Understanding the Good and Bad of Teams Meeting Notes

Improved Notes Happened Last Year

It’s a good idea to review old notifications in the Microsoft 365 admin center (the ability to synchronize with Planner is a big help) to make sure that you don’t miss something important. Recently, I looked at MC224050, published on 12 October 2020 and updated on 29 October. This update covers some improvements to Teams meeting notes (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 67142). The changes covered rolled out in November and December.

To be honest, despite being a daily user (or abuser) or Teams meetings, I have never used the meeting notes facility. Microsoft says that meeting notes “are a great place to capture and share notes before, during, and after a Teams meeting.” This might be the case, but everyone develops their own notetaking habit to capture what goes on in meetings. Some write in real notebooks, others use OneNote, some (like me) dump everything into Word, some depend on whatever happens in meeting chat, and others use the meeting notes.

Outlook desktop prefers OneNote for its meeting notes. The Teams developers could have made the same choice, but they preferred to use a Teams Wiki. Substantial debate already exists about why the Teams Wiki exists when OneNote is available, but that’s not important now. If you don’t want to use the Teams Wiki, you don’t have to. OneNote is a more powerful alternative, albeit with a higher learning curve to master.

One Hundred Sharers for Meeting Notes

My guess is that the Teams Wiki is the reason behind the original 20-person limit for accessing meeting notes. According to MC224050, that limit is now 100, which isn’t nearly as many as the standard Teams meeting limit of 350 participants.

If you run large meetings, you probably use other methods to share an agenda, like including it in the meeting invitation or sharing a PowerPoint presentation at the start of the meeting. And you probably don’t want hundreds of people attempting to update the meeting notes concurrently: a nominated note taker is a more intelligent option. In short, shared meeting notes might be a nice idea, but they only work for small meetings, which is why an access limit exists.

Microsoft says that “if a participant is nudged into the meeting or joins as the 101st participant, they can request access to notes in a single click from the creator of the meeting’s notes.” This doesn’t make sense to me, so I did some probing.

Meeting Notes for Private Teams Meetings

The ability to create notes in a Teams meeting is controlled by the Allow shared notes setting in the Teams meeting policy assigned to the meeting organizer. Usually, this setting is enabled, so there’s a good chance that you can create notes in your meetings.

In private meetings, the first person to access notes gets to be the creator. Attendees know that notes are available because Teams posts a notification in the meeting chat. Notes can be created before a meeting starts, which is useful to create an agenda or other notes to frame the discussion once the meeting starts. @mentions are supported in notes, meaning that you can capture an action in a meeting and @mention someone to tell them that they’ve been tagged to do something.

Notes for personal meetings are stored in the Microsoft Teams Data folder in the creator’s OneDrive for Business account. A separate MHT file is used for each meeting (Figure 1).

Meeting notes for private Teams meetings are stored in OneDrive for Business
Figure 1: Meeting notes for private Teams meetings are stored in OneDrive for Business

Access to the notes for a private meeting is granted to the set of people invited when the meeting is created. In addition, access is only available to accounts belonging to the same organization (including guests) as the meeting organizer.

If you update a meeting to invite more people, the added participants do not have access to the meeting notes unless you update the permissions for the relevant MHT file in OneDrive. This issue is acknowledged in the support article. When a misfortunate added participant attempts to access the notes, they see the standard SharePoint “you need to ask the owner to give you access” error. The invitation to email the owner might be the one-click request for access referred to by Microsoft. It’s hardly seamless and not much of a feature.

Meeting Notes for Teams Channel Meetings

Channel meetings belong to a team, which has a SharePoint team site. The owner of channel meetings is the team, so it makes sense that the MHT files for meeting notes are stored in the Teams Wiki Data document library of the SharePoint team site. Each channel in the team has its own folder in Teams Wiki Data. Figure 2 shows the notes for two meetings held in the Champions channel of the Office 365 Adoption team.

Meeting notes for Teams channel meetings are stored in SharePoint Online
Figure 2: Meeting notes for Teams channel meetings are stored in SharePoint Online

People from outside the team can be invited to attend a channel meeting. They can access the audio and video feed, but other resources like the notes aren’t available because they are restricted to team members.

When you open meeting notes for a channel meeting in Teams, the Wiki combines the notes from different channel meeting together into a single document (Figure 3). On the one hand, this makes perfect sense because it allows the notes from all the meetings held in a channel to be accessed easily. On the other hand, it could confuse some users.

Notes for channel meetings viewed through the Teams client
Figure 3: Notes for channel meetings viewed through the Teams client

One big upside of storing meeting notes in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business is that they are indexed and available for eDiscovery.

Too Simple for Many Corporate Meetings

Overall, the biggest selling points for Meeting Notes are simplicity, integration, and that they are available for all meetings (if meeting policies allow). People used to more sophisticated editors might become frustrated by the simple nature of the Wiki editor. On the other hand, if you love Notepad, the Wiki editor is much better.

Meeting Notes are certainly good enough to capture a few actions for small meetings. Those needing more comprehensive editing facilities will look to OneNote or Word. Being able to print meeting notes, for instance, is a feature missing in Teams. Although printing anything might seem obsolete in the world of the cloud, many corporate minutes (like those for board meetings) often must be printed and signed to become a formal record. If you need to protect confidential information in meeting notes, Word and sensitivity labels (with encryption) is a good option.

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