Microsoft Teams has introduced a new way of working collaboratively with documents. However, with this flexibility comes questions on how to create some structure to help people access the documents that they need.

Let’s explore some options to structure Teams and SharePoint.

How Teams Links to SharePoint

Behind each Team and SharePoint site is a Microsoft 365 Group. This is where you assign the people that will have access. Initially people can be Owners, Members or External Guests.

Key to planning an easy-to-use structure is understanding how Teams and Document Libraries work together.

  1. When you create a Channel in Teams it creates a folder in the default document library in SharePoint.
  2. The flow is one-way i.e. when you create a folder in SharePoint it does not create a channel in Teams.


Managing Collaboration and Structure

While Teams provides good options for collaboration and conversations, sometimes the organisations need to manage the flexibility of Teams with already established document structures. Organisations may not want a “mess” of new folders in a document library or want to utilise document management features like meta data or check in and approval controls with a set of documents.

This is where Tabs and Add Cloud Storage become useful. However, each operate in different ways.

Scenario:

A team is working on a building project. They have created a team with channels for Meetings, Variances and Budgets. They are using conversations and collaborating well with documents in these channel and SharePoint folders.

However, they also need to refer to and work on general health and safety documents stored in another SharePoint site, and view documents from a previous project for the client.
Instead of moving these documents to the Team, they can link the documents.

Option One – Create a Tab

This embeds a view of the document library into Teams. Users can navigate to this and interact with documents like they would from a web browser. They will need to have permission to access these documents.

Pros:

  • Quick access to the files from within the Teams app window.

Cons:

  • Users cannot link to these files easily in conversations.
  • Users can’t see views, check in and meta data.

Option Two – Add a Shortcut in Files Tab

This option adds a shortcut in the files tab, so users can access all the files they need from the files tab.

Pros:

  • Users can link to these files easily in conversations.

Cons:

  • Users cannot see views, check in and meta data.
  • This shortcut cannot be renamed.

Structure Recommendations

As always it depends on the end goal but consider the following points.

Recommendation Why
Understand the number of files you have. There are technical limitations on the number of files you can have in a document library. You may need to consider splitting into different document libraries
Consider if you want to use document management features like meta data and check in/ check out. These features are not well suited in the Teams collaborative environment.
Decide if users will collaborate and have conversations about documents. If they will then they need to be in a channel in Teams and the related SharePoint folder.
Are different permissions needed? Consider creating a separate document library in the same group if you require different permission with the same people.
Or, consider a separate site if people outside the Group require access to the files.