Best Practices for Managing Data and Records in Microsoft Teams Chats and Channel Posts

Teams is a very powerful tool that facilitates group collaboration, especially when using the chat or conversation function. It is so simple to communicate with others in Teams, that it’s easy to overlook the type of information being shared, whether others can see it, how it’s being stored, and whether another tool may be more appropriate for transmitting the data.

When using Teams chats and channel posts, always consider the following:

  1. The sensitivity and classification of information you are transmitting.
  2. Will the chat or channel post create a University record that could be subject to a right to information request? If so, be professional and mindful of the content of your Teams chats and channel posts as they can be called upon if the University receives a right to information request.
  3. Information contained in a chat or channel post is confidential between you and the person/people you are conversing with. However, chats and channel posts may be producible in the event of a right to information request, subpoena, warrant or court order.

Right to Information Requests

Information discussed and files shared in chats and channel posts may constitute University records. As such, those records may be subject to a right to information request and may be viewed by others either internal to UNB or external. Therefore, it is important to:

  • be mindful of the information being transmitted and stored in Teams, and
  • structure information and records in Teams in such a way that the information can later be retrieved.

Chat

  • The chat function in Teams is equivalent to any other instant message service. It is a good tool for impromptu conversations between two or more people and good for swift communication; think of it as a virtual water cooler conversation.
  • Highly confidential and confidential information should not be communicated via chat; use another appropriate means to communicate the information such as UNB Secure FileDrop, phone or encrypted email.
  • Keep conversations ad hoc – if the discussion starts getting into business decisions, then move to email, in person conversation or create a formal Team. Work should not be completed in chat.
  • Chats are intended to be more ephemeral and lack functionality to be used as a managed, continuing conversation.
  • Files shared via chat sit in the “Files” section of the chat. Consider whether this is the appropriate location to store the file or whether it should be moved out to a more permanent location such as the network drive or formal SharePoint site. Remember, chats are more transitory in nature; managing files in chat is not good records management practice.

 Channel Posts

  • When a chat extends beyond a short casual meeting exchange, consider creating a formal Team.
  • Unlike a chat, a formal team has more management functionality, including the role of a Team Owner, who can add or remove participants and create sub-conversations (“channels”) including private channels available to a subset of team participants.
  • When creating a Team, always ensure those on the team are authorized to have access to the information discussed or shared within the Team and channels.
  • Conversations or “channel posts” within a formal Team are suitable for transmitting confidential information. Refrain from discussing highly confidential information; use another method to communication highly confidential information such as UNB Secure FileDrop or encrypted email.
  • Create a plan for managing information and records in your team and ensure others on the Team are aware of the information plan. Consider creating channels for various topics to organize the information and conversations appropriately.