Microsoft TEAMS: Platform vs. Application

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If you have been reading my blog, you know that the business world is going crazy for Microsoft TEAMs. You also hopefully know that TEAMS is, in actuality, Microsoft SharePoint in disguise. (I envision the SharePoint software package wearing a cheesy Groucho Marx nose and glasses.) TEAMS comes with your Microsoft Office 365 subscription, and it puts a much easier interface on what has overtime become a cumbersome SharePoint program.

SharePoint Needs a Facelift

When I talk to users, they are often surprised to find out that SharePoint is celebrating it’s 20th birthday this year. I was working at Microsoft in 2000 when SharePoint came out. It was an internal tool that Microsoft engineers had developed to provision employee websites. An Enterprise customer at Microsoft found out about this tool and demanded that Microsoft share it. They did share it, and eventually, this tool evolved into Microsoft SharePoint Services 1.0.

SharePoint has been a massive success for Microsoft. Today, one out of every five dollars that Microsoft makes comes from SharePoint. (This is about $18 Billion a year just for SharePoint). With this popularity, however, there has been a significant increase in the options and functionality added to the product, and the result is that SharePoint is significantly harder to use. SharePoint originally was designed for a typical business user to be able to create a collaboration portal site without any coding experience. SharePoint today now typically requires skilled developers to design and deploy sophisticated websites for general use. With greater popularity and use, came greater complexity.

To keep SharePoint relevant, Microsoft needed a way to obfuscate the complexity of SharePoint so that even non-programming business users could work with it. Enter Microsoft TEAMS.

TEAMS is a Platform

When the first Sharepoint product came out, it acted as an application. It was shrink-wrapped software, that when installed, would help a user run a series of scripts that would build out a team or personal website. Eventually, SharePoint evolved to become a service. What is a service? E-mail, for example, is a service. It is a server program that routes electronic messages between senders and receivers. Outlook is the e-mail application, and Exchange is the e-mail server that does all the heavy lifting moving messages around and keeping the calendar up to date. Outlook is a program that connects to the service (Exchange e-mail) that helps you create, send, and read your e-mail. Applications and Services usually work together to create a technological solution.

SharePoint has evolved to be even more than just an app or a service. It has instead become a platform. A platform is when programmers take services and applications and combine them in ways that allow other applications and services to work with them — confused yet? Here is an example. Skype is a platform. It takes the Skype application (the part where you can chat, share files, etc…) and mixes it with the Skype Service. The Skype service is the technology that allows voice over IP, telephony, and presence showing if you are available or away. Skype becomes a backbone that foundationally allows other applications to work within it. Jabra speakerphones, IPhone extensions, chat emojis, and other 3rd party tools work within Skype to add additional features.

Microsoft TEAMS is Cooking

I like to tell people to think about TEAMS as a container. It is like a big aluminum pot on the stove, and you are making jambalaya. You can mix anything into the pot that you want to make a satisfying dinner. There is a TEAMS app/application that you can install on your computer. This app gives you access to folders, the ability to chat, store files, and collaborate with others. There is also the TEAMS service (SharePoint), which is working behind the scenes to provide support, security, and a familiar web view to get to your information. Together, these features turn Microsoft TEAMS into a platform that can work with other 3rd party tools that also need chat features, share files, and collaborate with others.

To see this in action, load up teams (either from or from your desktop version), click on the General tab and then click on the + sign to add new programs and extensions. Hello Jambalaya!

There are almost 100 3rd party extensions from other software companies you can add to your MS TEAMS pot. Click anything that tickles your fancy, and that feature will magically appear inside of MS TEAMS. Found a great YouTube training video that you want to share with your team? Just add YouTube to TEAMS, and you can have that video embedded right into your team site with only 1-2 clicks of your mouse. Every month more and more companies are adding their services into TEAMS.


So what is the point of all this?

  • SharePoint has become a critical tool for businesses to allow collaboration among employees.
  • As SharePoint has become more popular, it has become bloated and harder to manage.
  • Microsoft released TEAMS, a frontend to SharePoint, to remove the complexity of building out collaboration portals.
  • Microsoft developed TEAMS as a platform, a program, and a service that provides excellent functionality, but also allows other companies and services to work within TEAMS to extend the functionality to include their technologies.

Now we get the ease of use of creating collaboration sites without needing to learn programming, with the extensibility of hundreds of other companies. It is a safe bet that Microsoft TEAMS will be generating lots of revenue for Microsoft for the next 20 years to come.