Deploying Microsoft Teams across Microsoft hinged on good governance

Sep 16, 2020   |  

When Microsoft moved to Microsoft Teams for all communications, it needed a good plan.

More than 250,000 employees and licensed vendors would be affected by the shift, as would 600,000 guests that the company collaborates with on a regular basis.

The one thing we had to get right to make sure our company-wide transition to Teams was successful was to deploy the governance framework that comes with Microsoft 365.

~David Johnson, principal program manager, Microsoft 365 product strategy and development for Microsoft Digital

Too much was at stake to allow anything to go wrong.

“The one thing we had to get right to make sure our company-wide transition to Teams was successful was to deploy the governance framework that comes with Microsoft 365,” says David Johnson, who leads Microsoft 365 product strategy and deployment governance inside Microsoft Digital. “Governance was critical.”

Mission accomplished.

Microsoft Teams has been the company’s collaboration platform for more than two years. With a full set of communications capabilities, including chat, voice and video meetings, and calling, Microsoft Teams has become the place where employees work all the time, especially as they work remotely due to COVID-19.

Governance refers to the policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that a company like Microsoft uses to help ensure their IT resources are being effectively deployed and managed, and that data security and compliance standards are in place while still allowing employees get their work done. An effective governance framework can streamline deploying solutions like Microsoft Teams, ensure all systems are secure and compliant, and generally make sure its technology does what it’s supposed to do.

“Our foundation for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams governance within Microsoft is tied to how we manage and govern Microsoft 365 Groups inside the company,” Johnson says. “Groups are the common layer under Teams, SharePoint team sites, Yammer Communities, Outlook groups, and a lot more.”

Put simply, governance is setting things up so people can be their most productive selves.

“We want to let our employees do their thing, but we want to make sure we give them guardrails and watch for things that could get them in trouble,” Johnson says.


Click the video to watch Johnson’s “How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees” presentation at Microsoft Ignite.

The deployment of Microsoft Teams was a success in large part because the Microsoft Digital team relied on the governance framework they designed for the Microsoft 365 workloads they had already deployed internally, says Emily Kirby, who was a program manager on Microsoft Digital’s Microsoft Teams deployment team when rolling it out across the company.

“Because we had previously established governance for Microsoft 365 services, such as SharePoint, OneDrive, OneNote, Word, and other apps, those policies and guidelines were able to smoothly carry over to Teams,” Kirby says. “What makes Teams unique within Microsoft 365 and as a platform overall is that, during our deployment, it worked like an intelligent shell. Teams automatically inherited the permissions and policies set for the other services so that, for example, when people work on files in Teams, or use other Microsoft 365 services within Teams, they work within the governance parameters of those other services.”

[Learn more how Microsoft Digital used Microsoft Azure’s governance toolset to enable enterprise-scale governance design and compliance enforcement across the company’s entire Azure environment.]

Governing collaborative employees

Microsoft Teams is a hub for teamwork that enables people to work together by bringing chat, calling, meetings, files, and Microsoft 365 and third-party apps together in one place, Johnson says. Because it’s built on Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams is part of a common underlying data graph that unifies all Microsoft 365 products and services. This ultimately enables AI and machine learning to help people easily accomplish tasks and focus on what matters most.

However, making this kind of unfettered collaboration work while also protecting the company requires security measures smart enough to control access based on need, that recognize and disable broad access when a team no longer needs a set of information anymore, and that help Microsoft Digital quickly identify and fix security issues when they pop up.

Microsoft Digital has partnered with the Microsoft 365 product group to inform the development of Microsoft 365 governance capabilities for all customers.

The partnership between the two has helped simplify the company’s thinking.

“Our thinking around governance is evolving,” Johnson says. “We’ve seen first-hand the difference it makes to have a well-developed governance framework in place for every service we roll out.”

One of the big insights was that delivering a unified approach to governance that runs across all Microsoft 365 services would simplify and strengthen the company’s overall approach, he says. When you handle the security of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft Word, and all the other Microsoft 365 products in exactly the same way on top of the same underlying graph, there are far fewer breakdowns, seams exposed, or other ways for things to go wrong.

“All of the things employees do at work are coming together in a common construct,” Johnson says. “It makes it so we only need to secure everything once, whether it be bridge auditing, establishing policies to protect data, labeling groups, and so on.”

That’s the beauty of it. We got to take all of the goodness of SharePoint governance, all the security inside OneDrive, all of the learnings that have been applied to the entire Microsoft graph—we got to absorb all of that into Teams.

~Emily Kirby, program manager on Microsoft Digital’s Microsoft Teams deployment team

It’s that kind of thinking that grounded the team that deployed Microsoft Teams across the company, Kirby says.

“That’s the beauty of it,” she says. “We got to take all of the goodness of SharePoint governance, all the security inside OneDrive, all of the learnings that have been applied to the entire Microsoft graph—we got to absorb all of that into Teams.”

Smart search needs good governance

Giving employees access to create and collaborate with others is core to Microsoft Digital’s mission, and protecting the company’s assets go hand in hand with that, Johnson says.

He says the team has been working to optimize legal and retention capabilities, so data is preserved for only as long as needed while not losing things that will be needed in the future.

Microsoft also wants to work on making it easier for employees to collaborate with customers and partners outside of the company, on onboarding new products and processes, and on transforming search so employees can find whatever information they’re looking for no matter where it resides. This includes using AI and machine learning to do things like suggest and rank relevant search results that the employee might not otherwise come across.

“If you don’t have good governance, then you can’t do these things,” Johnson says.

Learn more how Microsoft Digital used Microsoft Azure’s governance toolset to enable enterprise-scale governance design and compliance enforcement across the company’s entire Azure environment.

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