Connecting Existing Sites to Office 365 Groups…Kind of

One of the big announcements from the SharePoint conference in May was Microsoft planning to allow the connection of existing Team Sites to Office 365 Groups.  This was also championed at Ignite a few weeks ago and Microsoft even put out some more specific guidance on this in the Work better together with SharePoint Team Sites Office 365 App Integrations post by Mark Kashman. Roughly 1/3 of the way down the page there is a heading titled Connect an existing SharePoint team site to a new Office 365 group that details out exactly what we will need to do.  This is awesome, we can take advantage of all the benefits of Office 365 groups for our existing team sites…not so fast.

There is a pretty serious misconception about this announcement I purposefully played into a little bit…when Microsoft says Team Sites in this scenario they are referencing the root site collection team site not the actual Team Sites that many folks think of and use for their subsites.  As a consultant that dabbles in all things Office 365 this makes perfect sense, the complexity involved in allowing subsites to have their own Office 365 Groups from a technical standpoint is staggering.  How do you handle the broken permission inheritance on subsites, lists and items? How do you address the sheer number of subsites some organizations maintain? How do you create an interface that can deal with this?

The simple answers to those questions are, you don’t. I ended up doing some digging on this and found a thread on the Microsoft Tech Community site from the original announcement in May titled “Ability to connect existing SharePoint team sites to Office 365 Groups is coming later this year”.  This thread just confirmed my original assumptions but in hindsight it’s very clear why this type of announcement caused confusion.  Even some seasoned SharePoint consultants were asking questions about this announcement working with Team Sites (sub sites).  It sounds like the guidance moving forward is going to be to move away from the Classic SharePoint experience and embrace the Modern Sites anyway so this probably isn’t surprising to anyone rooted in Office 365.  What is a bit surprising is the lack of explanation around the announcements…it’s great to offer this type of feature but it’s a huge let down when folks realize it is not quite what they expected.

To clarify, you will be able to connect your existing SharePoint Online Site Collections to Office 365 Groups but there is currently no plan in place to allow you to connect SharePoint Online Sub Sites to Office 365 Groups.

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