Information structure in Microsoft Teams – Where should I save (and later also find) the documents?

In my daily work, I meet far too many companies and organizations that take the information structure too lightly. Sometimes due to lack of time, but sometimes due to carelessness. Either reason will sooner or later lead to chaos and irritated users. In the best case scenario, one has in any case gotten away from storing files on file servers and instead got over to Microsoft 365 with Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive as storage areas.
Unfortunately, it is far too common to just dump the files where you see that it is possible.

Here are some examples of Basic misuse (which many actually do).

  • Put all files on OneDrive
  • Put all files in one Document Library on a SharePoint Site
  • Put all files in the General channel in a Team

The reason for this blog post

On the first of September 2022, I will participate in Kai Stenberg’s PodCast “Teams Cast away“. There we will talk about information structure in Microsoft Teams. This blog post is written with the aim of sharing some tips with others who might wonder how to build a smart and logical structure in the simplest possible way so that you know where documents belong and can easily find them again when working in Microsoft Teams.

“Create and store documents in their logical/intuitive context. Then you and your colleagues don’t need to waste time searching for them later”

A golden rule in the handling of documents in Microsoft Teams is that the documents must always be created and stored in their relevant context. In my world, there should always be a relevant channel where a document fits. If you have relevant channels, you store documents and conversations in a relevant/logical context, and thus you don’t have to look for them. They simply have a natural place where they belong and your other team members should know (and practice) that too.

Below I will give you some simple and basic tips on what to keep in mind when you have a document that you are wondering where it belongs.

Consideration 1 – In which application/service does the document belong?

  • Controlled documents that are mainly to be read/consumed (Guidelines, policies, instructions).
    • We store these in a controlled SharePoint site.
  • Personal documents that no one else really has anything to do with, or that aren’t yet ready to be shared.
    • We store these documents on OneDrive for Business.
  • “When we interact and work together on Documents.
    • We do it in Microsoft Teams”.

OK, now this blog post is about documents in Microsoft Teams so that’s what we’re focusing on now. BUT, where in Microsoft Teams should we store the document that we have in front of us?

Consideration 2 – Does the document belong to a project, or does it belong to a unit in your organization?

  • IF Project Then
    • What project and thus what Project Team?
    • Should it be shared with guests or is it an internal document?
  • If Organizational Then
    • Is the document relevant only to a single organizational unit or is it “multidisciplinary” and should be shared across the organization?
    • Which organizational unit (or network) and thus which Organizational (or network) Team should it be stored in?

OK, you’ve found which Team it belongs in, BUT:

Consideration 3 – Where in the team should the document be placed so that it is intuitive to find it?

IF Project Team Then

  • In the channel “General” we store general Work Documents related to all “Work streams”/”Topics”.
    • Try to avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
        • Subfolder
          • Subfolder
The General Channel for General Documents and General Conversations

  • In a Shared Channel for Customer/Partner Collaboration we can store Documents that we collaborate on with- and that are relevant for an external party that does not need to have access to the rest of the project team.
    • Try to avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
        • Subfolder
          • Subfolder

A Shared Channel where you can collaborate with external parties.

  • A Private Channel for Sensitive/Private Information where you can store documents that only a few people need to (or should) have access to.
    • Try to avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
        • Subfolder
          • Subfolder
A Private Channel

  • One Channel pr Workstream/Topic where you store the working documents relevant to the respective workstream or topic.
    • Try to avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
        • Subfolder
          • Subfolder

One Channel for each main topic/Workstream

These were some examples of how you can structure the information when it comes to Project Teams and project documents. But what do we do if it is an organizational document that is to be stored in an organizational team?

IF Organizational Team (e.g. a Department) Then

  • Use the General Channel for General work documents relevant to all topics in- and members of the Department.
    • Avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
      • Subfolder
      • Subfolder

The General Channel in a Department Team.

  • Use channels for each specific topic within the Department in order to store the working documents relevant to the specific topic.
    • Avoid more than 3 folder levels in “Files”.
      • Folder
      • Subfolder
      • Subfolder

These were some simple examples, tips and advice on how you should think when structuring documents in Microsoft Teams. There are many opinions on this subject but in my opinion this, as you have just read, is the easiest way to create a clear logical structure that everyone can understand and relate to.

Good luck with your further information structuring 🙂

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

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