Microsoft Teams has been around for almost 5 years, and its user-base has grown enormously in that time. In fact, it has emerged as the de facto hub for collaboration within the Microsoft Office 365 world.  

In the wake of the global pandemic, it has become so heavily used that “Microsoft Teams sprawl” has become a buzzword as desk workers around the world traded in their office buildings for their home“offices” (aka couches and dining room chairs) and the need for real-time collaboration between remote employees grew exponentially.

This enormous uptick in daily users across all manner of organizations has led to an often-under managed approach to the creation of additional Microsoft Teams resources by these folks in their effort to keep business processes moving, which has in turn created a variety of problems for organizations utilizing O365.

Specifically, there are a number of different M365 resources that are created each time a new Teams Channel is created, such as a mailbox, SharePoint Site(s), OneDrive and Skype for telephony. When users are able to create new Teams channels at will, the result is a massive number ofM365 associated resources that are also created behind the scenes.

These additional resources constitute at least an opportunity for disorganization within a company – as data is often shared multiple times across multiple channels without a clear source of truth – and at most significant security concerns that center around the unmanaged sharing of organizational data with internal employees and external stakeholders who may not be authorized to view it.

To mitigate these challenges, organizations can make use of the following best practices, which are aimed at regaining control over who creates channels, who owns them, and the application of specific controls related to data sharing that goes on within them.

Conduct an Audit of Your Existing Microsoft Teams

First, you’ll want to get a clear picture of what exactly exists within your Microsoft Teams in terms of who owns the channels, what information is being shared within them, how often they are used and soon. With a clear picture of the lifecycle of your Microsoft Teams, you’ll be better prepared to implement various controls that make sense for your organization, such as the use of templates in the creation of new Teams.

Institute Microsoft Teams Naming Policies

Finding specific Teams, or the inability to do so, is a major contributor to Teams sprawl. By creating an organization-wide naming convention for your Teams will go a long way to ensuring that employees first search for a Team related to a given topic or area of interest before creating a new Team.  

Create Policies for Deleting and Archiving Microsoft Teams Channels

Automated processes based on regular audits of Teams usage for archiving or deleting unused Teams will help your organization to control Teams sprawl that already exists. As Teams go unused, information can be saved for future reference, or it can be deleted in order to reduce the risk of data leaks, according to the specific needs of your organization.

Designate Microsoft Team Admins and Owners

When specific stakeholders are made responsible for the management of a given Team, there is a reduced likelihood of excessive Teams Channels being created. Moreover, when there is a specific team member or group of team members who are ultimately responsible for the data sharing practices within a Teams Channel, there will ultimately be a greater degree of attention paid to these business-critical concerns.

Administrative controls can be divided into three categories: administrator, owner, and member, which will result in a clear designation of rights and responsibilities within eachTeams channel.  

Auto-Apply Sensitivity Labels to Documents Shared in Teams

Sensitivity labels are administrator-defined rules that live as metadata on specific documents created within M365.

To reduce the likelihood of documents having been shared in Teams channels that are not meant to be shared outside of your organization, or even within other Teams channels within your organization, IT can create automated rules that are applied to documents as they are shared within Teams.

This will facilitate the automatic creation of rules that dictate who can view a given document within any M365 apps – such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel – and in what context a given user may access a document.

How CoreView Can Help

Each of the above best practices, particularly when deployed in concert, will dramatically reduce your overall Microsoft Teams sprawl as well as the associated risk of business-critical data having been mismanaged either intentionally or inadvertently via Teams channels. You can learn more about how to get your Microsoft Teams management under control or schedule your demo.

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