typewriter broken apart and organized according to parts
PHOTO: Florian Klauer

Governing SharePoint in Office 365 can be a bit tricky. Creating a new method for governance was key to helping my customers navigate this new world. This is the fifth in a five-part series. In the first article we covered creating your team, organizing meetings and creating a plan. In the second article we looked at how settings in the Admin Centers can help achieve governance goals. In the third and fourth articles we took a look at information governance and how to best plan site architecture, manage and secure content in Office 365.

For our final installment, we'll look holistically at all the tools in Office 365 and offer some guidance around the best tool(s) to use in each situation. This is the prime focus of the tool governance section of my governance method for Office 365. Administrative settings of these tools are also important, but we tend to cover most of that during the admin center section of the plan.

The main goal here is to avoid chaos in your tenant. A lot of organizations jump into Office 365 without any governance plan and then find themselves in a situation where one department is using SharePoint for a specific process, while another department is using Planner for the same exact process — and there is no strategy or guidance behind any of it. As the governance team you need to sit down and review the pros and cons of these tools within their categories and then train users on the best tools to use in each situation. I have put the most popular tools into four categories to get you started: Task Management, Forms, File Storage and Team Collaboration.

Office 365 Task Management

Microsoft is giving us a lot of options when it comes to managing tasks in Office 365. We have Planner, To-Do, Outlook Tasks, SharePoint task lists, and even Flow Approvals. For situations like this where there are multiple tools to choose from, I recommend making a comparison chart like the one below.

task management flow chart

This will allow you to clearly see the strengths and weaknesses of each. From there you can make recommendations to end users about these tools. For example, if you can clearly see that Planner ticks all the organization’s task management boxes, then you can provide guidance for moving away from classic options like SharePoint tasks lists and Microsoft Project.

Related Article: 10 Keys to Microsoft Governance Success

Forms in SharePoint and Office 365

Forms are a huge topic in the SharePoint and Office 365 world. Over the last decade, many have relied on tools like lists, InfoPath and SharePoint Designer Workflows to automate business processes and now they are faced with modernizing those processes. While it may be confusing at first, it is helpful to know that only one out-of-the-box tool can provide the customizations and logic often needed by these types of business processes: PowerApps. 

The other available tool is Microsoft Forms. That name often gives our customers pause when they're first trying to figure out where to build these processes. Microsoft Forms is intended for simple one-way communications like surveys and polls. It doesn’t allow for much customization aside from a few choices around question types, colors and simple logic. To add even more confusion, Microsoft now offers a pro option for Microsoft Forms, which provides advanced analytics and survey tools. One feature of Microsoft Forms that may be worth considering is these forms can be sent to users outside of your tenant, which could be a great option for a marketing or sales department needing customer feedback or other similar use cases.

Both are great tools, but they do serve specific purposes. Another thing to note is users moving from InfoPath to PowerApps will need training: There is a huge learning curve between these two tools. If automating business processes is a big part of your migration to Office 365 then investigate options for getting your users up to speed on tools like PowerApps.

Related Article: How to Improve Business Processes with Office 365

Office 365 File Storage

While there are only two real options — OneDrive and SharePoint — file storage also tends to cause confusion for those new to Office 365, so guidance on the topic is welcome. Both solutions use the same mechanisms behind the scenes for uploading, syncing, and more. OneDrive is best for storing your own work documents or documents where only a few people need to view or edit. If a team is collaborating on multiple documents, the documents belong in SharePoint. Also, documents intended to be viewed by many users in the organization belong in SharePoint. 

My guidance is always: when in doubt, use a SharePoint library. The main reason being that if you leave the company and someone needs that content, it will be much easier to gain access to it.

Related Article: 5 Questions Enterprise File Sync and Share Shoppers Should Ask Before Buying In

Team Collaboration in Office 365     

People are also often confused about when to use SharePoint, Office 365 groups or Teams. The biggest thing to keep in mind is Office 365 groups will allow you to tie all the collaboration tools together, including SharePoint, Teams, Planner and Outlook.

The easiest way to go about this is to start with a SharePoint team site collection (be sure to use a name that you will want to use across all the tools as this will automatically create your Office 365 group). Next, populate the files into the document library of the team site collection. Finally go into Teams, create a Team and tie it to the new Office 365 group. The files tab in this new Team will automatically connect to the document library on that team site collection. You can then add additional tabs in the Team for other libraries, pages on the site, or even things like Planner. The key is to show end users how these tools are all tied together, and that Teams is used to surface all the content into one modern interface where they can chat, meet, collaborate and listen (see what I did there?).

This completes my series on governance in Office 365! Check out all of the articles in the series. Hopefully after this series you feel slightly more prepared for governing and making the most out of all these tools for your organization.