Communication and compliance have been teetering on a see-saw ever since the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the era of remote work. As collaboration platforms have multiplied in an effort to assist teams in staying connected and productive across geographical distance, data governance compliance has dropped, catching many organizations unprepared for this decentralized work setup.
Much attention has been given to finding a balance between adopting new technologies and maintaining robust and ethical data governance practices. Government and industry bodies are becoming more vigilant about monitoring the mountains of data captured by collaborative platforms and setting clear guidelines and rules for how this information should be processed and stored.
The most popular of these platforms is Microsoft Teams – a collaboration and communication platform developed by Microsoft as part of its Microsoft 365 suite of productivity tools. It is designed to facilitate teamwork and information sharing within all types of organizations, and it offers a wide range of features that allow users to connect and collaborate, regardless of their physical locations.
Launched in 2017, Microsoft Teams gained popularity rapidly, accumulating 300 million active monthly users. While it offers unparalleled benefits to organizations, Microsoft Teams also raises a number of issues regarding data governance compliance.
Read more to find out about these challenges, and how they are being successfully managed by Microsoft and other software providers.
What is Microsoft Teams
So what makes Microsoft Teams an organizational favorite? Let’s explore some of the standout features that make it a cornerstone of effective collaboration:
At the heart of Teams is an intuitive chat interface that allows for both group and one-on-one instant communication. This can be used for any purpose – from quick questions or sharing updates, to lengthy brainstorming sessions and group meetings. The chat function also integrates emojis and GIFs, enabling more natural conversations that contain indicators of tone and emotion. In addition to typed chat functions, Microsoft Teams allows people to conduct virtual meetings with colleagues and clients, with the ability to make presentations and have discussions in real-time.
File Sharing and Collaboration
Gone are the days of endless email chains and attachment confusion. Teams streamlines file sharing and collaboration by providing a centralized space to upload, edit, and co-author documents. It is fully integrated with Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so there is no need to leave the Microsoft ecosystem. Collaboration is enhanced through Teams Channels which allow users to create dedicated channels for specific topics, projects, or departments, ensuring that discussions and documents are neatly organized and that each group has a space to collaborate effectively.
Productivity Enhancement Features
Teams easily integrates with third-party apps like project management tools and analytics platforms, to enhance productivity. It acts as a centralized hub where employees can access and interact with any of the tools they need. It also boosts efficiency through its built-in bots which assist with tasks such as scheduling meetings or answering common queries, and by allowing for the automation of routine tasks – freeing up team members to focus on more strategic activities.
With this wide range of features, it is easy to understand why data governance would be an issue for any organization using the Microsoft Teams platform – it is a hub for all forms of communication, information sharing, and document exchange. Ensuring that all data gets properly processed and stored is an important challenge, and this starts with understanding what effective data management requires.
Key Principles and Requirements for Effective Data Governance
Effective data governance allows organizations to manage and use data while complying with regulatory standards. The legal landscape regarding the processing of information is complex, as it varies from country to country and between sectors.
While the rules may differ, almost every country has comprehensive data privacy and security legislation, and they generally encompass these essential practices:
- Data Cataloging: A data catalog should capture not only the information, but also its source, ownership, and other usage information. This facilitates data discovery and promotes data understanding.
- Data Security: Implement robust security measures to protect data from unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats. Use encryption, access controls, and authentication mechanisms.
- Data Access and Permissions: Define access levels and permissions based on user roles. Ensure that employees have access to the data they need to perform their tasks while preventing unauthorized access.
- Data Auditing and Monitoring: Implement monitoring mechanisms to detect and respond to suspicious activities and regularly audit practices.
- Data Quality Management: Establish data quality standards and implement processes to ensure data accuracy and consistency.
In addition to these basic principles, the issue of retaining or archiving data has emerged as a crucial practice for compliance. Many sectors such as Finance and Healthcare require organizations to store historical records of communication. Archiving ensures that organizations keep a comprehensive record of their activities that can be critical to compliance audits, legal proceedings, and internal investigations.
