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Defining end-of-life strategies to keep your Teams organized and up to date: Session 3 recap

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In the third and final session of our live masterclass on Microsoft Teams lifecycle management, Microsoft MVP Jasper Oosterveld (@jasoosterveld) discussed how to uncover obsolete teams, and the steps to take to clean them up, so your Teams environment stays organized and up to date.

Over time, your Teams environment grows and expands according to the needs of your business. While allowing users to create new teams is important, you still want to keep an eye on things and make sure that you have a plan for regular cleanup of teams that have served their purpose.

In the third session of ShareGate’s 3-part masterclass, Create a dream Teams: Mastering Microsoft Teams management across the entire lifecycle, I discuss end-of-life strategies, including uncovering inactive teams and the steps to take to clean them up. This will help you to create a system to automate the discovery and cleanup of teams you no longer need and maintain an organized and efficient environment over time.

Follow my tips to create an end-of-life strategy that will keep your Teams organized and up to date:


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Define what end-of-life means for your teams

It’s important to have visibility over your Teams environment at every stage of the lifecycle—this means being aware of what is being created, by who, and for what purpose. Not all teams are meant to last forever. In fact, most of the teams in your tenant were likely created with a specific purpose in mind. Whether a team was created around a specific campaign, project, or topic of conversation, eventually people will move on to other things, and that team’s purpose will have become obsolete.

Defining exactly when a team is deemed obsolete is up to you. Maybe it’s once a team is inactive for a month, or a year, depending on the needs of your organization. Whatever works for you is fine, but it is important to have a plan in place to flag teams that have been inactive for a set period of time and review them periodically. This ensures your tenant doesn’t become overrun with teams you no longer need, and prevents users from accessing information that’s out of date.

Why should you care about inactive teams?

  1. Inactive teams can contain sensitive content that needs to be archived or deleted—Data that goes unchecked can compromise the security of your organization. You may also be held liable for not properly disposing of sensitive content, depending on the regulations of your region. To avoid this, you want to make sure that you always have a handle on what exists, and where. Outdated data in your environment can also lead to confusion for end users, so regular cleanups can help to maintain an efficient environment, which in turn can boost user productivity.
  2. Inactive teams take up space in your Microsoft 365 tenant—While teams might not take up physical space, a tenant that is overrun with inactive teams quickly becomes cluttered and inefficient. Learning to identify inactive teams and clean them up will provide clarity for you as well as your users and make it easier to keep track of what’s going on.
  3. A long list of inactive teams increases your maintenance workload—The more teams you have, the more time you’ll spend managing them. Removing inactive teams from your environment will free up your time and allow you to concentrate your effort where it matters, without needing to review teams (and their associated content) that are irrelevant.

When has a Microsoft Teams team reached end-of-life?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to defining the point at which a team has reached the end of its useful life. As teams are created for a variety of reasons, the definition of end-of-life will be determined by the purpose of the team.

Some teams are created to be used by the members of a specific department, and should only be archived or deleted when the department becomes obsolete, or merges with another department.

Other teams are created with a specific goal in mind, such as to further the progress on a specific project or to facilitate a brainstorming session. Once those goals have been achieved, the team may no longer be needed.

The definition of end-of-life will be determined by the purpose of the team.


Uncover your inactive teams

It may surprise you that approximately 20% of ShareGate’s customers’ teams are inactive. Do you know how many inactive teams are lurking in your environment? Before you can take action towards cleaning them up, you’ll have to find them.

How do you find inactive teams?

When it comes to uncovering the inactive teams in your environment, you’ve got a few options:

  • Microsoft Teams usage report
  • Azure AD expiration policy (requires an Azure AD Premium 1 license)​​
  • A third-party tool like ShareGate Apricot

Find inactive teams with the Microsoft Teams usage report

  1. Navigate to the Microsoft Teams admin center. On the left-hand side, click Analytics & reports, then select Usage reports.
  2. On the View reports tab, in the Reports drop-down menu, select Teams usage.
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3. In the Date range drop-down menu, select either Last 7 daysLast 30 days, or Last 90 days. Then click on Run report.

The report will show you activity trends within your teams according to the time period you specified when generating it, helping you to identify inactive teams.

Set a Microsoft Teams expiration policy with Azure AD

Another way to manage the lifecycle of your Microsoft 365 groups, and their associated teams, is by setting an expiration policy. To do so, you’ll need an Azure AD Premium 1 license.

An expiration policy will allow you to predetermine the length of time a group or team can remain inactive in your environment before being deleted.

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Team owners will be notified that their team is set to expire and will be prompted to renew the group.

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Groups that have user generated activity will be automatically renewed. Groups that are not renewed will be deleted, with the option to be restored within 30 days by the group owner or IT admin.

