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July 8, 2022

Shared Channels: Revolution or Missed Opportunity?

The idea of Teams Shared Channels was simple, yet powerful. Instead of having to switch tenants to access information, allow for that same information to be available within your home tenant! Now that we’ve been able to see it in action in the Public Preview, what do we think? Has it realized the hype from last year?


The Hype

One of the most exciting announcements (video) from Ignite 2021 was that of Shared Channels (Microsoft Teams Connect) which seemingly promised to finally resolve the considerable friction involved with cross-tenant collaboration (collaborating with other organizations using Microsoft365).

Video introducing Microsoft Teams Shared Channels

If you've had to switch Teams instances just to see a message from another tenant, you can understand the frustration. At the very least, it's disruptive to the flow of work.

How many times have you tried to do this while in a Teams meeting in your home tenant, only to be warned that changing will drop you off your current call? Or perhaps you’ve tried changing tenants but been greeted with a message like the following? Yikes!

Errors in Teams when Switching Tenants

This has been a problem for a while. It caused other issues like having too many guest users in many tenants worldwide. For some, the ability to keep a ‘secondary’ Teams open on the web to access another tenant’s information was a viable option, this does not work at scale.



Shared Channels in Teams promised to resolve a list of common challenges with effective collaboration with external users, including:

  • No more painful tenant switching: By seeing cross-tenant channels as Shared Channels within our own environment, the lines between organizations become blurred and work can take place unhindered
  • Avoid over-sharing information: By allowing for the privacy of content at the channel level, we avoid the risk of users seeing content elsewhere within the Team and Office 365 Group.
  • Reduce Team proliferation: Instead of creating a long list of barebones and shallow Teams, merely to support sharing across organizations, we can now facilitate fewer but ‘architecturally deeper’ Teams
  • Improve visibility of information and reduce duplication of content: By allowing for centralized channels, we can reduce and eliminate channels created for the same purposes but spread across multiple teams and reduce them with a single source of truth which also simplifies the management and monitoring of information within the channel


While Shared Channels offer most of the same functionalities available within other channels, there are a few features that are not supported, including:

  • Shared channels support tabs except for Stream, Planner, and Forms.
  • LOB apps, bots, connectors, and message extensions are not supported.
  • When you create a team from an existing team, shared channels in the existing team won’t be copied over.
  • Notifications from shared channels are not included in missed activity emails.


There are many similarities between Shared Channels vs Private Channels. Much like Private Channels, each Shared Channel gets its own dedicated SharePoint Site. In the case of both Private and Shared Channels, this can cause a multitude of SharePoint sites to host the content from a single Microsoft Team. In fact, this is largely the reason behind a recent UX tweak introduced by Microsoft to attempt to stitch these disparate sources together :

SharePoint folders structure with MS Teams Shared Channels

It is also important to remember that it is currently impossible to convert an ordinary channel into a Shared channel, meaning that a decision must be made carefully upon creation, otherwise, re-work and re-architecture may be required.


Adoption Challenges

While the promise of Shared Channels was significant, with the ability to now see the functionality in action as part of the Public Preview, there are a number of considerable challenges with its use.

Mutual Trust: The Downfall of Shared Channels

From those like us who have experimented with the Public Preview of Teams Connect, there has been mixed feedback. If you are interested in the steps to follow, there are a number of resources available included at the end of this article.

Without getting into the technical details, Teams Connect (Shared Channels) relies on something called Azure Active Directory B2B Direct Connect, which is different from B2B Collaboration used for External Collaboration (Guests). The big difference is that this requires organizations to trust one another’s security (essentially to “federate” identities) in order for this feature to be available.

Microsoft Teams Shared Channels configuration

The key portion here is that B2B Direct Connect requires a mutual trust relationship between two Azure AD organizations to allow access to each other’s resources. Both the resource organization and the external organization need to mutually enable B2B Direct Connect in their cross-tenant access settings. While this may not seem like the end of the world, it does seem counter to the well-known concept of Cyber Security of Zero Trust, especially its well-known adage “never trust, always verify.”

A more ‘trusting’ security stance may be possible for organizations with subsidiaries, or companies that all operate under shared ownership, we feel this will be a massive challenge for most organizations, especially those with strict security policies. This is hugely disappointing and we’ve heard this sentiment echoed by many clients and partners with whom we’ve discussed the topic.

User Experience: End User Confusion

The other issue we see with Shared Channels is just how confusing the whole experience seems to be for end users. Firstly now users have a choice of 3 types of channels that they can create:

Shared Channels creation process in Microsoft Teams

This can be confusing as users rarely know the different channel types (Public vs Private) but now there is another one in the mix. This will require significant knowledge on behalf of users to understand the subtle difference.

Also when sharing the Teams channel with external users, the options are even more strange and confusing:

Confusion caused by having too many options when creating a Shared Channel in Teams and sharing it

The options are confusing to many users. With People makes some sense but when you share it with a Team you don’t search for them but rather a Team Owner who decides where the Channel will be placed. Again this leads to all sorts of confusion as to what precisely a Shared Channel is, who is a member, and who can access it.

External Users vs Guest Users

Another challenge is that currently, a Shared Channel can not have Guests invited to it but only External Users that have been configured as part of the Azure AD B2B Connect. This means that we rely on users fully understanding who is going to be invited into the Channel at the point of creation.

In practice, this can be a huge issue. Need to add a single important Guest to your Shared Channel? You are out of luck and are going to need to create a new Team.

Additionally, many organizations that have set up the Azure B2B Connect would like to start converting their channels from Public/Private to Shared for all the benefits that it offers. As we shared in the Limitations section, currently there is no way to do this so again this can be a significant challenge for existing Teams within an organization – how to refactor Teams to take advantage of the new functionality?



We love the idea of Shared Channels, and while it sounded great on paper and looked promising when we first saw it at Ignite, what we can now see is there is a significant security conversation at play, and many organizations will be unable to leverage this feature. What do you think?

Alas, all may not be lost. We feel there remains great potential for this feature, even for organizations with strict policies. Stay tuned for the next article where we’ll lay it out!

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