May 10, 2021

Is it time to check the health of your Microsoft Teams?

Mark Pattie
Modern Work Practice Lead
It’s crazy to think it has now been more than a year since the great work from home experiment begun. Overnight, we all packed up our desks, headed home and set up workspaces in our home offices, living rooms and everywhere else in between (I’m writing this from my caravan!).

To support the upheaval, many organisations quickly spun up collaboration tools – such as Microsoft Teams – to empower teams and allow organisations to function as ‘normal’. However, for many, embracing collaboration at speed meant security and forward planning took a temporary back seat.

If this sounds like your organisation, then it’s probably time to go back and review your Microsoft Teams setup. Our newly developed Teams Health Check makes this a breeze by assessing your current setup against best practices.

Going well beyond security and governance, we’ll deep dive into every aspect of your Teams deployment including data retention and staff enablement – to help you get the most out of your Microsoft Teams investment.

So, to help you determine whether you’re ripe for a Teams check-up, we’ll break down five areas that could be seriously impacted following a hasty Teams deployment, the risks to your organisation, and how the Teams Health Check can put you back on right track.

1. Security, first and foremost

We’ve talked before about how purchasing a Teams license is just the beginning and a lack of awareness around potential security risks really pushes this advice to the forefront. Enabling the sharing of information and knowledge – from any device in any location – is a core function of Teams.

However, without the right safeguards, it also has the potential to give unauthorised parties access to confidential information. Let’s take a look at a few typical scenarios where information is often not adequately protected:

Providing guest access

If someone outside your organisation is granted guest access to collaborate with your team – without adequate controls – guest users could unwittingly be given access to sensitive data or be able to view your organisation’s entire directory.

Internal information sharing

If policies are not accurately defined, sensitive information may be too freely accessible across your organisation. For example, information could be unknowingly shared in a Microsoft Teams channel or chat session.

Protecting data outside of the Teams environment

Without proper policy, files can also be downloaded and uploaded to untrusted locations not authorised by your organisation. To prevent this, app protection policies can be put in place to restrict data relocation and keep files safely contained in a managed app.

Restricting unauthorised access

As users are still accessing Teams remotely and from the office, identity management plays an important role.

For example, if a user’s credentials are stolen and access is attempted from an unknown or suspicious location, you can configure Azure Active Directory Identity Protection to invoke additional conditions such as multi-factor authentication. This would apply to any Azure AD authentication attempt, including from the Teams app.

It’s clear all these scenarios are avoidable with a little foresight. With SharePoint Online in the backend, there is a lot that can be done to ensure your data is secure in transit and at rest, including applying sensitivity labels to more tightly controlled data that is most important to your organisation.

2. The fine art of governance

Remember when we only used physical servers? I certainly don’t! When virtual machines were first released, the ease of deployment was great in order to quickly meet business needs. However, it quickly led to VM sprawl, with large numbers of VMs being run up and not properly managed – requiring a huge amount of overhead to manage all of these operating systems.

Teams is not so dissimilar. The ease of running up a new team helps to enable your staff to quickly and effectively collaborate. However, like VMs, the number of teams can quickly get out of hand – becoming a burden for users and IT.

Your Teams setup may start on the right track, with teams setup to collaborate on different projects, but could quickly explode with teams created to manage social events, and even the company basketball team (guilty as charged!).

When the project is completed (or the basketball team retires), the team still remains – so it doesn’t take long for the number of teams to spiral out of control. This makes it difficult to navigate through the application, frustrating users and inhibiting the collaboration experience.

There are a few things you can do to address Teams sprawl:

  • Identifying inactive and ownerless teams – ensuring they are removed to limit congestion and improve the user experience.
  • Implement workflows – including teams creation approvals or placing a limit on who can create one.
  • Expiration policies – removing inactive groups, teams and associated resources (mailbox, Planner, SharePoint site, etc.) after a certain timeframe.
  • Microsoft 365 groups naming policies – enforcing standardised naming conventions across the organisation to make it easier to find teams.

The most important thing here is to find the right balance between empowering employees and completely locking Teams down – because if you do, users will find other ways to collaborate. We’ve written before that this requires careful planning to determine the best approach for your organisation.

3. Staff enablement and making the most of Microsoft Teams

If you’ve already got your Microsoft Teams platform up and running, it’s safe to say most staff are regularly using the chat, meeting and calling functions.

There’s more to Teams than these basic collaboration capabilities and embracing other aspects of the platform is critical to driving more effective collaboration across the organisation.

Some other functions to support users include:

  • Planner can be used to track and assign tasks, whether they are for projects or BAU.
  • Automate approval workflows using Power Automate integrated with Teams.
  • Enable guest access so your staff can share and collaborate on files with users from outside of the organisation.
  • Expose Power BI interactive reports into relevant Teams to enable staff to gain insights and make informed decisions.
  • Third party integration with over 700 applications – ranging from native Microsoft apps to productivity and industry-specific apps.
  • Wellbeing and productivity insights with role-based recommendations powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics.
  • There’s also a bunch of new features and capabilities you may be unaware of which further support hybrid team collaboration.

With a variety of apps and new functionality to choose from, we understand knowing what fits best with your organisation’s current processes may be overwhelming.

That’s why we are assisting customers to develop “User Stories” which takes a day in the life of a staff member, or related group of staff members, and maps out how Teams can best be configured to provide productivity gains for their particular role or department.

4. Data retention and backup best practices

Now that your organisation is using Microsoft Teams, it’s vital you retain the valuable data being produced. This is where retention policies and backups can help.

A case for lost or deleted data

Microsoft 365 has service level agreements to provide assurance that heavily utilised services are available when your staff need them. What if – either innocently or purposefully – your data is deleted by an employee? If you need it down the track for some reason – such as a legal dispute – you’ll need to find it again.

While Microsoft provides you with Teams, they are not responsible for backing up your data. For these scenarios, having a data retention policy and a backup solution in place across Teams (and all of your Microsoft 365 services) is crucial.

A case for managing records

Records management may also be critical to some organisations – particularly those who have previously used TRIM to ensure their records are managed on-premises. Shifting to the cloud, and moving your data with you, requires a change in process from both a technical and end user perspective.

Fortunately, there are plenty of third-party solutions to enforce records management across your Microsoft 365 environment.

5. Review meeting room hardware

Finally, as we return to the office, it’s important to make sure your Microsoft Teams platform is ready to support a hybrid workforce – and this means integrating Teams with meeting room hardware. The Teams Health Check guides you through this process, reviewing your existing hardware to determine what is and isn’t compatible with Teams.

In the case you need to refresh, we’ll also recommend the hardware best suited to your collaboration needs – so you can get the most out of your Microsoft Teams investment.

Ready for a Teams Health Check?

As Microsoft’s largest Australian partner, Data#3 is the perfect fit to help you identify critical issues to ensure your Teams environment is configured properly, backed up, secure and optimised to suite your organisation’s collaboration needs.

Contact Data#3 today for more information, or to arrange your Teams Health Check.