Microsoft Teams has seen phenomenal growth, with more than 20m daily active users. However, while its use for internal enterprise chat and collaboration is strong, its role as a tool for external collaboration can present a number of challenges that organizations may wish to consider. 

Microsoft Teams and External Users

For more and more of us, collaborating with people outside of our company firewall has become the norm. From partners to clients, we need a way to work with these stakeholders securely, but simply. So, if you’re using Microsoft Teams internally and are currently evaluating its use for external collaboration, vs a dedicated solution such as Huddle, here's what you need to know. 

 

External Users' Channel Access

 

Microsoft Teams calls (non-federated) external users “Guests”. If Guest access has been enabled on your account, external users can be invited to join your team.  Unless each channel is individually made private, Guests then have access to all channels within your team.

This may present a risk if colleagues post "internal" content to a Channel that hasn't been made private, or add external Guests at a later date and forget to retrospectively make existing Channels private. To overcome the potential risk, organizations may wish to create seperate Teams and Channels for internal and external users - creating additional administration, complexity and duplication of effort. 

In Huddle you can immediately see who has access to your content and adjust their permissions, all with just one click.

Identifying Guests

 

When a Guest is invited, their display name is automatically set to the username part of their email address. It can therefore be hard to identify and assume the name of Guests (and their companies) participating in your channels. Instead, your important client may simply be referred to by an obscure email address! Bizarrely, Guest users are unable to update their own display names. Instead, your O365 admin must update the Guest profile via the Azure Active Directory User Management panel. If you are managing multiple external users in your channels, this can cause confusion and an unneccesary burden on your IT team and O365 admins.

External users in Huddle have full control over their profile and are encouraged to add contact numbers and a profile picture.

External Users Can't Search for Files

 

Chances are, you’ll want your external users to be able to search for files in the Channel you’ve assigned them to. Unfortunately, Guest users are unable to search for files in Microsoft Teams. This can make it challenging for them to find the files they need. 

As long as you use the same email address, Huddle lets you view Workspaces from multiple accounts in one view.

No Audit Trail of Activity

 

If you are working with external guest users, it’s important that you can check their activity. For example, you might want to check if a client has viewed an important document, or if they’ve created a new file version. Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams’ audit trail is limited to your O365 admins only; who must run an audit log search via the Microsoft Security and Compliance Center. It’s not something that your business users will have visibility of; meaning access to this important information will be dependent on your IT help desk.

Every file stored in Huddle has its own time-stamped audit trail that’s easily accessed with just a single click. You can even filter the audit trail by user, activity type, or both.

No Team Activity Overview

 

A Team can comprise multiple Channels – often built around a particular activity or workstream. For project managers, or team leads, it can therefore be useful to get an oversight of all of the activity happening in a Team’s many Channels. For example, any outstanding tasks, or new files and discussions. Microsoft Teams doesn’t consolidate this channel activity into a simple overview summary at the Team level, so you’ll have to visit each Channel and read through individual discussion threads. 

All key activity happening across your Huddle Workspace is summarised in your Workspace Overview. It’s easy to see outstanding tasks, new members, and the latest discussions being had around all of your content.

Tasks Not Connected to Files

 

By adding Microsoft Planner to your Channel you can allow members to create and manage tasks. However, it’s not overly simple to connect your task to a particular file; for example, to set a client approval or a review.  Instead, users will have to copy the link of a document stored in the files tab and paste it into the task. Users who then navigate directly to the file will have no visibility of any outstanding tasks, and must instead search Planner. 

In Huddle you create a task directly against your file. If anyone returns to your file, they can immediately see all completed and outstanding tasks against it.

Huddle's deep integration with Microsoft O365 means you can easily extend the functionaity of your Microsoft investment, while overcoming many of the limitations. 

See how easily Huddle works alongside Microsoft O365 to enable secure external collaboration.

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Note: All information correct at time of publishing (Q2 2020). Please refer to Microsoft's own knowledge base for updates.

Tim Deluca-Smith

CMO


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