Teams Governance Considerations


Written by Dan Callahan

I am a Senior Technical Advisor to CGNET. Formerly, I managed our Cybersecurity and Cloud Services businesses, and provided consulting to many clients over the years. I wear a lot of hats. Professionally, I'm a builder of businesses. Outside of work, I'm a hobby farmer, chef, skier, dog walker, jokester, woodworker, structuralist, husband and father.

September 12, 2019

We held a great Technology Affinity Group Ask Me Anything session this week on Teams. It was great fun with lots of interaction. One topic that generated a lot of discussion was Teams governance considerations. If you’re thinking about Teams governance considerations, then you’re serious about making Teams work in your organization. As you should be! A couple of years ago I was working with a large UN organization looking to deploy Teams. We spent a lot of time (a LOT of time) working through Teams governance considerations. I’d like to share some of that experience here.

We’ve written before about Teams governance, but in that post we focused on selecting configuration options, like allowing people to share a PowerPoint presentation in a Teams meeting. We want to step back a bit and examine some of the questions you’ll want to address in sorting through Teams governance considerations for your organization.

And by the way, if you use Slack or a similar collaboration tool, many of these same considerations will apply. Let’s dig in.

Where Teams Fit in the Organization’s Workflow

I remember learning about “deal rooms” that are a part of the merger and acquisition function. Now they’re virtual (with plenty of companies providing virtual deal rooms). But I was fascinated with the image of real deal rooms.

  • A suite in a hotel or office building with a table covered in documents and file folders
  • Mostly-empty pizza boxes and empty soft drink cans over in a corner
  • Someone talking excitedly on the phone while another team member dozes on the couch

It’s all exciting stuff if you like putting deals together. Once the deal is done, what do you do with the contents of the room (other than the take-out deliveries)?

  • The whiteboard with ideas scribbled on it?
  • The text messages among team members?
  • The documents and files?

The metaphor works (for me, anyway) when I think about Teams and channels. We put a project together, generate a bunch of content, conduct a lot of back-and-forth as we’re working through things and so on. That’s fine for the first deal. But what if we use the same room for the next ten deals? Now what?

What Content You Preserve (and where) is a Key Teams Governance Consideration

We want to remove Teams when they’ve served their purpose, if only to reduce the visual clutter. You can archive a Team, which means the Team is removed from the UI but is still discoverable and the content is preserved. Or, you can delete a Team which means—poof—the Team and all its content is discarded.

You generate a lot of different content in a team. You chat with team members about tasks and documents. You hold meetings. You generate draft documents. You share links to content related to the team’s work. Eventually, you generate the final version of a document.

Ask these key questions in working through Teams governance decisions.

  • What content generated by the Team should be retained, subject to the organization’s retention policy?
  • What content should be shared with other teams who are working on similar projects?
  • What content should be retained to preserve the “institutional knowledge” of a team?

Some Recommended Choices

You probably want to retain the final version of whatever the team was producing. And, since the search capabilities of Teams is not as robust as it is for document management systems, you probably want to move the final version document out of Teams and to that system.

If you’re just interested in the final output of the team, you probably don’t care so much about the drafts, comments, conversations and so on. You can archive or delete the team at this point.

What if you foresee that others in the organization might learn from this team? For instance, maybe the team came up with a process for resolving a problem that other teams would want to review. Or perhaps some future member of the team would want to know how a decision was arrived at. In these kinds of cases, you would be best served by archiving the team and its contents.

Think About Teams That Cross Organizational Boundaries

Teams governance considerations are different for Teams that include members from outside your organization. You want to include consultants, partners or other stakeholders in the team because they will help the team produce higher quality output.

However, there are often limits to how transparent you can be with those on the team who are outside the organization. Maybe there is some content that outsiders shouldn’t see. Maybe there are conversations that should exclude outsiders so that people can speak their minds.

Depending on where you land regarding inclusion and transparency, you can decide whether to allow outsiders to start a meeting without you, edit or delete messages and participate in chat conversations. There are other items you can control, but these are the most important ones.

Control vs. Ease of Use

I was working with a customer this week, organizing a large team video call. We had everything set and ready but discovered that the organization hosting the meeting didn’t allow Zoom video meetings to be set up by anyone who wasn’t on their staff. This is a great choice for security and auditability reasons. However, it complicated the steps we had to follow to allow easy connection to the video meeting.

Balancing ease of use and control must be one of your Teams governance considerations. You can specify that a team member must admit outsiders into the meeting. Alternatively, you can disable this setting and let people automatically join the meeting. We turned off the setting that announced each member as they joined the meeting, because it was too annoying, and we could easily tell if the right people were in the meeting.

Align Communication Settings with Your Organization’s Style

I remember when IT executives in financial services firms were sorting out how to manage instant messaging apps so that the firms didn’t run afoul of audit and oversight requirements. Today our concern is… emoji’s. Maybe your organization frowns on use of emoji’s. Maybe they’re OK for casual communications but not more formal communications.

Sidebar: it turns out that use of emoji’s may make email and chat communications more clear!

Do you have to constrain what employees talk about in a team conversation? One of our customers has specific compliance requirements around political advocacy. They must ensure that employees don’t use the organization’s collaboration platform to discuss political work.

Is your organization multi-cultural? Those Giphy’s are funny here. But how are they received by team members from other countries or cultures?

Be Clear on Your Teams Governance Considerations

Configuring options for Teams is easy enough. There’s a lot of documentation available (try this for starters). The harder task is knowing how your organization’s culture, values and work style will guide your choice of Teams governance options. We hope this post will help you reach those answers.

Written by Dan Callahan

I am a Senior Technical Advisor to CGNET. Formerly, I managed our Cybersecurity and Cloud Services businesses, and provided consulting to many clients over the years. I wear a lot of hats. Professionally, I'm a builder of businesses. Outside of work, I'm a hobby farmer, chef, skier, dog walker, jokester, woodworker, structuralist, husband and father.

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