How to manage third-party app usage for Microsoft Teams

There is a great number of third-party apps out there and the numbers are still rising rapidly. The problem with those third-party apps is the governance you want or GDPR you have to meet when running a business, especially in the cloud. Of course, you can now get a mail out with caution on not using third-party apps but do you really think users will take note of that? Maybe a few weeks but after that, there will be more than one third-party app you do not want to run in your environment.

Shame on the users? I do not think it is their fault! Especially the users with a lower affinity for tech and software are not aware of this thing called “third-party” they use them but they often not even know! So please take care of them and their data because they often do not even know what could happen.

With this have been said let´s dive right in!

To manage the provided apps move from your general admin center to the “Services & add-ins” tab. Scroll down to Microsoft Teams and open up the options. As you may see there are already some warnings things are moving to the Teams admin center.

If you open up the “Apps” dropdown you will see a greater choice of settings before we go on let´s get some definitions done:

Default Apps – these are the ones Microsoft provides to you such as Microsoft Planner, Flow and so on

External Apps – these are third-party apps which are available to you and your users through the Appstore

Sideloading – in case you turned this on, for example, team owners are able to build in third-party apps even if you turned off third-party apps in general

As you can see there are plenty of Microsoft apps below the default apps tab, you can make them available by checking the box or the other way around. For some of you, this might be interesting in case there are apps you do not want your users to use.

Getting back to the third-party apps you can now work with the slider to allow or deny these external ones. Again you might check some facts out before enabling one of these apps regarding data privacy and so on. By denying sideloading you can affect the right of team owners to load external apps in their teams tabs etc.

As you can imagine by sliding the sliders both to “Off” external apps are no longer available in your tenant. Sliding only the first one to “Off” and the second one to “On” there will be the possibility to load apps for team owners.

If external apps are allowed you can see a list of all apps below the sliders. In this list, you can use checkboxes to pick out apps you want to allow in your tenant. If this is the option you want to go for please be aware of the last slider hiding below your app list. With this one, you can decide if new external apps should be enabled by default or not.

When it comes down to decisions like this it is always a grade hike not to frustrate the end-users by limiting their opportunities but to be aware of your data. In case you have the possibility to ask your end-users for apps they would like to use to take their wishes and try to find out if the app is fitting your compliance and governance. In case it does allow external apps, decline sideloading and only check the one you researched on. For researching please check out the link at the very end of this post as it can help you out with information for apps.

There is already a feature announced where you can edit the policy right from the Teams admin center, but this feature is still in development as I am writing this post. In case Microsoft already published it you will find this setting below the “Teams apps” tab you already know

In case you need a overview of some common apps please see the following link

Customize your users App interface in desktop and mobile client

Update: With one of the latest update Microsoft offers every user the possibility to edit the interface like the user wants to. You just need to click on the “…” on the left hand side app bar. A right click will provide you a “pin” button which pins the chosen app to your app bar! Nevertheless there are still possibilities for admins to set up default policies!

For some companies, the out of the box app interface won´t fit the use of Microsoft Teams. Therefore Microsoft added the possibility to edit the standard interface to some preferences. In this short guide, I will show you, how you can optimize your user’s usability and support them in getting work done faster!

You will have to have the admin privilege to access the needed areas and a rudimentary understanding of policies.

First of as always when it comes down to customizing for end users, go and ask what they really need! Maybe grab a slot in their Team meetings or something like that and show them what you can edit for them and ask them what they really need instead of deciding on your own what they have to like.

After you gathered this information you can head over to the Teams admin center. In the user’s Tab, you can then pick a random user and have a look which “App setup policy” is assigned to them at the moment. In case you never edited anything there it will look pretty much the same as in the screenshot below.

In case all your users want the same app interface in Teams you will only need to edit the global policy as this one is assigned to the users (again in case you didn´t do any changes to your tenant yet). You can now head over to the Teams apps dropdown menu on the left-hand side and click on it. There you should see the “Setup policies” tab.

As you recognize there is your global policy again! Now simply click on the name and you should see the pinned apps in the sequence you can see them in your Microsoft Teams app too. You now have different options to choose from, based on the user input you hopefully(!) gathered before starting.

