One of the most important features has just landed in the Preview mode in Teams – Shared Channels. You can invite your colleagues or people from external organizations directly into a Teams channel. No more dedicated Teams or shared SharePoint folders, and no more switching organizations!
In this post, I will show you how to configure the required features and start to play with Shared Channels.
Before we start playing with it, we need to go through prerequisites because some required features are disabled by default.
Shared Channels are available only in the Public Preview mode. You can enable it in Teams Admin Center. Open Teams blade -> Teams update policies and edit a specific policy (in my case it is Global policy. Set the Show preview features to Enabled.
In Teams application open ellipsis (…) -> About -> Developer preview. If it’s enabled, you can see a small P icon on your profile picture.
The next step is to enable shared channels in Teams policies. In Teams Admin Center go to Teams -> Teams policies and open your policy (in my case it is the Global one). Now you must enable all settings related to Shared channels.
Configure Azure AD cross-tenant access settings
Shared channels required Azure AD B2B direct connect to be configured properly (by default it is disabled). But what is it?
This is a feature of External Identities that lets you set up a mutual trust relationship with another Azure AD organization. The trust allows seamless collaboration. Right now, it is used by Teams’ Shared channels.
Before you start
- You’ll need an account with a Global administrator or Security administrator. Other roles (e.g., Teams administrator) are not able to configure these settings (sorry).
- Cross-tenant access settings can be configured in 2 ways – globally or per tenant
- Cross tenant access is established through mutual trust – both parties must configure it!
Cross-tenant access settings can be configured globally (you trust everyone) or for a specific organization (your trust specified organization). The second one is strongly recommended, and I will show you how to do this.
- Navigate to Azure AD and go to External Identities and open Cross-tenant access settings (Preview) and click + Add organization
2. Enter your external organization domain name or the tenant ID (ask the organization that you want to work with)
3. By default, all settings are inherited from the default configuration, and you must change them. Simply click on Inherited from default for inbound and outbound access.
4. Open Inbound access, go to B2B direct connect and allow access to External users and groups, and Applications
5. Go back to the main cross-tenant access settings and configure Outbound settings – select the same settings as for Inbound settings and confirm all changes.
6. The external organization that you added here must do the same configuration and trust your organization.
There are additional settings to enhance security – you can enable these settings for selected users or groups, and enable trust for MFA, and devices. You can configure them during this process or later.
Create a Shared channel
Creating a shared channel is quite simple – create a channel as usual and from the Privacy dropdown select Shared.
By default, the channel is shared with all existing members of the team, but you can uncheck the option to select specific members.
A shared channel has an additional icon, so you don’t need to check settings to know which one is shared.
How to share
To share our Shared channel with users just click on the ellipsis and select Share channel. There are 3 options:
- With people – you can invite any user from your organization or people from trusted external organizations
- With a team – you can invite the entire team
- With a team you own – you select a team that you own from a drop-down list
Share with people
Let’s start simple and share a channel with someone from our organization. Type a name or an email and click the Share button.
It works exactly as sharing with standard channels.
My colleague John can see the channel – but only one that is shared with him. No General or any other.
Now I can talk with John as on the standard channel.
Share with a team
This function allows you to share the channel with the entire team, but this time the procedure is more complex.
- Open sharing panel and select With a team. Now you must type the name or email address of a team’s owner. The owner will get an invitation and can accept it on behalf of the team.
2. The invited owner gets an invitation in the Feed section. The invitation can be accepted (within 14 days) or declined.
3. Accept displays list with all Teams owned by the invited owner. Just select one and confirm.
4. Now the process goes back to the Shared channel owner. You can see which team was selected by the invited owner and approve it or deny it. You have 14 days to do that.
5. You can check invited teams in a team’s Members settings. The Teams section displays all teams invited to your Shared channel. From this pane, you can also click on the Member icon and check all members of the selected team.
Share with a team you own
This option allows you to share the channel with teams you own. You can select a team from a list and that’s it. Now every member of the selected team has access to the Shared channel.
To share a channel with external users you can use Share with a people or Share with a team function. Simply enter the full e-mail address of your external user and confirm.
If you use the Share with a team option, you will go through the procedure described earlier.
Now you can talk and work with external users.
As usual, there are limitations/specific behaviors:
- A Shared channel creates a dedicated SharePoint Online site
- 50 shared channels per team are allowed
- A shared channel can be shared with 50 teams
- 1000 direct members, including up to 50 teams. (Each team the channel is shared with counts as one member for purposes of this limit.)
- Stream, Planner, and Forms are not supported as a tab (others are supported)
- LOB apps, bots, connectors, and message extensions are not supported for public preview.
- When you create a team from an existing team, shared channels in the existing team won’t be copied over.
- Notifications from shared channels are not included in missed activity emails.
- Guest users are not supported
Shared channels are great extensions to existing sharing options. You can select the right option (a private channel, invite guest users, or create a shared channel) depending on your requirements.
Shared channels can be useful in internal scenarios when you need to share one specific channel with content and communication with people or entire teams.
- Inviting people from the finance department to specific projects
- Cross-department collaboration in existing teams
Shared channels shine when it comes to collaborating with external users. You can collaborate with your vendors, partners, or customers. One environment for all communication and work. You can create files, upload data, communicate, and even create channel meetings (external users can’t create channel meetings but can join the existing meeting).
One more thing – external users don’t need to switch organizations. This is a really big thing, and it changes how we work with external users. In many cases, it re-enables this type of collaboration (I know many people that hate switching organizations and because of that they don’t use it – they work only on their Teams).
Examples are endless here:
- Working together on a project (I’ve just started implementing this in some of my projects)
- Collaboration with Partners
- Support your customers (use a shared channel to quickly communicate and solve problems)
- Cross-org initiatives