Find inactive teams with ShareGate Apricot

A third-party tool like ShareGate Apricot can automate the process of detecting your inactive teams, so that you’re taking regular action to clean up your environment.

ShareGate Apricot can help you to identify your obsolete teams by regularly crawling through your teams, as well as their associated SharePoint sites and Outlook inboxes looking for user-generated activity. 

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ShareGate Apricot’s inactivity detection policy lets you decide how long a group or team can exist without any user activity before it is deemed inactive. When a team is flagged as potentially inactive, that team’s owner will receive a notification prompting them to archive, delete, or keep the inactive team. 

What are my recommendations?

  • Implement a periodic review of inactive teams. ​​
  • Educate your owners about their responsibility in relation to this process. ​​

Create a plan to deal with end-of-life teams

Now that you’ve established guidelines to define a team that’s reached end-of-life, and figured out how to find those teams in your environment, what do you do with them?

When it comes to dealing with teams that have reached the end of their useful life, you’ve got a few options:

  • Archive
  • Delete
  • Apply a retention policy
  • Use a third-party tool like ShareGate Apricot

Should you archive or delete a team?

Can’t decide whether a team should be archived or deleted? Here are some important factors to take into consideration before you take action:

  • Archived teams can be reactivated if they’re needed at some point in the future.​​
  • Deletion is permanent and should only be done when you are 100% certain the content can be deleted. ​​
  • The decision also depends on the content that exists in the team. If you need to preserve certain content from deletion, then retention might be a better option. ​​

How to archive a team in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams provides its own out-of-the-box solution to manually archive teams in the admin center.

Archiving a team puts an end to all activity associated with that team, including its private channels and SharePoint site. However, it is still possible to add or remove members from the team, and all past activity such as conversations in the chat, or public or private channels, remains accessible.

You can archive teams in the Microsoft Teams admin center by following these steps:

  1. In the admin center, select Teams, then Manage teams
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2. Select the team you want to archive, and click Archive

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3. You’ll see the following pop-up. To prevent people from editing the content in the SharePoint site associated with the team, select Make the SharePoint site read-only for team members. (Teams owners will still be able to edit this content.)

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4. Then select Archive. The team’s status will change to Archived.

At any time, the team’s owner can follow these same steps to unarchive the team.

How to delete a team in Microsoft Teams

When you’re done with a team for good, you can go ahead and delete it. 

Here’s how:

  1. In the Microsoft Teams admin center, select Teams, then Manage teams.
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2. Select a team by clicking the team name.

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3. Select Delete. A confirmation message will appear.

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Select Delete to permanently delete the team.

When you delete a team, any activity that has taken place within that team’s channels (and associated site collections), files, and chats is also deleted.

For more info on how to archive or delete a team, check out the official Microsoft documentation.

Create a Microsoft Teams retention policy

Setting a retention policy in Microsoft Teams helps you with compliance and governance of the data that lives in your environment. Like an expiration policy, there are a few different configurations that might work for you, depending on the sensitivity of your data and needs of your organization:

  • Retain the channel messages and content for a specific period​​: Protect your valuable data for a set length of time by making it impossible to delete it for a set period: days, months, or even years.
  • Retain and automatically delete the channel messages and content after a specific period or retain forever: Prevent users from deleting any messages or content for a set length of time, after which point the data will be automatically deleted.
  • Automatically delete the channel messages and content after a specific period or retain forever: Messages and content can be deleted on an as-needed basis, and you can designate a specific length go time after which this data will be automatically deleted.

Once you’ve decided on a retention policy, it can be applied to all teams or a selection of teams.

However, in Microsoft 365 you’ll need to create two different retention policies, one for channel messages and one for content.

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Clean up your inactive teams with ShareGate Apricot

A third-party tool like ShareGate Apricot can help you to identify your inactive teams and clean them up.

You can take direct action and keep, delete, or archive a team yourself right from the dashboard. Save time by taking action on several teams at once:

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If you’re not sure what action to take with an inactive team, I recommend collaborating with team owners who have firsthand knowledge of the team and its activities. You can prompt the team owner to take action via Apricot’s chatbot.

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When you archive a team with ShareGate Apricot, it is removed from Teams and users won’t be able to see it or access its contents anymore, so you’re truly cleaning up your environment even if you may need to access that team again later.

That team’s files and folders will still remain available, and you can unarchive them at any time, even after Microsoft’s 30-day soft delete period.

Deleting a team with ShareGate Apricot is easy, and works the same way as deleting the team through Teams.


Takeaways from part 3

  • Implement a periodic review of inactive teams 
  • Educate your owners about their responsibility in relation to this process ​​
  • Have a clear back-up and retention strategy to prevent unwanted data loss 

Be sure to check out our recaps of session 1 and session 2 for more tips on managing your Microsoft Teams teams across their entire lifecycle!

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