An Email Scenario Unknown in Teams
The traditional “manager-assistant” scenario is well-known in the world of email. Applications like Exchange Online include a wide range of features to support the ability of the assistant to perform actions as if they were the manager. These actions include sending messages as the manager (impersonation), on behalf of the manager (pp, or “per procurationem”), creating meetings and appointments in the manager’s calendar, and so on. In Outlook terminology, the assistant has delegated access to the manager’s mailbox. Delegate access is supported in Outlook desktop, OWA, and Outlook mobile.
Teams is very much an application built for personal interaction that doesn’t support delegation of messaging functionality to other users (call delegation is supported). As such, Teams doesn’t offer equivalent functionality to help an assistant support someone else, which creates a challenge for people who’d like to move some of their communications from email to Teams.
Chats are personal, so the question is why an assistant should have access to personal interactions which might be highly confidential. Because delegation isn’t supported, if a manager wants their assistant to be able to read and respond to personal chats, the assistant must be able to sign in as the manager, perhaps using a private browser window because Teams desktop clients don’t currently support multiple work accounts.
There’s an obvious problem here. Apart from the undesirability of sharing passwords for manager accounts, these accounts should be protected with multi-factor authentication because they are otherwise prone to business email compromise attacks. The assistant therefore must be able to authenticate themselves to gain access. Using authentication methods like Windows Hello, SMS to a mobile phone, FIDO2 key, or the Microsoft Authenticator app isn’t really possible, which leaves us with MFA calling a phone number for the assistant to answer and respond with a PIN. Sharing a PIN is not good security practice, so it’s not recommended.
Participating in channel conversations are easier because the assistant can be added as a member of the teams where the manager might want to post or respond to topics. The problem is that the assistant can’t post as the manager in the same way as they can send email, so some convention is needed to allow the other team members know that a post by the assistant is on behalf of the manager. Perhaps the old “pp” convention will work, or the assistant could @ mention the manager to indicate their knowledge and approval of the post. Another suggestion is that the manager include the name and a link to their assistant in their Teams status so that people see this information when they @ mention the manager… and will know who they should contact if they need action.
Some channel conversations are likely to be very confidential. These can be restricted to private channels where the manager but not the assistant is added to the channel membership. Of course, this means that the manager must access the channels to see the confidential content (or the manager gives their password to the assistant to do so on their behalf).
For calendar delegation, the best approach is for the assistant to continue using Outlook desktop or OWA to manage the manager’s calendar. Although Microsoft is steadily building out the functionality available in the Teams calendar app, Outlook’s calendar functionality is more developed, especially in the area of dealing with multiple calendars.
It’s as easy to create a Teams meeting from Outlook as it is through Teams. The things to remember are:
- The Teams Meeting add-in for Outlook only supports creation of meetings in the same calendar as the mailbox owner. This means that Teams meetings created from Outlook have the assistant as the organizer. The email notifications for the meeting come from the assistant, not the manager.
- To make sure that the meeting shows up on the manager’s calendar, add them as an attendee. Remember to add the manager as a presenter if they plan to present during the call.
Teams is increasingly becoming the fulcrum for many Microsoft and third-party apps. The authentication approach taken for Teams will cover Microsoft apps, like Microsoft Lists or Tasks in Teams. Separate arrangements must be made for third-party apps, which might or might not support some element of delegation.
Teams doesn’t have the same kind of comprehensive offline capabilities available in Outlook desktop. If people want to access Teams conversations offline, they must open the relevant channels or chats before they go on the road.
The Tasks in Teams app supports shared tasks in a Planner plan which can be accessed by a manager and their assistant.
Some folks still like to have messages printed for review before meetings or when they travel. Teams doesn’t include any printing capabilities, so if someone wants to print a channel message or personal chat, they’ll need to use the Share to Outlook feature and print the message there.
Even though Teams has reached 115 million daily active users, no massive demand seems to exist for Microsoft to support delegation in Teams (at the time of writing, this user voice request has gathered just 33 votes). This might be because managers with a more traditional mindset have not yet made the transition, or maybe it’s because everyone is embracing new ways of working and communications. Who knows!
To learn more about Teams and email co-operation, read Chapter 11 of the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. Updated monthly to make sure that the text you read is as up to date as we can make it.