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Governance in Microsoft Teams? It’s a lifestyle, not a project

Microsoft Teams governance

In this article, I am going to look at the importance of governance in Microsoft Teams. Since the onset of the pandemic, Teams has been vital in supporting remote and hybrid working. It’s enabled users to work, collaborate and learn, no matter where they are, or what device they used. Indeed, Microsoft Teams now has over 145 million daily active users, almost double the number from last year. There seems no doubt that Teams communications and collaboration is here to stay: the rise of hybrid and distributed working means that the home is now the new branch office.

For many organizations, the move to the cloud and Teams was a direct response to Covid-19. It was less a strategic deployment of Teams and more a tactical necessity, to enable business continuity and adapt as quickly as possible. Governance wasn’t always the main focus.

The strategic goal: empower users but with the fewest constraints

Now, however, is the time to take a strategic look at Teams and implement the governance and controls required. You need to be able to answer this key question: ‘How can I optimize and secure our Teams’ environment while still empowering our end users to work effectively, with the fewest possible constraints?’

The Future Disrupted: 2021 technology trends report states that ‘In 2021, we expect that the link between business value and investment will become amplified. More than ever, IT needs to be willing and able to respond to what the business needs.’

What you don’t want is for IT to be slow to embrace this digital transformation and restrict collaboration within Microsoft 365 and Teams. This is because if users find the process too difficult or onerous, they may turn to consumer products; outside of IT’s governance policies. Needless to say, having your data outside of your control poses a huge risk to an organization.

Based on my experience advising global organizations on securely deploying Teams, here are my three key recommendations for secure collaboration in Microsoft 365 and Teams:

Take a holistic view: Microsoft 365 as well as Teams

Microsoft Teams is the doorway to other Microsoft 365 services. As such you must focus your governance plan on the latter. In doing so, it’s key to assume a risk-based approach to governance. This will ensure you can balance security and usability needs, and align with the business priorities and needs of your different user groups.

It’s important to note that governance can never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Specifically, you must encompass a range of requirements in order to…

  • empower end-users to work effectively and compliantly to get the maximum value from Teams and associated applications
  • actively manage content and information throughout its lifecycle to minimize proliferation and sprawl
  • eliminate barriers to collaboration by supporting secure guest collaboration
  • accelerate the flow of information and ideas by allowing users to streamline and simplify processes using a set of governed and secured applications
  • minimize the manual intervention of IT by automating administrative processes
  • improve adoption by providing clearly defined and structured rules to meet the needs of the different use cases and sensitivity of the content

Microsoft 365 and Teams are revolutionizing how IT solutions are provided

Microsoft Teams is no longer just an IT project, one where IT is fully in control of security and governance. Rather, Teams is a business transformation empowering users to use it to support their business needs.

However, with empowerment comes responsibility. You can embed many governance decisions directly into Microsoft Teams by using functionality already within Microsoft 365. Technology alone won’t help users understand what they can or can’t do; you need to have a ‘rule-book’. You can back up your governance implementation with a clear communications strategy and comprehensive user training. This will enable users to understand the responsibilities that come with new ways of working.

Change is constant: your plans must adapt and evolve

Microsoft 365 and Teams is a Software-as-a-Service solution that’s constantly evolving. ‘Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning,’ said Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella back in April. In 2020, Microsoft added more than 300 new features to Teams. So far in 2021, it’s added over 100 more.

With such a rate of innovation, the governance of Microsoft 365 and Teams can’t simply be a one-time-only project. You can’t just instigate a static plan. It must adapt and evolve as the digital landscape transforms.

In conclusion, the rapid deployment of Teams is just the start of the journey and not the end. IT must work with both security and business stakeholders to create an agile governance plan for Microsoft 365 and Teams. It’s something that will need to constantly evolve alongside the regulatory landscape, Teams’ innovation, and new ways of working.

So there it is: Microsoft 365 and Teams governance is not a project, it’s a lifestyle. There needs to be a process that continually reassesses and adapts to support the business priorities and needs.

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About the author

Nikki is an Architecture Consultant with the Cloud Communications division of NTT and has over 25 years’ experience in business transformation. With a focus on helping clients achieve their long-term goals for cloud-based collaboration and communications, Nikki has provided strategic guidance and consultancy to clients of all sizes, in the UK and worldwide, across multiple industry sectors. Expert in Microsoft 365 and Teams, and specializing in Microsoft 365 security, compliance and adoption, Nikki holds industry-recognized certifications including Microsoft 365 Certified Enterprise Administrator Expert, TOGAF certified Enterprise Architect and PROSCI Change Manager.

Together we do great things