This was a question when Office 365 Groups made it to the world a few years ago and still remains THE BIG question to this day. When do you need to create just a SharePoint site and when do you opt for an Office 365 Group Site with all the bells and whistles that come with it?
We had this forever in SharePoint. Up until Office 365 Groups came out, this was the only place we could create and have for collaboration. Sites have been used for document management, but you could also spice them up with other web parts (task list, calendar, etc.). Over the last year, a classical SharePoint site got some extra love and renaissance with modern page experience. So even if your Intranet is full of those classical sites, you can easily convert them to modern pages experience.
Example of a Classical SharePoint page
Example of a Modern SharePoint page
Office 365 Group
Office 365 Group, as I previously documented is essentially a security/membership group tied to various Office 365 tools and apps.
Here is what you get as part of an Office 365 Group when you create one:
- Email Distribution List (Outlook)
- Group Calendar (Outlook)
- Note-taking tool (OneNote)
- Task Management tool (Planner)
- Chat tool (MS Teams) – see a Note below
- SharePoint Site Collection (SharePoint)
NOTE: A MS Team (chat app/tool) is not automatically created when you create an Office 365 Group. You have to connect/create it manually after an Office 365 Group is created. It is only created automatically when you create a new Team from MS Teams.
So now, with an Office 365 Group, the SharePoint site is just a small piece of a puzzle. All these tools work hand in hand and are well integrated. For example, when you exchange files in MS Teams, they are stored within a document library located in SharePoint (with a folder automatically created for each channel within a Team).
So back to the question, when do you use a SharePoint site and when do you use an Office 365 Group? Look, it depends on who you talk to – there is no right or wrong answer here. I have some clients who only create Office 365 Groups (for each department or project). I still think that “regular” sites (those not connected to Office 365 Groups) have their place too. For example, say, your Human Resources department needs to create an employee site to store policies, forms, etc. There is really no social component required here, like Planner or Teams, so a good old site would suffice.
On another hand, if you need to manage a project, an Office 365 Group might prove to be a better alternative, as besides file storage you get an email distribution list, task tool, etc. – just in case your project will require those.
Use Office 365 Groups if you….
- Want quick and easy collaboration
- Want the ability to have informal meeting spaces
- Have short mini projects
- Don’t want to be burdened by managing SharePoint team sites
Use SharePoint team sites if you…
- Only need a place to share documents, links, images and don’t require social collaboration tools