Microsoft 365 governance

Data sprawl and Microsoft 365

Understand Microsoft 365 data sprawl, its triggers & effects. Learn to tackle it for a smooth and clutter-free digital employee experience.

Data sprawl meaning

Data sprawl refers to the extensive proliferation of various types of digital information (data) within businesses, particularly at the enterprise level. It occurs when enterprises collect, process, and store vast amounts of data, leading to challenges in effectively managing and tracking the data’s existence, locations, and access permissions.

Now that we have the definition of data sprawl and know what data sprawl is let’s look at some of the reasons why it happens.

How does data sprawl happen?

How does an apartment or a house get cluttered? The answer is simple. It just takes time and a slight lack of governance and management.

The following have been identified as the most common reasons:

  • Employees inadvertently leave important work files scattered across their personal and mobile devices
  • Company files are dispersed across numerous storage systems, data silos, and cloud storage platforms
  • Multiple instances and versions of identical files exist across your environment.
  • Employees create sites, groups, teams, files, and other items that already exist, leading to confusion in your environment.
  • Failure of employees to remove unnecessary files and other items after a project has finished.

The common denominator is the employees when looking at the surface level of data sprawl.

But, there’s no need to put all the blame on the employees. Data sprawl often occurs because keeping track of what’s already there is challenging, especially in a Microsoft 365 environment.

And, when you consider that the last couple of years have genuinely seen a digital transformation of how we do business, data sprawl is entirely understandable. It was inevitable.

Data sprawl in Microsoft 365

Let’s look at how data sprawl impacts enterprises with Microsoft 365 environments.

In environments such as Microsoft 365, data sprawl encompasses the phenomenon of content, Teams, Yammer, Groups, and sites sprawl, where employees often create unnecessary teams, groups, and other existing items.

Think about it this way; it’s all the content that remains in your Microsoft 365 environment – when it doesn’t have to be. If you want to learn more about all the details and impacts surrounding this, take a look at our free eBook: Prevent Teams, Yammer, Groups, and site sprawl in your M365 environment.

Data sprawl challenges

Even though data storage prices have declined in the past few years, the sheer amount of data has grown exponentially, with Microsoft saying it can take up to five times the resources to keep track of everything without a proper solution in place.

So the problem here isn’t so much the cost of data storage, although you can decrease that too by managing and governing it properly. The main challenges data sprawl brings to your business are security and wasted time:

Security – Sensitive company documents can end up being shared over personal email accounts, sometimes using non-sanctioned devices. Or even worse, they can be shared externally without supervision. Even after project completion, external users will often remain in your tenant for an unspecified period, still able to access your sensitive data.

Wasted time – Employees end up spending their time creating unnecessary groups, sites, or even documents due to how hard it can be to find all of those in a cluttered Microsoft 365 environment.

Our research showed that almost 30% of employees do not take care of their inactive content. Day by day that piles up, leaving your employees with a poor digital employee experience and your IT team with a rising number of potential security issues.

All of the mentioned challenges are especially true in a full trust environment. Sure, a zero trust environment might not have some of these challenges, but it has others. Fortunately, there is a solution that can help you have the best of both worlds, so let’s get to it.

How to solve data sprawl in Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 can be quite intricate, and it constantly evolves, requiring administrators to ensure that innovation doesn’t lead to chaos. Governing this complexity doesn’t imply the need to restrict everything like with the zero trust approach. Nor does it mean that IT admins need to be in a constant reaction mode, jumping from one ticket to the next. It just means that you need to be proactive about your environment.

Being proactive will give your end users the best possible digital employee experience while also preventing security breaches and data sprawl at the same time.

But, being proactive isn’t just about manifesting a new mindset. You need the proper tools and the right strategy to control sprawl in Microsoft 365. Here’s a quick overview of just that:

Step 1: Cut sprawl at the root level

Each end-user has the potential to be a bull in a china shop. This is why we’ve introduced an intuitive and easy-to-use self-service workspace center in Syskit Point. It allows end-users to see the complete workspace inventory in your environment and lets them request access to them, and all of this without leaving the Teams app.

Syskit Point's intuitive Teams app

Step 2: Introduce effective provisioning

Keep in mind that most non-tech users don’t know how to properly apply provisioning policies (56%). They need an intuitive and straightforward tool.

Within the Syskit Point Teams app interface, you can enable end users to create workspaces using Syskit Points provisioning. This feature allows for a tightly controlled process that adheres to your organization’s policies, ensuring compliance. 

stopping data sprawl in Microsoft 365 with effective provisioning

With the right provisioning set in place, both the end users and the workspaces they create can align with your defined guidelines, providing a seamless and policy-compliant experience.

Step 3: Automate maintenance

Automation can go a long way when thinking about maintenance. With Syskit Point, you can implement policies that automatically generate tasks for owners, prompting them to review and maintain their respective workspaces regularly. These owners can then quickly do their part in ensuring cleanliness and minimizing sprawl, actively contributing to a clutter-free environment.

If you want to get a closer look at how you can use these steps to prevent data sprawl and improve your Microsoft 365 environment, take a look at our webinar on how to tackle Microsoft 365 sprawl. It will explain the entire process in more detail and you’ll also how Syskit Point can improve your digital employee experience.

When is the best time to prevent sprawl?

Here’s the thing: The best time to limit sprawl is at the very start of a Microsoft 365 deployment. However, signs of content sprawl often only become visible over time, so organizations rarely do that. That’s why the second-best time to limit content sprawl is right now.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Related Posts