Improve collaboration with Microsoft Teams shared channels

Three coworkers talk in a conference room with a large easel notepad filled with writing

Finding ways to securely, effectively collaborate with external clients can be challenging for firms, as revealed during a recent Intapp Workspaces webinar, “Preparing your Firm for Microsoft Teams Shared Channels.” During the webinar, Intapp representatives explored the pros and cons of current collaboration strategies — then revealed a brand-new way of collaborating with Microsoft Teams shared channels.

Inviting guest users and building client portals

Currently, many firms rely on one of two external collaboration strategies.

The first strategy is to invite outside parties to join the firm’s tenant in Microsoft Teams. As guest users, external clients have specific permissions that allow them to collaborate within the team they were invited to. As millions of professionals already prefer using Microsoft Teams thanks to its various features and benefits, this strategy may initially seem like the best option for firms and their clients.

However, a drawback of inviting outside parties is that guest users will need to constantly switch between their own organization’s Microsoft Teams tenant and your firm’s tenant, which can cause confusion and frustration. Microsoft Teams also doesn’t clearly show internal users whether guests are part of certain channels: “That’s dangerous because you can be … discussing the client [in a general channel] … [and] those guest users are getting to see all that information,” warned Fergus Wilson, Vice President of Engineering for Collaboration and Content at Intapp.

The second most common collaboration method is to create a client portal. Client portals can be designed to feature your firm’s branding, giving it a more professional look. You’ll be able to better control the content that external users can view and access, and external users won’t need to worry about tenant switching.

Unfortunately, client portals often don’t have the same advantages and capabilities as Microsoft Teams, and external users won’t be as familiar or comfortable with the portal’s interface as they typically are with Microsoft Teams. It’s also difficult for internal staff to collaborate with clients in a separate environment, especially if they must constantly configure and update the portal.

Introducing Microsoft Teams shared channels

Thankfully, Microsoft Teams now lets users create channels specifically for sharing with outside groups. Clients no longer need join a firm’s tenant as a guest user, nor do they have to worry about tenant switching. Clients will only have access to the shared channel, and won’t be able to access the rest of the team content or post something in the wrong team channel.

Shared channels are clearly marked, so internal staff will be less likely to accidentally share inappropriate information with clients. Shared channels are also “clearly identified and labeled as  shared channel[s] in Microsoft SharePoint,” said James Lownes, Senior Product Manager for Collaboration and Content at Intapp — so SharePoint users can work more confidently as well.

Microsoft Teams shared channels are not only an effective way to collaborate with external parties; they can also be used for cross-team, cross-department, and cross-function collaboration. For example, you can share a channel with people on your finance team, or your marketing team can provide key updates to the whole firm by maintaining a shared channel.

“When you look at the capabilities of shared channels,” said Wilson, “you kind of wonder whether private channels are [even] going to be a thing in the future, because [Microsoft Teams shared channels are] much more flexible.”

Applying Intapp Client Collaboration to improve engagement

To enhance the Microsoft Teams experience, Intapp and Microsoft have formed a strategic partnership to provide a unified engagement overview. By leveraging OnePlace Collaboration & Content with Microsoft 365, firms can improve document and lifecycle management, increase engagement visibility, and streamline collaboration.

“We really believe that Microsoft 365 has the power to deliver seamless and secure internal and external collaboration across the matter lifecycle,” explained Bryan Ferguson, Practice Group Lead for Collaboration and Content at Intapp. “Your internal teams and clients will [have] access to data, content insights from other applications, and real time chat and collaboration.”

Wilson demonstrated Intapp Client Collaboration, part of the OnePlace Collaboration & Content suite, to show how users can safely, efficiently manage and work on documents with clients using a single source of truth. He also spoke about how other products in the suite — specifically Intapp Workspaces and Intapp Documents — will also soon integrate with Microsoft Teams shared channels, iManage, and NetDocuments to further help consolidate data.

Watch the full webinar recording to learn more about how Intapp Client Collaboration and Microsoft Teams shared channels can help your firm better work with clients.

Written by:

Fergus Wilson

Senior Director, Engineering

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