Archiving goes beyond data storage – it’s also about preserving context. As teams collaborate, decisions are made, and information is exchanged. Proper archiving ensures that these interactions are captured and retained, enabling organizations to trace back and understand the rationale behind decisions, track communication history, and meet regulatory mandates.
Microsoft Teams and Compliance with Data Governance Regulations
Given this compliance landscape, two important questions emerge – how compliant is Microsoft Teams as a collaboration platform, and how does it assist organizations in their data governance efforts?
How Compliant is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams places a high priority on compliance and security. Microsoft has put stringent measures in place to protect sensitive data and to make sure their own product meets data governance requirements.
Here’s how Teams ensures compliance within its own framework:
- Microsoft Teams adheres to a range of industry standards and has received certification from a number of bodies including ISO 27001, ISO 27018, SOC 2 Type II, HIPAA, and more.
- Teams uses robust encryption protocols to keep communication and data safe. Messages, files, and media that are shared within Teams are encrypted both in transit and on arrival. This ensures that even if data is intercepted, it remains unreadable without proper decryption keys.
- Teams supports multi-factor authentication, requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification before accessing their accounts. This adds an extra layer of security and helps prevent unauthorized access.
- Microsoft offers geographic data residency, allowing customers to choose the geographic location where their data will be stored. This helps organizations comply with data residency regulations specific to their region.
- Teams maintains detailed audit logs that track user activities, file sharing, and other interactions. These logs are essential for maintaining transparency and accountability, and they assist in compliance audits.
How Microsoft Teams Helps with Your Compliance Efforts
Clearly Microsoft Teams is a robust platform that can be safely used in any organization. It also has features that can assist with data governance efforts more broadly. It allows organizations to:
- Create specific rules that dictate how communication should be conducted and processed within the platform.
- Automatically detect and flag potential compliance risks within communications.
- Alert relevant stakeholders in real-time when potential policy violations occur. This feature is especially useful for industries with stringent compliance requirements, allowing swift intervention and resolution.
- Access detailed audit logs and reports that provide insights into user activity.
What about Archiving?
Microsoft Teams streamlines the archiving process, providing features and capabilities that enhance compliance efforts:
- Teams retains chat messages, ensuring that historical conversations remain accessible. Whether it’s a quick exchange of ideas or a crucial decision-making discussion, these messages are securely stored and retrievable.
- Files shared within Teams, whether documents, presentations, or media, are archived as well. This includes different versions of files, allowing organizations to track document evolution over time.
- In addition to individual conversations, Teams enables you to archive entire channels. This can be particularly useful when projects conclude or teams are restructured, ensuring that valuable data isn’t lost.
Teams also lets you define how long messages and files are kept, allowing organizations to align their retention practices with compliance requirements. For situations where data needs to be kept for legal or regulatory reasons, Teams offers a legal hold feature, preventing that data from being deleted, even if it has been kept for the required amount of time.
Leveraging LeapXpert for Microsoft Teams Compliance
Given its popularity, it is unsurprising that a number of third-party platforms have worked to integrate their solutions with Microsoft Teams. In 2022 LeapXpert introduced Leap Work for Microsoft Teams, a native integration into Teams that enables Teams users to communicate with external parties over instant messaging channels such as SMS and WhatsApp, all from within Microsoft Teams.
Powered by The LeapXpert Communications Platform, Leap Work allows Teams users to use one-on-one messaging and group chats with external parties – all from within the Microsoft Teams platform and interface. The LeapXpert Communications Platform integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams and allows Teams users to easily switch from text conversations to voice calls. The platform can be accessed via the Teams Desktop or Mobile applications,ensuring that users are free to access it wherever they are.
As far as compliance, LeapXpert, ensures that all external chat conversations are captured and stored securely for compliance or proof of business interaction. LeapXpert’s platform services also include data leakage prevention for outbound communication, an antivirus/antimalware integration to protect external messaging, information barriers, and ethical walls for customer messaging.
Book a demo now to see how Leap Work can enhance your Microsoft Teams experience.
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