Microsoft Teams and how to limit access

Image: Microsoft Teams 1 year birthday graphic with canvas padding
By James Mallalieu on

Suggestions for limiting access to Microsoft Teams & restricting the creation of new teams

Microsoft Teams recently celebrated its first birthday and what a year it has been. Today, it is used by over 200,000 organisations in 181 markets and 39 languages.

The forthcoming 2018 roadmap is packed with upcoming features including one-click meeting recording, automatic transcriptions and facial recognition, inline message translation to assist participants who speak different languages, and mobile sharing within meetings. This application really does have the ability to fundamentally change the way people collaborate both within and across organisations.

However, over the last year I have spoken to many organisations about Microsoft Teams and am commonly asked “how do we turn it off or restrict people creating new teams?”. Therefore, in this blog post I am going to discuss both scenarios and provide some suggestions.

Limiting access to Microsoft Teams

Access is controlled by allocating or revoking the relevant licences within your Office 365 tenancy. Users with active Microsoft Teams licenses see the application in their Office 365 app launcher. Revoking the licence will remove the option from the app launcher, it is that simple.

Image: O365 E5 Tenancy screen

Image: O365 Apps view

Limiting access in this manner is very useful for organisations who are not ready to enable Microsoft Teams within their environment, or where a staged roll-out is being undertaken and only a specific set of targeted users will be granted access. New users can be easily granted access as and when required.

Whilst you could manage licence allocation on a user by user basis, our recommendation would be to use Office 365 Group-Based Licensing as described in this previous blog post.

Restricting the creation of new teams

Once a user has access to Microsoft Teams they can create a new team from their browser, desktop or mobile app. This is the default setting and applies to everyone, except external guest users.

Image: Create a Team screen

As the creator of a new team, the user can control access, content and most importantly how the features support their own collaboration needs (e.g. Channels, files, apps, meetings etc.).

The lack of IT involvement in this process can raise concerns for some, particularly for administrators who have traditionally been responsible the creation and management of SharePoint sites, common issues often include:

• Our users will create lots of empty teams
• We will end-up with 100s even 1000s of teams
• Users will not know where to put files
• Users will not be able to find anything
• There will be lots of similar/misleading team names.

These concerns usually result in questions about how to restrict the creation of teams to a specific set of users. Whilst technically this is straightforward to implement (e.g. create a security group, run some PowerShell, add the users into the security group) this is not our recommended approach for most scenarios. Why? Well here are just a few reasons:

1. The concerns outlined above can be largely mitigated through effective planning, governance and education (see below)

2. Scalability is unlikely to be an issue; an Office 365 tenancy can accommodate up to 500,000 teams by default

3. Users within your organisation might already be using “Shadow IT” services to meet their collaboration needs (e.g. Slack, Trello, Dropbox, WhatsApp, Facebook etc.). The reason why they may be using these services is because the existing tools provided are too restrictive and do not offer capabilities required for modern collaboration scenarios. Encouraging users to move away from these services will be challenging if the options on offer are more restrictive and less functional.

4. Decisions you make with Microsoft Teams will impact other applications within suite and visa-versa. For example, preventing users from creating new teams will also prevent those users from creating new plans in Microsoft Planner. If users need to contact IT each time they want to a new plan adoption of Microsoft Planner will be minimal at best.

Image: Disabled Plan and O365 Group notification

It is very important to understand the relationship between Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams and other Office 365 services (e.g. Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Skype). In my previous post I covered “What are Office Groups” however in summary, these are the “magic” that bring together applications, resources and users within the Office 365 suite.

Effective planning is essential

Irrespective of whether you choose to limit the use, restrict who can create teams, or allow access for everyone, there is still some essential planning work that must be undertaken prior to any roll-out activities, for example:

Office 365 service dependencies – Plan and prepare related Office 365 applications and services (e.g. Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business       etc.)
Group naming policies – Enforce a consistent naming strategy for Teams/Office 365 groups created by users in your organisation
Group expiry policies – Helps to remove inactive groups from the system and make things cleaner for their end users
Group classifications policies – Create a set of data classification labels for Teams/Office 365 Groups (e.g. unclassified, corporate confidential or top secret.)
External sharing policies – Allows/disable teams to collaborate with people outside your organisation
User adoption plan – Communications, education and support for your user community

Conclusion

Office 365 provides a comprehensive suite of applications that enable different groups to collaborate in ways that best suit their own unique work styles. Microsoft Teams is a key element of the suite and is central to Microsoft’s vision of collaboration in the modern workplace.

We suggest that users granted access to Microsoft Teams can create new teams. There are scenarios where a more restrictive approach is needed however we do not recommend adopting this strategy without careful consideration of the wider implications.

As with all things in Office 365, effective planning, governance and education is essential!

How can Silversands help?

Teams is transforming the way Silversands works internally and indeed with some clients on projects. So as well as the expertise of our Office 365 consultants we have real-life experience of how to implement and manage Teams within an organisation. If you have an immediate need for help please complete the contact form.

We run regular workshops where you can get the latest updates and expert advice about Teams, plus we also post regular blogs about Office 365 so please do follow us.

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