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3 Tips to Mitigate and Manage Microsoft Teams Sprawl

Today's IT pros can utilize strategies and automated tools to declutter and streamline Teams environments

By Willie Cash, General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan

In the last year, Microsoft Teams adoption surged with the rise of remote work. Microsoft recently announced that Teams had reached 145 million daily active users, which is nearly double the user count from a year ago.

However, the shift toward remote work and employees' increased usage of Teams have presented new challenges for managed service providers and IT professionals. One challenge in particular is Microsoft Teams sprawl. With many companies relying on Teams for workplace collaboration and more and more employees using Teams as their primary way to engage and communicate, managing the growing amount of user data can get unruly very quickly.

What is Sprawl?

Before organizations were forced to embrace virtual collaboration, employees interacted in physical meeting rooms or by visiting a colleague's office or cubicle to discuss projects. Now, much of this interaction happens in various project channels on Teams. For example, an employee can start a private chat with a colleague on Teams, then bring in another person on the conversation, and eventually, this can stem into a project that is created in a private channel. Because it is private, not all employees can view this correspondence - and IT may not even know the channel exists.

After the project ends, that channel may sit empty, taking up space and adding clutter. In some cases, these inactive channels can include saved documents and important data that can be potentially accessed by unwanted parties, presenting security risks. Without a plan or policy to govern this activity, the result is the sprawl of data.

Impacts of Sprawl

While increased usage is a positive sign that employees are adopting Teams and collaborating, the sprawl of user data can interfere with productivity and operations. An overabundance of disorganized data can make it harder to access important information and locate documents or files. For larger organizations with thousands of employees collaborating over Teams, a sprawl of user data can also result in high storage costs.

For IT teams, user data sprawl can make it nearly impossible to manage their Teams network efficiently. It can interfere with the performance of network systems. To have an efficient Teams environment, IT professionals need the ability to properly assess it, clean it up and govern it in a way that aligns with how their organization operates.

Strategies for Success

Some strategies and tools that service providers and IT professionals can leverage to get ahead of Teams sprawl and optimize their environment include:

1.       Develop a comprehensive plan for employee training and adoption. According to Tim Hohman, a Microsoft Teams expert with IT company Peters & Associates, it is critical to develop a comprehensive plan to support the employees' usage of Teams at the beginning of implementation. "When Teams is rolled out without planning, sprawl is a big issue," Hohman said. "Discuss your Teams' deployment and train your users so they have the necessary knowledge and tools to prevent sprawl. Understanding retention, archiving, naming and expiration options will set you up for a successful Teams deployment."

2.       Leverage automated solutions to manage your Teams environment. Automated tools and technologies can help IT teams effectively manage and streamline Teams sprawl, including automated tools and assessments from BitTitan Voleer. These tools can help companies create a baseline for ongoing business intelligence within their organization's usage and adoption of the Teams platform. In addition to the on-demand BI dashboards, they can also manage the channel structure, and ultimately, clean up their Teams environment. IT professionals can schedule and run an assessment on an ongoing basis to get an idea of the scope of data stored and the number of teams, channels, devices, active users and more. The IT team can identify abandoned teams or channels, then take action to consolidate or archive channels to minimize clutter and free up space.

3.       Create governance policies and best practices that align with how your company operates. Lastly, by establishing governance policies and best practices that guide employees on things like channel creation, IT professionals can keep the environment organized - but only if these align with how your company works. A policy is only effective if it can be applied in practice, and employees can always find ways to work around processes that don't make sense to them. Establishing best practices that are clear and accessible to employees can proactively address looming challenges and enable an IT team to get ahead of user data sprawl.

Whether your organization recently adopted Teams or has been using it for years, steps must be taken to manage sprawl. Thoughtful planning can go a long way, and IT professionals should take advantage of the automated tools available to them. By being proactive, organizations can avoid the headaches, make Teams work effectively for them, and realize its true return on investment.


About the Author 

Willie Cash 

Willie Cash is the General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan, where he works with SMB and enterprise partner companies to identify and implement effective ways to drive solutions, grow revenue, and increase profits in their day-to-day businesses. Learn more about Voleer here

Published Thursday, May 27, 2021 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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