App Doesn’t Deliver on its Promise
Updated May 1, 2022
The arrival of the Admin Teams app (Figure 1) generates conflicting feelings. It’s nice to have an app that allows admins to perform management actions for a Microsoft 365 tenant without leaving Teams, but that’s about the end of the good points. (Update: Microsoft released version 2.0 of the app at the end of April, and changed the name from Admin-Microsoft 365 to plain Admin, so I revised some sections of this text).
You might consider this to be a harsh assessment of what is a V1.0 (V2.0) effort. After all, Microsoft can address the functional deficiencies over time to increase the usefulness of the app. I’m sure they will do this, just like they have made the mobile Microsoft 365 administration app more useful over time.
The app capabilities are mostly drawn from the browser-based Microsoft 365 admin center with a smattering of settings from the Teams admin center . It looks as if Microsoft created a wrapper around a selection of pages and delivered them as an app. This isn’t a bad approach, but the app isn’t about Microsoft 365 administration as the name proclaims. Rather, it covers managing some of the bits needed for Teams and doesn’t live up to the description published for the app and shown in the About tab, which says:
Set up, manage, and monitor Microsoft 365 services across your entire organization in the Microsoft 365 admin center.
The Admin Teams app offers no capability to set up, manage, or monitor Microsoft 365 services. Instead, the app tabs cover users, teams, and subscriptions. To use the app, your account must have an appropriate Microsoft 365 administrative role, like Teams service administrator or global administrator.
The Users section (Figure 2) shows accounts known to the tenant (without the filters available in the full-blown Microsoft 365 admin center) and supports the creation, update, and removal of accounts.
Evident by the presence of the subscriptions tab, the app is very focused on licenses. The user list shows the current license assignment for each account and if you add an account, you must assign a license. This probably reflects the thrust of the app to manage Teams-related settings, but it’s another example of why this app doesn’t live up to its name.
One thing I don’t like is the filter used to display user accounts. The app is supposed to help with Teams administration, so the default view should be tenant accounts licensed to use Teams instead of showing tenant (including accounts used for room mailboxes) and guest accounts, with or without licenses. Also, you can’t apply another filter to replace the default, which is silly.
I also observed some odd paging behaviour in the view. The app is Graph-based, and it seems like it forgets to fetch any more data after the first 100 accounts, waits for a bit (Figure 3), and then remembers to display more accounts. Maybe that was just a glitch on my PC.
Sell More Licenses!
Apart from delivering a platform to sell more Microsoft licenses, I don’t know why the subscription tab exists. Listing the product subscriptions available in the tenant is moderately useful, but I’m unsure if anyone will want to buy new licenses when working inside Teams. If you try to buy some licenses, the app takes you to the Purchase services page in the full Microsoft 365 admin center.
A stronger case can be made for the usefulness of being able to manage the set of teams in the tenant through the app, even if the app proclaims: “We’ve created your first team for you, which includes all your users. New users will always be added to the org-wide team.” No org-wide team showed up, perhaps because my tenant is already well-equipped with org-wide teams, or maybe this text was pasted into the app in error.
In any case, working with teams progresses is just like working with these objects in the Microsoft 365 admin center with the same user interface presented to manage owners and members. The team settings page supports the update of some important team properties, like not showing the team in Outlook (not just the team email address but hiding the team from Exchange address lists). Although you’re told what sensitivity label a team has, you can’t change it. Oddly, the setting page offers two opportunities to delete a team (Figure 4). That’s surely an opportunity for rationalization!
Version 2.0 of the app includes an extra Settings section to give administrators easy access to tenant-wide settings affecting meetings, messaging, files, and webinars. For example, the files settings govern which third-party storage providers appear in the Files channel tab, while the single setting available for webinars governs who can register for Teams webinars (everyone or just people in the organization). These settings are also available in the Teams admin center, but it’s useful to have them available in the app.
Problems in a Teams App for Tenant Administration
Once again, I hear defenders of the app say that the Admin app is a V1.0 effort (now V2.0) that Microsoft will enhance over time. While acknowledging that this is probably true, I have some fundamental objections to this kind of app (the Viva Topics app is another example).
First, as Thijs Lecomte explains in this article, it’s a good idea to separate administration activity from user activity. To do this, administrators should sign into their personal accounts to use applications like Teams and Outlook. Having something like the Admin app available encourages a weakening of the principle of separate accounts for personal and administrative activity.
Second, apps are always likely to be a cut-down version of the functionality available in the full-blown Microsoft 365 administrative portals. If administrators want to perform management actions like account or group creation, they’re better off doing this through a portal (or PowerShell). To those who say that this involves a context switch, I say that opening an app in Teams is also a context switch. And anyway, you shouldn’t do administrative work from your personal account.
In summary, the Admin Teams app is a moderately interesting but flawed effort. It’s probably encouraged by a perspective that integrating everything into Teams is a good thing. I don’t buy into that view. This app might be useful to part-time administrators, but it’s not something that serious tenant administrators should use.
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