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We’ve answered all your questions about Microsoft Teams Governance & Information Management

By Robert Bath & Alex Franklin.

Here is an overview of all the FAQs about Microsoft Teams Governance and Information Management that were answered in this post. Click on the question you are interested in to jump straight to the correct section.

Over the past few years, and especially since the pandemic, we have received a high number of questions relating to Microsoft Teams, in particular around Microsoft Teams Governance and Information Management. We collected some of the most frequently asked questions from clients to share (anonymised) answers with a wider audience. Some of them are more specific and technical, while others are more generic.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you have any other questions related to this topic. We are more than happy to assist you with any Microsoft Teams governance challenges. You can reach us through our company email info@intelogy.co.uk or you can pop over a personal message to Rob Bath or Alex Franklin on LinkedIn as they were both engaged in this blog.

Previously, Rob hosted a webinar regarding “Records and Governance in Microsoft Teams”. In the follow-up post Rob answered all the questions that were raised during this session and you can also find a link to his presentation as well as the recording of the session. Some of these questions have been added to this post.

Recording of the session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xv6Huh52NI

In this blog, Rob has focussed on answering the technical questions about Microsoft Teams Retention and Archival technicalities.

Recently, Alex Franklin has co-hosted a webinar with Michal Pisarek, CEO and founder of Orchestry, on “How to overcome the biggest obstacles with Governance and Retention in Microsoft Teams”. You can watch this session on-demand on our YouTube channel:

The questions raised in this webinar have been added to this blog as well to make it as complete as possible.

In the questions covered, Alex has focussed on answering questions about Microsoft Teams best practices and Microsoft Teams User Adoption in particular.

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Why is Microsoft Teams Governance & Information Management important?

Answered by Rob Bath.

Microsoft Teams Governance isn’t just important – for most organisations I’d argue that it is absolutely essential. For many organisations Microsoft Teams has rapidly become the central tool for facilitating both internal and external communications and collaboration and has become one of the central locations for storing and processing business information.

So the real question here isn’t whether governing Microsoft Teams is important – it’s whether governing your information is important. We strongly feel that this question isn’t really open to debate! Irrespective of size or sector, governing your information is of critical importance to pretty much every organsiation.

There are multiple reasons why Information Governance is important. Every organisation is subject to both regulations and legislation, which require well-managed information. GDPR is a perfect example of this, where it is essential that you dispose of information that contains personally identifiable information as soon as you no longer have a legitimate reason for possessing it. There are also sector-specific regulations that you might need to abide by, especially for organisations in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceutical, legal and finance.

Some types of information need to be retained for longer durations. For example, a university will need to retain student records relating to exam results for years after the graduation; an Estates team will need to ensure that architectural files are kept for the duration of the property. Every organsiation will also need to make sure that employee records (especially those relating to disciplinary proceedings and pensions) are retained for decades after the member of staff has left.

Another reason for the importance of information governance is improved corporate knowledge sharing. If you have effective processes for sorting the weeds from the chaff, you will be able to ensure that your knowledge is easier for staff to find and reuse. The productivity gains driven by appropriately managed information are hard to underestimate.

With Microsoft Teams being used to store and share significant volumes of information, it’s pretty clear that applying appropriate controls and processes to govern the platform is something every organisation should be prioritising.

We have too many teams and channels being created in our Microsoft Teams environment. What can we do?

Answered by Alex Franklin.

First and foremost, turn off self-service creation. This is something that has been a problem since I started working with SharePoint back in 2007. Back then, there was a term ‘SharePoint sprawl’ which is similar to ‘Teams sprawl’, and today they are both a problem for many administrators.

People were creating SharePoint sites whenever and wherever they wanted. This resulted in silos with pockets of data that should have been housed within consolidated group sites. Additionally, sites were created and then never used, or used briefly then forgotten about. All of this led to unmanageable, unstructured, unmonitored chaos that proved challenging to resolve over time. It was bad enough then, and it’s possibly worse now if you look at it from a Microsoft Teams perspective. If I create a team, I am not just creating a team, I am creating a SharePoint site as well, because all the content (files and folders) in that team lives in a SharePoint site. However, it is not just a SharePoint site, it’s an Office 365 group, an Outlook shared inbox & calendar and a OneNote Notebook. Users might then use it to generate a Planner board and/or Power BI Workspace. We are not just creating one team, but many different supporting features and repositories. In small businesses, this might be manageable, but in larger organisations, a much greater challenge.

Microsoft Teams Governance & Information Management

Many of our clients have concerns about the volume of teams that are created in their environment, but do not realise that the issue can be greater than just that. It can extend even further when considering the creation of private channels in teams, as that creates an additional SharePoint site every time, or even shared channels, that enable non-team members to be invited in to collaborate, both inside and external to your organisation.

