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Build a Microsoft Teams lifecycle management plan: Team creation

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Through 2020 and into 2021, Microsoft Teams has established itself as the hub for virtual teamwork. In order to take full advantage of this all-purpose toolkit and improve collaboration among your users, it's important to implement governance policies according to the needs of your organization.

If you haven't thought about this yet, it's likely your environment is riddled with unnecessary teams that no longer serve a purpose. Good governance means thinking through the entire lifecycle of your teams before they're created—why does a new team need to be created, who should be a part of it, and what tools or permissions do team members need in order to meet the goal of this team?

Like all good stories, your teams will have a beginning, middle, and an end. Building an effective lifecycle management plan from the outset will help you to track progress on specific projects and objectives, and give you a general overview of where you're at.

In this three-part series, we'll take a look at building a plan that can help you navigate all the stages of a Microsoft Teams team, starting with this article where we'll consider the important decisions you'll need to make and policies to put in place to master Teams governance from the moment of creation. So, let's get started!


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Teach users to create a team in Microsoft Teams

The idea behind team creation is to bring a group of people together to work toward a common goal. Team members often work asynchronously, but assembling them in a team enables swift collaboration, a process Microsoft calls "high velocity teamwork." There are some best practices you can follow to ensure your teams creation goes as smoothly as possible.

Assembling users in a team enables swift collaboration, a process Microsoft calls "high velocity teamwork."

It's best to add teams slowly, starting with a small number of teams and team members. Instead of creating a new team with the same members, encourage users to use channels within the team to collaborate on a new project or broach a new topic of discussion.

The idea is to keep the creation of new teams to a minimum while keeping team membership broad and inclusive and using channels to streamline the conversation around specific objectives. For example, if you wanted to set up a team to discus a new direction for sales strategy, you could reduce sprawl by simply creating a channel within the already existing Sales team instead.

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Ideally, all users in your organization should have permission to create new teams. If not, it's likely they'll resort to other tools and you'll end up dealing with shadow IT, which can pose a bigger threat to the security of your data than enabling self-service in the first place.

While we fully support enabling self-service and allowing users to create their own teams, it's important to create governance policies to direct the creation of teams, keep your tenant organized, and prevent group sprawl.

Encourage users to consider the following before creating a new team:

  • What is the purpose of the team?
  • Who belongs on the team?
  • Does a team with these members already exist?

Remember that educating end users is a key component of good governance and implementing a solid Teams lifecycle management plan.


Enforce a Microsoft Teams naming policy

One of the first things to consider when a new team is created is what that team should be called. Imposing a naming policy will help counteract sprawl and ensure that IT and users alike understand the purpose of the team. A team's name will also affect its associated SharePoint site collection and Outlook email address, so that's important to keep in mind as well.

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When users go to create a new team, Teams will not alert them that a team with that name already exists. So, it's possible that users can inadvertently create two teams with the same name. A naming policy will help you to avoid duplicate teams and archive or delete teams that are no longer useful.

Microsoft Teams governance best practices dictate that using a prefix in the form of a short code is a good way to give users information about the team. A naming policy should be kept short and ideally should appear at the beginning of the name so as not to be impacted by character limits.

An effective naming policy will encourage users to include relevant information in the name of the team—for example, the name of the department, company, office, or project.


Set Microsoft Teams channel permissions

Channels are where the magic happens. They are sections that exist within teams that are tailored to facilitate conversations around a specific topic.

Each team starts out with a General channel, and you can add others as needed. For example, a channel could be dedicated to bringing a specific project to life.

If you want to invite all team members to be part of the conversation, you'll want to keep the channel public. If you're looking to keep the conversation limited to select team members, the channel can be made private.

For example, if you wanted to set marketing objectives for the next quarter without involving the entire Marketing team, you could set up a private channel and invite specific users to take part in the conversation.

You can decide who can create private channels by setting policies at the team level as well as the organization level. Team owners always have the power to turn this functionality on or off for team members through a team's Settings tab.

Take ownership of your Microsoft Teams channels

Whoever creates the channel becomes the channel owner and has the power to add or remove other users as well as guests.

Team owners have the power to manage the channel by clicking on the three dots beside the channel and clicking Manage channel. From there, you can set permissions like who can post messages.

Screen shot of how to manage a channel in Microsoft Teams

If you set Channel moderation to on, you can choose team moderators (most likely the team owners) and only those individuals will be able to start new posts.

Setting channel moderation to off allows everyone to start a new post, or everyone except guests, and is the most collaboration-friendly approach.


Implement a clearly defined Microsoft Teams classification scheme

Depending on your organization, it's likely that your data varies in terms of sensitivity.

Applying overly restrictive policies across the board will result in poor user adoption and could increase the threat of shadow IT. This is why it's important to create a multi-tiered data classification scheme to account for information that can be widely circulated without concern, like the invite to the company BBQ, while still keeping the annual budget under wraps.

Creating a classification scheme for your data allows you to gain a clearer understanding of what you've got, where it lives, and who has access to it. You'll want to think about what makes sense for your organization. It doesn't have to be complicated!

If you take a look at Microsoft's data classification scheme, they've narrowed it down to just four categories:

  • Highly confidential: shared only with specific users
  • Confidential: shared only on a need-to-know basis
  • General: shared internally through Microsoft
  • Public: unrestricted data meant for public consumption

This is a good example to get you started, although you may want to create a scheme that is more tailored to your specific needs.

Here are the basic steps to creating an effective data classification scheme:

  1. Take stock of what you've got: Create an inventory of your data and consider the level of sensitivity that may be appropriate.
  2. Consult the right people: As an IT admin, you may not have a thorough understanding of exactly how data is being used on a daily basis. Speak to members of the organization who are involved on the ground level to get a better idea of users' needs.
  3. Keep it simple: A data classification scheme doesn't have to be complicated! Case in point, the Microsoft data classification scheme mentioned above. The important thing is that it's accessible and easily understood by all users.

Whether you've already rolled out Microsoft Teams or are just getting started, it's important to create a plan for every stage of the Microsoft Teams lifecycle. Adopting best practices for Teams lifecycle management will help you prevent sprawl, keep track of projects, and keep your data secure.

Stay tuned for the next instalments of our lifecycle management series!

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