Tackling Channel Sprawl One Channel at a Time
Now that Teams has been in production use for several years, it’s more than likely that some channels have fallen into an obsolete state. It’s easy to understand why this happens. A team supports up to 200 regular channels (and 30 private channels and soon, shared channels). When first introduced to Teams, it’s common to find that team owners go wild with channels and create far more channels than they need.
A channel should be a logical partition of the discussions which take place within a team that endure for a reasonable period. However, channels are often used where a simple conversation or group chat would be better.
Too Many Channels Hide Information
Browsing a team where you see
might be an exciting opportunity to discover tons of new and interesting information. Normally it leads to a confused mass of content, or “channel sprawl,” a condition that doesn’t help end users find the right information at the right time, even if Teams is improving search by including top hits in search suggestions and how it presents search results.
The question therefore is how to reconstruct the channel structure team. Given that you can’t move some or all conversations from one channel to another (in the same team or in a different team), it’s hard to close down a channel. The question therefore is how to reconstruct the channel structure team. You could delete unwanted or underused channels and use the 30-day period to see if anyone notices or protests. If someone does, a team owner can recover the deleted channel quickly through the Channels section of the Manage team option. Although deletion is a blunt instrument, it is certainly an effective technique to prune unwanted content from a team and restore channel navigation to a more logical and easily understood menu.
Warn Before Deletion
A more finessed approach is to give some warning that a channel will be removed for a period before deletion happens. There’s no option to do this in any Teams client, so we need to be creative,. An elegant and easy solution is to edit the channel settings to add a visual warning that the channel will soon be closed. A channel has a folder in the document library of the team’s SharePoint Online site. The folder is unaffected by a channel deletion, but it’s still good to check for any important files and consider moving them to a more appropriate location.
For example, a channel in a team used by a group of MVPs holds tweets about topics relating to Office 365. The Twitter connector posted the tweets to the channel. Everything worked well before Microsoft retired the Twitter connector in early 2020. The last tweet arrived on 17 March 2020 and the channel has remained silent since. This channel is a great candidate for immediate deletion. The information it holds is available elsewhere and it hasn’t been used in over 18 months. The channel is a stagnant container of not very valuable data.
But before we delete it, let’s give users some warning using the following steps:
- Select the channel and choose the Manage channel option.
- Edit the channel name to include an indicator that the channel is defunct. The name can be text-only, but it’s better to include a graphic to seize user attention. Press the Windows logo key and period to bring up the Windows emoji menu and select a suitable graphic as a prefix for the channel name (Figure 1).
- Make sure to uncheck the Automatically show this channel in everyone’s channel list option.
- Save the changes.
The newly renamed channel shows up with a clear indication of its new status. As you can see in Figure 2, I also post an announcement to the channel to warn users about the intention to remove the channel in the future.
The technique explained here is a simple way of letting people know about the imminent removal of a defunct channel. Perhaps Teams will deliver a more elegant solution in the future. For now, this one works well.
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