Build an effective Microsoft 365 and Teams provisioning strategy

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Microsoft MVP Richard Harbridge (@rharbridge) walks through the foundations of effective provisioning in Microsoft 365 and Teams, the value of metadata, and managing sprawl.

Microsoft 365 and the surge of popularity for Microsoft Teams have led to unforeseen challenges for IT. For one, every time Teams is used, many things are created—a SharePoint team site that comes with a new team or a file uploaded to a private chat stored in your OneDrive.  

It’s hard to protect—much less use—something if you don’t know what’s there, its purpose, and who should have access to it.  

Content in Microsoft 365 grows in all directions.  

Products and services such as Power BI, Yammer, SharePoint, Stream, Azure Active Directory, and Teams could all contribute to the sheer volume of content IT teams have on their hands. Without a provisioning strategy to clean up and manage unchecked and unprotected sprawl in your organization, it could add to the confusion.  

In his ShareGate webinar, Microsoft MVP Richard Harbridge explains how Microsoft 365 can be ‘future-proofed’ from the challenge of managing sprawl. 

Watch the webinar or read through our recap of Richard’s key points.

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Why managing sprawl is key

Sprawl isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that unmanaged sprawl is bad. According to Richard, sprawl is a sign of Microsoft 365 user adoption. The first step to managing sprawl is understanding what’s happening in your environment, and how people use the tools. 

A provisioning strategy solves the problem of unmanaged sprawl.  

Here’s why managing sprawl in Microsoft 365 matters: 

Content grows over time

  • What does content in our context look like? The modern digital workspace and intranet have a continually increasing number of digital spaces or ‘sites’ where content is stored.  
  • Who created it? Most organizations don’t know who created a digital space (SP site, team, Yammer community, etc.) 
  • What purpose does it serve? A loss of context might make you wonder whether the digital space was made for a client, internal department work, a project, etc.  

Growth isn’t one dimensional

The volume, velocity, and variety of content that grows over time is the actual problem.  But it’s more than just the number of sites or teams that are to blame. Growth is happening in all Microsoft 365-related services.  

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Managed provisioning, the right way to manage sprawl

Provisioning is setting up the infrastructure for our collaboration, communication, or application needs.  

Managed provisioning is when we plan, design, template, track, improve and support the creation of these related spaces.  

The following issues can arise with unmanaged sprawl in Microsoft 365, which can lead to increased costs: 

  • Ineffective naming 
  • Owners missing 
  • Redundant team sites 
  • Data loss risks 
  • Loss of control 
  • Slower team/site start 
  • Inefficient navigation  
  • Training & adoption challenges 

Plan for Microsoft 365 and Teams provisioning and governance

You’ve considered why sprawl matters and the risks involved if left unmanaged. The logical next step is to plan your provisioning and governance strategy.  

According to Richard, organizations are too used to the idea of governance from a policy perspective. They think of planning and creating policies for things like sprawl as ‘insurance’ or risk mitigation. In reality, governance doesn’t stop with writing things down and waiting for them to save you.  

Putting your policies into action and making them work for your organization is critical. And the output you achieve will determine how effective those policies are. 

“Governance and provisioning aren’t JUST risk mitigation, it’s also about efficiency and driving better adoption. Responsibilities, playbooks, and structure all help us succeed.”

Richard Harbridge, Microsoft MVP

Build an effective Microsoft 365 and Teams provisioning strategy

Here are some approaches and processes that can help you craft an effective provisioning strategy: 

  • Out-of-the-box: Great for smaller organizations with less than 100 users to keep track of content and spaces. But as your company scales, OOTB can pose a challenge for end users in understanding context and for IT Teams in managing the end-user experience. It’s important to offer guidance and support so end users can understand their provisioning options.  
  • Metadata during creation: Metadata plays a critical role in the provisioning process. You could use it to add more context to a space. This can happen by asking questions like “What is the purpose of this workspace?”, “Will this space contain highly confidential information?”, “What customer does this relate to?” 
  • Post-creation ask: You can get more insight by following up with a user once they have created a space. This way, you don’t block the creation but have a process to manage it after. Create a metadata strategy that encompasses what information you want to collect about the space, what you’re going to action, and how you’re going to use it. 
  • Request process: Having an automated process for new sites and teams can provide tailored or templated user experiences and better management and navigation. The process would look something like this: 
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Source: Richard Harbridge, Microsoft MVP
  • Directory experiences: IT managers need to understand, label, and structure created spaces and collaborate with users to enable experiences that improve search. Creating directory experiences enables people within your organization to view and manage a list of all existing spaces in Microsoft 365. It helps end users and IT to discover and understand the context behind the data more easily while motivating users to fill out forms that fill metadata.

“Directories are a powerful way to not just drive adoption of provisioning processes, but also to provide the data that we need to take a management and proactive approach.”  

Richard Harbridge, Microsoft MVP
  • ShareGate Provisioning: Microsoft doesn’t provide any native solutions to sprawl, and its OOTB Teams provisioning solution offers limited customization. ShareGate’s Teams provisioning feature gives you a simple experience to create templates that allow your end users to create what they need, when needed, with the guardrails you’ve established in your governance strategy. All IT admins who have access to ShareGate can create and edit teams provisioning templates. You can increase productivity across your IT team and save the valuable time you’d otherwise spend on manually implementing a provisioning process with Microsoft OOTB solutions and complex power apps to handle the growing volume of content. 

Post-provisioning: Act on lifecycle and governance opportunities

Once you have managed provisioning and an efficient governance strategy, what else can you do? Finding out more information about the creation of spaces can help you improve how they’re managed. How can you use this metadata after a space is created? Is this metadata up to date? Can you reduce redundant spaces? 

  • Improve the lifecycle management of groups, teams, and sites, etc., by centralizing and governing the creation of these spaces. Governance policies can include (but are not limited to) setting expiration and archiving policies, teaching your users about key Microsoft 365 concepts, reviewing external membership, and managing group/site ownership.  
  • Maximize OOTB capabilities. Microsoft 365 offers lifecycle management capabilities for collections. For example, a team can be archived, and the conversations and files in the team become read-only. But there are certain limitations, such as moving that team to another location and reviewing its disposition before deletion.  
  • Automate Microsoft governance. You might not be getting the level of automation required to fully streamline your governance with Microsoft 365. If you’re looking for end-to-end automation for Microsoft 365 governance, ShareGate has an external sharing review feature that gives you full visibility into what’s been shared externally and enables you to automate the external sharing review process. Better yet, let ShareGate do the monitoring for you! Set up your Inactivity detection policy so ShareGate can keep an eye out for inactive teams and groups. 


  • Start by understanding what you have, so you can see how it needs to transform. 
  • Build your plan with that transformation in mind, and ensure you cover the needs of what is there and how you can improve with provisioning for the future. 
  • Plan to engage your users – only they can fill the gaps. Find tools and strategies to help you automate and facilitate that engagement. 
  • Work out the plan with automation and provisioning. 

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