Microsoft Teams Private Channels Are Coming & Why You Need to Turn Them Off

The day a vast number of Microsoft Teams users and administrators have been waiting for is nearly upon us, and we’re not just talking about an excuse to wear PJs to work and call it a Halloween costume. Microsoft recently announced the long-awaited availability of private channels in MS Teams, expected to roll out later this October. To call this feature coveted would be an understatement of grandeur. In fact, Private Channels are the most voted for request in User Voice and have been in great demand since November 1, 2016.

As a part of the rollout, we’ve noticed an interesting setting in the Teams Admin Center, the option to allow or not allow private channels. Interestingly, this new feature is enabled by default.

If you are a Teams admin, or you know one, have them turn this feature off now.

Why on earth would we be telling you to turn them off? We’ll break it all down for you, but let’s set the record straight, PixelMill is pumped for Private Channels; we’ve been clamoring for them from day 1. We’re not suggesting you never utilize this exciting new feature; in fact, we believe private channels will play a vital role in many organization’s MS Teams strategy.

What do we mean by turn off Private Channels?

Microsoft has decided to opt all existing and new Microsoft Teams accounts into private channels by default. As we mentioned, when you go to your Teams admin settings, you will see that private channels are automatically turned on. According to Microsoft, with this setting pre-checked, “you can create private channels for a specific group of users in your organization. Only those people that are added to the private channel will be able to see and write messages.”

We’re merely suggesting, and with great urgency, that you uncheck this box until you’ve adequately planned how your organization will take advantage of this feature. If this box is checked when Microsoft does roll this out to your tenant— which you cannot plan down to the day—your team will instantly have access to this feature. There are many unknowns and things to consider before you release this to your entire organization. We want you to set your team up for success, and ensuring private channels are used correctly within your organization will take planning.

While it’s obvious many people want private channels, it’s important to note that there are quite a few Teams administrators who do not wish to use them in their organizations. In fact, our good friend Microsoft Regional Director & MVP Christian Buckley hosted a Tweet Jam on the topic, and there was a near 50/50 split between teams administrators who were for and against private-channels.

Why PixelMill is pro Private Channels

Internally, we’re excited to start using private channels for Teams with an external client, allowing us to have conversations that are within the context of that team, but with a smaller subset of people. Private chats don’t solve this issue currently as it’s more difficult to add and remove people in chat. Plus, you lose threads and clear timelines.

Why are we telling you to turn them off?

We recommend you turn off the default setting of this feature to ensure your organization has time to plan your internal guidance, governance, documentation, training, complaince, and more. Since we don’t know when private channels will actually land in your tenant, you don’t want to cause confusion or have Rambo use of the feature derail your organization’s structure, security, compliance, and governance. Without proper planning, this can quickly and easily become quite a mess.

Now, if you have not yet rolled out Teams to your organization and don’t plan to for a few more months, we offer different advice. In this case, leave the default setting as is, since private channels should already be part of your governance and strategy, you won’t have to worry about this being turned on by default.

As with any new feature, there is little known about the ramifications of public channels. We also don’t know much about how they are going to work. While we wait with anticipation for documentation from Microsoft on how this will affect us all, here are a couple more reasons to uncheck that setting.

Grouping of users & permissions

We don’t yet know how Private Channels work in relation to user permissions in SharePoint.

Until you have that answer, you can’t properly look into the ramifications, prepare governance, and think through infrastructure to confirm it meets your organization’s compliance.

Who owns the channel?

We also don’t know who owns a private channel, once the channel is created. As an example, say a team owner created a private channel for a set of members, can the team owner be set to not have access to this channel within their team?

Based on the messaging from Microsoft, “only those people that are added to a the private channel will be able to see and write messages,” we assume the team owner in the above scenario would not have access to the private channel they just created. Yet, technically they own it.

So who owns the private channel? Another reason to uncheck that box until we know more.

The Bottom line…

Proper planning prevents poor performance, and we want to see your team thrive. Turn off Teams Private Channels until you’ve had the time to prepare your strategy. At PixelMill, we believe that Teams and all its new functionality will continue to mature and become an increasingly important part of a cohesive Microsoft 365 strategy. When Private Channels are part of a thoughtful strategy, they will be able to help many organizations collaborate more effectively. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll keep you up to date on the latest Microsoft Teams tips and techniques, including how to properly configure Private Channels.

Still not convinced that you need to uncheck this setting? Let’s chat. We’d love to hear from you!


Are you looking to take your organization’s digital teamwork to the next level? A PixelMill Teams expert would love to chat with you today. We are ready to help you think through difficult questions like these, build a solid strategy, and help you roll out and gain adoption of Microsoft Teams today!

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