Planning a Teams rollout?

Our top 3 governance tips

Having worked on Microsoft Teams rollouts with clients of different sizes and needs, I noticed that governance, or the fear of a wild-wild-west scenario in Teams, was one of the biggest concerns.

Here are my top three Microsoft Teams governance tips when planning a rollout:

  1. Form a Governance committee to help deal with the interconnected nature of Groups.
  2. Use out-of-the-box features and Group formation process (embrace the sprawl).
  3. Implement group expiration policies at rollout to keep inactive Teams in check.

Tip 1: Form a Governance committee

The problem

Microsoft Groups are interconnected with everything in Office 365 so the question becomes who owns Teams?

This is by far the biggest challenge in Teams deployment engagements and often where the most time is spent. Organizations often don’t realize that this is going to be a problem because they think of Teams as its own thing. This can and has led to the rollouts being stalled, cancelled, or postponed as organizations sort this out.

Everything is connected

When you create many services or apps in Office 365, an Office 365 Group is created along with it. For example, when you create an MS Team in an O365 with no restrictions, you in fact get an O365 Group that contains the following:

  • Teams chat (conversations)
  • OneNote and a Teams Wiki
  • StreamSharePoint Online (modern) site
  • Power BI and Forms workspaces
  • Planner (plan)

Who owns what?

The interconnectedness of the O365 apps creates challenges for an ownership structure for different services.

I have had more than one Teams rollout project stalled in larger organizations because the organization needed time to decide which IT team (or director/leader) will own MS Teams.

There are many governance (and non-governance) related configuration decisions that will have an impact at the O365 Group level in your Office 365 tenant and, therefore, if you are trying to make decisions just for Teams, then that will not work because if, for example, you decide to apply a one year expiration policy to your Teams then that will prevent you from having a three-year expiration policy for Yammer groups.

The solution

The best way around this challenge is for organizations to understand that the old model of clear delineation between different services no longer applies. The future of Microsoft 365 cloud and, more importantly, collaboration is interconnected, and IT departments and teams need to evolve their mindset around governance and control to attain the best outcomes for the end users and the business.

My recommendation: A working governance committee or group, formed before the rollout project is planned preferably, that has representation from all service owners on O365 cloud. This committee can then decide on what controls make sense and even advise on the rollout strategy for the organization.

Tip 2: Use out-of-the-box features and group formation processes (Embrace the sprawl)

The problem

An important side-effect of the O365 Groups is the inevitable sprawl of sites, planners, and other O365 apps that get created with each Group.

Site sprawl and redundant sites used to be one of the biggest governance concerns for the IT departments back in the SharePoint on-prem days. A lot of IT departments still feel extremely uncomfortable with the thought of users creating Teams on a whim and having hundreds or thousands of unused SharePoint Online sites, Planners and OneNote notebooks on their tenant.

This can be a very contentious issue for many IT admins but, while there are controls in place for you to restrict and control O365 Group creation in an attempt to reduce site sprawl, you will be fighting a losing battle against Microsoft’s vision for Office 365. This vision is a friction-less self-service collaboration for end users with a heavy emphasis on ever-improving search and AI capabilities in addition to the lifecycle management (expiration) policies to cut through the clutter of empty or little-used resources.

The solution

Instead of restricting or locking down features or group creation, try to challenge yourself to embrace the way Microsoft intended Teams to be used and consider how can you keep the Teams creation and management process low effort for end users.

My recommendation: Use the out-of-the-box Teams creation process and don’t worry about all the different services and apps that get provisioned with an Office 365 Group as long as at least one of the services is providing value to the end users.

I don’t believe a tedious or slow approval process serves the best interests of the users or the organization in a modern, digital workplace. While I am not opposed to having a controlled process for requesting Teams, I always encourage clients to make the Teams creation process automatic and approval-less.

Tip 3: Implement Group expiration policies

The problem

Site sprawl caused by outdated, inactive Teams.

The solution

Office 365 activity-based Groups expiration.

This allows the admins to set an amount of time (in number of days) after which every O365 group will come up for renewal.

If the Group is active (defined as simply as someone visiting a Teams channel or performing an action on a SharePoint site), then the Group will be automatically renewed. If the Group is inactive for the set period of time, the owner will be prompted to renew it.

While this is a great feature for keeping outdated Teams in check, it does have some limitations that can pose a significant challenge for many organizations to overcome. At the time of writing, there can only be one Group Expiration policy per Office 365 tenant. You cannot have different expiration policies for different groups. So, an organization that wants to set renewal for Yammer groups to 3 years and Teams to 1 year cannot do this with out-of-the-box functionality.

My recommendation: I whole-heartedly recommend that organizations consider this capability. It is great if you can come to an agreed upon timeframe for all O365 Groups but, even if you want this only for Teams, manual or scripted policy assignment should be considered. This will certainly help alleviate IT concerns over site sprawl and will help with outdated content cluttering search.

Ready for some Team building?

By forming a governance committee to make decisions about O365 and Teams specifically; using out-of-the-box group formation and other features and implementing the Groups expiration policies, you’ll be well on your way to managing some of the biggest issues I see come up in Teams rollout projects.

Specifically, the activity-based Group expiration feature is one of the more (if not the most) useful governance feature available out of the box. I consider implementing this from the start a Microsoft Teams best practice, mainly because it will help in dealing with any negative consequences of site sprawl.

Need some help?

Because there is little room for custom development inside Microsoft Teams (you can certainly configure it or build apps for it but cannot use code to change its interface and other fundamentals like in the on-prem days), I typically consult on issues of governance, controls, out-of-the-box feature configuration, and change management strategy for Teams rollouts. If you have questions about any of these, or you’re looking for some help with a Teams rollout, please contact me.

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