In our interconnected world, organizations need to freely collaborate across boundaries, because connections with partners, vendors, and customers are critical components of success. Our customers tell us that now, more than ever, they need to collaborate with their external partners with the same ease and efficiency they experience when collaborating within their own companies and it needs to happen in a way that’s secure, governable, and compliant. With our customer needs in mind, we created Microsoft Teams Connect.
Teams Connect brings together two main core features —
Chat, powered by external access, gives you the ability to chat with external users outside your organization without the need to switch tenants, enabling real-time and secure conversations solving for what you need faster.
Shared channels, rolled out in a public preview this March 2022, and as a result, we saw a range of customers adopting the feature to enable frictionless collaboration within their organizations. We are excited to announce that shared channels is moving into general availability. We expect to complete the rollout by mid-August.
Powered by B2B direct connect, shared channels provide the flexibility to collaborate with parties both inside and outside an organization and work effectively as one extended team in a channel without the need to tenant switch. With shared channels you can:
- Collaborate with members who are not part of the team in which a channel is created.
- Provide a gateway for both parties to share files, hold conversations, meet, and review documents in a secure and deliberate way, without switching tenants.
- Retain your flow of work, as external shared channels show up alongside channels from your organization.
- Attain access to the full suite of Teams collaboration capabilities with external partners in other Azure AD orgs, just as you would with colleagues from your organization.
Shared channels are built on the Microsoft 365 hyperscale, enterprise-grade cloud delivering advanced security and compliance capabilities our customers expect. Shared channels also support a rich set of Information Protection tools for host admins to manage and govern channel data, including eDiscovery, legal hold, communication compliance, information barriers, audit logs, retention, and DLP.
Coinciding with the general availability for shared channels, we worked to improve key enhancements that deliver richer experiences for all channel members such as:
- App developers can now build apps for shared channels: Teams app developers can use the Teams app manifest to opt-into shared channels and prepare their app for powerful cross-organizational collaborative workflows.
- More shared channels: We increased the number of shared channels from 50 to 200. As a result, a team now supports 200 standard, 30 private, and 200 shared channels per team.
- Improved messaging experience: We brought the same, rich messaging experience to external users so they can use functionality like GIFs and emojis.
- Security defaults now support B2B direct connect user: If you have security defaults enabled, we will keep you protected by enforcing multi-factor authentication for external users when necessary.
- Enhanced admin reporting: Through Teams user activity reporting and Teams team usage report, admins have access to enhanced reporting for external users.
- Apps support on mobile: Shared channels now supports Apps on mobile.
Which common business scenario do you fall under?
In practice, shared channels streamline two common business scenarios:
- Companies collaborating with external partners on joint ventures. For instance, an apparel company sourcing materials from a supplier, or a healthcare organization developing marketing materials through an advertising vendor. Many consulting companies use shared channels to work with their clients on engagements.
- Multinational and conglomerate companies connecting to subsidiaries or integrating recently acquired or merged business units. For example, a holding company uses shared channels to build a space for its executives from different subsidiaries to engage in a more seamless manner.
Imagine a healthcare organization wants to build a new wing for its hospital.
- The COO starts a Teams chat with an architecture firm to kick off the project, and admins at the two companies use Azure AD B2B direct connect to set up a mutual trust relationship.
- From there, the account manager from the architecture firm creates a shared channel in the team dedicated to the healthcare client and shares the channel with the team so that stakeholders from various departments can collaborate with the client. He now invites the client team to join the channel. As team members join or leave, they gain or lose access to the shared channel, removing the need for an account manager to manage individual client team members. Now, everyone across the two companies can work in a shared collaboration space, conversing and sharing files securely, just as though they were in the same company.
- Next, the healthcare project manager (PM) uploads a contract and a project requirements document, then @ mentions the architect to review.
- As she reads through, she realizes she has several questions, so she initiates a meeting directly from a shared channel and records the conversation, allowing colleagues who couldn’t attend the chance to catch up asynchronously.
- As the project progresses, the architect brings an engineering consultant into the same shared channel for mechanical design support. Visual cues keep everyone in the shared channel informed about who is from other organizations and whether the channel belongs to their own organization.
- None of the users from the three organizations need to switch tenants to work together, providing a more seamless collaboration experience.
Accelerate your business with shared channels
Our vision for cross-boundary collaboration revolves around three guiding principles: a smooth user experience, fine-grained security controls, and efficient collaboration governance. Whether you’re working with a vendor or partnering with an external agency, shared channels can help you make collaboration seamless. Work as one extended team—across IT and organizational boundaries—to accelerate business. No matter what your collaboration need is, Teams Connect has the solution for you.
To learn more or get started with how to set up Teams Connect shared channels, take a look at these helpful resources: Collaborating with external participants in a shared channel and Create a shared channel in Teams.