Say Goodbye to Teams Sprawl

Oct 16, 2020

So your organisation is using Microsoft Teams? Or maybe you’re in the process of transitioning to this market leading workplace application. It’s all smooth sailing ahead, right?

Teams has grown from 45 million to 70 million daily active users in a 6 month period since COVID-19, and will only get bigger.

Teams is all about making communication and collaboration between users easier and more productive, but without governance policies in place, things can quickly get out of hand.

What is Teams Sprawl?

Teams gives us the capabilities for endless creation. However, if not managed correctly, this capability can result in a proliferation of Teams, channels, chats and file tabs, making navigation inefficient and unpleasant.

No one wants to wade through seldom used or dead Teams, empty channels and scattered data.

What’s the Problem with Sprawl?

Did you know that the default setting for Teams allows anyone to create a Team?

Many users think of Teams as a tool for meetings and chats and are more likely to create a new Team for this. Creating this new Team creates a new Microsoft 365 Group which then creates a new:

  1. SharePoint team site,
  2. Planner board,
  3. Outlook group and
  4. Power BI space!

Users may also be missing the fact that there may already be an existing Team or Channel that they can use to complete their work.

When admins delete these Teams it unfortunately does not delete the corresponding SharePoint site in which this new shared content is stored.

So not only can lack of governance make Teams inefficient, but it can also pose a security risk, as it’s difficult to manage security for orphaned SharePoint sites, Planner boards and Outlook groups.

Having a clear Teams governance policy in place is critical for ensuring the best employee experience and protecting organisations.

Sprawl Prevention

1) Define who can create Teams

It can be difficult to find a balance between a self-service free-for-all and restrictions that end up losing the benefits of cloud-based productivity tools. Rather than disabling self-service Microsoft 365 group creation entirely, you can limit self-service group creation to a select pool of users.

Start by creating a security group (not a Microsoft 365 group). There should only be one group and all members need to have Azure AD premium licenses or Azure AD Basic EDU licenses. Use PowerShell to run commands (available in Microsoft 365 support pages) ADD THE LINK to manage the lifecycle of teams within your organisation.

Once you’ve set this all up, verify this process by signing in as a non-approved user and trying to create a new Team.

It’s important to note that when you limit who can create a group, it effects all services that rely on groups for access, including SharePoint, Outlook, Planner and more.

2) Naming conventions

Making sure you have a clear naming policy for your Teams is essential for keeping good Teams hygiene. The name of a Team can help users to identify function, membership, geographic region, creator and more.

Microsoft also has a handy guide on group naming policies freely available.

Don’t forget that your naming policy also applies to your other Microsoft 365 applications.

3) Ownership of Teams

Teams that have confidential information, can have Owners Members rather than owners. That way no single user has control. To help with management of this Team, you might set up a process where any changes to this Team need to be submitted via your service desk.

Portal for Teams creation

For those looking for some more advanced capabilities and to make processes a little more fluid, you might like to create a Teams request portal. This could be used by users to submit all their Teams related requests and queries. Consider using the Power Automate platform to create this.

Expiration policies

Adopt Microsoft’s Office 365 Group Expiration Policy to ensure that when a Team expires, all associated services are also deleted. For example, if a Team is not used for 30 days it gets ‘soft deleted’, meaning that it can be recovered for up to 30 days.

Teams Sprawl Checklist

It’s always good to start with a checklist of key action items to help set you on you path to success.

Start by getting buy-in and support from executive management in your organisation. Paint them a vivid picture of the problem and scare them with the impact that Sprawl can have on productivity, efficiency and security.

Next, move onto your expiration policy and rolling this out. if you’re already using Teams and have plenty that are not being used, then this a great way to start your clean up.

Then implement clear naming conventions which will help to create clarity amongst your users.
Finally, you might like to consider a third-party technology like AvePoint to help with ongoing governance.

Teams Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Step by Guide

If you’re yet to roll out Teams, or need to take a step back to reassess and relaunch then following this Teams minimum Viable Product (MVP) guide is great for identifying priorities.

  • Identify key challenges and benefits of Teams for your organisation.
  • Calculate the monetary and/or time savings that Teams can offer by department.
  • Match Teams features against the above opportunities.
  • Now’s the tough part. Prioritise these features as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to effectively roll these all out at once.
  • Divide your list of Team features by priority into phases and set delivery deadlines. You might like to think about which features are going to most benefit staff.
  • Make sure to document any features of Teams that are configurable (such as Emojis).
  • Consider and configure the sprawl restrictions that you want to put in place.
  • Turn off everything (any features) that is not part of your MVP. For example, are applications a priority? If not, turn them off!
  • While optional, it’s strongly recommended that you conduct a risk review to assess the implications of Teams on your other Microsoft 365 applications.
  • Now it’s the exciting part, you get to deploy. Make sure that you incorporate user training as part of your launch and that communication is consistent and easy to understand.

Special offer – 3 hour TEAMS online WORKSHOP

We hope you found this information useful and that you’re able to take it and apply to your organisation.
If you’re in need of further Teams support, we are currently offering a 3 hour Teams online workshop. We can cover everything from:

  • The fundamentals of Microsoft Teams
  • Building a long-term strategic plan
  • Developing a governance policy
  • Key features you should know
  • And more

We can focus on areas relevant to the needs of your organisation.
Get in touch to learn more!

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