Microsoft Teams Governance Strategies: Choosing the right approach 

by Emily Houssier

It’s no secret that Microsoft Teams is the fastest-growing product, in terms of adoption, that Microsoft has ever released, and for good reason. The fact that you can combine effective communication and collaboration into a single user interface makes Microsoft Teams extremely attractive to large and small businesses alike. A recent rise in Microsoft Teams adoption has made it evident that not all Microsoft Teams governance strategies keep a happy balance between management and usage. 

The importance of a Governance Strategy

Just like other areas of Office 365, Microsoft Teams is designed to allow all users to create and manage their own Teams. The option of setting and configuring permissions within the tool has been a huge aid to adoption within the end-user community. Allowing users to be in charge of their Teams drives empowerment, adoption and gives birth to what Microsoft actively describes as the democratization of productivity. This, however, comes at a price if governance is not considered in advance, as many organizations have discovered. 


Controlling Teams sprawl  

Firstly, when users discover that they have the freedom to use applications as they wish, we see a huge amount of sprawl in the number of Teams that are created. “Teams Sprawl” is the result of users being allowed to create Teams on demand, with no governance or process planning. It will normally start off with the usual “Test Team”. This is how most new users will try out an application in the hope of better understanding the best way to utilize it and all of its different functions.  

This is closely followed by the viral creation of Teams for everything as employees see the value they can get out of it. People will create a new Team just for conversations or sharing of documents between individuals. As growth explodes, the number of Teams will create a cluttered environment and in turn, begins to harm the overall adoption and experience of Microsoft Teams.  

Teams inconsistency

Secondly, while it may seem like a good idea to promote productivity and make it easy for employees to build their own Teams, adding channels, chats, and file tabs, we find that without governance there is always inconsistency between the Teams that are created. With all the best intentions in the world, maintaining Microsoft Teams organization is a challenge for many businesses. Employees will follow guidance on how Teams should be named or structured, but when it becomes a manual process for individual users to enforce this, it tends to be left behind.  

As Humans, we always want our content to be as simple to find as possible. If each Team within a company is structured differently, with differing naming styles, and with a range of applied settings, it is difficult to find information. Without a global structure, data becomes sprawled out in different places, attached in chats, added to two different channels, or inaccessible in a private Team. Not only does this harm the Microsoft Teams experience, but it also transforms a tool for productivity and collaboration into a barrier instead of a facilitator.  


Microsoft Teams governance strategies 

So how do we tackle these issues? While Teams sprawl inspires real organic growth, it isn’t a long-term strategy. Governance will drive Microsoft Teams adoption through a control structure of rules and regulations. However, a governance strategy that is too rigid will not empower employee use. Here are a few different approaches to governing your Microsoft Teams implementation and a solution that will promote adoption and control the Teams sprawl.  

User-controlled governance

User-controlled governance is the pure democratization of Microsoft Teams. This governance strategy allows users to continue to create, configure and maintain their Teams in the best way that they can. It is the most common method of Microsoft Teams governance, as it is the out-of-the-box configuration for Microsoft Teams.  

Organizations that opt for a user-controlled approach will commonly supply a governance plan. This manually implemented plan indicates the company policy on how the Teams should be created, used, and maintained. It is a set of rules to provide order within the tenancy. As previously mentioned, this approach to governance holds individual employees accountable as they ensure the policy is effective. Unfortunately, it is very easy to find the rules not being adhered to. 


IT controlled governance

The IT-controlled approach is the opposite end of the spectrum to the user-controlled governance. This governance strategy puts IT in command. The IT teams completely remove the ability for all users to create their own Teams and make it a function of, usually, the IT help desk. 

This approach is quite often a knee-jerk reaction to Teams sprawl. Generally, an organization launches Teams and immediately applies user-controlled governance. Eventually, massive sprawl and uncontrolled growth lead to a seemingly chaotic environment within Microsoft Teams. Looking for a quick way to regulate Teams’ sprawl, the IT-controlled governance strategy is put in place.  

At first glance, from an administration point of view, this is the ideal solution. It gives authority to one team and contains Teams sprawl. However, the restriction approach is often detrimental to adoption as it can be seen as a barrier imposed by IT. Preventing accessibility to tools pushes users towards other ways of sharing information, such as through emails or even worse, turning to uncontrolled solutions giving birth to shadow IT. 


The Half-way House approach

A halfway house approach combines the best elements of the user-controlled and IT-controlled approaches. This governance strategy allows users to still create the teams they need whilst doing it within an IT-regulated process. Generally, a technical measure is put in place to enforce the company governance plan established by the organization. 

Approval Workflow 

Whilst this approach gives the best of both worlds, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make it truly end-user-friendly. The first step is establishing a set of approval workflows. Commonly it is started by simply creating a request and generating a blank team. Now, workflows only achieve partway of a strategy that you truly want a governance plan to be. 

Teams Templates 

With a little more investment, you can automatically establish the channels, tabs, and settings within a team via pre-made Teams templates. Templates ensure that users get a more consistent architecture across their teams. To truly invest in the governance process, an organization can also upgrade to Azure AD Premium. It will include options like naming conventions and governance on the user level. 


Microsoft Teams Governance Best Practices To Implement

Finding a balance 

Out of all the Microsoft Teams governance strategies, the halfway house approach is ultimately what organizations should strive to achieve. It secures a balance between letting its users work within Microsoft’s democratized environment and administering employee use via the IT teams. To find a balance, companies turn to either internal development options or add-in third-party products, like Powell Teams. Whilst this governance strategy requires a little more investment, it often yields a more inclusive and more widely adopted Teams tenancy than the other approaches.  

What is your Microsoft Teams governance strategy? If you are looking to invest in an approach that brings balanced adoptions and governance, check out Powell Teams today!  


 This article was written by Mathew Weston, MVP at Powell Software. 

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