About Microsoft Teams Lifecycle Management

Microsoft Teams has proven to be a leading tool in facilitating virtual teamwork. It has anything and everything employees may need for collaboration – chats, meetings, shared calendars, file sharing, and more. But just like any other tool, Microsoft Teams needs to be used properly for it to be efficient. That is why it is extremely important to think about the team lifecycle before it is handed over to team members. 

Whether you’ve already integrated Microsoft Teams in your work or you’re still thinking about it, keep reading to learn more about the lifecycle management and how much hassle it can spare you. 

Breaking down Microsoft Teams lifecycle management

Microsoft Teams lifecycle management is the process of understanding why the team is being created, monitoring it as it’s being used and figuring out when it’s time to stop using it (delete or archive). 

Lifecycle management is an approach or a method that helps keep track of teams, and the projects that are run through Teams. It also keeps you updated on where you’re at and if issues arise, what kind of action to take. 

Microsoft Teams lifecycle can be broken down into three stages – beginning, middle and end. The lifecycle starts when you create a team, then you continue to manage and monitor it. Eventually at some point, the team is no longer needed, so its purpose comes to an end. 

Now, let’s go over each stage separately and understand how you can plan that particular part of the lifecycle, and what are some challenges that proper lifecycle management can combat.

The beginning: creating a Team

It’s better to plan teams’ lifecycle at the very beginning of Teams deployment. If you have the right policies and systems in place when you introduce the Microsoft Teams to your colleagues, the management and the monitoring of the team and its channels becomes much easier. 

Before you create a team, make sure that you’re well familiar with Microsoft Teams capabilities and functions. Pay close attention to the differences between teams and channels. And if you’re creating more than one team then ask yourself – “Could this be a channel instead?” Don’t shy away from adding a large number of members to a single team and break down that team into dedicated channels based on either department, project, or any other criteria that suits your work. 

Learn more about best practices for Microsoft Teams channels.

Below are some common challenges in the beginning stage of the Microsoft Teams’ lifecycle and how to overcome them. 

Teams sprawl

We generally recommend allowing all users to create their own teams. However, this carries the risk of Teams sprawl. It occurs when you have an uncontrollable number of different teams that could have been channels instead. Too many ‘Test’ teams, teams with only a few users, teams with only General channel, and some others also contribute to Teams sprawl. You can learn more about Teams sprawls here

At this stage of your lifecycle management, you should come up with governance policies that will guide the users and help them understand when to create a new team. You’ll need to educate your users on these matters and give them the necessary directions, which could be in the form of questions. For instance:

  • Why do you need a new team?
  • Can your team collaborate via a channel?
  • How long do you plan to use that team?

Learn about Microsoft Teams governance best practices.

Naming

If there is indeed a need to create a new team, a solid lifecycle management will instruct you to employ a naming policy which will not only make the navigation among teams much easier but also help prevent sprawl. The name should be descriptive of what the team entails, what its purpose is. Keep in mind that:

a. The team’s name is linked with SharePoint site collection and Outlook email address and 

b. Microsoft Teams allows duplication of names. So, you need to be very clear and strategic in your naming policies. A good naming policy will require to mention either the name of the department, the project, or the direction that the particular team is working on. For instance, Marketing – SEO Team or Finance – Internal Audit. You should adjust the naming policies to the structure and the working methods of your company.

Learn more about Microsoft Teams Naming convention.

Data classification 

Regardless of your industry, you have to work with data, some of which are confidential. When you’re creating your team, make sure to come up with a data classification scheme. Microsoft has four categories of data classification, so take them and apply them to the data associated with your company:

  • Highly confidential 
  • Confidential 
  • General 
  • Public

Take this as a starting point, go over your own data inventory and assign a level of sensitivity to them. If you’re not sure how your organization or certain departments use data, talk to your team members, and decide together. Once you have the data classification scheme, apply it team-wide. 

Keep these in mind when you’re creating your team and the first stage of your lifecycle, and its management plan will be successful.

