IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Best Practices for Addressing Microsoft Teams Sprawl

Sprawl can drain IT resources and money. Here are the best ways to help your customers manage it. By Willie Cash

Remember when a quick question or conversation with a colleague meant a knock on an office door or shared walk down the hall? Thanks to the rise of remote working, accelerated by the pandemic, many of these collaborative moments have moved to Microsoft Teams. This shift has led to a new set of problems—the sprawl of Microsoft Teams data.

As Teams usage grows, sprawl is inevitable—more workers will be creating and sharing more data. If your SMB customers aren’t experiencing sprawl yet, they likely will soon, hindering their data accessibility, security, and productivity. Helping your customers manage sprawl, therefore, must be a priority.

What Causes Sprawl?

Much of sprawl comes from the hyper-accelerated shift to remote working and a lack of thoughtful planning and proper training. Many organizations moved to a new remote environment without creating best practices or governance for collaboration tools like Teams. Lacking governance, users can create new teams and channels without considering redundancy, shelf life, or security. Maybe an entire new channel is spun up for a project that lasts only a few weeks. Six months later, it’s a dead channel, sucking up resources with potentially sensitive information accessible to anyone inside the organization and sometimes even to guest users.  

Sprawl isn’t just messy—it harms accessibility, security, collaboration, and productivity. If materials are created in a private channel, someone who’s not part of that channel but needs access to those materials will not see them, even by searching for the details. As a result, employees can miss out on critical information they need to be successful, and they may start conversations in different mediums, which exacerbates the problem.

Security concerns abound as well. How do SMBs track external users and permissions? One mishap could mean sensitive information leaking or even being deleted entirely, as a setting in Teams allows a guest user to delete a channel. Do your clients know how to find this setting and confirm it is turned off? Risks also include things like e-discovery. Files and chats floating around Teams channels long after these channels become dormant are still actionable and must be monitored and managed accordingly.

Then there is the cost to store and maintain all the teams and channels, many of which are no longer active.

Managing Sprawl

Even if your customer’s Teams environment has morphed into a messy, productivity-killing sprawl, there are ways to tame it. Three steps are essential: assess, analyze, and then take action.

First, it’s important to run a comprehensive assessment. What is the current state of your client’s environment? Where are the redundancies, overlap, and security risks? A big-picture understanding of the customer’s use (and misuse) of Teams is critical.

Once you’ve mapped out the state of the environment, you can decide what measures are necessary to better fit Teams to your customer’s mission and goals. If you’re looking at a bloated environment, what specific actions need to be taken to return the environment to its baseline? What steps are necessary to foster better collaboration and productivity?

One key to righting the ship is understanding what policies the customer can implement. This means creating best practices specific to the client’s organization. When should a new team or channel be created, and by whom? What is the process for creating each? What naming conventions are best for the business? This is the quickest, simplest way to curb sprawl. However, governance policies aren’t one size fits all. You need to guide your customer to establish best practices that meet their standards. 

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