Microsoft Teams channels are a way to organize topics of conversation into groupings that make sense to the teams. While there is a lot of discussion on the functionality of Teams and how it’s changing the way we work, there isn’t a lot of guidance around how we organize Microsoft Teams channels.
Download our 80+page definitive guide on Employee Experience with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Viva to get a complete understanding of the potential Microsoft brings to your workplace.
The Hierarchy of Teams and Channels in Microsoft Teams
That’s why we have put together some of the ways you can create great channels that team owners and users will love.
Before moving on, while Channels are an important tool, they are one tool in an incredible solution, and that solution is one solution in a suite of incredible solutions…still with me? I’m talking about Microsoft 365. Like any solution suite, it comes with its own set of challenges and a lot of options, so mistakes are common.
However, in our upcoming webinar, we’re not covering the common but the BIGGEST Microsoft 365 management mistakes and how to solve them. Interested? Click this link or on the image below.
Now, let’s get back to creating some compelling Microsoft Teams Channels.
It’s common for channels to get out of control, making Teams more complicated than it needs to be. Information is harder to find, navigation gets clunky, and soon folks start avoiding Teams altogether.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to add a bit of structure to create focused channels that bring people back. With the right approach to managing channels, you can create the kind of digital collaboration space that will keep teams together.
The best way for clear, concise channels is to separate the items within Teams as much as it makes sense to. A channel should not function like an inbox. It should also not be so broad that it acts as a clone of the General channel.
Think about channels as a way to separate the discussion topics. What gets people into confusing territory is a lack of consistency or structure to how those topics are divided.
We like to think of breaking up the channels through phases of an activity.
For example, in a software development team, we could create channels for:
This would work great for our product teams looking for targeted discussions with subteams.
Another example we also like is to create channels for broader program or process level topics:
Whatever structure you choose, put some thought into consistent leveling of channels. Maybe you want it based on the department or by a task. Just make it relatable.
We like to think of channels that naturally separate the topics and avoid making any single channel top-heavy. That happens because a topic is too broad. We try to break those out further, so the channel doesn’t become unwieldy.
When you create a new channel, a matching folder is created in SharePoint to store documents for that channel. That means every channel gets its own document folder by default. Avoid creating a “Document Repository” channel as a dumping ground for documents.
Think of the channel as the home of all things related to that topic, including documents. Upload documents within the context of the channel, and make it a habit of accessing that document through tabs in the channel.
Tabs run across the top of each channel. By default, there’s a Posts and a Files tab, but we like to add additional tabs that are helpful to the team using the channel.
One of our favorites are two favorites include:
It is important for the channels to have a similar look and feel. We like to make our tabs consistent across the channels, so the members’ experience is seamless, regardless of the channel. This also simplifies the learning curve when onboarding new members.
Microsoft Teams is a feature-rich tool that connects people and promotes productivity. A lot of that productivity can begin right in the channel itself and making those channels where you work can be a powerful way to use Microsoft Teams org wide or in a division of the company.
Audio and video meetings can be initiated directly from the channel. While in the channel, click Meet at the upper right-hand corner of the screen to Meet now or Schedule a meeting.
Once the meeting has started, others in the channel will know there’s a meeting going on and who’s in it. Participants can be invited, and meeting chats are immediately enabled.
Create meetings, take notes, track initiatives, and tasks within the channel. Make decisions within the channel and track them.
Users shouldn’t have to leave the channel to communicate. From the channel, you can share the conversations with Outlook recipients. You can take it beyond simple communication with missed activity emails. Email recipients can see the discussion in the channel and choose to reply through email.
No, email isn’t going anywhere, but we can reduce its use if Teams is a better option. Get in the habit of using the channel to communicate instead of email. You’ll get a faster response, relevant discussion points will be out in the open, and there’s no longer any need to forward or respond with added recipients to email threads to keep everyone in the loop. The best part is, you maintain the channel as the central point for communication.
We have too many documents in too many places. It’s hard to share when we don’t have a consistent way of storing and accessing documents. Naturally, we tend to spend most of our time working where we store the files. If we store important documents within the channels, we get people to commit to using the channels.
Promote storing documents in Teams, either through SharePoint or using OneNote.
Beyond what comes out-of-the-box with Microsoft Teams, there are plenty of options to take your channel to overdrive. When you’re ready to boost team members’ engagement, it’s time to explore add-ons.
You can add connectors to the channel so that your teams can receive up-to-date information from the feeds you select. Connect to services like RSS, Twitter, Yammer, and many other connectors directly into the chat stream. This enables the teams to use the channels as a source of the most relevant information.
If you’re ready to go even further, there are tremendous opportunities when Teams is integrated as part of a full Microsoft 365 adoption.
You’ve spent time and effort building your channels. Don’t let lack of structure tear it apart.
By default, anyone can create channels. This might be great for a high-performing, self-governed team. It might not be so great when there is a mix of varying levels of experience and maturity in managing channels.
Designate certain power users the right to create channels. The most experienced users will have historical knowledge of why channel names are named a certain way or why certain topics belong in different channels.
We use these power users to maintain control of our channels.
Make the channels consistent by offering simple procedures on how the channels are managed. This could include thoughtful naming conventions.
The goal is to provide knowledge for future maintenance and ensure the experience is intuitive for new members.
You can put the procedures into the wiki or in an uploaded document. You might even capture this as a “Housekeeping” type of channel if you have a high degree of new members.
When channels are no longer relevant, archive them. Maybe a project has finished, or the process steps have changed, and certain activities are no longer needed. Or perhaps a channel was driven by a lead who moved on, and the content might be better suited, distributed across different channels.
Whatever the reason, make sure to assess if channels are no longer needed routinely. Remember that dead channels stay alive when members think there might be a reason to keep them active. To keep your active channels more compelling, get rid of the unneeded ones.
If you’re looking for more information on Lifecycle management in Microsoft Teams, take a look at the video below.
With all the channels focusing on specific topics and actions, make sure to keep it fun. Create a Water Cooler channel for people to drop by and chat. Think of it as an unmonitored, unstructured hang-out spot.
Just like the water cooler in the office, members can share details about the weekend, discuss a sale that caught their eye or even casually discuss work items without making it feel like an assignment.
Giving members a virtual water cooler creates a feeling of community, and the other channels benefit from it.
The true source of knowledge is through practice, experience, and continuous application of what works.
2toLead is an award-winning, experienced team that has unparalleled in-depth knowledge of Microsoft 365. Visit us to what other deep insights we have to help you build a better digital workplace experience.
We understand there is power in tools that seamlessly connect teams. We have also published whitepapers on many of the hardships companies face while expanding their digital workplace with Microsoft 365.