Middle: managing a team 

The next task of your lifecycle management is to monitor and maintain the collaborative environment of your team. For that team members need to experiment a bit and explore Teams features. You can’t fully control how your employees use the team and no plan can help you do that, but good lifecycle management will help you know what kinds of errors to look for, react quickly and troubleshoot. Here are some steps of lifecycle management to do everything mentioned above: 

Review who has access to your team

Microsoft Teams allows team members to communicate and collaborate with external users. This is both an extremely useful and at the same time risky feature. Team members can invite people outside your organizations to chat or have an online call. They can also grant them Guest access to join teams and channels. You can learn more about external sharing here.

This feature can come in handy when you’re working with partners or clients and need to invite them to your “virtual workplace”. But to use the feature safely, you need constant reviews and monitoring. Microsoft Teams admin center will show you an overview of all of your teams’ guest users.

You can also get more detailed information if you click on each individual guest. To review what kind of files have been shared outside of your team, you can ask your IT team to run a report for each team’s SharePoint site.  

If you are a large organization that hundreds of teams for each department/division, it can be challenging to keep an eye on who has what kind of access within the team. You or the IT department will need to monitor closely who the team owners are, how many guests are in each team and whether they are active or not.

Watch out for orphaned teams 

Microsoft Teams is a reflection of your working environment. And if roles and employees change at your workplace, they do so in Teams as well. Someone moves to a different department, another one leaves the company, you hire a new person- all these factors affect the structure and the environment of your team. So, you need to watch out how these changes in your company are reflected in your teams. One of the most common risks that a lifecycle management plan should address is having ownerless teams. The solution is to always have at least two owners in each team. This way, if one leaves or moves to another department, the other person can manage that specific team. 

These two are precautionary actions of lifecycle management that will help you maintain a safe and secure working environment. 

End: saying goodbye to a team 

The lifecycle management covers the beginning, the middle and of course, the end. When the time comes, you need to prepare to say goodbye to a team, and a good end-of-life strategy will help with that. Here are some key things that you can do as part of your lifecycle management to handle the closing of your team. 

Be proactive 

Keep an eye out for inactive teams. You can do this through the admin center, where you can see the usage reports of all your teams and determine which one has been inactive the longest.

Usage reports are useful in shortlisting inactive teams. However, you should also double check with the members and find out why the team hasn’t been active. Perhaps, there is a temporary hold on the project, or the department is restructuring. If there is no good reason for that, go ahead and either delete it or archive it.  You can do so through the admin center TeamsManage Teams →Archive or Delete.

Set an expiration date 

Another way to deal with orphaned teams is to set an expiration date from the very beginning. This method works best for projects that have a specific timeline, so you’re sure that once the project is complete, your employees will no longer need that team. You can create a Microsoft 365 group expiration policy. The owners will receive notifications 30, 15, and 1 day prior to the team’s expiration date. If they don’t take a counteraction, the team and all its apps and services such as calendar, SharePoint site, etc. will be deleted. 

Teams are not immediately permanently deleted. By default, you can restore all Microsoft 365 groups and teams within 30 days of deletion, so if needed, you can reverse your decision. 

You can configure this policy for all your groups, only selected groups (up to 500), or turn it off completely by selecting None. Keep in mind that currently you can’t set different policies for distinct groups.

When the team owner receives a notification, they can click on Renew now button in their team settings.

Microsoft Teams lifecycle management checklist 

Here is a brief checklist for you to help you understand Microsoft Team lifecycle management:

  • Divide the lifecycle management into a beginning, middle, and end. 
  • The beginning – set up a creation process:
    • Determine who can open teams and channels.
    • Create naming policies for teams and channels. 
    • Develop a data classification scheme (highly confidential, confidential, general, and public).
  • The middle – develop a monitoring plan:
    • Make sure all teams have owners at all times. 
    • Closely monitor the external and guest accesses.
  • The end – create an end-of-life strategy:
    • Be on the lookout for inactive Teams and find out if anyone plans to reactivate them. 
    • If possible, set expiration policies. 

Microsoft Team exists to make your work simple and efficient. Failing to create a proper lifecycle management plan means making that work disorganized instead. Think about the lifecycle management of your teams in advance using this brief guide, develop one and make adjustments as you go.

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