Microsoft Teams – no code app integration – #1 SharePoint

Image: SharePoint Teams Logos and meeting shot
By James Mallalieu on

Microsoft Teams – Integrating apps & process without code – #1 SharePoint

Microsoft Teams is the hub for collaboration and with many people adopting it as the primary work-based application from their desktop, tablet and mobile devices, there are many benefits into integrating your own custom apps into the overall experience.

In this blog series I will explore how Microsoft Teams can be easily extended to take advantage of other applications within the Microsoft technology stack, without the need for any code or development experience.

SharePoint Online

For this first blog I am going back to my roots, SharePoint, a product I have been working with for 20 years and a great companion to Microsoft Teams in many ways. Recently SharePoint has undergone a major transition into what we now refer to as “Modern SharePoint”, the improvements are too numerous to list however for the purposes of this article the following are of relevance:

  • People can create visually stunning pages, surfacing content from multiple sources
  • People can create simple applications to capture, manage, process and visualise data

By the way when I refer to people, I mean non-IT professionals, developers or SharePoint subject matter experts, just regular folk.

So, you have created some cool content and lists in SharePoint and you want to make it easy for people to consume these from within Microsoft Teams? No problem, SharePoint content (pages, lists and libraries) can be easily surfaced within Microsoft Teams using one of the following methods.

Microsoft Teams Channel Tabs

All Microsoft Teams “teams” have channels, a general channel which is automatically created, and other channels created by the team as needed. Within each channel members can create custom tabs and there are 2 options here that are of interest, Document Library and SharePoint.

Image: Microsoft Teams Channel tab menu

Document Library Channel Tab

The document library option enables you to pin a SharePoint library (or folder within a library) into the channel and can be very useful when you want to enable the members to access files that are stored outside of the default files managed within that channel.

Image: Document Library Channel tab screen

The library can either exist within the SharePoint site associated with the team, or an alternate site, the latter being extremely useful in scenarios where a set of files that need to be available across multiple Microsoft Teams “teams”.

Image: Microsoft Teams team tab

Adding a document library channel tab does not affect the permissions of the library itself, so if your team members do not have rights to the files, adding it to a channel within their team will not automatically grant them access.

SharePoint Channel Tab

The SharePoint option enables you to pin a SharePoint page or list into the channel and can be very useful when you want to use SharePoint to publish content pages to the members or alternatively you are using a SharePoint list to capture, manage and process information that you want to be available to the team to interact with.

Image: SharePoint Channel tab

The page or list must exist within the SharePoint site associated with the team, for example you cannot select a page that has been published into a separate SharePoint site, there is a solution for this scenario which I will cover in a later blog article.

Image: Microsoft Teams team Sales Mktg tab

Custom Microsoft Teams App

The Channel Tab options outlined above are very easy to use providing that you want to surface a SharePoint page or app within the channel of a team. There are scenarios however where the SharePoint content is not specific to a single team, for example an Intranet for all employees.

In such cases you want to pin a link to SharePoint content on the Microsoft Teams application navigation bar itself making it easily accessible to users outside of the context of a specific team.

Image: Microsoft Teams pinned link to SharePoint site

This approach is more complex than the channel tab options however we are still very much in the no-code world and I have outlined the key steps below.

Step 1: Create a custom app with App Studio for Microsoft Teams

App Studio for Microsoft Teams is essentially a tool that enables you to create the manifest and packaging for a custom app. Please do not be put off by this, the tool is easy to use and on the most part relatively intuitive without the need to read lots of documentation. If you do need some assistance here is a good reference guide.

App Studio is a Microsoft Teams app which can be found in the Teams store, just click the apps icon on the navigation bar and search for “App Studio”. Follow this link for a direct download.

Image: App Studio menu

Once you have opened App Studio, select the option to create a new app in the manifest editor section. Complete the “App details” section, then select “Tabs” within the capabilities section and add a personal tab, this includes the link to the SharePoint site, page, list or library.

Image: app studio creating a tab screen

When ready, select “Test and Distribute” then download your app package. Congratulations, you have just built your first Microsoft Teams custom app!

Step 2: Upload your custom app to the Teams store

The custom app created and downloaded in the previous step now needs to be uploaded to your organisations Team store, you will need Microsoft Teams admin rights to perform this step.

Step 3: Publish your custom app to the Teams navigation bar

The final step in the process is to publish your custom app to the Teams navigation bar, you will need Microsoft Teams admin rights to perform this step.
App setup policies are used to control which apps are available to users on the Teams navigation bar, you can define the list and order of apps that are displayed to all, or a subset of users.
Select the “Add app” option then search for your custom app uploaded in the previous step. Once added, you can control the order which the apps are displayed to users. If you need some assistance with App policies, please refer to this guide.

Image: Custom app pinned to Teams nav bar

It can take some time before the app will appear in the Teams navigation bar, in my tests it was around 30 minutes however this could take longer.

Summary

SharePoint is a great tool for creating engaging pages and building simple applications to capture, manage and process data. In this blog I wanted to highlight ways that you can easily surface your SharePoint content into the Microsoft Teams user experience without using any code.
I am hoping that you are inspired to explore these features and bring together your own apps and content into Microsoft Teams to deliver compelling experiences for people within your own organisation.

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