Teams and SharePoint Online to Synchronize Channel Names Properly

Fixes a Very Old Bug First Reported in 2016

Every channel in a team has a folder in the default document library of the SharePoint Online team site associated with the team. When a new channel is created in Teams, SharePoint Online creates a new folder with the same name as the channel. The channel and folder continue to share the same name until you rename the channel, in which case the names of the channel and the folder diverge. Microsoft acknowledges that losing the naming connection between Teams and SharePoint is a problem.

The issue has existed since the earliest days of Teams. The first user voice request for Microsoft to remove confusion by making sure that the channel and folder continued to share the same name following a rename appeared on November 3, 2016. I wrote about the issue in June 2019, saying that renaming channels could be messy.

Microsoft says they will fix the problem (MC280294) and clean up the mess with an update in mid-September (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 72211). The heading for Microsoft’s is “Pairing naming convention between Teams channels and corresponding SharePoint folders,” which I think is a poor attempt at conveying the impression that the change is something good. It’s not. Instead, it’s a long (very long) overdue fix for something that Microsoft should have addressed in 2017.

The delay means that any channel renamed before the deployment of the fix will remain unpaired, unconnected, unsynchronized, and seemingly unrelated to its SharePoint folder. Given the massive growth in Teams to 250 million monthly active users and the consequent growth in SharePoint Online usage, one can only guess at how many disconnected channels exist.

One of Those Complex Software Engineering Problems

No one denies that Teams is a complex product. Teams has dependencies on and consumes many different Microsoft 365 services from Azure AD to Exchange Online. The Teams development group has done a terrific job in growing the feature set in the product and expanding its capabilities into areas like multi-geo support. As Teams development VP, Rish Tandon, explained to me last May, the engineers have faced and solved many challenging problems as they developed the product from initial idea to world-class service.

But from time to time, the Teams development group just doesn’t deliver detail as well as it should. The failure to fix the channel rename problem is a classic example. Rolling out version 2.5.0 of the Teams PowerShell module with a broken version of the New-Team cmdlet is another. Neither seem to appear to be one of the complex software engineering problems that slow products down.

The New Channel Rename

After Microsoft deploys the update to Office 365 tenants, performing channel name (Figure 1) updates the value in both Teams and SharePoint Online.

Renaming a Teams channel
Figure 1: Renaming a Teams channel

As you can see in Figure 2, the synchronization with SharePoint Online means that the channel folder has the same name as used in Teams. In the past, the folder would still be “Projects” instead of the new “Projects 2021” name.

The folder in SharePoint Online has the same name as the renamed Teams channel
Figure 2: The folder in SharePoint Online has the same name as the renamed Teams channel

The General channel is an exception because it cannot be renamed. This is because the General channel represents the team. In fact, because the General channel exists in every team, the Teams clients translate its name to show translated values. For instance, it’s called Général in French and Allgemein in German. The names given to other channels are not translated and keep whatever name is given when created or renamed.

Rename synchronization for channels and folders applies for standard, shared, and private channels. Channels renamed prior to the update are not adjusted. If you want the names of these channels to synchronize with SharePoint Online, you’ll need to rename them again in Teams.

Microsoft notes that the new channel name will not be used by the OneDrive sync client until the client fully processes the channel following the rename. This usually doesn’t take long.

The Long-Awaited Fix

It’s good that Teams and SharePoint are now on the same page when it comes to channel renaming. It’s taken too long to happen, but it’s better later than never.


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8 Replies to “Teams and SharePoint Online to Synchronize Channel Names Properly”

  1. It’s working in our tenant but the delay is killing. And it doesn’t work reversed (change on SharePoint)

    1. Synchronization of any setting back from SharePoint Online to other workloads is usually much slower than the reverse. I would always perform an action like this from Teams because you know that Microsoft has written the code (eventually) to update SharePoint after making the change in Teams.

  2. Does this work for all tenants? How long does it take to wait? I changed the name of the channel from Teams on 05/11 and it’s still the old name to SharePoint. How long to wait for it?

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