Recently, on top of updating all of our whitepapers, we released our first eBook! With applications like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, having the right sites, teams, and channels for the right job are easy thanks to the strides taken to facilitate the user experience for site and team creation by Microsoft. However, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams governance can be challenging for companies of all sizes and only increases as your company grows.
So what’s the big deal? Well, unmanaged sprawl can present many problems for organizations. In this blog, we will review 8 of the most common sprawl issues.
In a recent webinar with our partner Orchestry, our CTO and Microsoft MVP, Richard Harbridge, provided a quick bird’s eye view of the eight common site sprawl issues. You can view this clip to get a small sample of the sprawl issues addressed in our eBook or watch the clips for each individual sprawl issue throughout the blog.
Ineffective naming is something many of us are familiar with when it comes to file and folder names, and it is an issue that has plagued digital workplaces since the very beginning. This naming challenge for folder names has made its way to the naming of SharePoint Sites, Microsoft Teams, and even Yammer communities. It can occur for various reasons, such as rushing to get the job done or employees using what makes sense to them, or because the user wanted to use a general term.
Since general terms are more widely understood, users lean to them in hopes that others will understand their purpose. However, as the number of teams and sites begins to grow, general terms are repeated in different environments or, in some cases, the same team/site with an additional word.
This results in issues like the focus or purpose of a workspace being unclear to both users and administrators.
Missing owners and ineffective ownership can cause chaos in your environment. Suppose a user needs access to a site or team and the owner is disengaged or not available. In that case, it can often lead to an inability for critical users to access the resources or collaboration workspaces they need.
This challenge doesn’t end when the workspace is created. It is an ongoing challenge and issue that must be managed over the life of a team or site. When a team or site owner is promoted, transitions to a new role, or departs the organization, the groups they have created, managed, or both might be left without the correct owner or may not have an active and engaged owner.
Another major challenge around ownership is that while a technical owner may exist, in many cases, they may not be the business sponsor or the person who needs to approve access, confirm compliance, or make decisions that might optimize the site/team.
Redundant Teams and Sites are a common symptom of unmanaged sprawl. Redundancy occurs most often when a new team or site owner creates a workspace to solve a collaboration or sharing need but didn’t know another similar workspace existed (sometimes because they don’t have access or other times because they lack awareness/visibility).
They can also occur due to lack of control, even in well-managed environments, as an opportunity to optimize the information architecture and structure of workspaces. The goal is to improve how users work, such as what might occur naturally. The organization learns more about the best way to structure teams/sites when shifting from a model of per project teams/sites to eventually settling on a structure per client/product, etc.
Loss of data in the form of information or files is one of the more subtle but important issues that result from unmanaged sprawl. Because sites and teams are unmanaged, it also means that they often lack support, leadership, or classifications that enable effective security, information protection, and control.
For example, the lack of metadata or a centralized registry means an effective directory experience for end-users is unlikely. The lack of the two means users cannot find the sites/teams/spaces they should be sharing their assets in and often share content in the locations they know of and can quickly navigate to. In many circumstances, this may be the wrong location which often results in accidental oversharing. Alternatively, not knowing which workspace is the right one will result in users requesting access to more workspaces, often resulting in them having access to more teams than they need to, further increasing data loss risks.
Without managing sprawl, it is also unlikely that the organization is programmatically managing access reviews, ensuring classifications are accurate (what sites have confidential or higher risk information), that an owner who is managing security effectively exists, and that the organization is not providing proactive guidance to those Site/Team owners. All of these increase the risks of data loss.
Losing control of your environment is a natural result of sprawl being unmanaged. In many cases, organizations that don’t proactively manage their digital workspaces, such as SharePoint Online sites, Microsoft Teams, or Yammer communities. Also, they do not provide sufficient engagement with business leads, resulting in more shadow IT consequences, which increases the total cost of ownership for IT.
Leaders and users in your organization know that they need to solve sharing, navigation, integration, and access challenges, so they use the knowledge at their disposal to tackle this independently. This results in more significant silos, more use of unsanctioned file-sharing or digital workspaces, higher user frustration, and perhaps most importantly, much more significant risks over time.
One of the more significant issues that unmanaged sprawl causes is time wasted, which is money wasted. Suppose your digital workplace suffers from a slower digital workspace start. In that case, collaboration, shared understanding, and communication are reduced while the load on end-users and digital workspace owners is increased.
When navigation is broken, it is easy for a simple task to take exponentially longer than it needs to. Knowing the best place to share a specific document or where there might be reference material, and supportive experts/team members for some work you are performing can be a challenge.
This isn’t made better by gaps in the technology itself. While Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Yammer, Microsoft Viva, and Microsoft 365 all provide many ways to navigate, none of them provide a way to navigate based on your organizational context (filter all teams by department, or filter all sites by product, etc.).
Lack of navigational context combined with the fact that each workspace has differing navigation approaches (such as how Teams shows/hides groups and uses a search-like experience to find the right channel/team) can be extra taxing. As for SharePoint, it leans on recent/frequent sites and curated navigation.
In addition, poor navigation creates unnecessary inefficiencies and dependency on already overburdened resources to fill the navigation gaps with their time and effort directing requests, linking workspaces, and more due to unmanaged sprawl.
If your organization is having unmanaged sprawl issues, it means you are potentially missing one of the most powerful tools in your adoption and digital excellence toolbelt. The creation of a digital workspace and a digital workspace owner’s engagement is, arguably, the most significant things to align with your Microsoft 365 adoption strategy.
End users can learn through self-directed learning, adoption campaigns, and your continued proactive investments in adoption. The best ROI on adoption, though, stems not just from these things but the ability to provide it just in time, in context, and to the right people. The Microsoft Team, SharePoint site, and Yammer community owners in your org are the most important people to support proactively. By managing sprawl, you can target them at the right time to have the most significant impact (on creation and in the first period after creation).
You can expect to dive deeper into how these issues impact the end-user and IT in the ebook. In addition, we provide some tips for resolving each issue reference in the eBook. If you think you need help with even one of these issues or want to prevent all of them, download our eBook!