Question Time: Are recent changes in Teams indicative of it becoming more than an Inner Loop collaboration app?

Teams is my favourite application within Office 365. Like the IT Pros in our panel today, it is a subject I’m very passionate about. As a hub for team collaboration it integrates people, content and tools to make the Team more engaged and effective. It has been a runaway success. Since it’s introduction it has been the fastest growing app in Microsoft history. Back at Ignite 2018 we saw the numbers – 329,000 organisations using it (over 400,000 at the time of writing), 87 Fortune 500 companies and 54 companies with more than 10,000 active users (Microsoft, 2018). Yet it is also a young application and as such it is still evolving rapidly. Whilst positioned as an Inner Loop collaboration app, by introducing features such as the 5000 user limit or (soon to be) Private Channels, we ask – is it evolving into something different from it’s original design and purpose?

We ask a panel of IT Pro’s their opinions!

This Weeks Panel


Adam Deltinger (@Deltanr1): MCSE, Sweden

Luise Freese (@LuiseFreese): MVP, Germany

Juan Carlos González Martin (@jcgm1978): MVP, Spain

Chris Hoard (@Microsoft365Pro): MCT/MCSE, UK

Vesa Nopanen (@VesaNopanen): MVP, Finland

1/ The original design for Microsoft Teams did not have Private Channels – it was for open transparent collaboration with members of the Team. Does the upcoming introduction of private channels go against the original design of Teams? Is it truly collaborative?

AD: As many know, I’ve been a bit concerned with this feature and yes, it’s a bit away from the original design. The idea is great and I truly hope Microsoft succeed with it! But it’s not the feature itself I worry about but more  how people will use it! But if Microsoft manage to come up with an easy way to restrict access, and it’s used when truly needed, I don’t see any obstacles regarding collaboration!

LF: I think it destroys the beauty of Teams simplicity. The core of Teams idea was to create a user-friendly interface for all the services and tools employees need to connect to and give them content in the right context. Communicating at eye-level and trust are very crucial when we want to collaborate instead of just sitting next to each other. Teams enables us to shift minds towards openness, transparency and fighting the ‘need to know’ approach by giving the whole team access to everything. Shared vision, understanding, responsibility and ownership for outcomes really changed how employees felt about their work. The chat feature in Teams enables personal communication and document sharing – and if you need a SharePoint storage instead of OneDrive, you can just add a SharePoint library as a tab.

JCGM: IMHO, private channels does not go against the original design of Teams. It provides more flexibility when collaborating on a single Team allowing to define different scopes in the Team without having to create several Teams to emulate that private channels feature. Therefore, IMHO it’s truly collaborative.

CH: I really love the openness and transparency of Teams, to be able to give equal access to information and establish a level playing field – but sadly in reality, I would say that people are already doing this via Private Teams instead of Channels. By definition collaboration is between two or more people so private channels aren’t out of scope or definition, and ultimately it depends on users in the organisation how the functionality is used. I always hope that many organisations see the value of transparency that would see private channels as a secondary option but sometimes it’s necessary such as in partitioning a team between two departments who want to pool resources in some areas.

VN: Teams is a tool to support and drive collaboration. Some scenarios have verified needs for private channels, thus they won’t be against the original idea. We can’t assume one way of working fits everyone – Teams provides options, private channels are one option – it is not a must.

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2./ The limit for Microsoft Teams has been raised to 5000 users. Can it still be truly considered an Inner Loop application?

AD: You can use Teams in many ways, and there is no right or wrong here! The inner loop looks different from place to place and there are large companies and organizations with very big departments or they run large projects. With a good team design this might work but I imagine it getting harder the more people are in it though!

LF: It depends 🙂 in very large organizations this will make sense and they will have to take care about creating meaningful channels in which work can happen. I don’t see Teams as a replacement for yammer, because yammer shows what’s relevant for you, while Teams focuses on the latest conversations

JCGM: Absolutely, 5.000 users limit is still very far from what we can get with Yammer.

CH: The number is really arbitrary. If an organisation is 10 users then it doesn’t really matter whether the limit is 100 or 100,000. It’s all about how it is used. Teams is still an inner loop communication app – but I wouldn’t be surprised at all one day to see an org attempt to use it like Yammer.

VN: Yes it can, since most of Teams are usually true inner loop Teams (2-30 people). 5000 users is a option, or maximum limit at this point, and not every organization needs to create all-company teams. Teams has a very different need, why and use with large teams than on “inner loop” teams.

3/ With the transition of Skype for Business and StaffHub into Microsoft Teams, can we expect any more applications to follow suit in the future? Will applications such as Kaizala and Yammer survive?