So what can we do about this? There needs to be a balance between turning off self-service creation and the ability to create teams because, let’s face it, that’s the whole point of Microsoft Teams. We want people to keep using this very useful tool and we can do this by creating a centralised provisioning process. We don’t want to prevent staff from creating teams, we just ask that they follow a simple, managed process to do so. The benefits that staff receive from this process can be many, including default metadata settings, configuration of default channels based on the purpose of the team (to enable better structure and organisation) as well as dynamic integration with other applications.

It’s extremely important that this is communicated in the right way to staff. They shouldn’t be informed that the creation of teams is restricted, but that they are welcome to create them through a simple form. This allows us as an organisation to ensure working areas are compliant, consistent (when appropriate) and managed in a way that ensures content is accessible to those who need it.

Doing so also allows you to set Retention Policies to content in the team’s associated SharePoint site as well as policies for channel content at the very start, should you need them.

Provisioning processes can be great for helping to manage your estate and lower the likelihood of unmanageable sprawl, but what if it’s already happened? Using the reporting methods within the Microsoft Teams admin center you can gather actionable data to potentially remove, archive or migrate teams that;

  • Contain only one channel
  • Have been inactive for a long period of time
  • Only have a single member (or no members)

The strategy and approach required may differ depending on your organisation or its size. You may have initial quick wins in finding “test” teams or teams that haven’t been used for a number of years, but communication strategies will be needed to work with team owners and understand whether teams can be archived, migrated, or need to be left alone.

How can I see if a team or channel in Microsoft Teams isn’t being used? How do I find inactive workspaces in Microsoft Teams?

Answered by Alex.

The Teams Usage report in the Admin Center provides you with an overview of the estate, but you are limited in the timeframe that you can specify for usage (7, 30 or 90 days). This may be a limitation for larger organisations where projects or initiatives may have been on hold for months and therefore you don’t get clear visibility in this report. Manual intervention is required to get your data accurate across the estate.

More detailed data analysis is possible by extracting information using PowerShell, but this requires advanced IT skills.

If you do not have resources available with the advanced IT scripting capabilities needed, you can use a number of third-party tools that can deep-dive into your data for you and bring back actionable reports and insights (for example, Orchestry). You can use these in-line with native capabilities to gather an understanding of issues such as inactive teams, external guest access or even teams that people have created as “test” or “demo ”.

How can we check which Microsoft Teams channels and teams are exposed to external guests?

Answered by Alex.

External guest access is a topic that often comes up during our Microsoft Teams projects. It’s fairly simple to enable external and guest access, however this should be done with caution.

In the Microsoft Teams admin center you can select “Manage teams” to be given a clear overview of your teams, as well as the number of guests within them. You cannot sort this data, and filtration is limited, but you can export it to Excel where you can then slice and dice the data as needed.

Microsoft Teams Governance & Information Management

Alternatively, the Teams Usage Report (available under Analytics & reports > Usage reports in the Teams Admin Center will give you visibility of teams with active external users over the last 7, 30 or 90 days.

How many teams and channels do we currently have in our Microsoft Teams environment?

Answered by Alex.

This is often the first question people ask. Leading up to “what is the scale of the problem I face? Is there a problem?”. The Microsoft Teams admin center allows you to list all your teams and see for each how many channels, private channels and shared channels they have.

How long does Microsoft Teams store chat history?

Answered by Rob.

Chat is stored indefinitely within Microsoft Teams. This is true unless chat messages are deleted, either manually or automatically. The simplest way of deleting chat on an automated basis is to apply retention policies to your user’s chat.

How is retention applied to Microsoft Teams chat?

Answered by Rob.

One-to-one chat messages are stored in Azure. A copy of each message is also stored within the mailbox of each of the users involved in the chat. Retention Policies that are applied to chat are actually applied to this copy stored in the user’s mailbox.

Retention policies for chat are applied by users. This means that all of the given user’s chat messages are subject to the same retention duration (irrespective of the importance of the given topic!). As chats involve more than one person, it is possible that users participating in the same conversation might well have different retention policies that are applied to their messages. This can lead to scenarios where two (or more) separate retention durations apply to the same chat exchange. In this scenario, all users involved will see the chat disappear from Teams when the shorter retention duration period ends. However, the chat can still be found behind the scenes (e.g. via eDiscovery) until the longest retention period has ended.

If you are interested in the retention capabilities of the other areas of Microsoft Teams, you can read more in the blog post below, however be aware that some things have changed in the past two years, since this post was written.

Where is Microsoft Teams chat history stored?

Answered by Rob.

Microsoft Teams Chat messages are stored within Azure.

A copy of each user’s chat is also stored within a hidden folder of that user’s mailbox (albeit this copy only features the core conversation, and doesn’t currently include reactions). Microsoft 365’s governance capabilities apply to this hidden copy. For example, it is this copy that can be found via eDiscovery processes or whilst undertaking information rights requests. It is also this copy that can have a retention policy applied to it.

