Microsoft Teams Is Growing Like Wildfire: How To Not Get Burned
By Robert Mulsow, VP Technical Solution Professionals EMEA, AvePoint; Microsoft MVP
Robert Mulsow, VP Technical Solution Professionals EMEA, AvePoint; Microsoft MVP
Why Microsoft Teams Is Spreading So Quickly
Teams is growing fast. So fast in fact, Microsoft has said Teams is the fastest growing business application in their long history. The question non-users may have is, “why?”
The short answer is employee engagement and collaboration. It’s been found that the most successful companies have more than 70 percent of employees fully engaged and motivated, which can generate up to 21 percent more profit. However, only 15 percent of all employees worldwide can be considered fully engaged and motivated.
The way we work is changing. While experienced workers are already happy handling emails, young professionals from generation Z or millennials prefer chat-based communication. Hence, different generations oftentimes work in different silos.
Microsoft Teams merges all these technology platforms under one user interface that can easily be extended with Bots, Connectors, and much more. Teams really is a hub for productivity bringing different departments, generations, and workstyles together.
My Experience With Teams
AvePoint has used Microsoft Teams since public preview announcement from 14 March 2017. The easiest use case was Teams for a team. In other words, a container for collaboration (what Microsoft Teams refers to as a Team with a capital “T”) for each physical team or department within the organization.
In this way I was able to update my team with internal and external news, host regular team meetings, ask for support, show appreciation for employee’s work, and stay connected while travelling. The Team is also used for non-business communication, where we share some jokes, use Emotions, and Gifs. This maintains engagement and motivation.
Over time, we also established Teams across departments. For example, we connected sales with marketing and my technical solution professionals team (TSPs). This shifted collaboration to the next level, because marketing campaigns bring leads to sales team and TSP’s deepen the relationship with technical guidance. A fully covered business process in one Team.
We also use Teams for specific projects. Larger customers have more complex requirements. This requires specialists from several departments, from field staff to product management, and sometimes even senior management.
Microsoft Teams is the easiest and fastest way to connect all these different people, share information, and work together on the outcome.
Challenges of Teams Usage
Any user can create a Team by default and it is very easy to do so. This is both wonderful and terrible. It makes collaboration instant and easy, but it can lead to sprawl very quickly.
For example, we had a Team consisting of an Excel file for office supplies only – no joke, one Team for one file. We had a Team called “_Test” and one with the name “TSP EMEA,” but also another one with “EMEA TSP”.
There were Teams without an owner, which meant they couldn’t be managed anymore. Other Teams may have owners who accidentally deleted the Team (and all the critical business data within it) inappropriately.
As a manager I’m usually added to many more Teams than my colleagues and it becomes difficult to track and find items I need. A CIO may be even a member of almost every Team in the company.
We had too many, unnecessary, duplicate Teams and content. Hence, using Microsoft Teams with default settings may lead to information overload. Decision makers and employees could lose focus in hundreds of Teams and get frustrated.
Preventing Sprawl With Teams Governance
Opinions often diverge about if organizations disable the ability of users to create Teams in order to try and manage the sprawl.
I would say, the more often IT says “no” and disables desired features, the more unsecure their IT landscape, because employees will find a way around these blockers. Private Dropbox or Email- Account, USB sticks or mobile phones, Facebook or WhatsApp are only a few examples of shadow IT.
Instead of saying “No” I would recommend a solid governance strategy for Microsoft Teams.
At AvePoint we allow users to provision Teams. This drives adoption and motivation for colleagues, because they get what they need immediately.
However, an additional governance service kicks in after a successful creation of a new Team. The requestor gets asked via Email or App, what governance policy should be applied.
Further information will be required like sensitivity classification, if GDPR relevant data will be stored, if data will be shared externally, how long will the Team be used. If nobody answers, even after an escalation to the manager of the requestor, the Team will be archived and afterwards deleted automatically.
During the active time of a Team, we also regularly check the metadata. This includes, but is not limited to, ownership recertification. This means making sure each Team always has at least one owner, who actively manages this Team. Also, metadata may change over the time. Thus, a regular audit is required to ensure it is up-to-date.
At the end of a Teams life, like in the above-mentioned use case for projects, the content will be archived and stored on a dedicated storage. This address records management requirements. Furthermore, the inactivity will be tracked and if nobody accesses a team for a certain period, an automated retention process gets triggered as well.
This policy is realized with a mixture of Microsoft native capabilities, like end-user provisioning and classification, as well as the AvePoint Cloud Governance solution for more flexible and granular settings.
Benefits of Microsoft Teams with good Governance
A good Governance strategy unlocks the full potential of modern collaboration.
1. Enables end users to collaborate with the right people
2. Employees stay focused on active and important content
3. Reduces the risk for Shadow-IT, because users have all the capabilities they need to get their work done
4. IT department stays in control of company data
5. Better alignment with regulatory requirements like GDPR
Conclusion: Use Microsoft Teams But Don’t Get Burned
With Microsoft Teams, companies get a modern, secure, and extensible collaboration solution, which addresses employees’ working preferences across generations.
Microsoft also provides good governance capabilities to cover the need from IT to stay in control of companys’ data. Since governance does not only increase IT’s security demand, but also drives user adoption, Microsoft invests a lot into additional capabilities, which are shipped with Azure AD P1 and P2 plans. You may need a third party solution for more granular and flexible governance functions.
Applying a right-sized Governance strategy with capabilities from the market can eliminate Shadow-IT and increase user adoption at the same time and make Microsoft Teams the collaboration hub for your organization.