Microsoft Teams Gets Guest Access Feature

Users of Microsoft Teams can now invite guests from outside organizations to join their conversations.

Announced Monday, the new guest access capability currently only works for external guests that have Azure Active Directory accounts (although Microsoft says there are "more than 870 million" Azure AD accounts in existence). Microsoft plans to make it possible to invite guests with Microsoft accounts, too, in the near future.

Microsoft Teams is a "collaboration workspace" solution for Office 365 users. It's enabled via Microsoft Groups and delivers persistent chat sessions for end users, as well as meetings, messaging and phone calls, according to Microsoft's FAQ for administrators.

The guest invite capability in Microsoft Teams is enabled through the Azure AD B2B service, which is currently available in Europe and North America. Microsoft Teams invitations get the same sort of security assurances as enabled via the Azure AD B2B service, Microsoft's announcement promised. For instance, conditional access policies can be imposed, including an insistence on the use of multifactor authentication to verify user identities. According to Microsoft's announcement, "guest user content and activities are under the same compliance and auditing protection as the rest of Office 365." IT pros can revoke guest access, if they want.

The guest access capability is not turned on by default for Office 365 tenancies, according to this "Administrator Settings" document. It appears that IT pros have to toggle it on using Office 365 Admin Center settings, although the process isn't described in Microsoft's document.

Microsoft Team "owners" are empowered to invite guests. A team owner can be any end user in an organization using Office 365 where Teams is enabled. The team that gets created can be either public or private. Team owners set the permissions for the team members. They can control whether guests can create "channels, tabs and connectors," as well as notifications via "@[name]" mentions, plus access to the use of "GIFs, stickers and memes," according to Microsoft's "Teams and Channels" FAQ.

In essence, a "channel" is just a focused chat conversation. A "tab" is part of the user interface in Microsoft Teams, which can be used to add applications and bots to the Microsoft Teams experience. The "@mentions" feature lets Microsoft Teams users flag other users, or even other channels or teams, by adding the "@" symbol before those names. A team owner can up to 999 people to a particular team.

On the applications side, Microsoft announced earlier this week that it expanded Microsoft Teams buy adding support for Botkit, a toolkit for making bots for internal or external use. In addition, Microsoft plans to support the integration of ServiceNow service management solutions to show notifications in Microsoft Teams. Other additions coming to Microsoft Teams include integrations with Atlassian and GitHub developer collaboration tools. Microsoft's new partnership with Adobe, announced last week, will add collaboration capabilities in Microsoft Teams for the "Adobe Creative Cloud, Document Cloud and Experience Cloud."

Guests in Microsoft Teams have a few restrictions by default, according to this "Guest Access in Microsoft Teams" document. They can's share chat files or add applications. Guests can't create a team or view organizational charts by default. They also can't search for a public team and join it. They have to be invited.

IT pros ultimately have control over Team owners by specifying who can or cannot create a group in Office 365. Microsoft Teams is turned on by default tenancywide for business Office 365 users, so IT pros wanting to disable access have to revoke individual Microsoft Teams licenses for end users via the Office 365 Admin Center or via PowerShell. In contrast, Office 365 Education users have the Microsoft Teams feature turned off by default.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.