Where are Microsoft Teams meeting recordings stored?

Answered by Rob.

Microsoft Teams meeting recordings are stored in OneDrive or SharePoint.

The location where Microsoft Teams meeting recordings are stored depends upon the type of meeting that was being held:

  • Standard meeting recordings are stored in the Recordings folder in the OneDrive of the person who started the recording. It is likely that most of your meetings will be of this type.
  • Channel meeting recordings are stored in the Recordings folder in the SharePoint Site associated with the same Group as the Channel.

Earlier this year Microsoft introduced a feature to automatically delete Teams meeting recordings, 60 days after the meeting (30 days for A1 users). It is possible to disable this automated deletion process, or change the duration (up to a maximum of 273 years!).

Now that recordings are stored in SharePoint / OneDrive you can choose to apply retention policies and retention labels. In Microsoft 365 retention supersedes deletion – so the application of retention to your meeting recordings will prevent automated/manual deletion/expiration.

Can we apply any retention to Microsoft Teams data?

Answered by Rob.

Yes – different teams provides us with a (somewhat complex) range of retention approaches – but most of the content you see within Microsoft Teams can be governed by some form of retention.

Files stored within Teams can have either retention labels or policies applied to them. Chat, Channel Posts and Private Channel posts can all be governed through the application of retention policies.

Feel free to read more about this subject here:

When do you need to create a team vs channel in Microsoft Teams?

Answered by Alex:

By default, when you create a team a ‘General’ channel will automatically be added. You can use this channel to share files and chat. However, in most cases, it would be more organised to add different channels to support this team. Here are a few examples:

  1. Create a Team when you want to host a webinar and separate channels to support different roles or task e.g a channel for marketing, content writing, social media.
  2. Create a Marketing Team and add a new channel per webinar.
  3. Create a team for a project and have channels related to specific elements of that project such as Project Management, Design, Implementation etc.

Every organisation works differently, and Microsoft Teams allows the flexibility to standardise your approach in a way that works best for you. There isn’t a simple rule to decide when a team or channel is better to use, it is something that each organisation needs to define for themselves.

A common mistake people make is to create multiple teams for a single purpose, when those teams could easily be used as channels within a single workspace. If the purpose is confidential by nature, then private channels will ensure that only members specified have visibility of the channel itself. In a nutshell, if your reason for creating a team relates to an existing one, consider using additional channels first. If, however, you need to allow access to colleagues who are not members of the pre-existing team (and perhaps shouldn’t be) then a new team is the way to go. You can only add members to a private channel if they’re a member of the team itself, which therefore means that they have access to all other channels within it.

Why should we create Microsoft Teams channels rather than group chats?

Answered by Alex.

One of the key benefits that Microsoft Teams gives you is openness and visibility within your collaboration model. This is a key benefit over email and file shares as everything is brought together in a space where staff can easily collaborate. By using group chats you’re still holding information in silos, and quite possibly mixed in with other, unrelated information. Other reasons why you should use teams and channels over group chats include:

  • Ease of finding data in future
  • If new members are added to a group chat they are only given access to a limited period of historical content – if you add them to a team they have access to everything
  • Sharing files through group chat is not an advised way of managing your content – retain structured, organised single source of truth by using files in teams and sharing them in channel conversations
  • You risk excluding other staff members who may benefit from knowledge gathered in the conversations, or who could perhaps have something to offer that would help

When should I use Microsoft Teams and when should I use SharePoint to store information?

Answered by Alex.

They’re almost one and the same (for file storage, at least). When you create a team you also get a SharePoint site, and this is where all your file content is stored. The real question is, perhaps: “Should staff be working in SharePoint, or should they remain exclusively in MicrosoftTeams?”. The answer is: There’s no real right or wrong with either, it’s entirely down to either you as a business or your staff as individuals. Using SharePoint for document management does provide features that Microsoft Teams does not (better access to document metadata, customised document property forms and the ability to launch automated processes to name a few), but if staff simply need a place to work effectively together on documents, then the Microsoft Teams interface is more than capable. Working in Microsoft Teams can also provide a more “connected” feel as you will have one-click access to then speak to colleagues, as well as access to channels and tabs that have been configured to support your work.

It’s worth mentioning that Microsoft Teams doesn’t have a concept of one-click ‘read-only’. If you want to share information with a wider audience, but you don’t want anyone to edit or delete information, (for example in scenarios like a QMS or Knowledge Hub) you will probably find it beneficial to use SharePoint instead. Channels within Microsoft Teams can be moderated so that only owners can post within them, but to tailor security on files or folders you need to use the functionality within SharePoint.

Can you automatically archive inactive teams in Microsoft Teams?

