Teams Admin Center Refreshes Search Facility

Teams Admin Center Search for Teams Policies, Settings, Users, and Documentation

Announced on June 21, 2023, and now being deployments to tenants with the aim of completing worldwide roll-out in mid-July, message center notification MC600723 describes an update to the Header Search feature in the Teams admin center (TAC). “Header Search” means that the TAC can search through the objects it manages using criteria input to a box in the TAC header. The feature originally launched in preview in March 2022 (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 83671) and became generally available in June 2022.

Searching Across All of Teams

Figure 1 shows the result of a search for “external access,” a term deserving of some administrator interest due to the recent report by security researchers about a weakness in federated chat. The solution is to not operate open external access for Teams because this allows anyone from any other Teams tenant to connect with users in your tenant. Instead, lock things down and define an allow list of tenants for external access, maybe even using a version of my PowerShell script to maintain the allow list.

Search results in the Teams admin center

Teams admin center search
Figure 1: Teams admin center search results in different categories

As you can see, TAC groups search results into different categories like Users. I find the search facility most useful when looking for details about settings or policies.

Disappointing Teams Admin Center Search Results

The problem with the TAC search is that its results are often not very good (maybe they come from Bing?). Take Figure 2 for an example. Here we search for the name of a user and get hits for items like Microsoft eCDN and transcription. It’s hard to reconcile the search term with the results. In general, searches generate far too many indiscriminate results. On the other hand, looking for something that you’d imagine should be readily available, like “Teams Premium” comes up with just 2 results, neither of which are very useful. Disappointing results happen far too often to make the TAC header search a must-use tool.

Odd search results in the Teams admin center
Figure 2: Odd Teams admin center search results

Go to the Documentation

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to consult the product documentation. TAC search results give you the option to search Microsoft public documentation (I don’t know why they mention public here; few people would expect to search documentation that isn’t public, such as text covering unannounced features).

Although TAC supports searching product documentation, I prefer using a Google search (or your favorite search engine) to find anything to do with Teams. My logic is simple. The Microsoft documentation will show up in the results, so I don’t lose anything there. In addition, I’ll see information from blogs and articles from other sources that often illuminate the darker parts of Teams functionality, such as why things only work if done in a certain way or why they might never work. The problem with Teams is that the product depends on so many other Microsoft 365 and Azure components that looking solely at product documentation might never solve a problem. In a nutshell, it’s convenient to have the Microsoft documentation in the TAC search results, but it’s also very limiting.

I know why Microsoft limits TAC search to its documentation. Microsoft stands over what its writers generate and publish. They can’t curate the internet (neither can ChatGPT or other AI Large Language Models, which is a huge issue when using generative AI), so Microsoft can’t include certain articles that they consider useful or interesting and ignore others. Well, they could, but curation of articles would be a huge ongoing task. All in all, it’s best to search and find answers yourself. That is, if you know what you’re looking for.

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