Outlook’s Groups Menu Bar Now Includes Teams

Introducing the Teams Button

Today’s topic is an unannounced update that’s just turned up in Outlook for Windows version 2011 (click to run build 13426.20184). At least, I’ve just noticed the change, which adds a Teams button to the Groups menu bar displayed when a team-enabled Microsoft 365 group (aka an Office 365 group or even Outlook group) is accessed (Figure 1). The button is hidden when you open a Microsoft 365 group that doesn’t have an associated team.

The Teams button in Outlook's Groups menu bar
Figure 1: The Teams button in Outlook’s Groups menu bar

Clicking the Teams button opens the Teams client positioned in the General channel of the team. It can’t open any other channel.

I’m uncertain what value is delivered by the Teams button. If you use Outlook to open Microsoft 365 Groups, you’re likely using it to have email-based conversations instead of Teams chat-based conversations. It seems unreasonable to assume that you would want to switch between the two modalities in the same group. After all, Microsoft doesn’t support the Share to Teams functionality for group conversations that’s available for regular email. Apart from a manual cut and paste, the only way to get a group conversation from Outlook (or OWA) to Teams is to forward the message to the email address of a team channel.

Moving Easily Between Outlook and Teams

It could be argued that adding the Teams button is simply a case of Microsoft making it easier for customers to move between Outlook and Teams. It could be the case that the team has integrated apps that aren’t available to Outlook, like Planner, some SharePoint pages, and a couple of third-party apps. In that respect, it makes sense to have an easy way to jump from Outlook to Teams.

It seems more likely that the Teams button is Microsoft’s subtle way to convince people to move their conversations from Outlook to Teams. There’s logic underpinning that transition because Teams is a better place to hold many conversations, especially those involving multiple back-and-forth responses.

On the other hand, if email-based conversations are your thing and your group involves many external people (guests and non-guests), an Outlook-based group is a good way to get work done. Microsoft recently updated Outlook for Windows to make the unread count work like regular folders, so work is still being done to improve and smoothen Outlook groups. And that’s the way it should be. Although Teams has 115 million daily active users, a lot of email is still sent inside and out of Office 365.

We cover both Teams and Outlook Groups in the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. And we use both to get real work done.

4 Replies to “Outlook’s Groups Menu Bar Now Includes Teams”

    1. The option has certainly been delayed a couple of times because of problems. I think it’s close and I have it working well in my tenant,.

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