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How to deal with inactive teams and groups in Microsoft 365

In this blog post, read how you can delete and archive your obsolete groups and teams in Office 365 vs how you can do the same in Syskit Point.

You don’t have to stress how popular Microsoft Teams has become these past few months. However, we must emphasize how essential Teams governance should be for your business and tenant security.

An important part of Teams governance is the management of inactive teams. In the last post covering this topic, we focused on three ways of finding inactive teams. Now, we’ll concentrate on governing inactive teams and groups, including setting up governance policies and managing inactive resources.

Defining who can create new Microsoft Teams and Office 365 Groups

Microsoft Teams and Office 365 groups are complimentary, and whoever can create a group in Office 365 Groups can also create Teams. By default, that’s everyone in the company. The question is, should everyone have that power? Because it does lead to creating a lot of inactive teams and groups.

This is generally considered a bad idea because you’ll create teams and groups and other group-based services, such as Microsoft Planner and Yammer. Hundreds of unnecessary groups and teams are bound to create clutter and complicate administration.

So how can you end this mess? You can create a governance plan which specifies who can and can’t create a new team. One way to limit self-creation is by restricting access to creating teams (and groups) only to specific admins. However, you’ll need knowledge of PowerShell coding for that. Read the step-by-step process of limiting access to Microsoft Teams in this blog by Adis Jugo.

Another way to avoid clutter in your tenant is to set up expiration and naming policies for Office 365 Groups (and Microsoft Teams). These simple rules can save you trouble in the long run. Naming conventions will help you keep order and minimize the risk of creating multiple groups for the same purpose. On the other hand, expiration policies will delete all the groups (and teams) that reach a pre-defined expiration date. Read more about Office 365 Group’s governance rules in our post.

Managing inactive Teams and Groups in Microsoft 365

No matter what governance plan you put in place, you are sooner or later going to end up with inactive teams that you’re not using anymore. It’s a natural flow of how things evolve in a company. You start some projects, and when they end, the team or group that was used for it becomes obsolete.

Luckily there are ways to deal with this issue – you can either delete or archive your inactive content. When you delete your obsolete resources, at first, it’s just ‘soft deleted.’ Meaning it’s sitting in a recycling bin for several days, waiting for you to restore or delete it permanently. But once you delete it permanently, it’s gone.

On the other hand, the archive option will “hide” the resource from collaborators, clearing their everyday working environment. The archive acts as a safety net when owners don’t want to get rid of their resources for good. Moreover, it is useful if your company has extended data retention policies.

Managing inactive teams and groups in Office 365

You can delete your obsolete groups from the Office 365 admin center, Outlook, or PowerShell.

In the admin center, you can find all the groups in your tenant under the Groups. You will have to select and delete each obsolete group one by one to clean up your clutter. 

Delete a Group in the Admin Center

However, if you don’t have admin rights, you will need to go to Outlook and find your unwanted groups.

Delete a group from Outlook

The first two options will only soft-delete the group so that you can restore it in a 30-day window. If you want to speed up the process and skip the restoring period, you’ll need to go with a third option.

However, archiving Office 365 Groups is available only via PowerShell. There are ready-to-use scripts, so you don’t need to make one from scratch.

You can delete or archive Microsoft Teams inside the Teams admin center. To do so, you will need admin rights. It’s a straightforward process, but you’ll need to do it one team at a time.

Delete inactive Teams in Teams Admin Center
Archive inactive Teams in the Teams Admin Center

In both cases, you can revert your action. You can unarchive archived teams or restore deleted ones. The entire process is described in this Microsoft article.

Key disadvantages:

  • Office 365 doesn’t detect inactive sites if they are not associated with a team or a group.
  • If you want to find inactive teams, you need to detect the active ones first and then deduct them from all your teams.
  • You can’t find all your inactive resources in one central report. You will need to switch between the Office 365 and Teams admin center to have a complete overview of what’s inactive.
  • While the archive option is available for Microsoft Teams, it is not readily available for Office 365 Groups and SharePoint sites. If you’re code-savvy, you can use PowerShell to archive your content.
  • You can manage only one group or team at a time, which can be pretty tedious if you have a large tenant.

Managing inactive teams with Syskit Point

Syskit Point automates the detection of inactive teams, groups, and sites. It calculates inactivity using a couple of factors for each type of resource. That being said, Point doesn’t mark a resource inactive if it doesn’t meet all the criteria.

For example, Microsoft Teams inactivity is based on these three factors: messaging in a team chat, file activity in a team-related SharePoint site, and Outlook conversations.

Office 365 Groups are considered inactive only if there’s no activity in a related SharePoint site or Exchange Online conversations.

Once Point detects inactive resources, it sends owners an email notification requiring their action. They will get to choose to keep, delete, or archive their content.

  • Keep – this option will renew the resource and continue to be available for all its members.
  • Delete – this option will delete the resource from Office 365.
  • Archive – this option will archive the site and won’t be available to its members.
Delete and archive groups, sites, and teams

Point exceeds the limits of out-of-the-box Office 365 lifecycle management. It offers the archive option for sites, teams, and groups equally. On top of that, Point detects inactivity for SharePoint sites that are not connected to groups.

With Point, you give more power to resource owners who have operational knowledge of what should be kept and what is ready to be deleted, which results in less inactive teams down the road.

However, admins are still in charge of everything that is going on. They can see who has and hasn’t completed their task as well as what they have done with their content.

Office 365 inactive content dashboard

Also, admins can see which resources don’t have owners and assign them new ones. They can schedule reminders for owners or even override an owners’ action. If they suspect some sites might be under a security breach, admins can require an instant access audit from those site owners.

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