Teams – Incoming Email in SharePoint Online

Yes, the title is slightly confusing.  There is now a way to set up incoming email on a library in SharePoint Online… sort of.

You need to do it through Microsoft Teams, so it will entail having an Office 365 Group + Teams.  If you have an existing Group that you’d like to use, during the creation of a new Microsoft Team, it will let you pick an existing Group if you’d like.  Or just create a brand new Team, which will inherently create a new Group anyway.

First, I’ll show you how to do it, then I’ll cover how to get there if you are new to Teams.

Open up Microsoft Team, expand a team, click the ellipsis on a channel in that team, and then click Get email address

Wow, that was so easy.  You’ll see this:

Click that tiny little advanced settings and then you’ll be able to configure who is allowed to send to this address or not.  The default is that anyone can send to this address.

The thing to keep in mind here, is that each of these Channels in Teams, is actually a folder in a single document library in the SharePoint site.  Okay, let’s keep going, so what is the result when an incoming email arrives.  I sent one from my Gmail account, and here’s what it looks like, in the Conversations tab in my Project A Channel.  Notice that the subject is in bold and the body of the email is right under it.  You can also click to view that actual original *.EML file.

What happens when there is an email attachment?  It goes into the same folder as the EML files.

Here’s the breakdown of what’s going on in SharePoint.  First, if you’d like an overview of Teams, here’s my other blog post.

To get to the SharePoint site that your MS Team is based on, go to the ellipsis next to any channel name, and choose Open in SharePoint

Here’s what you’ll notice in SharePoint.  There’s that generic library called Documents, and each folder in that library represents a channel that you’ve created in Teams.  So, in essence, what we’re doing is assigning different email addresses to each *folder* in a single document library.

In the previous example, I sent an email to the Project A channel, and then after that I sent another email, and added an attachment this time.

Here’s the library:

Here’s the Project A folder. Note that when I use the Files tab in my Team’s channel, those uploaded files go directly into this folder.  Mine has one file, and since I have started sending emails to this Project A email address, now it’s got an Email Messages folder automatically:

What’s in Email Messages? Those are all of the EML files, plus all of the attachments.  You can tell that the Word doc goes with the 3rd file in there, because they have the same unique string of characters at the end.

I can see that having incoming emails is useful, and always has been, except we’re going to need to be careful about messing with the file structure in SharePoint, because that will really confuse the MS Teams interface that is expecting those folders to stay intact.

 

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4 comments

  • In a recent demo you did of Teams, we also saw that Microsoft uses folders to store Team documents behind the scenes. Discussion threads are still stored in folders. Having spent years emphasizing SharePoint metadata instead of folders, it drives me crazy. I wish Microsoft would eat its own dog food and commit to metadata. For several reasons: 1) maybe MS would then better understand and address some of SharePoint’s biggest usability challenges, like making metadata easier for users to apply; 2) it would have built in more flexibility around how automated functions like the one described in this post work (maybe I could have chosen to categorize incoming email by sender as well as project); 3) after all these years, Microsoft hasn’t addressed all the problems with folders (static, inflexible) that make metadata a better option. We’re stuck between two options, neither of which can be fully leveraged. I wish they would take an approach similar to Hyland’s OnBase product, where folders are basically just another type of metadata.

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  • Great post, without damaging the structure we can maybe use views and even workflow. Yeay It was really a bummer to see the usage of folders

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  • I think that by using folders it helps them mitigate the 5,000 item view limit. That being said, I’d love if they would just address the the view issue with forced pagination or something as opposed to just blowing up the page.

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