Microsoft Teams Shared Channels are out in Public Preview. Participation in a shared channel is available for all, but creating a new shared channel requires that the Teams application is set to Public Preview mode. In this blog post, I will cover the basics of shared channels.

How shared channels are changing the collaboration game?

Shared channels, as the name suggests, allow sharing of a channel from a team, inside of the organization, and to external organizations. The shared channel doesn’t require access to the parent team, and the shared channel has its own membership management. The parent team owners can see all shared channels, but cannot access them. From the external participant perspective, the best parts are that shared channels are part of the users’ team and channel list at their home tenant, and accessing the shared channel doesn’t require switching between tenants. Channel conversations, files, apps, and channel meetings are always available, and notifications work correctly. The shared channel can be identified from a small icon after the channel name and on the top right corner of the channel.

Shared Channel Icon
Shared Channel Icon

A shared channel can be shared directly with people and/or with teams. Team sharing also works externally. End-user experience depends on how the channel is shared with users. When the channel is shared directly with a user, the team and the channel will become visible to the user’s team and channel list.

A shared channel can be shared with specific people and/or with specific teams, internally and externally as well. When the channel is shared directly to a user, it is displayed underneath a team it was originally shared from.

Channel shared to a team

When the channel is shared with a team, it will add to that specific team as a channel. When the channel is shared with a team and with a user, who is a member of that team, the channel will be available in both modes.

Creating a shared channel

Remember that in the preview phase, the Teams application needs to be set in the public preview mode. Creating a shared channel is straightforward, just pick Shared for the channel privacy setting. During the channel creation can be decided is the channel shared to the team it is created to.

Creating a new shared channel

Sharing a channel

Sharing a channel has three different options

  • With people: share the channel directly to users
  • With a team: share the channel to a team someone else owns
  • With a team you own: shared the channel to a team you are as an owner
Share the channel

When a channel is shared with a user, they’ll get a notification, and the channel is added to their teams and channels list.

Notification of shared channel

Sharing a channel with a team happens by first sending an invite team owner, who then decides on which team the channel is added.

Send an invite to owner

Sending the invite starts a process, where selected user gets a notification from the invite.

Shared channel invite notification

Shared channel invites are managed on Pending invites view on Manage teams section, which can be accessed from the gear icon at the bottom of teams and channels list. The user who got the invite can either decline or accept the invite.

Pending channel invites

When accepting the invite, a list of teams where user is as owner is displayed, and user can choose to which team channel will be added.

Pick a team for shared channel

When the target team is selected, the process continues with the approval. The user who shared the channel needs to approve the target team. All sent invites and pending approvals can be seen on Sent Intives on Manage channel view. After approval, the channel is added to the target team.

Approve the target team

What happens, if the user is not an owner of any team? When the user accepts and is not an owner of any team, he/she will get notified and offered to start a chat with the person who invited.

Managing access to the shared channel

Shared channel members can be managed on the Manage channel view. The view displays channel owners, direct members, and teams which members have access. The parent team is identified with a small house icon.

Manage channel memberships

Each team member can access this view and see all members, and see all team members as well. All team members can be seen by clicking the Members column from the list.

List team members

External access to shared channels

Sharing a channel with external users is disabled by default. External sharing is controlled with B2B direct connect policies on cross-tenant access settings on Azure Active Directory. Policies allow shared channel collaboration openly with any organization just by allowing inbound and outboud B2B direct connect on default settings, or having a more strict tenant-, group- or user-level control for both inbound and outbound using organizational settings. Inbound control means settings for organizations accessing your shared channels and outbound which organizations’ shared channels your users can access. Notice that both tenants need to approve B2B direct connect before starting shared channel collaboration.

More details on cross-tenant access settings can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/external-identities/cross-tenant-access-overview

I will write a more detailed blog post about these settings soon.

Cross-tenant access settings

Current limits on share channels

  • Shared channels per team: 50
  • Teams a channel can be shared with: 50
  • Members in a shared channel: 1,000 (each team is counted as a member)
  • Stream, Planner, and Forms tabs are not supported
  • LOB apps, bots, connectors, and message extensions are not supported on the preview
  • Notification from shared channels are not included in missed activity emails

Wrap-up

Shared channels will simplify how people between organizations work together, but it needs some planning and agreeing together on how we work, otherwise, it will be a complete mess. Just creating channels and sharing them around is not solving any issues, and in the worst-case scenario people just have more teams on their team list. Using shared channels with externals needs mutual agreement on permission and data management, perhaps even tenant-to-tenant collaboration needs to be agreed. The tenant, where channels are shared, is always in control and owns the data.

So my advice is to take a small pause, a deep breath, and consider at least these things.

  • Role of shared channels in my organization, internally and externally
  • How channels are shared with externals, individual users, and/or teams?
  • How we are working in different scenarios like projects, our partner, customer, etc?
  • How much control is needed? Open collaboration or more strict controls?

There is no correct answer for these. Perhaps trying it out and learning on the way in a small scale will bring the best answers.

Documentation of shared channels can be found on Microsoft Docs: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/shared-channels