Guest Column | June 21, 2021

Effective Ways To Manage Microsoft Teams Sprawl: Identifying The Causes And Solutions For Optimal Usage

By Willie Cash, BitTitan

Technology Trending Up

There's no denying the utility, efficacy, and growing ubiquity of Microsoft Teams. As remote work increases across many sectors, Teams has emerged as a critical element of enabling workplace collaboration.

In light of this, the adoption of Microsoft Teams has risen exponentially, with Microsoft reporting that Teams now reaches 145 million daily active users. More companies than ever are using the communication and collaboration platform. But with this expansion comes new challenges.

Remote work has accelerated the occurrence of data sprawl, as more usage of Teams results in the creation of more teams, channels, and data among users. Without proper planning, trying to manage a Teams environment can become overwhelming.

The Root Cause Of Sprawl

There is no shortage of narratives about where Teams sprawl can, and does, happen. Much of sprawl proliferates when users create teams and channels with no governance or process in place. And sprawl can negatively impact several areas, some of which can be easily overlooked.

First, it can interfere with information accessibility and make it harder to locate important documents or files, stifling productivity. Second, it can result in serious security issues. The IT department should be aware of all the types and amounts of data within the Teams environment. If important files are floating around in abandoned private channels, they may pose a serious security threat. In some cases, if guest users aren’t managed, there is the potential they may delete data—for instance, a channel and all its corresponding information.

Finally, for larger organizations, sprawl can result in unnecessary storage costs. Enterprise companies with thousands of teams and channels to oversee may encounter costly storage fees if they haven't put policies in place or cleaned up their environment.

Addressing The Issue

The key to wrangling sprawl is to first understand the problems, the requirements for an effective solution, and the goals for getting Teams under control. The answers to these questions are unique to each organization and will inform how to enact best practices and policies that are most effective.

On a high level, the easiest, quickest way to curb Teams sprawl is to understand how many teams and channels are in your environment and develop governance around creating them. Establishing policy and identifying best practices can prevent the Teams environment from getting messy and disorganized, which can happen very quickly as the number of channels can swell exponentially.

Additionally, it is crucial to understand that those processes and policies must work with how your business operates and how your employees share and collaborate. Some enterprises, for example, might prevent users from creating a new channel or team. However, they may find that people spin up private group chats, which results in a subgroup of conversations and file sharing happening outside of the IT team's purview. Being a global admin with Teams doesn't translate into having complete access and fidelity into all the areas of Teams. It's better to make sure that whatever policies are rolled out enable the organization to foster a collaborative effort among employees in a way that can be tracked from an IT perspective.

Ongoing Visibility And Monitoring

To ensure optimization, IT administrators must have a detailed view into what the organization's Teams usage looks like on a regular and ongoing basis. They should set a regular cadence around viewing the usage metrics. These include team and channel structure, user adoption, the types of devices people use to access Teams, guest users (a severe security risk), and the number of private and public channels. Should the IT department own the creation of channels and teams, they can ensure these are streamlined and reduce instances of multiple channels with similar names. They also can reduce single-use channels and archive or merge channels as appropriate.

Evaluating the problems, the requirements, and your organization's goals are paramount to enacting best practices and policies that get your Teams environment under control. Guidelines will mitigate and contain sprawl, clean up impediments, and set a baseline for better collaboration and productivity among the employee base. And it will ensure that your organization is using Teams in a way that is most effective for your business.

Willie CashAbout The Author

Willie Cash is the General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan, where he works with SMB and enterprise partner companies to identify and implement effective ways to drive solutions, grow revenue, and increase profits in their day-to-day businesses. Learn more about Voleer here.