Is your company’s handling of its files up to date? Some problems from the  “old times” still seem to be common practice in many companies: Knowledge is documented in PowerPoint presentations or data is recorded in Excel lists and then sent by e-mail. Folder structures are either stored locally or provided with access rights managed solely by IT. Constant inquiries about a file`s location, e-mail ping-pong, accidentally deleted files and forgotten knowledge are the consequences. 

How does effective file management succeed with Microsoft 365?

In many companies, Microsoft 365 has established itself to solve these problems: SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Teams enable effective and secure file management and collaboration with each other. Accordingly, Microsoft 365 has almost 345 million paid seats worldwide (as of 2022). But with the purchase of licenses it is unfortunately not done. 

In the following, we would like to give you a brief overview of the correct use and interaction of the best-known Microsoft 365 services that are relevant for effective document management. Furthermore, we give you further tips to protect yourself from data chaos. 

SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive – what’s the difference?

SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive are the “dream team” when it comes to collaboration and document management. Only in the interaction of these applications is their full potential exploited. There are different areas of application that need to be considered. 

When creating new files, you should always ask yourself where this file “belongs” and then save it only there.

1. OneDrive

OneDrive is the place to store your private (work-related) files, or files you don’t want to share (yet). The files you place here cannot be viewed by anyone else in the company. Although there is of course the possibility to share files stored on OneDrive – but save such files on Teams/Sharepoint (see below). 

An obvious alternative for these types of files seems to be to simply store them on the hard drive. However, our advice is to only use OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint to store files and documents. Because storage in the cloud has many advantages to storage on your hard disk: 

This reduces the risk of data loss (e.g. damage to the hardware) and gives you worldwide access to the file on both SharePoint and OneDrive. However, the most important advantage in terms of efficient file management is the file consistency that can be achieved by cloud storage: files can be easily shared via hyperlink, and complicated “email pingong” with different file versions in the attachment is prevented by automatic version storage. This background versioning (unless disabled) allows multiple people to collaborate effectively on the same document by automatically saving changes. 

Copies, duplicates, or different versions of a file must and should, as a rule, no longer exist – they are simply not necessary. Questions about the “correct” version are a thing of the past. If everyone sticks to certain rules…

2. SharePoint

There is a close link between Microsoft Teams and SharePoint: When creating a Microsoft Team, a SharePoint team website is always created. SharePoint is automatically the location of all files shared in Teams channels, and the rights in the team are also managed by SharePoint in the background. A team site is also always a permission group, so you can dynamically control access to files, pages, or folders. 

SharePoint communication sites, on the other hand, represent the more “public” area. Files that are intended for the entire company or at least for a “larger audience” should therefore be published on a SharePoint communication page. This is where SharePoint fulfils its function as an intranet: knowledge can be permanently anchored here, news is made visible to all, and exchange is possible via a comment function. 

For example, your marketing department has its own teams channel, with a corresponding SharePoint team website – for internal collaboration – but also runs a communication website at the same time to publish central information and news

3. Microsoft Teams

Due to the drastic increase in the home office, the daily number of users jumped from 140 million to 270 million in 2022. The reason for this is certainly that Teams is more than a tool for chats or video calls: Microsoft Teams also allows you to work simultaneously on Word, PowerPoint or Excel and create notes together – in real time. However, as mentioned earlier, the files are always stored “in the background” on a SharePoint team site. With all the advantages mentioned above: This saves umpteen different versions, which in turn have to be merged into one document. From creation to archiving, only one file is required, which can be shared via link. 

So if you want to save a document relevant to your team, you should store it directly in the respective team channels: So automatically only you and your teammates or persons with a corresponding permission can edit this document. 

File Management with Microsoft 365

What measures can I take to protect against data chaos?

In addition to the basic knowledge of saving a file only once, either in OneDrive, or Teams (SharePoint team website), or SharePoint (communication website) and sharing it via link, we would like to give you some tips and suggestions that we believe are important for long-term success in file management with Microsoft 365: 

  1. An efficient MS Teams & SharePoint intranet architecture: Despite many freedoms for users, there must be a certain governance with “mandatory teams” and fixed locations for documents. Your employees must be given clear information on this. The rule is: “As few teams as possible, as many as necessary”.
  2. Navigation: In Microsoft Teams and SharePoint pages, navigation should be as simple and intuitive as possible for the user. For example, the most important documents should be integrated in the tabs of MS Teams. Likewise, the channel structure in MS Teams should be functional and the channel name should be self-explanatory.
  3. Metadata: Metadata is supplementary information to files such as: Who is responsible for the document? Who is the customer? When was the document created? Some of these can be assigned automatically, but usually have to be maintained manually. This requires discipline, but the advantages, especially with thousands of documents, are obvious: In Teams or SharePoint, you can select a large list specifically by “customer”, “responsible”, “creation date” etc., filter, sort and create your own views.
  4. Automation: People make mistakes and can be absent. Therefore, it makes sense to automate document management wherever possible. For example, regular Excel status reports received by e-mail can be stored fully automatically via Power Automate in Microsoft Teams in certain folders with their own nomenclature. In the same way, some metadata can be assigned fully automatically.
  5. Search: One way to find your way through existing chaos is the intelligent and possibly comprehensive Microsoft 365 search. If a file cannot be found, you can search organization-wide in SharePoint, i.e. ALL documents in OneDrive, Teams & SharePoint (for which you have permission!) are searched by full-text search. Even PDF content & image content are recognized. Nevertheless, the search is not yet perfect and it helps if you can narrow the search to teams or SharePoint pages.


Do you need help with your Microsoft 365 systems?  Please feel  free to contact us. 

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