Microsoft Teams. Planning and effective management

Image: Microsoft Teams Management users with laptops planning
By Neil Hobson on

Microsoft Teams. Plan and effectively manage your environment

Microsoft Teams is positioned by Microsoft as ‘the hub for teamwork in Office 365’. Many organisations are adopting Teams as their primary work-based application.

Because Teams is the hub for teamwork in Office 365, it integrates with many other Office 365 services and apps. There may be upgrade considerations for the deployment as well as overall information governance, security and compliance aspects to implement. With all of this, there are many facets to planning the deployment and effective management of a Microsoft Teams environment.

Don’t forget to plan adoption in advance too. Adoption needs to be the focus of the deployment rather than the end of it. Consider success measures: how will you know that Teams is delivering value? Consider a benefits realisation exercise embedded into the strategic business goals. For more information, see the Silversands article Understanding user adoption.

Microsoft Teams. Planning a deployment

Understanding what use cases an organisation is looking to achieve with Teams is vital. Determining users’ goals and any pain points can help. For example:

• File attachments are still sent via email as a form of collaboration
• The presence of multiple shared files causes version confusion for members of a team
• Continuous knowledge sharing between shift workers proves challenging
• New project management team members have difficulty getting up to speed quickly on projects

Creating Teams early adopter scenarios to begin to address these goals and pain points can assist in getting the initial deployment off to a good start. For example, early adopter scenarios could include:

• Real-time document co-authoring
• A ‘single source of the truth’ for a team’s shared documents
• Integration with other Office 365 services such as Planner for team task management
• The improved meetings experience available in Microsoft Teams
• Guest access and collaboration

Reviewing the various Microsoft Teams policy settings found in the admin center and determining the relevant settings should form part of the planning too. These control areas such as the user experiences as well as important governance settings including guest access and external access.

Gathering feedback from the early adopter scenarios can involve using other Office 365 services such as Yammer and Microsoft Forms. Incorporating key learnings from this feedback into the wider deployment helps to ensure success of the org-wide deployment.

Identifying the technical dependencies

Identifying technical dependencies and prerequisites is a fundamental component of the planning process. With Teams having such a central position in the Office 365 suite, there are strong interactions with other Office 365 services. These other services help provide the rich experience in Teams. For example:

• Is SharePoint Online in use within Office 365? Teams uses SharePoint Online for its file storage and sharing features
• What about OneDrive for Business? Teams stores files here when users share them in chats

Image: Microsoft Teams screen with open in SharePoint button

Dependencies can also include areas such as the Microsoft Teams mobile app, identity services and the network itself. If the Teams mobile app is to be available to users, app deployment and control will likely need determining. Also, what mobile security or compliance scenarios are in scope?

Regarding identity services, there are specific attributes to synchronise from Active Directory on-premises to Azure Active Directory to support Skype for Business hybrid connectivity with Microsoft Teams. The next section will cover more on the topic of upgrading from Skype for Business.

Cloud services such as Teams place a greater dependency on network connectivity. Fortunately, Microsoft provides tools such as the network planner to help determine and organise the network requirements for it.

Image: Network Planner screen grab

Skype for Business. Are you upgrading?

Organisations running Skype for Business will need to do some extra planning before moving to Microsoft Teams. There are differing amounts of planning depending on whether the organisation is using Skype for Business Online or the on-premises version, Skype for Business Server.

Skype for Business Online customers have an extra reason to move to Teams. The announcement from Microsoft in July 2019 was that it is retiring the Skype for Business Online service on July 31, 2021.

Understanding how Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams coexist and inter-operate is important. Microsoft provides multiple coexistence modes to control the overlap of chat, calling and meeting functionality between the two services. For example, in ‘Islands’ mode, users will run both Skype for Business and Teams clients separately. Conversely, in ‘Teams Only’ mode, users will run just the Teams client and use interoperability capabilities to communicate with Skype for Business users.

Image: Skype for Business pop up

Moving users to Microsoft Teams requires Skype for Business Server customers to configure hybrid connectivity between the two platforms. With this configuration, homing users either in Skype for Business Server or Skype for Business Online/Microsoft Teams is then possible. There are infrastructure and server version requirements for hybrid connectivity, hence planning is key.

Information governance, security and compliance

Microsoft provides tools and services for information governance, security and compliance in Office 365. These help to make Microsoft Teams a safe and secure environment to collaborate. Areas for thought may include:

• Controlling access to Teams, such as using Conditional Access policies to control the conditions for granting access
• Threat protection, such as protecting against malicious content in Teams chats and channel messages as well as documents in SharePoint Online
• Sensitive data, such as using Office 365 DLP policies to help control sensitive information loss in Teams chats and channel messages
• Information protection, such as the new preview feature to help control areas such as guest access and the unmanaged device experience depending on the sensitivity label applied to the team
• Information governance, such as Office 365 retention policies to retain or delete data in Teams.

These areas will need the appropriate level of planning. For more information, please see the Silversands article, Microsoft Teams. Making it a safe environment to collaborate. 

Image: Access to Teams monitored alert

Review the usage

Monitoring usage and feedback of the Microsoft Teams environment can help in areas such as:

• Understanding how users are using Teams
• Recognising emerging trends
• Determining where to focus additional adoption activities
• Understanding users’ experiences with Teams
• Determining if technical improvements or changes are required

Ultimately, this assists in driving adoption and helping prove the value of Microsoft Teams. Fortunately, Microsoft provides Teams analytics and reports within the Microsoft Teams admin center. Furthermore, Microsoft 365 usage analytics in Power BI can provide usage data for Microsoft Teams as well as other relevant Office 365 services such as SharePoint Online.

Image: Microsoft Teams Analytics screen

Consider using Microsoft Forms to gather user experiences and feedback. This can prove valuable for making any required adjustments as necessary, particularly with the org-wide deployment in mind.

Summary

There are many angles to planning and effectively managing a Microsoft Teams environment. We have looked at some of these in this article. They all need to come together to give the users the desired experience. Don’t underestimate the links that Microsoft Teams has with other Office 365 services – it is the ‘hub for teamwork in Office 365’ after all. And finally, don’t forget to consider the security and compliance elements when planning a Microsoft Teams deployment. For more information, please see the article titled Microsoft Teams. Making it a safe environment to collaborate.

Microsoft Teams. Want to know more?

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