Business leaders around the world are experiencing the transformative power of Microsoft Teams, a communications and collaboration tool, launched in 2017. Teams continues to change how organizations work and benefit from their Office 365 investments.
The buzz about Microsoft Teams is reaching a fever pitch. Microsoft Teams is now in 500,000 businesses, including 91 of the Fortune 100 companies. It is available in 181 markets and 44 languages, with nine more on the way. It won Best in Show for two consecutive years at the Enterprise Connect competition in Orlando, Florida.
A successful Teams implementation will enable your employees to communicate and collaborate across networks and applications through one integrated hub. Instead of constantly “switching lanes” between multiple applications such as email, SharePoint, and web browsers, they can access the fastest path on the circuit – streamlining their productivity and efficiency while minimizing distractions.
Microsoft Teams Key Concepts
But before you head out to the track, let’s take a quick peek beneath the Microsoft Teams hood and learn some key concepts:
- Office 365 Groups: Each team creates an Office 365 Group on the back end that associates the team members together in the Azure Active Directory. Team member identities are automatically applied in Exchange (in the form of username and group email identities), Teams and other apps across the platform.
- OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online: All documents shared within a team (such as Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks, etc.) sync with copies stored either in Microsoft’s OneDrive For Business cloud storage (for files shared in individual chats) or in a dedicated SharePoint site (for team-level shared files). This gives every team member ready access to the most up-to-date versions of documents shared across the team.
- Exchange Online Shared Mailbox and Calendar: When communication occurs in Teams, the information is stored in Exchange Online in a few different ways:
- Channels organize Teams conversations and files on specific categories or topics. It stores channel messages in group mailboxes and chat messages in a user mailbox. Note: The new Private Channels feature—which enables private, “sidebar” conversations within teams—behaves differently than Teams’ original Channels.
- Chat enables ad hoc conversations on topics, documents and meetings. Users can access chat histories through the compliance portal, and Exchange Online holds eDiscovery.
- OneNote Notebook provides a place to create, store and access notes and annotations directly through the Teams environment in the corresponding SharePoint site.
These core integrations allow Teams to be fully functional as a central hub for communication and collaboration on documents and other shared resources. Now that you’re familiar with some of the nuts and bolts, let’s learn the rules of the road to keep your drivers’ content safe and ensure fair play on the speedway!
Configuring Microsoft Teams
The best approach is to first define your organization’s rules of governance, and then configure Microsoft Teams through the powerful Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. Areas where your organization will need to make global decisions concerning Teams include:
- Authentication and Encryption: Microsoft Teams enforces team-wide and organization-wide multi-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest.
- Teams Data Security and Security Classifications: Microsoft Teams’ security-rich Office 365 platform features built-in data-security capabilities that enable administrators to classify security settings and safeguard data from unauthorized access using security classification labels.
- Compliance Boundaries/Information Barriers: Office 365 administrators can place boundaries on certain individuals or groups of individuals in organizations that are dispersed among several localities or have special compliance needs.
- Global Records Retention Policy: The Office 365 Security and Compliance Center features tools that enable you to customize your records management and retention policies for Microsoft Teams.
- Auditing and Reporting: The Office 365 Security and Compliance Center also provides the option to use the audit log feature to make user activity data available for administrator use and investigations.
- E-Discovery and Legal Hold for Chats and Files: Teams manages Legal Holds in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center and generally applies these with the context of an eDiscovery case. Teams maintains all data associated with a user or a team under a Legal Hold in eDiscovery search while the hold is in effect.
Managing Governance for Teams
In addition to security rules on the track, you must apply governance rules to ensure that your organization manages Microsoft Teams in a way that aligns with internal business rules and enforces corporate policies that affect your business.
- Rule #1: Decide Who Can Create a Team: Determine how to control team creation within your organization. For some organizations, it may be fine to allow team creation to occur with very little oversight. Other organizations may require more control over the creation of new teams. No matter your needs, putting a policy in place will help prevent problems like “team sprawl.”
- Rule #2: Define Approved Purposes for Creating Teams: Larger organizations may want to create governance criteria on approved purposes for creating Teams to control costs and risks associated with the application. By creating and communicating “approved purposes” for Team creation, you can ensure that all individual teams are aligned with the needs of your organization.
- Rule #3: Create Team Naming Policies: Consistency in how users name their teams helps to avoid the confusion created by duplicate team names or inconsistent naming conventions. The more you automate this process, the easier it will be to ensure that team names align with your organizational structure. Prefix-suffix naming policies and custom blocked words (like profanity or copyright-protected words) will help keep everyone on track.
- Rule #4: Select Approved Integrated Applications: At some point during your initial Teams rollout, you may want to encourage employees to add integrated Microsoft applications or integrate third-party applications already used within the organization (e.g., Salesforce, etc.).
- Rule #5: Allow (or Prevent) Guest Access: Tenant controls in the Microsoft Teams Admin Center can help prevent data leaks that could cause catastrophic problems. By enabling secure collaboration with partners or vendors, you can define your organization’s global standard for who can access your Teams environment—both inside and outside the organization—and from which devices.
- Rule #6: Manage Communication Capabilities (Chat and Messaging): Microsoft Teams enables administrators to adjust chat capabilities, including the use of stickers and other features. You can assign custom policies to users or groups of users that include blocks for profanity or culturally sensitive terminology, as well as the ability to edit or delete chats once they have been posted.
- Rule #7: Develop Taxonomies to Label Documents: Create a taxonomy for labeling information contained within documents and files in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center to fully automate and enforce content lifecycle and records management policies. This will help preserve Cloud storage space in SharePoint.
- Rule #8: Create Sunset Policies for Archiving and Deleting Teams: Administrators can use the Azure Active Directory portal to set expiration policies as Teams environments need “sunsetting” or discontinuation. The platform alerts Team Owners prior to expiration and given the opportunity to extend the team’s lifecycle.
There’s no doubt about it: Microsoft Teams leads the way in modern workplace collaboration. But, if you’re starting to implement this exciting tool, learning the Rules of the Road will get you to the finish line more quickly—and more safely!
Are you ready to learn more about the rules of the road for Microsoft Teams?