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Private Channels for Microsoft Teams are by far the most requested new feature. The good news is that this new Microsoft Teams feature is coming soon and will further bridge the gap between Teams and Slack which has had private channels for a long time. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact that private channels could have on your Microsoft Teams deployment.
Currently, the interaction between Teams and Microsoft Teams Channels is fairly simple – if you are part of a Team, then you get to see all of its Channels. With the introduction of Private Channels, this opens us a myriad of possibilities not just for Teams but all the underlying Office 365 workloads that support it, in particular SharePoint.
In this article, we are going to look at some possible scenarios, impacts, and considerations that you might want to think about before including Private Microsoft Teams Channels as part of your deployment.
Disclaimer: we haven’t had access to this feature, so please note that this article is built from our opinions and thoughts.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting what users are asking for with private Microsoft Teams Channels. From reading the User Voice, it’s clear to see there are a number of different scenarios. The main use case seems to be the ability to have a Channel in a Team that can be secured to select users in that Team. Mostly this seems to be for conversation but people also want this to be applied to the documents that are part of that channel.
Some users also want the ability to not have a user need to be part of the ‘parent’ Team but just give them access to the one Private channel. Basically, this means that they won’t see any other content in the Team.
There are a number of ways that organizations are currently working around the limitation of not having Private Channels. For example, if you are working on a project with external users and there is a need to have private content and communications relating to budgets, here are some workarounds:
Creating a separate ‘private’ team seems to be the most common way. Users can create a completely separate Team with selected users involved in the private conversation. However, this solution isn’t perfect because it leaves you with two Teams to manage.
This can result in:
Another common approach is to move private conversations outside of the group chat on Microsoft Teams and into the one-on-one chat-functionality. This approach can work, but once again there are a few downfalls:
Some people turn to email or other applications as a workaround. Adding another tool makes it easier to lose track of information and requires more time switching between applications.
Of course, this all depends on the implementation but here are some important things that you might want to consider when Private Channels are released:
There are a lot of governance challenges and options in Microsoft Teams, but Private Channels will introduce a whole new layer to how organizations need to think, plan, and act. Already we are seeing the option to have Private Channels disabled as an option in the Microsoft Teams Admin Center so the first questions to ask is will you allow your users to create Private Channels at all in your Teams environment?
The second question will be which users will be allowed to create Private Channels? You will be able to control who will have this ability using the Teams Policy as seen below. This policy can be assigned to a subset of users within your organization.
Apart from the technical details, you will also need to communicate the usage of Private Channels in Microsoft Teams. If you don’t do this you might have users creating Private Channels for the wrong purpose. As a starting point you would want to consider the following:
Information architecture is really important in Teams and the introduction of Private Channels will have a significant impact on the structure of Teams. With this in mind, here are some things to consider:
By far the biggest change could be the way that documents are managed in Microsoft Teams. Although no implementation details have been announced publicly we would assume that if a Private Channel is created, then the corresponding folder in the shared documents folder will also be created with those same permissions.
This may mean that the same document library in a Microsoft Team could have a combination of both public and private documents. If so, this could cause confusion and some issues with content discovery.
Also, the default view of document libraries in SharePoint don’t have the same permission column that allows you to see the permission on the folder. Perhaps some visual aid will be introduced to help show private content in document libraries that are associated with a Private Channel.
Some other questions that are yet to be answered are:
When looking at the User Voice it’s clear to see that there are a lot of questions out there on Private Microsoft Teams Channels and how they will work. In fact, there are currently over 1950 comments.
Here are some questions that we found interesting and that illustrate some other areas to think about:
Reading the User Voice makes three things apparent:
It’s taken a long while but it’s coming!: Private channels were supposed to be released in October but this has now been moved to November which is the same time as Ignite. Coincidence? I think that you will see some information at Ignite 2019 about this feature.
At Orchestry, we recognize that the technology landscape for digital organizations has become overly complicated. That is why it is our mission to eliminate the disorder, confusion and indecision that comes from having too many digital tools to make work as simple as possible.
Orchestry makes work simple in Office 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Sites by empowering your IT Administrators and employees to define a winning Microsoft 365 adoption and change management strategy that provides a roadmap of what to use when, for what purpose. Orchestry increases usage and adoption while empowering through governance and simplifies through intelligent provisioning in Microsoft 365, organization-wide at a fraction of the cost, on a subscription basis.