • Owners – full control 
  • Members – contributing access 

This means that all Teams members are created equal. This governs the data that is being collaborated within the Team.  

So, it is more of a 1 and 0 state – if you are a member you get to collaborate, if not, you don’t. 

It is for this reason that the most common pattern we are seeing in organisational uptake of a combined SharePoint Online & Microsoft Teams strategy, is to have these types of teams: 

Levelled Teams – Where everyone is in fact equal and collaborates unilaterally in the Files tab 

Hierarchical Teams – Where the content in the Files tabs is shared and more tabs are used along the top of the Team to show a variety of SharePoint sites that users have varying Read Only, Contribute, Design or Full control access to. These top tabs are managed by the site owners who are usually the same as team owners and control the permission level of new users.  

Of course, best practice in SharePoint is to manage permissions in groups, preferably AD groups (dynamic if possible) or SharePoint created groups. So, the owner of a SharePoint online site is used to a greater deal for both flexibility of permissions as well as the overhead of permission management.  

So, does this mean we will see a levelling out of the groups of people using data (trying not to call them teams) so that they will fit within the Teams structure, or perhaps the addition of more permissions layers in the Teams member structure that is not on the cards right now?  

What other benefits are there of keeping SharePoint Online as a service? Well, it is not just documents – SharePoint has a massive amount of functionality as a list-based data store – a more competent version of Excel if you like. SharePoint Online lists are leveraging the power of workflow (Power Automate) and custom forms (Power Apps), to increase the use of gathered information by automating the processes around it. 

In addition, SharePoint has come a long way in the design of pages to display information in a more palatable fashion, SharePoint is now a super flexible content management tool. Add to this the new features, roll ups for news feeds across hub sites and the latest “Project Cortex” knowledge management features due for release later this year, it is far from a just a file collaboration tool.  

Microsoft has a history of creating game changing collaboration tools: first there was SharePoint on premise, great for document management and control. Then, as we moved online, SharePoint Online was re-imagined, with hub sites, new architecture and a totally revamped UI and search – it made the on-prem product look small.  

Next came the Power Platform – and what a set of power tools it is – standardising at the same time as revolutionising automation and productivity Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Now Power Virtual agents were and still are a game changer.  

Then Teams – Microsoft Teams has been, for obvious Covid-19 reasons as well as for the natural progression of the technologies in use, the biggest single transformation of the collaboration space. By leveraging all the tools, integrating as standard with every part of the Microsoft 365 platform and continuing to innovate still.  

Microsoft Teams has replaced Skype for Business, although if like me you have had the misfortune to used S4B recently you will know why – the technology was just not able to work in the same way. The structure of Microsoft Teams has surpassed what was being achieved with the Lync replacement and taken the focus off video conferencing and onto team collaboration. 

So, does Microsoft Teams replace SharePoint? I think not, nor do I think it can replace the other technologies it enhances. What it will, however, is continue to be a single access point for the toolset that is Microsoft 365 and hopefully as it matures, it will add more to that integration capability.  

SharePoint Online still has some fantastic features to offer if implemented correctly. I have several other articles on the subject especially the “I Love SharePoint” blog that goes into depth on what SharePoint is good at (and what is it not good to be used for). 

I would love to hear your views on this – so please comment below or let me know your community questions and I will answer them on here for you. Come have a chat 😊  

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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