  • You can stay with the apps shown already in the interfaces and just switch the sequence they are going to be displayed by just clicking on that hook and then on “Move down” or “Move up”
  • You can delete apps in case users might not use them by again checking that hook and click remove
  • You can add apps from broad range users might use daily by just hitting “Add apps”

After, for example, adding an app like Microsoft flow to your Teams interface it will appear there after a few hours as you can see in the Screenshot.

Of course, you can mix these options up and delete one, add one and work on that sequence! You will find pretty much every app you may already youse in a team or a chat.

Please be aware, that this is just deleting the apps from the user’s interface, by clicking the three dots (see screenshot above) below the apps they can access the other apps as well. If you want to prevent users from using specific apps just read my blog post on that topic!

Will there still be Mail with Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is still rocking the market and in the last 2 years, the user counts are going up continuously. According to Microsoft these days there are more than 500.000 companies worldwide using Microsoft Teams! But where does this lead to? In many customer session I got asked several times “will there still be mail with Microsoft Teams?” and I think this is a really interesting question to think about. Is it just a hype or the next big bang after fax and mail (even if it is technical similar)? To answer this question we have to take a look behind the scenes and think about the reasons why teams is as successful as it is today and try to determine how these reasons are going to behave in the feature.

From my point of view, there are many reasons playing a role in this complex change in corporate communication but I am going to focus on the following three reasons because I think these are the “big players” in this game.

#1 Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Z; growing up using Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and so on they are using mail in their free time mostly to receive their receipts of online shops and signing in for new messengers or social media pages. Okay, you´re right, by the time the older generations hopped on the train of fast communication and are using now messengers too, but these young generations are exploring and adopting these things first! And they have been growing up using them. Yet all generations have a strange habit. When they try to meet up with friends they spin up a  group chat and within minutes (most of the time) there is a place and time arranged. Even if they are not within the same country they call each other via video chat or things like that. But when they cross the threshold and step into the office it´s like there has been a switch flipped – from this second everything has to be mail (or a phone call). Where is the fast communication left behind and why is that? Of course, the generation Z is not that present in the market at the moment, but they will be here in a few years and they will ask for a smart solution just like the Y´s do.

#2 Moving closer together while being more apart than ever. Companies are working in larger areas with employees working from home, the car or on the go while running to the next meeting. The younger generations tend to work in a different style than the ones before. Speaking of Generation Y there is a strong need for an autonomous and independent mode of operation on the job. They are flexible and adaptable but they are asking for a workplace and tools which equal these characteristics. Generation Y is focused on working in teams and projects rather than doing their own thing from 9 to 5. By 2020 Generation Y is going to contribute approximately 50% of the workforce in many companies. The generation Z is different in many facets but they are truly digital natives, asking for collaboration solutions like they are using in their free time. With the new generations, we are facing several changes regarding the modern workplace, which is nowadays a buzzword itself! Besides the workforce, there are more things to think about. Globalization has made us work with people on the other side of the planet and we do not want to travel there every few weeks, video chats are an adequate solution to keep in touch in a more personal way.

#3 The change in communication and I am not only speaking of written communication, is another reason for the success of Microsoft Teams. People just don´t like to play mail ping-pong over and over to find a consensus on a problem. And because many of them do not work side by side anymore scheduling a face to face meeting can be a difficult and time-consuming thing for all attendees. To be honest, the previously described reasons for the success of Microsoft Teams are paying in on this one very much, the change of communication is kind of the outcome of the #1 and #2. The internal communication is maybe a bit more affected as it is hit by several developments like globalization, homeoffice and working while traveling. There has to be a solution for everyone to keep in touch with their co-workers while working in a place that fits the demands of the current task best.

But what is wrong with mail, you are asking now?

Well, there are a few things that we are facing using e-mail. As I already mentioned in the #3 there is this cool thing called mail ping-pong, I think everyone knows these one-line emails where the disclaimer is longer than the whole conversation. The automatic signatures are filling up everyone’s mailbox with useless information we will barely make use of.

Another bad thing is spam and malware coming in through emails and “fake” documents infiltrating companies and get on everybody´s nerves! Speaking of spam, who does not know this never-ending pour off “CC-Mails”, it is waves hitting the beach over and over. It seems like there is an unwritten rule “If you are not sure, put them in CC”!

