Digital collaboration

How to use MS Teams cross companies

For effective collaboration through MS Teams, it’s important to adhere to certain guidelines. In this article, we will be discussing the functionality of teams, channels, and shared channels in detail.

Microsoft Teams has become the de facto standard for many companies regarding effective collaboration between different groups of people. Although most users manage to use the tool quite effectively, a few hidden tips and tricks can improve how we work. 

The first tip is to separate the management of people and the work management. This might sound like a good idea with no straightforward solution. However, MS Teams has created intelligent ways, which will be discussed in this article.  First, we must agree on what the entity "team" in Teams can do for us. A team is MS Teams' way of managing people who share a couple of characteristics. They work in the same department and share main goals and focus during the workday. This can be the marketing team, the development team, the drilling team, or any other organizational unit where people know each other. People are added or removed from the group according to their affiliation. Therefore, people management is the primary purpose of the entity "team." 

So what about work? Work is done on the "channel level" in a team. One or more channels are created for the team to do practical work. For a drilling team, they might have a channel for each well they are drilling. For a sales team, the same can be true for different clients. The different channels serve as "the container" where team members put their files, chat, calendar, share point site, and other helpful content.   But then…..Marketing wants to collaborate with the development team to get some input on the new marketing plans for the company. What do they do? Add the development people to the marketing team. Although this might seem like a good idea, it "violates" our primary rule. Management of people and management of work should not be done in the same place. By adding development people to the marketing team, we create two significant issues. 

  1. Everyone on the team sees all the channels. So channels created for "marketing internal" purposes can suddenly be visible to the development. 
  2. The marketing manager now needs to manage "non-reporting" employees that might not be entitled to access due to reasons outside his/hers knowledge. 

The solution to these issues is the "new wine" in MS Teams. The concept of shared channels helps us separate the 2 tasks.  Instead of including "strangers" in our marketing team, we create a Shared Channel fit for purpose (work) and share that channel with the development team or individuals from development. The result will be a situation where management of work (access to files, chat, etc.) will be restricted, and management of the people in the "external team" is the responsibility of the managers in that team. Many to many sharing by a team to team sharing 😉

Even better, both teams will see the work in the context they expect.   So what about external companies? The good thing is that they can be included in the same way. Share your channel with a team owner in the external company, and they will be able to contribute in the same effective, seamless way as internal resources. 

Technical prerequisites: 

Users need the ability to create Shared Channels. This is a setting in the "Teams admin portal."  B2B Direct connect needs to be set up in:  Azure AD - External Identities | Cross-tenant access settings

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