The key to rolling out Microsoft Teams on home turf: Good governance

Dec 5, 2018   |  

Across Microsoft, employees are being moved to Microsoft Teams for all communications. One of the most important elements to ensuring the success of this companywide transition has been the governance framework that comes with Office 365.

Microsoft Teams is now the collaboration platform for the company’s 220,000 employees and vendors. With a full set of communications capabilities, including chat, voice and video meetings and calling, Teams is becoming the place where employees can work all the time. The company has moved from Skype for Business Online to Teams for communications starting earlier this fall—a process that will continue through February.

“By moving to Teams, we’re enabling our employees to do their jobs, and we’re able to protect the company at the same time,” says David Johnson, who leads Office 365 product strategy and deployment governance inside Microsoft for Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO).

Governance refers to the policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that a company like Microsoft uses to help ensure the company’s 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 the deployment of solutions like Teams; ensure all systems are secure and compliant; and generally make sure its technology does what it’s supposed to do. To learn more about how Microsoft thinks about governance internally, watch Johnson and others in this SharePoint and Office 365: Securely sharing, managing, governing and protecting content at Microsoft webinar.

A screenshot of the view player for the SharePoint and Office 365: Securely sharing, managing, governing, and protecting content Microsoft webinar.
Click the image to watch this webinar on how Microsoft approaches governance in Office 365, including with Microsoft Teams.

Put simply, governance is setting things up so people doing the work 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.

So far the deployment of Teams has been a success, in large part because the CSEO team has been able to rely on the governance framework they’ve designed for the Office 365 workloads already deployed internally, says Emily Kirby, a program manager on CSEO’s Microsoft Teams deployment team.

“As we’ve established governance for Office 365 services, such as SharePoint, OneDrive, OneNote, Word and other apps, those policies and guidelines inherently carry over to Teams,” Kirby says. “What makes Teams unique within Office 365 and as a platform overall, is that it works like an intelligent shell. Teams automatically inherits the permissions and policies set for the other services so that, for example, as people work on files in Teams, or use other Office 365 services within Teams, they are working within the governance parameters of those other services.”

Governing collaborative employees

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

However, to make 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 once a team no longer needs a set of information anymore, and that helps CSEO quickly identify and fix security issues when they pop up.

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

The partnership between the two has help 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 Office 365 services would both simplify and strengthen the company’s overall approach, he says. When you handle the security of Teams, OneNote, Word, and all the other Office 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.”

It’s that kind of thinking that is grounding the team currently deploying Teams across the company, Kirby says.

“That’s the beauty of it,” she says. “We get 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 get to absorb all of that into Teams.”

Smart search needs good governance

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

He says the team is now working to optimize legal and retention capabilities, so data is preserved for only as long as needed while not losing things we’ll need in the future.

The company also wants to work on making it easier for employees to collaborate with customers and partners outside of the company, as well as on onboarding new products and processes, and on search, so that employees can find whatever information they’re looking for no matter where it resides. This includes leveraging 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.

To learn more about how Johnson and others are helping shape the way the company is tackling governance on the Office 365 platform, including with Microsoft Teams, watch this webinar with Johnson, CSEO’s James Bowles, and the SharePoint product group’s Mark Kashman.

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