By James Corbishley, BitTitan
Remote work has been the new normal for some time now, driving the adoption of tools like Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. The adoption of Teams, in particular, has surged since 2020.
As of July 2021, Teams has 145 million daily active users, up from 75 million the previous year. While enterprises have benefited from the platform’s powerful communication and collaboration capabilities, the problem of a sprawl of Teams data is a new challenge for IT teams.
Teams sprawl can result in serious problems for all companies, especially enterprises with thousands of users. Sprawl can turn Teams from a powerhouse of workplace collaboration to a source of confusion, frustration, and hindered productivity. While Teams sprawl can arise for various reasons, mergers and acquisitions can exacerbate the issue and lead to a disorganized Teams environment.
Currently, M&A activity in the business world is strong and will likely grow even more. Experts with Deloitte, for instance, predict mergers and acquisitions will return to pre-COVID-19 levels in the next year.
Businesses preparing for M&As must make sure they clean up their digital environments—including heavily used tools like Teams—before a migration. Better yet, by understanding and addressing the common problems around sprawl, IT leaders and MSPs can help customers prevent data sprawl from the start.
What Is Teams Sprawl And What Challenges Result From It?
Put simply, Teams sprawl is the uncontrolled overflow of unused, outdated, irrelevant, or duplicated content and data within the Teams environment. For example, people may create Teams channels that are rarely used, or only used for a specific period and eventually abandoned but never removed.
Teams sprawl can take several forms. For example, channels may be duplicative of others, making it hard to have a centralized place for conversation or file-sharing related to a given topic or group within the company. In these situations, users may lose the ability to find the “latest and greatest” version of critical files or data—generating a host of issues and preventing employees from working efficiently.
When IT professionals don’t address the problem, it can quickly get out of control and create a mountain of issues. Ultimately, organizations that don’t have a firm handle on Teams risk team-member productivity due to confusion, miscommunication, and increased difficulty with accessing the information workers need, the latest files, or the most up-to-date data. Sprawl tends to compound itself and can eventually reduce adoption as employees lean on other ways of communicating and sharing information.
Another significant challenge with Teams sprawl is managing data security. When too many channels exist with different access levels, there’s the potential for a user to share something that unintentionally reaches a broader group of people. If sensitive information ends up in the hands of employees who shouldn’t have it, there’s a potential for data leaks or security threats. With so much at risk, MSPs and IT leaders need to help their customers prevent Teams sprawl from occurring and getting out of control.
How Can Companies Prevent Teams Sprawl With Migrations?
When working with customers during events like Teams migrations, MSPs and IT teams can curb sprawl in several ways. As a first step, it’s essential to establish governance policies and procedures to determine the best practices for using Teams. These policies can provide clarity around roles and responsibilities, spelling out who’s responsible for managing Teams and enacting steps to prevent sprawl if it starts to occur. Business leaders must ensure that people use Teams in compliance with company policies.
Another helpful measure is to establish moderators for different teams or channels. They can oversee data as it comes in and moderate what should be created or deleted.
Finally, the IT department should provide guidance and training for employees on how to use Teams, so there is a unified approach to using the platform. They might consider creating a specific channel where users can find tips and tricks for using Teams. This can be helpful for new hires or anyone who needs extra help learning the ropes of Teams.
What Other Complexities Should MSPs And IT Leaders Consider?
Sprawl can become a significant issue during migrations especially when a substantial amount of data is being merged. Consider the user experience and help employees learn what may be new or different once the migration is complete. Since you won’t be migrating all the data from one place to another, people need to understand what’s changing so they can access the information they need without getting lost or unnecessarily creating new channels or teams.
With Teams migrations, in particular, there are a few best practices. To start, MSPs and IT teams should develop a migration plan to determine who is doing what and when. The migration plan is key to understanding how you’re going to provide data to migrated users while ensuring they can access the information they need at the right time.
After the plan is in place, you should audit your environment to understand what you need to migrate. This step will help you consider existing team and channel
naming conflicts. And, if you find username changes, you should be mindful of access to permissions and channel membership before the migration. The audit also can help you identify what you can and can’t migrate so that users can be made aware of changes to their experience.
Thoughtful planning is an essential component for IT leaders and MSPs to prevent and mitigate Teams sprawl. Putting prevention measures in place goes a long way toward ensuring companies won’t face the challenges of sprawl—namely, hindered productivity and increased security risks. Creating transparent governance policies and educating employees about these policies is essential. Finally, MSPs and IT teams should assess their digital environment and create a comprehensive migration plan when combining data. These steps will help keep data in check and ensure that users have the best experience.
About The Author
James Corbishley is senior technology strategist for BitTitan, where he works with product, sales, and development teams for MigrationWiz, the company’s leading SaaS solution for cloud migration. A veteran of the IT services industry, James specializes in enterprise software and systems, Microsoft messaging and collaboration solutions, enterprise architecture, and cloud adoption.