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The Evolution of Managing Guests in Microsoft Teams

Collaborating with external partners is an inevitability for many organizations today. However, with all the security issues that’ve occurred in recent years, it’s understandable that some might not be especially welcoming when it comes to sharing data or letting others into their Microsoft Teams tenants.

In this week’s episode of #O365 Hours, I sat down with Microsoft 365 Apps & Services MVP Adam Ball to discuss the evolution of managing guests in Microsoft Teams, why organizations have been hesitant to implement Shared Channels, and what the future of Microsoft Teams might be as a whole. Watch our discussion below or read the full transcript at your convenience!

Guests: Adam Ball, Co-founder and Principal Solutions Architect at Cloud Revolution 

Topics Covered:

  • Managing guests is a broad topic that covers the provisioning process, ongoing governance, and some specific features, like the relatively new Shared Channels capability. Since Teams was launched, managing guests has always been a hot topic. How has this discussion evolved?
  • When Microsoft announced Shared Channels, there was a bit of pushback by experts, like myself, who were concerned about the governance of Shared Channels. What are Shared Channels, and are there legitimate governance concerns?
  • Where do we go from here? There’s so much talk about multi-tenant, multi-channel, guest access, sharing of content…Where should Microsoft go with Microsoft Teams? What are your hopes and dreams for the product?

Managing guests is a broad topic that covers provisioning process, ongoing governance, and some specific features, like the relatively new Shared Channels capability. Since Teams was launched, managing guests has always been a hot topic. How has this discussion evolved?

AB: When it comes to guests, guest access has definitely evolved especially as we talk about the components of Shared Channels. But where did guest access start and how did people start to change back and forth? Obviously, there were a lot of pain points for end users. That’s ultimately what drives the evolution: how do we reduce the friction for people so they can exchange information more easily, especially from a cross-organizational standpoint?

CB: One thing that I have been very impressed by is how Microsoft takes feedback about products and quickly incorporates that into updates. There’s a number of shifts that happened after Satya Nadella took over, like making a major push internally towards data-driven product management. I think feedback from the field directly informed those shared channel decisions.

AB: Oh, absolutely. If you think back to the early days, tenant switching from a primary tenant to a guest tenant took forever, and there was a lot of friction there. So we went back, looked at the feedback and improved on what we saw. Improvements to tenant switching came to the mobile client came first, then to desktop. Now both are much better.

When Microsoft announced Shared Channels, there was a bit of a pushback by experts, like myself, who were concerned about the governance of Shared Channels. What are Shared Channels, and are there legitimate governance concerns?

AB: Let’s say AvePoint invites me into a shared channel instead of having me go over to the AvePoint tenant via tenant switching. Now I can see your Team and the specific channel that was shared with me (not other channels that I haven’t been given access to). That allows me to not have to change my tenant while being able to collaborate efficiently day-to-day. That’s the real basis of it.

Guest access was similar for companies in that many shut it down at first. They couldn’t prevent the members of their organizations from being guests in other tenants. Therefore, they could either let those members go to somebody else’s tenant and start to collaborate over there, or forbid access entirely. There was no visibility into any of it, so many organizations weren’t comfortable with the notion. Having people come in as guests or collaborating in Shared Channels inside your tenant tends to give you more control, and the ability to have visibility into what’s being shared.

As I watch how the evolution of guest access to Shared Channels is going, it appears to me that we’re getting more into that B2B mindset at the Azure AD level, which will allow for better cross-organizational governance going forward. I see that vision happening as they grow. I don’t have anything to back that up, but it’s an observation.

Where do we go from here? There’s so much talk about multi-tenant, multi-channel, guest access, sharing of content…Where should Microsoft go with Microsoft Teams? What are your hopes and dreams for the product?

AB: <Laughs> There are lots of hopes and dreams for the product. Let’s take the mobile app since we were chatting about it before. It works fantastic. I can flip back and forth between tenants super quickly and easily. I ultimately want that same ease of use with the desktop app. I want to be able to seamlessly go between tenant A and tenant B. Ultimately, that’s my hope and dream, and I think we’ll get there. I think Microsoft sees that need, but their focus is on the base information worker.

CB: For those that are thinking that it doesn’t yet impact them, one of the things you’re seeing is that a ton of the community activities are out in their standalone tenants. You’ve got the Microsoft community tenant as well where a lot of events are being held. I personally have literally dozens of tenants that I have access to either directly or as a guest. So if you’re not yet in that world, you will be very shortly because there’s so much else that’s going on in it, it’s inevitable. This is why the prospect of being able to quickly and easily join another tenant when someone messages you from theirs is so enticing. It’s all about strengthening tenant-to-tenant collaboration.

AB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s ultimately the dream. And I think we continue to see that evolution of the product.


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Christian Buckley
Christian Buckleyhttp://buckleyplanet.com
An Office Apps & Services MVP, Microsoft Regional Director, and the Brand Alliance Director at AvePoint, Christian Buckley is an internationally recognized author and speaker and runs the community-focused CollabTalk blog, podcast, and tweetjam series.

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