Preventing Teams Sprawl in Microsoft 365

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You just implemented Microsoft 365 and enabled the Teams feature. Your employees are creating new teams left and right, leading you to worry about the number of new teams being created and who will manage and support them. This is when it is a good idea to start developing and implementing a governance plan.  

A governance plan is a set of rules that govern how best to use a system and provides best practices and examples for users. Here are some suggestions to help you select the best governance options for your environment: 

First of all, you have to determine who should be able to create new teams — or more accurately, Microsoft 365 groups. 

 IT/Admin – If the IT group or administrators are the only ones who can create groups then they will get caught in a bottleneck. Depending on the priority level of the IT team, it could take a while for new groups to be created. However, this option allows the IT department to adhere to a naming convention and other policies regarding purpose and function. This option also allows the admin group to decline requests for new teams. 

Anyone – If anyone is allowed to create a group you run the risk of groups being created without purpose or intention and possibly being abandoned. This is the default setting on a new tenant. 

Members of a special group – It is possible to give permissions to members within a specific group. Membership into this group would be controlled by the IT/Admin team after the user has proven appropriate skill and knowledge to understand the governance policy regarding creating and owning a team. 

One way to manage the creation of new teams is to require users to request for a team to be created. This could be as simple as sending an email to the IT department or filling out a form. Let’s assume we stay within the Microsoft 365 environment. These are options we can use for creating a simple request form: 

  • Microsoft Forms – This application is the easiest to get started with and stores the entries in an Excel file. 
  • SharePoint – You can create a SharePoint list with the required fields and use either the out-of-the-box (OOTB) SharePoint form or you can customize a form using PowerApps. 
  • PowerApps – This is the most versatile option for creating a form. It takes a little bit longer, but has additional benefits such as the form and the underlying “database” (most often a SharePoint list), do not have to hosted in SharePoint, and thus SharePoint users won’t be able to see everyone else’s requests. 

So now that we have a form to capture the team requests what else can we do to further improve functionality? We can look to using workflows to automate some of our processes. For example, workflows in Microsoft 365 use Power Automate, which is part of the Power Platform toolset. 

Let’s say we want to create an automated workflow anytime someone submits a request for a new team within Microsoft Teams. A workflow in Power Automate can listen for trigger events in the Microsoft 365 environment, as well as several third-party triggers. Examples of these triggers are when a new entry to a Microsoft Form has been submitted or a new item record in a SharePoint list has been created and/or modified. There are currently hundreds of triggers that can be used to start a workflow. 

Here’s an example of an approval workflow that could be used to create a new team: 

  1. Workflow is triggered when a new request is submitted. 
  2. Create and wait for an approval task assigned to the request approver. 
    • If declined, notify the user and terminate the workflow. 
    • If approved, notify the user of approval and forward directions to governance guides and policies. 
  3. Automatically create the requested group/team. 
    • Add owner to the newly created group. When users are added to a group as owner, member, or guest, they will be notified automatically. 
  4. Update the status of the request to “Completed.” 

Now that we have an automated option to create new teams, what should we do to ensure they are decommissioned when no longer active? 

We can create guidelines to group expiration. One option is to soft delete groups that have been inactive for a set number of days. Another option is to delegate archival of a Team to administrators. 

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