Top Ten Mistakes of Microsoft Teams Administrators

So, we’re back to look at what other mistakes Microsoft Teams administrators make when it comes to the platform. It’s as if I’ve never read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”…

In part 1 we covered:

  • Ignoring security
  • Ignoring external users
  • Ignoring SharePoint
  • Ignoring Groups
  • Ignoring compliance

Obviously it doesn’t stop there, so let’s go through the other mistakes I see on a regular basis when speaking with organisations and IT professionals.

Ignoring Devices

Microsoft Teams is a big beast. It’s a collaboration platform, and app launcher, a messaging system, a communications tool, and more. But let’s focus on the “communications tool”.

I’ve been working in the Microsoft ecosystem for most of my career (there were periods of time spent in the Unix/Linux, Cisco, Nortel, and even web design worlds), and have been using Microsoft instant messaging tools since Exchange Server 2000 (yes, look it up). One of my earliest Microsoft certifications was on Live Communications Server, and since then I kept up my certifications with Office Communications Server, Lync Server, and even Skype for Business Server. Across that time, it was simply black & white – if you used these tools for telephony, then you needed certified headsets and devices – otherwise you would have problems.

While using non-certified devices was an exception to the rule, these days with Microsoft Teams it seems to be the norm. And, as you’d expect – this creates problems. It creates problems for meeting participants and callers who struggle to mentally filter out the echo from someone’s laptop microphone. It creates problems for people who have to tolerate looking up someone’s nose or the side of their head as they use their laptop webcam.

And in the meeting room space, these are amplified where meeting participants struggle to present, project, or even connect to the meeting when using conference equipment.

This is because selecting the right devices requires a different set of skills from those that most IT professionals poss. In fact, it is more the realm of the audio/visual specialist – however many of those have not necessarily come along for the journey of Microsoft Teams.

Even if they do have those skills, is it realistic that the same person has the knowledge and skills to configure Intune to manage those devices? While possible, it’s not practical as they are completely different capabilities and personality types.

Ignoring Usage

One organisation I worked with was touted as a Microsoft case study several years ago, as they had 86% of staff using Microsoft Teams – what a win! Everyone was able to pat themselves on the back and celebrate this fantastic deployment.

But there’s a saying: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

That 86% usage was comprised mainly of chat. In fact, 94% of it was chat. Only 3% was voice/video communications or meetings, and 3% was channel-based communications. They had effectively rolled out Skype for Business.

Another case study from a Microsoft partner reported a 400% increase in Microsoft Teams usage due to their project. Wow!!! However, what it didn’t mention that this was an upgrade from Skype for Business. When you don’t have a choice – your usage numbers are effectively forced.

Speaking with a few contacts I knew at the client mentioned in the case study, their experience with Microsoft Teams was woeful. They said they weren’t really trained (while it was provided, it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it approach), people were using it inconsistently, and some of the functions were crippled.

But they had a 400% increase in usage. What a win!

These are just a couple of examples that “usage” does not equal good usage.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have the time, knowledge, or interest to dig beneath the high-level figures provided in the Microsoft 365 admin center or the Microsoft Teams Admin Center. Most of the IT professionals I’ve spoken to don’t even know about the Microsoft 365 Usage Analytics solution in Power BI, or the Productivity Score in the Microsoft 365 admin center. And if they do know of them, chances are the people who are responsible for driving usage (i.e. non-IT staff) don’t know about the existence of, or have access to these tools. And they most certainly wouldn’t know that these tools don’t provide a full story!

Usage is more than numbers. Usage is experience. Usage is satisfaction. Usage is success.

Ignoring Lifecycle

For many, the limited options provided by Azure Active Directory around Microsoft 365 Groups lifecycle is all they know. And boy are they limited – only a single expiration policy can be created, and it requires a premium license to use it. That has always boggled my mind.

Similarly, Microsoft Teams offers an archival function for Teams, which if selected will set the Team to read-only and give you the option to do the same for the associated SharePoint site.

But a Team is more than just the Team and the SharePoint site. It’s Planner boards, Forms, apps, guests, Stream (classic) videos, Project plans, and others. And none of these care that you’ve archived a Team – they keep going. Unfortunately, a common practice I’ve seen in organisations when they want to delete a Team, is simply to copy the files out to another SharePoint site for archival, and then delete the Team (as the retention policies should hold onto the messages).

What about the content in all the aforementioned apps and services I just mentioned? Or the pages in the OneNote notebook in the site? Or the items in the SharePoint lists? Or the pages and news posts in the SharePoint site? The BIG problem with the lifecycle of Teams is that unfortunately a lot of the content is simply not visible to administrators, and the content that is somewhat visible – is not easy to archive/move/migrate/export, if at all.

But there’s valuable business data, records, history, and context in all of them which is all-too-often lost.

Ignoring Integration

Microsoft Teams is sometimes referred to as a “meta operating system”, and that goal is certainly visible when you consider that you can add apps, pop-out chats and app windows, and soon be able to multi-task within it. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the near future we’ll see something like a “Microsoft Teams terminal” where you literally boot into Microsoft Teams and nothing else.

To make this work, Microsoft Teams needs to integrate with many systems, and provide access to many permissions. Want to add that third-party bot? It wants to read the properties of everyone in your directory so it can find people you mention.

Want to add that visual diagramming app to help convert your Excel spreadsheets into swim lane diagrams? It wants access to your OneDrive.

And for every app is a Service Principal created in Azure Active Directory. And who’s watching that – the Teams admin? Do they even have the right admin role to clean up after the app has been removed? Or to search through the audit log for events where an app may have read too much data?

Even within the native Microsoft 365 platform, a lot of the apps and services power functionality within Microsoft Teams.

Disabled Planner because you’re not ready to roll it out yet? Bye-bye Tasks in Teams.

Disabled OneDrive because you’re not ready to migrate off on-premises file shares? Bye-bye files in chats.

Disabled Forms because you think people don’t need it? Bye-bye polls in Teams meetings and channels.

The list goes on and on. For every action or function in Microsoft Teams, there’s about half a dozen things that relate or integrate with it – so tread carefully.

Ignoring User Experience

This one I’m going to keep short and sweet (actually, quite bitter).

It’s no secret that IT professionals are not fans of end-users. We make jokes like ID10T files, classify the issue as being PEBKAC, or that the problem lies at Layer 8.

We cripple their ability to do things because they can’t be trusted, they don’t know what they’re doing, and so on.

But here’s the thing: end users are the ones who do the things, that allows the organisation we work to exist, which in turn employs us.

We are here to serve and support them. Their frustrations with technology impacts their jobs. Their poor experience has a flow-on effect, that indirectly impacts our ability to put food on the table. Their problems are our problems.

We need to do better, and make sure that they have the best experience possible.

If we work to reduce the mistakes we make with Microsoft Teams, then maybe… just maybe we have a chance at world peace.




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