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The ways in which work changed for millions of people in 2020 has transformed the data collections process for enterprise compliance, audit, and legal professionals.  

While organizations were agile in adopting Teams (or a technology like it – Zoom, WebEx, Slack, etc) to keep data moving and workers productive during the COVID period, similar agility was not extended to the compliance considerations around these technologies, which in many circumstances are subject to the same compliance considerations as long-standing forms of communication, namely email. 

This begs the question for many – what role does Microsoft Teams data play in the legal and compliance landscape, and, consequently, is there a value to archiving this data?

The answer is that Teams plays a significant role as both a landing spot for existing data, and space where new data is constantly being created. So, for compliance and other business reasons, there is immense value to archiving this data.  

According to a survey conducted by Osterman Research, the following was found to be true when it comes to enterprise adoption and use of Microsoft Teams in 2020.

  • Legal staff and compliance professionals were only considered ‘very influential’ in the MS Teams adoption process in about 55% of circumstances. Consequently, issues that matter most to them took a backseat to the priorities of Executive Management, Cybersecurity, and IT, all of whom were ‘very influential’ in over 70% of circumstances. 
  • While it was cited as one of the least important considerations ahead of adopting Teams, 49% of organizations polled have experienced the need to investigate Microsoft Teams data as part of an internal audit or investigation. Since Teams is a more spontaneous and less-institutionalized form of communication than email, employees are likely to interact and share information on Teams in a manner that they would not via email, making it an emerging force in the HR and eDiscovery landscape.  Figure Drivers for Archiving and Data Protection in Teams
  • 27% of respondents reported that one or more employees had already attempted to use Microsoft Teams as a means of circumventing their compliance requirements.
  • As an extension of Sharepoint and due to its enhanced, real-time MS Teams native archiving poses significant compliance challenges with respect to content immutability. The inability to archive Sharepoint links for a specific time or date, inability to archive edits to messages in Teams chats and channels, chat reactions, and inability to archive recordings of calls and meetings are all examples of why many enterprises need third parties archiving solutions for Microsoft Teams. 

In addition to these findings, Osterman also concluded that for both research cohorts – those currently archiving Teams and those who are only considering it – the majority of respondents do not believe that Microsoft’s native archiving capabilities will be sufficient today, or in three years from now. Given the mission (and success) of Teams as being a tool that promotes collaboration and eliminates information barriers between people, there is an inherent clash between its ethos as a work tool and the data compliance mandates which call for restricted access and compliant, point-in-time, capture of data.  

End users’ needs will continue to prevail over compliance considerations as Microsoft accelerates its roadmap for Teams, for which customers have submitted an astounding 67,000 feature requests. 

Greenfields View of Approaches to Archiving Teams ContentSome of the functionality organizations need, which Teams is natively lacking, includes:

  • The ability to capture the full range of file types in Teams – messages, files, links, and more.
  • The ability to search all of these content types – and more such as email – in place, yet across multiple locations, without having to migrate any of the data.
  • The ability to implement simple, yet effective and consistent, retention policies which cover a range of data sources, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft.

Conclusion 

The accelerated adoption of Teams, and technologies like it, was warranted and effective for business during the COVID work-from-home climate. However, as the pandemic ends, organizations now must evolve their use of these technologies to fit within our evolving data compliance landscape – one which was changing prior to the pandemic and will continue to change after COVID is gone. 

So, whether you are planning your Teams deployment, or have already been enjoying it with your colleagues for some time, it is important to consult your legal, compliance, and forensic analysts responsible for using that data to protect your business. Archiving will return hard dollar value back to the business, either by giving you the ability to delete data you do not need and save on IT storage, or by making exculpatory information easily retrievable for use in legal or compliance situations, or both. If you would like to learn more about Microsoft Teams, or the compliance considerations surrounding it, contact [email protected].

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