You are just getting started with Microsoft Teams, and you are wondering which is the best way to structure your teams and channels? Maybe you have questions on how to best use teams to leverage all the available tools? We have you covered with some useful explanations and tips.

When you get to organize your work across teams and channels, think about it as the analogy of folders and files. But let’s get some basic concepts in place first.

What is the purpose of teams in Microsoft Teams

Teams within Microsoft Teams are intended to bring together groups of people who collaborate around a common goal. The structure of teams could reflect the overall organizational structure, for example the Marketing Department, Sales, Finance, HR, etc. It could also be a structure according to the geographical locations of where employees are based, for example an organization can have an APAC team, an EMEA team, etc. Teams can also be formed across departments, bringing together people who work for a specific project.

To ensure an effective governance of teams, it is important to have a clear understanding and planning on how work needs to get organized at an organizational level. Consider the overall goals, projects and people involved to ensure that you create teams that fit the purpose and don’t create confusion to the members.

One more thing to note is that when a new team in Microsoft Teams is created, an associated SharePoint team site is also created automatically, which is also known as the parent team connected site. Members of the channels of the team can access any files that have been shared.

Roles and permissions in Microsoft Teams

The people who are part of a team can engage through direct or group chat, have meetings and share files. User access control within teams, allows for a more controlled management of each team. Members have defined roles with different permissions. The roles are Team Owner, Team Member and Team Guest.

Team Owners and Team Members can create a channel, participate in a private chat or channel conversation, share a channel or chat file, add apps (e.g. tabs, bots, or connectors), delete or edit posted messages, discover and join public teams, view the org chart.

Team Owners can manage a variety of the team’s settings, including adding and removing members and guests, editing or deleting the team, setting permissions for channels, tabs, and connectors, changing the team picture, auto-showing channels for the whole team, controlling @[team name] mentions, allowing @channel or @[channel name] mentions, allowing usage of emoji, GIFs, and memes, renewing, archiving or restoring a team.

Note that a team can have multiple Team Owners. It is recommended to add more than one Team Owners as roles and responsibilities within a project’s life cycle might change.

Team Members are the people who have been added to the team and can have conversations with other members, view, upload and change files and use all the collaboration tools according to the settings the Team Owners have enabled.

Team Guests are people who have been invited to the team by the Team Owner and don’t belong to the organization (e.g. partners or consultants). Guests have limited permissions within the team, but still do have a lot of capabilities, enabling smooth collaboration.

So now that you have a basic understanding of the purpose, capabilities and roles within teams, we can discuss the purpose of channels in Microsoft Teams.

What is the purpose of channels in Microsoft Teams

Channels are created within teams, and this is where all communication and collaboration takes place. Within the channels, participants collaborate, have chat and video conversations, share files and add apps accessible to the whole team. Conversations within channels are public so everyone in the team is up to speed with the progress of each task.

Channels sit inside teams similarly to how files sit inside folders

Channels are dedicated to specific topics or projects within the relevant teams. For example, within your organization, you might have a HR team to discuss all things HR (you can get more details in the post How to set up Microsoft Teams for effective HR management). To add structure, you can have specific channels for Talent Management, Performance Review, Recruiting, etc., where you can discuss relevant tasks. And here is the analogy we discussed previously in this post - channels sit inside teams in a similar way that files sit inside folders.

When creating channels, ensure that you use simple and descriptive names that make it easy for participants to identify what is being discussed in which channel.

What is included in a channel?

The General channel

As you will notice, inside every team, there is a General channel, accessible to everyone in the team. The main purpose of this channel is to keep a log of who's joined and left teams. In smaller teams, the General channel might be used as the main place for discussions and announcements.

Tabs within channels

The General channel, as well as any new channel you create, come by default with three tabs - Posts, Files and Wiki. Let’s dig deeper into the purpose of each tab.

The Posts tab within a channel

To ensure effective collaboration, everyone who has access to a particular channel, can see the messages that are exchanged in the Posts tab, in the same manner that a group chat works. Responses are attached to the message, so participants can easily follow the whole thread.

It is advised that when starting a new message you give it a title and mention with @name the persons whose attention is required. Participants can respond by clicking on the Reply link underneath the message.

The Files tab within a channel

In this tab you can view all the files that have been stored in the channel. Files can be easily shared by going to the Files tab and upload a new file or by attaching them when sending a message in the posts tab.

The Wiki tab in teams

The Wiki tab comes as a smart-text editor that allows you to organize information related to the channel. You can keep logs of what has been discussed, meeting notes, action points and more.

Tips on customizing channels

1. Add tabs to a channel

You can customize your channel according to your needs by adding apps on a new tab. You can assess the most appropriate apps according to your channel’s needs.

2. Adjust channel notifications

You can easily customize the notifications you get from a channel by selecting Channel Notifications from the More Options button of the specific channel. According to your settings, you can mute or receive notifications per type.

3. Show and hide channels

Channels are listed in an alphabetical order, following the General one that is always listed first. You can show or hide channels by clicking the More options button next to the specific channel and Show or Hide accordingly. You can always show the hidden channels by clicking the Show hidden channels button at the end of the list.

4. Pin a channel

Pinning a channel allows you to have it easily accessible on the list of channels inside a team. To pin a channel, click the More options button next to the channel and select Pin.