Do you know everything there is to know about Microsoft Teams channels? With the help of Microsoft MVP Jasper Oosterveld, we break down teams vs. channels, and best practices for making the most out of your channels.
ShareGate‘s easy-to-use SaaS tools enable organizations to achieve more than ever before with Microsoft cloud technologies. In our guide to Microsoft Teams, we join forces with Microsoft MVPs to bring you up to speed on all things Microsoft Teams.
Your Microsoft Teams teams bring people together, but channels are where the work actually gets done. Channels are dedicated sections within a team that are organized around a specific project, topic, or milestone.
Channels facilitate teamwork by enabling users to share ideas and work together on documents in real-time to bring those concepts to life. And with the recent rise of the distributed workplace, finding effective ways to work together from a distance has never been more important.
We’ve talked about the structure of Teams, and in this article we’ll take a closer look at the role of channels within Teams, and best practices to follow to make the most of this collaborative space.
What is a channel in Microsoft Teams?
At the core of the Microsoft Teams app are team channels—that’s where most of the action takes place.
Every team starts with a General channel. Use this channel as the name implies—to discuss general topics related to the team’s purpose.
For every other topic—i.e. Projects—create a new channel. It’s an efficient way to bundle all related content into one location.
For example, you could create a channel within your Marketing team designed for users to discuss and collaborate on the upcoming campaign brief, or even split the topics up into several channels, like content, design, social promotion, etc.
Currently, there’s a limit of 200 channels per team, including deleted channels. You can always delete a channel if you see that it’s rarely being used—in which case, the conversations will be deleted, but the documents shared within the channel will still be stored within the modern SharePoint team site.
When you’re just getting started with Microsoft Teams, there won’t be many teams listed. But be warned—once adoption increases, so will the number of team names in your sidebar. The same applies for channels within a team.
So, how can you keep your sidebar organized and easy to navigate?
By selecting Show:
All your favorite teams are listed under the Your teams section, with other teams appearing under Hidden teams. The same principle applies for channels. Your favorite channels are listed directly under the General channel.
You can see the other available channels by selecting Hidden channels:
You can manually change the order of the teams by selecting a team, holding the left mouse button, and moving the team up or down.
Microsoft Teams private channels
Private channels are focused collaboration spaces within a team that allow you to limit collaboration to certain groups of people.
Only users who are members or owners of the private channel can access it, although anyone—including those with Microsoft Teams guest access—can be added as long as they’re already a member of the team.
For more on private channels in Teams, check out the official Microsoft documentation.
Microsoft Teams channels best practices
The awesomeness doesn’t stop there! There are more useful features at your disposal:
- Create links to a team or channel
- Respond to emails in a channel
- Follow a channel
- Mention a team or channel
Create links to a team or channel
Each team has a dedicated modern SharePoint team site to store all of its related documents and OneNote files.
The navigation between your SharePoint team site and Microsoft Teams isn’t great, so that’s where the Add a link feature comes in.
Copy the team link, and create a new shortcut in your SharePoint team site quick launch:
Works like a charm!
That being said, in most cases—especially after a team has been in use for a while—the Teams link should already show up in the Choose an option menu:
We also use this link within emails or chats to point colleagues to a certain team.
Respond to emails in a channel
Ideally, every member in a team saves content directly through the Microsoft Teams application or in the SharePoint team site.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone works the same way—resulting in a lot of attachments still arriving in your email inbox.
If you want to send an email to a channel in Teams, the channel email address comes in handy.
Go to the channel name and click More options > Get email address.
You can forward an email with an attachment, or reply to an email in a channel:
The email is displayed as a conversation, allowing your colleagues to respond—without sending an email reply to the original sender.
The attachment and email will also be stored in the SharePoint team site:
We’ll talk a little more about files later.
Follow a channel
Following the updates of one team and of a handful of channels is doable. But what about when you’re dealing with multiple teams and channels? It can become a full-time job.
By choosing the Follow option for a channel, you’ll receive updates about that channel’s activity—such as when a new post is published. It’s an easy way to stay up-to-date with your favorite channels.
Mention a team or channel
By using @team within a conversation, each member of the team receives a notification. The type of notification depends on each individual’s settings:
When using @channel within a conversation, each member who has favorited, or follows, the channel receives a notification.
Posting in a channel: Microsoft Teams conversations
Teams and channels are nothing without conversations. All conversations happen in chat, and are enhanced with the following features:
- Stickers and memes
If these aren’t your thing, don’t worry. The fun features aren’t mandatory, and you can also just use plain text. If you do use them, it might be a good idea to discuss how and when to implement them—either with the other project members, or within your organization.
In a future post in this series, we’ll go into more detail about Microsoft Teams-related governance.
One of the greatest features in Microsoft Teams is the ability to add a document to a tab:
The tab is extended with a conversation window. All members of the team can now see the new tab:
We recommend using this feature for documents you’re currently working on. For example: project plans, designs, calculation sheets, or reports.
Once you’re finished with the document, you can remove the tab. The conversations will remain intact, so you don’t have to worry about that part.
Now that you know how channels work, you’re well-equipped to lead the charge and initiate channel creation within your Microsoft Teams environment.
Encourage users to use channels instead of creating new teams, and reduce sprawl while boosting productivity and collaboration—now that’s what we call a win-win!