Teams Meetings and Outlook Events
Microsoft announced the co-organizer role for Teams meetings in MC292796 last November. After frequent delays, the latest date for deployment is early March with roll-out to complete by mid-March, a general availability date confirmed by Microsoft 365 roadmap item 81391. Ever since the announcement, users have debated the set of capabilities available to co-organizers and complained that it’s not possible for a co-organizer to change the details of a meeting, such as rearranging the date or time. On February 25, a reply posted to the Microsoft Technical community reported by an unnamed Microsoft product manager said “Co-organizers will be able to access and modify meeting options before, during, or even after the meeting — just like the Organizer can.”
I have not been able to confirm the accuracy of the assertion but hope that it’s true. The problem people have with the current implementation is how to handle the situation when the original organizer of a meeting is unavailable (on vacation, ill, or has left the company), and the need exists to change the meeting details. Only the meeting organizer can edit details like the date and time of the meeting, its participants, and so on.
Take the meeting shown in Figure 1. The meeting is organizer is obvious, but the two organizers are not visible through the OWA calendar. Instead, Teams uses meeting metadata inserted into the Outlook calendar event to grant the co-organizer role and its permissions to the nominated users after they join a meeting.
It’s possible that Microsoft chose this implementation to avoid the need to change the Outlook calendar. This makes sense because it means that users can continue to access and interact with calendar events in Outlook clients without worrying about the details required by Teams to run the online portion of the meeting.
What a Meeting Co-Organizer Can Do
Outside an active meeting, the co-organizer role has no power, which is why Microsoft stresses that the capabilities available to a co-organizer are during the Teams meeting. In this state, a co-organizer can:
- Access and change meeting options.
- Bypass the lobby.
- Admit people from the lobby during a meeting.
- Lock the meeting.
- Present content.
- Update another participant’s meeting role.
- End the meeting.
However, because the co-organizer role has no influence when a meeting is not active, a co-organizer cannot:
- View and download attendance reports.
- Edit the meeting invitation.
- Manage the meeting recording.
- Remove or change the Organizer role.
In addition, a co-organizer cannot create and manage breakout rooms for a meeting.
Scheduling Teams Meetings in Group Calendars
It is possible to schedule online Teams meetings from Outlook by creating the meeting in the calendar of a Microsoft 365 group (Figure 2). However, although the meeting has all the attributes of an online Teams meeting, the group is the meeting owner, and there’s no way to access meeting options to assign the co-organizer role to a participant. When the meeting is active, the person who schedules the meeting takes on the organizer role, but they cannot make another attendee a co-organizer.
On the upside, because the meeting is in the group calendar, any group member can update its settings, including rescheduling the meeting for a new date and time.
Using Central Scheduling
The workaround is not new. Like the method to avoid delegates reading protected email, it comes from old on-premises implementations of Exchange when it was common to schedule important organizational gatherings using a shared mailbox. Meeting coordinators with delegate access to the shared mailbox would create and manage meetings using the shared mailbox calendar, and because multiple delegates had access to the shared mailbox, meetings were accessible and manageable even when some of the delegates were unavailable.
The modern version of this scenario is to create a new Microsoft 365 account and assign it Exchange Online Plan 1 and Teams licenses (or any SKU which includes these service plans). People who need to organize organizational meetings like webinars or large employee gatherings then ask the people who run the central scheduling mailbox to:
- Create a new Teams meeting at the desired time with the required attendees.
- Edit meeting options to assign the co-organizer role to the requester and/or other people (Figure 3).
If the need subsequently exists to reschedule the meeting, add new co-organizers, or update the meeting invitation, it can be done through the central scheduling mailbox.
A regular mailbox is necessary because shared mailboxes can’t use Teams and you need Teams to apply the roles and other metadata to create online meetings.
This arrangement isn’t perfect. More steps are necessary to create a meeting; the central scheduling mailbox comes with a small licensing cost; and someone must manage meeting requests and updates. It’s also something which should be constrained to a minimum of meetings – those that need to happen even if the main organizer becomes unavailable for some reason. Other meetings should be created and run as normal. The hope is that this is a short-term bridge before Microsoft updates the co-organizer role to allow its holders to manage meeting details.
If anyone has a better idea, I am all ears… as are the folks who want to avoid issues when meeting organizers aren’t available.
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