Why Many Organizations Lock Down Private Channel Creation to All Users

“Why do some organizations choose to disable the ability for all users to create private channels in Microsoft Teams?”

Answer: The decision to centralize creation of private channels using a global policy to control which users in your organization are allowed to create them likely occurred during a Microsoft Teams governance planning session.

Decisions are often made based on an organization’s:

  • maturity with the Office 365 toolkit
  • appetite for risk
  • desire to prevent sprawl while they create a more informed plan that draws on the experience and needs of their users

In the 2019 to 2020 times, locking down private channels made a lot of sense. They were very new. They were not a very mature feature and many Office 365 advisors recommended waiting until some additional features were released.

So to be honest, it was never a hard “no“.

It was really a cup of “not right now” and a dash of “let’s wait and see” paired with a good scoop of “let’s hand them out sparingly to select power users to pilot”.

Since Global Administrator and Teams Administrator can create private channels from the Admin Center even when the group policy is turned on to block users from doing so…
Many organizations would embrace the idea of having a point person review people’s private channel request submissions to ensure they: 

  1. understood the role/responsibilities
  2. understood the feature shortcomings of a private channel
  3. informed the Teams Administrator so they documented its existence should eDiscovery or legal holds be required to be implemented and/or a private channel owner left the organization
  4. informed HR so they included the selection and assignment of an alternate private channel owner occur in advance of an employee being offboarded

Sometimes, unlike a fine wine, the space and time between the original decision and the present doesn’t age well. It ripens to a off putting point where the original decision seems distasteful and arguable foolish.

But let’s take a look at the laundry list reasons why people would, in these earlier, uncertain times, choose to set a policy to block users from creating private channels in Microsoft Teams:

  • Private channels were notoriously a headache for a Teams Administrator to manage.
  • The SharePoint site connected to a private channel isn’t included in the Active sites page of the new SharePoint admin center.
  • Since each private channel creates a SharePoint site, a user could accidentally take a URL that the organization wanted to keep available for other team/project ***
  • If a private channel owner leaves your organization or if they are removed from the Microsoft 365 group associated with the team, a member of the private channel is automatically promoted to be the private channel owner.
  • Each team can have a maximum of 30 private channels. If team members can create private channels without a clear process to get approval, a team can reach its private channel limit without the team owner knowing. **
  • Private channels do not support full apps yet for channel tabs – notable connectors that are not supported include: Stream, Planner, and Forms. (You can read the ongoing chatter in the Microsoft Tech Community here.)
  • If a user is granted access to a notebook in a private channel through SharePoint, removing the user from the team or private channel won’t remove the user’s access to the notebook.

Now there have been some advances to Private Channels since that governance planning. The summary is:

  • Team owners can now see the names of all private channels in their team, can lookup who the private channels owners are, and can delete any private channel in the team. 
  • Private channel SharePoint sites created after June 28, 2021 will have the custom template ID TEAMCHANNEL#1. This template will use a lite version of SharePoint, however features can be activated after the fact either manually via the Site Settings or using PowerShell.
  • There are innovations in the ability to manage the life cycle of private channels so an admin who can use PowerShell can find SharePoint URLs for all private channels, update roles of owners and members in a private channel, etc. 
  • It is now possible to apply Microsoft 365 retention policies to Teams private channel messages.

That’s a bit of an info dump, but hopefully it helps!