5 tips to avoid content sprawl when using Microsoft Teams

Businesses should heed this advice when rolling out Microsoft Teams to avoid content sprawl and ensure users can easily find the content they seek.

Workplace and content collaboration are the way of the world. Remote workers include permanent home employees; a mobile workforce, including on-the-road sales teams; international organizations, with locations in multiple countries; and offshore development. This agility in the work environment requires effective collaboration.

With so many collaboration tools on the market with varying capabilities, content sprawl is a possibility if the right strategies aren't in place.

Some collaboration-supporting tool sets include Box, Dropbox, Microsoft and Google, and businesses use them daily. Each varies in its abilities, but can include instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, document sharing and other types of content sharing -- including tasks, to-do items, calendars and plans.

For those already using Microsoft technology, Teams is a natural choice. Teams -- built on SharePoint -- is a unified communications platform, with chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration. It integrates with Microsoft Office 365 products, and its extensions also enable it to integrate with many non-Microsoft services.

Organizations that use Teams run the risk of content sprawl. Before deploying it, consider these five points:

1. Teams is not a content management system. Teams can be used to store files and other content, which it does by using the underlying SharePoint For full content management capability, users need to use the "open in SharePoint" menu that is available in various places throughout Teams. Once in SharePoint, additional capabilities are available, such as check-in and -out, file versions, tagging, retention and deletion rules.

SharePoint can be a longer-term content management platform after a business decommissions the team to avoid the content sprawl.

2. Develop an archive strategy for content developed in Teams. Consider Teams as transient content storage, for example, to support a specific project or initiative. An archive strategy will allow storage of that content beyond the life span of the team. Examples of content that a business might manage this way include documentation coming out of a project, such as standard operating procedures and application support documentation. SharePoint can be a longer-term content management platform after a business decommissions the team to avoid the content sprawl.

3. Define sound governance approaches. Organizations should use naming conventions for teams and the channels in a team, and limit team and channel creation to nominated people supported by training and standard operating procedures. Businesses should also regularly review teams to determine current business relevance, as well as content archiving and long-term storage. Create a directory of teams with attributes, including responsible owner, purpose, proposed decommission date and content confidentiality.

4. Develop clear guidelines on when Teams is appropriate for business initiatives vs. another platform. For example, organizations using SharePoint may already have a project site template. Should a team replace this or be supplementary to it? At present, there is no templated approach to creating a standardized team structure. Without a standardized approach, each project owner will construct each team differently, making it difficult for users who work across multiple projects.

5. Avoid organic and unstructured growth of collaboration tools. Teams is the most recent example from Microsoft of a history of collaboration tools, including OneDrive, Skype for Business, Yammer and SharePoint. Choice is a good thing, but knowing what tool to use and when makes for better choices. Businesses need to develop a strategy to identify which tools to adopt.

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