I love the concept of private channels. Working with Microsoft partners to deploy Teams solutions for customers, it’s a natural fit to have a Team per customer and then project based channels underneath that. Key staff from the customer are usually added as guests. With the release of private channels a few months ago, we can now have an “Internal Only” channel for discussions and drafts. Previously, we’d have to set up a second Team to achieve this same security boundary.
I was curious about what other organizations were using private channels for now that we’re a few months in. I posted on a social media, asked around at user groups, and here’s what I found:
For events, private channels can be used for speakers, or groups of speakers. Organizers or staff with different roles might have their own private channels. Overall though, Team members were able to access non-sensitive areas to promote “working out loud”, which serves as a sort of replacement for hallway conversations.
A managed services organization uses a Team per customer approach, with channels to organize various aspects of services for the customer. A private channel is used for internal conversations and planning.
Another use was to allow guests – from various partners or sub-contractors to interact with the main organization, or possibly each other, without needing to create numerous Teams. This approach does require that nearly every channel would be private, since there is no way to invite guests to just a channel.
Some organizations don’t feel that private channels are ready yet, and disable them. Reasons were around information protection and the ability to properly control their intellectual property. Others had concerns over “SharePoint Sprawl”, as each private channel gets its own site collection. Along these sames lines, one organization did like the lack of ability to “privatize” and “publicize” channels – they felt the lock-in once the channel was created could cause pain down the road if they made the wrong choice.
Others noted that some features, like Planner, are O365 group based and aren’t supported in private channels. Private channels (and “vanilla” channels) don’t have O365 groups, while the Team is O365 group based.
I think it’s fair to say that private channels are useful for many who need an administrative way to separate things. It’s likely also fair to say that private channels currently fall short of what other organizations need in terms of governance and compliance.