The governance of Microsoft Teams is a topic that clients keep on asking us about. Having effective governance in place is important, not only to manage risks around privacy and security, but also to make your Teams environment easier to manage and to drive adoption. It is very easy for a Teams environment to get out of control with a sprawl of sites that is difficult to manage and negatively impacts the user experience; having robust governance will help make Microsoft Teams more successful and sustainable across your organisation.
The governance of Teams has never been more important. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to switch to remote working almost overnight, Teams adoption has been dramatically scaled up and platforms rolled out. Expediency may have meant that not all organisations have had time to consider and prioritise governance. However, once the dust has settled it is important to think about how you can establish some processes and implement policies across the platform.
In this article we are going to take a deeper dive into the governance of MS Teams and some of the areas to consider. It is worth noting that Microsoft keeps on investing in MS Teams so it is very possible additional governance capabilities may be available by the time you are reading this! We’ll aim to keep this article up to date as changes appear.
Let’s explore some different areas of governance relating to MS Teams.
1. MS Teams in your overall digital workplace governance framework
The overall governance of MS Teams needs to be considered in the context of your wider digital workplace or intranet governance framework and related content strategy. Governance covers the policies, processes, standards, bodies and other elements that will dictate how you run your Teams environment in terms of aspects such as overall ownership, security, support, training, strategic governance and more.
More specifically it needs to address:
- Who is responsible for each Teams space?
- What Teams spaces are used for and what other channels are used for
- The use of other collaboration tools like Slack
- Support and training – an area we look at in more detail below.
2. Teams provisioning
Out of the box, Teams allows any user to set up a team and run it how they want. However, there are settings and options available that allow you to control the Teams provisioning process. This process is critical for effective governance and is your opportunity to put controls in place to limit Teams sprawl. Sprawl happens for a variety of reasons including duplicate teams set up by different people; teams set up by people trying out teams for the first time; teams that have a fixed lifespan but are not decommissioned. If you want to avoid Teams sprawl, you need to control the provisioning in some way.
The site provisioning process is also an opportunity to collect metadata about each team that can help you manage the platform later on, and even create model teams (Teams templates) spaces for different purposes. With an effective provisioning process, you can:
- Put in approval workflow for the creation of a team and vary this depending on who is requesting the team or what the purpose of it is
- Vary the type of team to be created based on different criteria, spinning up teams based on templates and even force people to use alternatives such as team sites or Yammer groups
- Collect the metadata and information that can help with a variety of different areas; this is not only approval workflow and type of team, but also to support findability, the creation of central directories of teams, team owner review processes and more
- Enforce policies such as team naming conventions.
Some of these topics are covered in more detail below.
Team provisioning in MS Teams straight out of the box is pretty limited so you either need to supplement it with a product like Wizdom for Teams which has an effective provisioning engine (and doubles up as a Teams intranet), or by building Teams customisations using tools like SharePoint, PowerApps and Power Automate and suited to your specific needs. We have worked with both approaches and they can be highly effective. When you take this approach, you also need to lock down the out of the box capability in the admin settings.
With Wizdom’s provisioning capability you can create the provisioning experience from within MS Teams for users but then create, depending on the purpose of the site being requested and who is requesting it, varying approval workflows, a template for that Team space or even an alternative type of space such as a Yammer group, a SharePoint team site or Office 365 group.
3. Metadata and other information
The point at which you provision a team is your opportunity to collect any data you need about the team from the person requesting it in order to help with governance; using a product like Wizdom or a customised provisioning tool allows you to create the form you need to gather all the associated critical metadata you need. This metadata can determine the “rules” to follow around workflow, type of site and more; you can also associate Power Automate (formerly Flow) to trigger even more complex workflows and notifications.
Other metadata and information to gather can also underpin critical elements of Teams governance such as:
- Establishing who are the owners or users
- Setting a review date to check the team is still needed
- Level of security associated with the team
- Tags to aid findability, for example in keyword searches on your SharePoint intranet or categories in a site directory
- A clear description of the Team purpose.
Again, using Teams out of the box just does not provide you with these opportunities to implement robust governance.
4. Lifecycle management
Site provisioning is key, but so is also knowing when to close down a site. Using the metadata collected means you can put in effective processes around the proper lifecycle management of a Teams space. For example, putting in a review date and effective workflow means you can offer notifications to a team owner to review their team, and then additional workflow to delete or archive it based on the results of the review. This helps you to keep your Teams environment up to date and less cluttered, supporting a better user experience, while still ensuring compliance with wider information management policies relating to deletion.
5. Individual Teams configuration via templates
As already stated, using a provisioning engine means you can also create different “templates” for Teams sites depending on their purpose, with default channels set up, standard tabs, folder structures, integrations and even pre-set documents added. For example, your organisation may have a standard project methodology and you may want to automatically set up sites for users that have a channel for each step of your project methodology. Perhaps you may want to set up a site for marketing teams working on a bid that includes branded PowerPoint templates. Take a look at our video case study on a custom Teams provisioning tool using templates that we built for a private equity firm to help them better manage investments.
To make this effective you need to use a product like Wizdom, carry out a customisation or an expert-driven configuration. Although with out of the box Teams there is the ability to use a template by copying another site, users can only pick from a list of all Teams spaces which is simply not effective.
6. Other administration policies
Teams administrators usually working in the IT function or digital workplace team are also able to set important policies which can be implemented across the platform and again are an essential part of governance; these can align to your wider information management, data security and digital workplace policies. For example, you can control:
- The navigation options for the whole platform, for example adding different Teams apps which can even be targeted to different groups and locking down different features
- Messaging policies that impact the ability to collaborate externally, for example stopping all external users accessing spaces or more specifically viewing documents
- Trusted domains for external users, for example only allowing email addresses from a certain organisation
- Naming conventions for teams to aid findability
- Default or suggested Teams for new starters based on their profile
- Wider archiving policies
- Define the format of certain types of information that cannot be added to a Team such as a credit card number.
7. Governance controls for individual owners
Each individual team also has a raft of governance measures such as who can access the Team, whether particular channels are private, what users can see within each channel and other configuration options.
8. Training and support
Another critical element of your wider governance of MS Teams is the training and support that helps drive adoption and best use. This might include:
- Self-service resources on how to use Teams
- The role of the IT helpdesk in answering queries
- An expert support community
- Targeted training
- Guidance on when to use Teams and when not to use Teams
- Campaigns to help drive usage
- Local champions and coordinators
- A central team responsible for strategy and adoption.
Optimising your MS Teams platform with governance
Governance is essential for your MS Teams environment, helping to minimise risk and make the platform more manageable, but also to optimise the user experience. If you’d like to discuss any of the points in this article or need help establishing robust governance for Teams then get in touch!