And like this would not be enough you probably get a notification for everything I just mentioned. In the worst case, not one thing is relevant for your current task but interrupting it. Well, you may say, then turn them off, but how about topics I want to stay up to date in? There is no easy and workable way to do this with mail.

The younger generations just do not like mail that much. They have been using fast-paced chats and thread based conversation all the time and now you tell them to step back a decade in communication? A colleague of mine often comes up with this metaphor of the analog letter, because when you think of mail, it is just that old thing turned digital. When you think about writing a letter, copying it and then send all the copies to the people (receiver, cc, bcc) it is getting obscene, but kind off clearer. That´s not the best way to do this kind of stuff.

Of course, there are some bad things about Microsoft Teams too, aren´t there?

Yes, there are, even if I think most of these daily bad things are coming with bad planning and a lag of understanding of the product itself these things are counting!

The biggest problem is the struggle with deciding on spinning up a team or just a group chat. I get this question a lot even from users already using Microsoft Teams for a while and there is not the “one go to rule” on that problem. It depends on the situation of the project, the behavior in the company itself and of course on the people who contribute! Nevertheless, there is a lot of confusion about this, leading to misunderstanding and a lag of information flow..

The next big thing is about etiquette while using Microsoft Teams. And to be fair these are pretty close to the last subsection. For some reason, people tend to forget about everything as soon as they see a chat window, but just like in emails the receiver of the message will thank you complete sentences, a structure and maybe even a title!

People using a crazy amount of smileys to express their feelings the way it suits them is definitely one thing to mention here. And the nightmare of every Teams fanboy people who are answering in a team on a conversation by creating a new conversation and messing up the whole idea behind conversations. There are plenty more of these user-made complications, but most of them will vanish with using and adopting Teams or can be overcome by Admins with training documents.

In the end, there are some pretty good reasons to stick with Microsoft Teams!

Teams is really speeding up communication in agile project teams and it is speeding things up even more in case there are members from different companies collaborating on the same project. In a fast working environment, this is a really good thing!

Even simultaneously editing and collaboration on office documents is possible for people from different companies. This feature is great as you do not blow up your exchange mailbox with 65 versions of a document, but even more important, there are not 65 versions anymore! There is one version everybody is working with. Consolidating documents? – Not anymore!

Finally, maybe the biggest reason people stick with Teams, you got all you need in one app on any device you own. This is not just about your latest data and documents but every possible way to communicate (well, besides mail – you are right) with co-workers.

Do you need to meet with a colleague working from home?
Great – make a video call and talk face to face!

Do you need to talk to a colleague on the go?
Great – make a phone call via Microsoft Teams!

Do you need a fast answer while sitting in a meeting?
Great – shoot your colleague a message!

Things to think about when you are trying to make the move from your outlook inbox to Microsoft Teams

There are many things to figure out before transitioning to Office 365 / Microsoft Teams I do not want to talk about in this article but there are a few issues which appear to have a direct impact on the question we are talking about! While communication in Teams can be channeled through a Teams team, there is personal communication too. Now how do you solve this issue with personal chats you can not open up to third-party aKa your colleague when you are on vacation?

When you are working as much as possible in Teams, how do you handle the personal OneDrive for business storage while you are on vacation in case your colleague needs access? All these things lead to a good strategy and a plan to make before migrating and opening up Teams for the end users in your company.

Let´s get back to that initial question – “Will there still be mail with Microsoft Teams?”

Long story short, yes there will be mail beside teams. To be honest, companies cannot live without mail at the moment but they can exist without Teams. Mail is still the best solution for formal outbound communication, facing partners or customers in most of the situation. Nevertheless, there can be a situation in which you can benefit from Teams even in outbound communication like this.

I think companies can complement their emails with Microsoft Teams very well. It can replace the mail in the inner loop, these guys you are working with on a daily basis and work closely with. You do not need a third party file share and you do not have to wait for the right permissions after kicking off a project. Time-saving will be great!

Even if it is “only” a complementing solution at the moment please do not make this mistake and ignore the need for alternative communication solutions like Teams! If you do not offer your employees a solution to get their job done the fast way they will head off searching a third party solution without your advice and things like data governance won’t be a point on their checklist.