AD: You can for for sure expect Teams to expand its possibilities along the way! But I’m not seeing it will kill off or fully integrate with all services! Kaizala is a very different service based on a different approach and Yammer will get better integration in Teams, but it’s not a service fit to exist in Teams fully!

LF: I don’t think it’s about survival but about building the work experience you / your customer need. Microsoft does a great job with creating an including and empowering platform that serves lots of usecases.

JCGM: Microsoft Teams has been defined several times as a Collaboration Hub so it’s natural more and more Applications will be added to the platform. In regards of the survival of Kaizala and Yammer, I think they have a clear place Today in the collaboration landscape, but it’s difficult to say what will happen in the future as Teams continue to evolve

CH: It’s a difficult question. I guess a lot of it is down to what users want and what Microsoft wants. There are a lot of factors in play. I could say that there is no way the others would be wound up but then look at the whole history of Skype, which Microsoft brought way back in 2011. In the short term, they’ll survive and thrive and continue to be integrated with Teams. Anymore than that is anyone’s guess.

VN: Teams does not try to be a single application for everything. It is and will be a single UI for many things. Yammer has still it’s use in many large organizations and Kaizala is targeted beyond company walls. Some applications may disappear, but it is too early to predict if Yammer will be a one. Kaizala might end partially inside Teams just like Staffhub did, Yammer features might emerge in Teams as well. Instead of transforming these into Teams, I think integration between applications will get stronger and we’ll get to use these apps from either client.

4/ With Teams being increasingly used as the UI for SharePoint and OneDrive – and with the integration of so many applications, is there a chance that Teams will naturally evolve from an inner loop collaboration application to a modern workplace UI for all Office 365 applications?

AD: Well, it’s possible that some are using Teams for this purpose! Already today you can integrate a lot of services with apps, connector and bots and recently the limit for members within a team just upped to 5000! With the upcoming Yammer tab its easy to see this happening! I still believe its best suited for inner loop collaboration but can be used to quickly get an overview on your daily work! I believe switching over and using other UI’s as well will remain common in the future as well!

LF: I am very confident, that Microsoft won’t stop. So we need to be very adaptive in change to facilitate that for our customers. Teams as a Platform not only offering 3rd Party apps in it’s store but its also empowering you to build your own apps which seems to aim for that.

JCGM: I don’t see Teams a replacement for SPO and ODFB, but I see it as a Collaboration Hub that will integrate more Applications (as I said before) and also will have more and more integration with SPO and ODFB. I cannot imagine a modern Workplace UI for all Office 365 applications…core workloads (SPO, ODFB, EXO) will be there with their own focus and we will have Teams as a Hub that uses all those core workloads

CH: A Single UI as an adaptive workspace isn’t new. Workspace 365 is a great example of pulling everything together in one application which has been around for years. It makes a lot of sense from an admin, productivity and simplification perspective, and I can only imagine how utilisation rates of things like SPO has gone up with Teams. You can use it today as a modern workplace UI but there is a lot more integration to be done.

VN: It can be already one modern workplace UI for Office 365 – and beyond. So I say this is not just a chance – it is already reality if you choose so. Inner loop is still there too.

5/ In the future, would you rather see one single unified application, UI and UX for Intelligent Communications and Teamwork? Or do you think that it would be better to have several different applications with specific purposes and functions?

AD: The general idea of Microsoft Teams is simplicity! The more you add to the mix, the more complex it gets! The service is still evolving and no one knows where the limit is right now! But I’m pretty sure other applications and services will remain side by side as well!

LF: I don’t believe in  ‘one tool to rule them all’. Our world (and work) is fast and complex, so we need different perspectives. Closing doors so that you have only one single point of view doesn’t seem to fit in our workplace reality.

JCGM: I think we will have Teams, but also SPO and ODFB as collaboration tools for other scenarios where Teams is not the only solution available. For instance, organizations will continue needing Intranets and I don’t see Teams will meet/replace this need.

CH: I am a strong advocate of choice. Microsoft 365 is all about working how you want to work so I think that, with Teams, having the choice to simply use it as an inner loop communication app, or as a modern UI whilst being able to access those applications separately is the best of all possible worlds.

VN: IT world travels in cycles. You consolidate and then you break things apart.  It is a neverending cycle. Perhaps Teams will do both: it consolidates and then allows certain parts be used separately (you can use OneDrive from OneDrive or from SharePoint or access it from Teams) to support more different working styles and needs. I would love to see One-Teams-To-Rule-Them-All but only if there are options to use different apps/services independently as well. Just like it is progressing now. We can’t assume needs and limit our solutions based on assumptions we have guessed.