Posey's Tips & Tricks

Why Teams Connect Changes Everything

Microsoft Teams has long allowed users to collaborate with people from outside the company. To do so, a user would simply invite an external user to the team, and then once the external user accepted the invitation they would receive guest access to the team.

On the surface, this approach would seem to make sense. After all, a team is essentially just a group of people who need to work together on various projects. Being that a team is a collection of people, adding a guest user to a team might initially seem like the appropriate course of action. Ultimately however, adding guest users to a team is often a bad idea.

Considering the fact that every team includes one or more channels. There are standard channels, which are accessible to everyone in the team, and private channels -- designed to be more focused and tend to be used by a subset of the team members. Even though a team serves as a collection of people, the channels are where the actual work and collaboration happens. Channels are where users go to have meetings, share files with one another or to have conversations.

So with that said, consider what I said a moment ago about the way that external users have been added to Teams in the past. When a user needs to share Teams resources with someone who is outside of the organization, they previously had to add the external user to the team as a guest. The problem with this is that some teams can be quite large and include numerous channels, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with whatever it is that the guest user needs access to.

Herein lies the problem. When you grant a guest user access to a team, you risk over sharing with that user. Sure, the guest user receives access to whatever it is that they need to access, but there is also a good chance that the guest user will end up with access to resources that should really remain private within the company.

Of course the opposite can also be true. Granting an external user access to a team does not necessarily allow them to access all of the same resources that the other users within the team have access to. For example, if a Teams user were to share a video through Microsoft Stream, a guest user most likely would not have access to that video due to the way that the Microsoft 365 architecture works.

This is where Teams Connect comes into play. Teams Connect is based around the use of shared channels. In other words, you will no longer have to grant external users access to an entire team. Instead, you can just give them access to the channel that they really need to access. As great as this may sound, there is actually a bit more to it than that.

Over the last couple of years, Teams has become indispensable for a lot of organizations. Consequently, most organizations probably have a number of teams that already exist. So think about that in the context of granting access to an external user. When it comes to business-to-business collaboration, odds are that it may not just be one user who needs access to a channel, but rather an entire group of people. As such, Teams Connect will allow a channel to be shared with individual users or with entire teams.

In case you’re wondering, the sharing of channels is designed to be secure. Channel sharing isn’t going to be automatically turned on, and if an organization does feel the need to enable collaboration between itself and the users in another organization (cross tenant sharing) then admins in both organizations will have to grant approval.

One last thing that I want to quickly mention about Teams Connect is that it will ultimately make users' lives easier because tenant switching will no longer be required. We've probably all seen situations in which a user has to log out of one account and log into another account in order to access a team that exist within a different tenant. This constant bouncing back and forth between accounts is both cumbersome and disruptive. Teams Connect is going to be designed in a way that eliminates the need for tenant switching, which means that users will have a unified view of all of the Teams resources that they have access to, and won’t have to switch between tenants every time they have to access an external resource.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 21-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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