Teams governance – who needs it?


Mention ‘governance’ to intranet and digital workplace specialists and, the chances are, you’re in for a heated debate.

The key issue will invariably revolve around how much control and how many rules are needed for social intranet users, on the one hand, against how much freedom and ability to innovate is granted to users of the digital platform, on the other.

Hands-off approach

How can you get the balance right? And how does this relate to Microsoft Teams?

For applications such as MS Teams, there’s often a temptation to take a laissez faire approach and simply let employees get on with it. In some cases, governance decisions are made by the IT department, who either leave Teams in its native state, where everything is switched on.

Or they might decide to lock down areas that are potentially troublesome, particularly from an IT admin perspective.

Common pain points

Either way, without proper planning, the results can be troublesome. The most common pain points are either Teams sprawl, with everyone making new Teams and Channels, or a moribund environment where no one can do much at all.

A balance is needed, and ideally one decided on jointly by the business owners, the wider workforce, and the IT team who will, of course, be supporting the environment.

In some respects, Teams is less of a challenge to manage than more social platforms such as Yammer, where a post might quickly be seen by a whole organization. However, decisions still need to be made on what is suitable content and what isn’t.

Soft governance

This area I like to think of as the ‘soft’ area of governance. It’s about making sure there are guidelines to prevent people posting content that’s inappropriate for work or even illicit. Copyright should also be taken into account. Just because a picture is on the web, doesn’t mean anyone can use it.

The easiest way of dealing with this soft area of governance is to check if your company already has an ‘Acceptable Use Policy’ for the likes of blogs and Yammer. If so, you can simply apply that to Teams.

If you don’t have one in place, there are plenty of copyright-free policies available online to download and tweak to suit your company’s individual requirements. This kind of thing is usually looked after by a company’s HR or Comms team, but when it comes to ‘hard’ governance, IT need to be involved as well.

Hard governance

Hard governance is all about admin settings in the 365 console. While IT will usually manage these settings, it’s essential that the business side are involved in the decision making.

Areas that need to be considered here include which Teams functionalities are switched on and which are turned off.

You might well be tempted to keep everything on, as you may not want to restrict what people can do. But that relaxed attitude might not be in the best interests of your business and you should really take the time and trouble to weigh up all the pros and cons. At Resonate, we have a Governance Template that can guide you through this tricky process.

Expert support from Resonate

The areas we cover are broad and will be more relevant to some companies than others. For example, how do you want people to be able to share files and documents outside the company’s Team environment in, say, a Partner’s Team?

For a regulated industry such as Finance, this could result in potential data leakage, so this capability is nearly always denied. For a Media company however, not being able to freely share digital assets such as artwork, could really stifle creativity and innovation.

Deciding who should have the opportunity to create Teams and Channels is another possible headache you might be facing. Some companies allow anyone to create them, while others have a formal process for requesting a Team or Channel. Either way, this is something that needs to be properly managed.

Beware, though, if anyone can create a Team then it’s not uncommon for larger companies to suddenly find themselves drowning in thousands of Teams and Channels. Many of those may well end up unused and generating an unnecessary number of duplicates. All this is confusing for users and creates headaches for the poor individuals administering Teams.

Other considerations

Other areas to consider are apps and applications in the App Store – will they all be enabled for download, or just a select few? And, if it’s the latter, who decides which ones?

Document management and classification is another topic your business needs to have a view on. Do you want to apply sensitivity labels to documents such as Confidential, Internal Only, or Public? You need to bear in mind this could have impact across 365, not just for Teams.

Naming conventions might be important too, both for files and documents, and for Team and Channel names. Decisions, decisions.

Log every decision

As there’s so much to think about, and also because Teams is such a rapidly changing environment, it’s important to log all your governance decisions and have an owner attributed to each one.

That way, if anyone asks why a particular feature is switched off or on, there’s a record of when this happened and who sanctioned the decision. If a new feature comes available, this can be added to the log. And if an audit is ever required, all the information you need will be in one place.

Having set up a log, it’s all too easy to store it away (in whatever permanent document archive your governance may have decided on) and then forget about it. This would be a big mistake. Review the log at least once every six months, or whenever your Teams platform has a major update.

From time-to-time, check that the decisions still apply and cross-reference with any reporting or analytics you have in place. It might be that the rules are too strict, or that there’s now 10,000 Teams. Review everything, make adjustments where needed, and record every decision going forward.

At Resonate, we’re here to help

If you’d like to know more about Governance and how Resonate can help guide you through this difficult area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We can help you navigate the thorny questions on knowledge management and security, guide you on how to deal with other areas such as governance for onboarding joiners, leavers and movers, and advise you on overall Teams management and applications.


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