You've deployed Microsoft Teams and set up some general governance processes to keep it from getting out of control. You've even launched a hand full of Teams that are gaining some traction. 

Congratulations, that's a great start!

But, as you see usage rise, more complex questions are also coming up. Let's review these questions and help you decide when to use channels vs. sub-teams vs. projects in Microsoft Teams.

Managing Microsoft Teams in Different Scenarios

Can you relate to any of these scenarios?

  • "The Marketing Team just uses the General channel in its Microsoft Team. A lot of information has started to build up, so we're using folders to organize everything. Is there something else we should be doing?"
  • "The Sales Team creates a channel to discuss each customer and prospect account. We're up to 733 channels, and it's tricky to find what we're looking for. What do you suggest?"
  • "We have a Customer Experience Microsoft Team. They have identified a need for a sub-team called Customer Analytics, which won't include everyone on the parent Team, and will include some new people, not on the parent Team. We're planning to add a channel and invite the additional members of the sub-team."
  • "Our departmental Microsoft Team for HR owns the Family Day event. They want to invite others to participate in planning, and they want to make announcements company-wide. We're planning to set up a new channel on the org-wide Microsoft Team for all of this."

All of the above are real-life scenarios, and all of them are a sign that it's time to take your governance to the next level. Here are some suggestions.

Download a [Free] Microsoft Teams Deployment and Governance Guide

 

Organizing MS Teams: Channels vs. Sub-Teams vs.Projects

1. Use Microsoft Teams Channels

If you have a Team that only has a General channel, that's a red flag. Yes, there are times when a Team may only need a single channel. But those are rare, and by using only a single channel, the Team almost always ends up creating a structure that looks like their old file share - a bunch of folders inside of the Files tab in Teams. You also end up with a very cluttered set of posts.

Consider our Marketing Department above. They’re going to end up with one stream of posts talking about annual marketing planning, a specific email campaign, ad-hoc literature requests from sales, the internal newsletter they publish...the list goes on.

You don't have to think of every channel upfront. Force your Team to have at least a few channels to organize things topically. For Marketing, you may want to use:

  • General: Misc announcements and otherwise non-categorized items
  • Marketing Meetings: Regular meetings for planning and managing projects
  • Campaigns: All the various campaigns that the Marketing Team manages. You could also choose to break each campaign into a channel, or in some cases, an individual Team.

2. Don't Overuse Microsoft Team Channels

On the other hand, the Sales Team may be over-using channels. Creating a massive list of channels that users have to navigate to find something can be counter-productive. How else might the sales team have managed their channels?

  • Have a Team per region or line-of-business. Separating Teams by region or line-of-business will help you prevent cluttering Microsoft Teams with too many channels.
  • Only have channels for active accountsCreate channels when you need to collaborate on an account, then archive/delete them when not in use; remember to delete the underlying folder. If you want to get fancy, you can use Power Automate to integrate your CRM solution with Teams to add/remove channels based on your opportunities automatically.
  • Find another way to collaborate. Teams may not be the best solution for this, so if all else fails, explore other options.
  • Train your users to manage the complexityShow your users how to hide and turn off notifications for channels they don't use and pin the most important channels.

3. When to Create a Channel vs a Sub-Team

Just because a Team identifies the need for a project, event or sub-team doesn't mean that you need to manage it with the same Microsoft Team. In some cases, you'll want to create an entirely new Team.

 Here's a simple rule of thumb:

  • Add a Channel: If the membership is the same as the parent Team.

  • Create a new Team: If only some people on the original Team will be on the sub-team, and/or if people not on the original Team will be added to the sub-team.

Remember our Customer Experience Team with the Customer Analytics sub-team? They should create an entirely new Microsoft Team for that set of individuals to use.

For more information on setting up MS Teams, check out our blog: How to Know If a New Microsoft Teams Site is Needed. 

4. Create Multiple Teams for Projects and Events

Projects and events are generally great candidates for having stand-alone Teams. These Teams may have a specific duration when they're created and then deleted, such as HR's Family Day event, but they often require interaction on multiple different Teams. 

Again, HR's Family Day event may use a dedicated Team for planning, but they may use the org-wide "Company News" Microsoft Team for communicating about the event.

Another example we discussed earlier: marketing campaigns. There are many scenarios for this, depending on the number and complexity of campaigns, and for individual campaigns specifically. 

Examples of When to Use a Channel vs a Team

  • A small marketing department that does a few campaigns annually - use a channel on the Marketing Microsoft Team.
  • A larger department that handles a relatively large number of campaigns - use a separate Team called “Marketing Campaigns” with a channel for each campaign. Remember to archive out of date campaigns to keep it organized.
  • A complex campaign (e.g., “Customer Buying Journey”) that requires planning, input, and communication across Teams - create a dedicated Microsoft Team for this campaign. Again, remember to clean up and archive when the Team is no longer necessary.

Deploy and Govern Microsoft Teams with C5 Insight

Need to get started with Microsoft Teams governance? Download our e-Book: Microsoft Teams Deployment and Governance Guide.

Want to dive deeper? Contact C5 Insight to chat about your goals and challenges with Microsoft Teams.