In May 2020, Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Teams Templates feature and then released it towards the end of the year. Since a templating functionality in Microsoft Teams has been missing until this point, many have been waiting for the new feature. On the other hand, many companies have already developed their own templating mechanisms through various Microsoft board resources or purchased pre-built solutions and products such as CollabStack Teams Center. Many are now wondering if the resulting templating customizations should be rolled back or if already purchased solutions should no longer be used.
We have tested the new Microsoft Teams template feature for you and would like to show you what advantages the CollabStack Teams Center solutionhas over Microsoft Teams templates.
Microsoft Teams Templates
With the “Microsoft Teams Templates” feature, administrators have the option of offering predefined room structures in Microsoft Teams directly for end users. This increases the productivity of users, as they no longer have to invest time in configuring the Teams room structure after the creation.
During configuration, Microsoft Teams templates also allow you to define the channels and apps for the Teams room template. Currently, only Microsoft Teams admins are allowed to configure the Microsoft Teams templates.
CollabStack Teams Center
What we want to share with you about our in-house solution Teams Center is that it not only includes Microsoft Teams Room Templating functionality, but also supports and automates topics such as Governance, Compliance, External User Management, Integration of Microsoft Teams with other systems such as Dynamics 365.
Before making a decision about the templating functionality of Microsoft Teams, consider the following benefits of the CollabStack Teams Center solution.
1) Fully configured templates
With Microsoft Teams templates, channels and apps can be defined, but the apps are not configured. This means that the apps have to be configured by the end user after the Teams rooms have been created.
In the case shown, the end user would need to click on “Settings” and configure the Planner service themselves. Here the following problem could occur, that the user creates a separate plan (not the plan that is automatically created with the Teams room) and then configures it into the Teams room as an app. This would cause permission issues as other Teams room members would not have access to the newly created plan as a result.
The Teams Center solution’s templating engine can automate the deployment of the channels and apps that have been configured in the template in such a way that the apps do not need to be viewed further by end users. As a result, the CollabStack solution provides a fully-automated and complete configuration of Teams rooms.
2) Templating for SharePoint Sites & Information Architecture
You can currently only define Teams room structures with Microsoft Teams templates, but there is no way to customize SharePoint Team Site.
Once you create a Teams room, a SharePoint Team Site is created in the background for file storage. In SharePoint, it is a normal information architecture process to use content types and columns for documents to make them more discoverable later. Teams Templates does not provide the functionality to provide extra content types or columns.
With Teams Center’s templating engine, you can not only template the Teams room structure, but also the SharePoint team site behind the MS Teams room. This gives you the ability to standardize the SharePoint site structure and provision your own content types or columns. The Teams Center solution uses the famous open source templating engine PnP Provisoning Engine for SharePoint templating. This eliminates the need for training if you want to customize the SharePoint Team Site, as numerous documents and videos are available through the PnP Provisoning Engine.
The Microsoft Teams Templates feature currently does not give you the option to approve the creation of the Teams rooms. The Teams rooms are created without approval. This creates a need for additional solutions such as the Request-a-Teams-App.
In the project collaboration space, a Teams Rooms creation is often required only after approval. This lack of functionality leads to using a separate app, which adds deployment and operational overhead for the IT department.
With Teams Center, there is no need to maintain additional separate solutions, as Teams Center provides a customizable approval workflow for IT departments, which is mapped based on LogicApps. With basic LogicApp knowledge, you can already map more complex approval processes that meet your organizational needs.
Also, with the Teams Center solution, you have the ability to define an approver group per template type. This way, the same responsible persons do not have to receive all team room creation requests and approve the requested team rooms. This task can be freely distributed to different responsible persons.
4) Template permissions & visibility
Currently, no permissions can be assigned to the templates with Microsoft Templates. As a result, end users see many templates at once. This confusion leads to end users deciding to fall back on an empty room and create a team room without selecting a template.
In practice, it often happens that per-template permissions are defined and the number of visible templates per user is reduced. E.G.: An employee of the marketing department sees only the templates that are relevant/approved for him.
With the Teams Center solution you can define permissions for the Teams room templates. This allows you to determine which users get which templates to choose from.
5) Provisioning of the additional documents
Document provisioning is often an additional requirement to templating, approvals and template visibility. In particular, document provisioning is required in the case of onboarding processes. If you want to deploy Microsoft Teams templates, then by default you will not be provided with the ability to provision documents.
Teams Center can provision not only the structures, but also the documents. You can define in a Teams Center template the documents to be provisioned with the Teams room creation. Then the documents can be provisioned automatically.
Am I making a competitive decision with Microsoft Feature if I want to implement the CollabStack Teams Center solution?
If you look at the entire article, you will see that the CollabStack solution has several advantages. For this reason, the first thought may be to deploy the CollabStack Teams Center solution. This brings up questions about whether the Microsoft features can be ignored and other solutions should be deployed instead. Since many IT managers want to stay within the standard, it is important to answer the question of what the implications are with Teams Center.
The CollabStack Teams Center solution does not compete with the Microsoft Teams Templates feature, it is also possible to use the standard Microsoft feature as a templating engine. On the other hand, it is possible to use CollabStack’s templating engine as needed. Since CollabStack’s Teams Center solution is developed based on the standard extension options of Microsoft Teams, it is possible to use all the standard features of Microsoft Teams on demand without limiting the updatability of your Microsoft Teams environment.
In this article we have tried to show you the standard templating feature of Microsoft Teams and the advantages of CollabStack’s Teams Center solution. Depending on the complexity of your requirements, you can use the standard feature. The listed advantages of the Teams Center solution can show you decision criteria when you could use a pre-built solution.
If you would like to know more about Teams Center, we would be happy to receive your contact request.