Answered by Rob.

Microsoft Teams doesn’t provide the capability to automatically archive inactive teams, but, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Microsoft introducing this feature in the future. However, if you can’t wait that long, it’s worth pointing out that the Graph API provides the ability to archive a team – this effectively means that team archival could be triggered automatically by bespoke processes/logic, potentially allowing organisations to build their own processes for invoking the archival of teams.

It should be noted that the ‘archive’ feature provided by Microsoft Teams isn’t really archiving the team – it’s more a way of pausing the team, by making it read-only and hiding it from navigation. Team owners have the ability to ‘unarchive’ any of their teams if they wish to – returning the team to an in-use state.

What should I do with teams that are no longer being actively used?

Answered by Rob.

This will completely depend on your organisations Microsoft Teams Governance and Information Management strategy and your appetite for risk. The main approaches I’ve seen are:

  • Do nothing – the default approach of doing nothing will cause a proliferation of old legacy teams. This has the effect of cluttering the navigation within Microsoft Teams, making it harder for users to find their active workspaces.
  • Manual ‘archive’ – Owners can choose to put their teams on hold, by choosing to use the confusingly named ‘archive’ capability. Archiving a team has nothing to do with the practice of archival, but instead provides a way to make a team read-only. Owners can at any time decide to un-archive their team, restoring it to full operational state – as such this isn’t a permanent end of the lifecycle, but more a way of pausing and hiding the team.
  • Automated deletion – a Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy can be used to automatically delete older teams that have fallen out of use. Owners are contacted to give them the option to keep the team, otherwise it will be automatically deleted.
  • Retention – if you’ve applied any retention to the content in your team, then each team will be kept, at least until the end of the longest retention period applied to the content within it. Retention will override any attempt to delete the team – with the SharePoint site/Inbox containing retained content being kept behind the scenes (even after the team itself has been removed).

Personally, I feel that the necessity of applying retention to content outweighs the desire of deleting down older teams. However, I recognise that this leads to a significant number of legacy teams that are solely being kept to ensure records within them are being managed appropriately. In theory, you could consider transferring records elsewhere to allow the team to be deleted – but this is likely to be a complex and costly process to realise. For most organisations, I’d suggest that choosing to apply retention and then also manually ‘archiving’ the team might be the best approach to take.

What happens in multi-stage disposition if the reviewer in stage 2 is no longer with the company?

Answered by Rob.

When you are setting up your retention labels with multi-stage deposition in mind, we’d strongly recommend not naming individual reviewers. Instead, apply a mail-enabled security group to the label and instigate a process to ensure that this group’s members are regularly reviewed and updated.

Retention VS Archive, how can you make sure that some information is properly archived?

Answered by Alex.

Retention and archival are both natural stages in the lifecycle of content, with retention stages often being the initiator of archival. Typically, when teams are archived, we would expect that only content of the highest value/importance is retained (through the use of retention labels and associated policies) and then archived. The remaining content would be permanently deleted.

Part of that depends on what we mean by ‘archive’, because it can mean different things in different circumstances. When we are talking about retention vs archive, retention can often be the mechanism to initiate archival. It is about keeping information for a certain period of time and then deciding what happens to it. The archival process is something very separate from retention. Archiving can be done whether it’s printing out a document and putting it into a file cabinet or having it put into a secure storage somewhere else or even to a different SharePoint site. So, they really are two different things from that point of view because the archival is the action and the retention is the point that defines that action.

Is content classification used in Microsoft Teams to apply appropriate retention policies? If so, how do you do this?

Answered by Rob.

Taking the broadest interpretation of ‘content classification’, we assume that this refers to any method of tagging a file with metadata – typically through SharePoint metadata, retention labels and sensitivity labels. Unfortunately, none of these methods will result in a retention policy being applied to the item – so no, content classification isn’t used in Microsoft Teams to apply retention policies.

Please refer to our response to the question on “Can we apply any retention to Microsoft Teams data?” above for more information on how to apply retention in Microsoft Teams.

How to handle locking down the creation of teams by anyone (currently restrict creation of 365 groups) & still allow Planner, etc?

Answered by Alex.

Until recently, you couldn’t do this because Planner had to be associated with an Office 365 group, but this has now changed. In March 2021, Microsoft announced Roster Plans. They now allow you to create plans without the need for an associated Microsoft 365 Group.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you have any other questions related to Microsoft Teams Governance & Information Management. We are more than happy to assist you with any challenges.

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Rob Bath
Having defined extensive Microsoft 365 EDRM systems and bespoke enterprise intranets, I specialise in overseeing cutting edge solutions that are tailored to meet customer needs. Providing leading expertise within the Information Management field, I enjoy helping organisations on their journey towards compliance.
Published On: June 29th, 2022 Categories: Knowledge & Information Management

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