Data governance: don’t launch Teams without it

Data governance: don’t launch Teams without it


Author: Nikki Chapple

Good data governance is essential in every organisation. Okay, so no surprise Sherlock on that one.

But obvious as it is, it’s a particularly important consideration where a business is perhaps looking to implement Microsoft Teams primarily as a telephony solution.

Creating a step-change

This is because Teams has so much more to offer. It’s a cloud-based collaboration hub and offers persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file sharing, storage and collaboration using Office 365 apps and can be integrated with a huge range of third-party workplace applications too. Users can set up groupings of colleagues and contacts in dedicated teams as required for work projects. Teams goes way beyond just audio and video calls; it creates a huge step change in the way organisations communicate and collaborate.

Mistakes can be made ‘out of the box’

It also uses Delve, a solution powered by Microsoft Graph that uses AI to suggest pertinent files for each end user and can surface relevant content from colleagues you’ve been working with. Users can also create groups on the fly and invite others to join. All of this is incredibly useful but it’s arguable that deployed if Teams simply ‘out of the box’ it’s too open. Mistakes can be made with sensitive files available to those who shouldn’t have access, or documents shared with the wrong groups.

You could have a situation where one group – created for a set of colleagues and perhaps client contacts too – gets mistaken for another group with a similar name, and sensitive information gets inadvertently shared with the wrong people, not just internally, but potentially externally too.

This could all be avoided with proper data governance.

Focus on the benefits you can achieve

Of course, traditionally, data governance has been for IT departments to manage and control. It’s been their job to ensure only the right people have the right access to the right data within an organisation. It’s therefore perfectly understandable why IT might look at the potential risks in Teams and take the view that everything in it should be locked down.

The risk with this risk-averse approach is that it can prevent the very gains that Teams has to offer. Users may need to go to the IT department each time they want a new team to be created, and all external sharing might be blocked in a bid to prevent sensitive data leaving the organisation. Of course, what happens when people need to share files is that they turn to the apps they use in their own day-to-day life – WhatsApp, or Dropbox for example – and you’ve got Shadow IT on your hands and the organisation has already lost control of its data.

That’s why it’s important to get the balance right; focus on the benefits you can achieve – and be sure to plan and implement properly. It’s where some OCM – Organisation Change Management – becomes so vital.

Understand the business drivers

Before we install Teams in any organisation, we always make sure we fully understand the strategic, business drivers. It might be to encourage more effective meetings, reduce communication costs, reduce travel time and costs, make collaboration easier, better enable remote teams – perhaps all of these. We focus on understanding different departments and different groups and their different needs. It’s never one-size-fits-all and some people may absolutely depend on being able to work and share externally, whilst others may need to work on a top-secret project that needs to be locked down. Ultimately, it’s all about the end-user and answering their sense of ‘what’s in it for me’ because they will be using the technology day-in day-out.

It’s quite a forensic discovery phase: defining the benefits, defining the users, understanding their wants and needs. Only after this do we draw up a communication and training plan to look at how the solution will technically be deployed and how to on-board users. Ultimately, you need to allow for training to allow employees to make their own informed decisions about what they share – and then to back it up with appropriate governance and controls.

A constantly evolving service

It’s also important to realise that Teams is not a static service, but constantly evolving. With a traditional telephony system, providers might install it and then pretty much walk away and leave the customer to get on with it. With Office 365 and Teams though, it’s truly evergreen technology; always evolving and Microsoft puts out hundreds of different changes each year.

It has just, for example, introduced a new feature in Teams called sensitivity labels. These allow you to have pre-defined data governance labels at the point of creating a team. You can have public – nothing confidential, can be shared openly – and you can have project ones – where you can share content, particularly with external people. At the other end of the scale, you can have confidential – private teams where nothing be shared externally, joining is only by invitation, and even the team’s existence is hidden from general view. This can be vitally important when even publishing just a visible Team name – say, ‘Company X merger’ – would alone be oversharing.

Opportunities and options

Every organisation wants to create greater efficiencies and to make business process improvements, so it’s vital that a business fully understands the opportunities and the options that come with any change and features. It’s not just ‘what does this new functionality do?’ but also ‘how can we use this effectively within our organisation?’

It might also be ‘do we even want this automatically available to everyone’ because it may not be appropriate for everyone in the organisation to use it just like that without further guidance and training first.

Which brings us back to the ongoing importance of data governance.

If you are considering Teams, then our Organisational Change Management team is one team you should certainly communicate and collaborate with!


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