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Understanding M365 Groups and Content Sprawl

Photo of organizational containers and filing and storage, with "Understanding M365 Groups and Content Sprawl" written in text.


Newer users often fall victim to "content sprawl", meaning unmanaged content is everywhere across their M365 apps and there is an overflow of unused Sites, Teams, shared inboxes, OneNote Notebooks and much more.

Understanding how each app is related and the ripple effect of creating new Sites, Teams, Planners, etc. will allow clients to develop procedures to minimize content sprawl and reduce inactive M365 apps.

Messy and used pots and pans piled up in sink, representing the untidiness and disorganization that can be found in a digital system.
"Content sprawl" is when users create and use unmanaged content for day-to-day tasks. It gets untidy fairly quickly.


You, a client, would like to understand Microsoft 365 groups and how they are the foundation membership services that drive all teamwork across Microsoft 365. Use the findings and recommendations in this article to drive home the importance of proper governance in Microsoft 365.


Simply put, a M365 Group is a collection of people. Think of an upgraded distribution group with access to more than just a shared mailbox. Once you create a Microsoft 365 group, it tips the first domino of a series that creates a suite of Microsoft 365 apps for that group.

What's most important to understand is that the M365 group ties all the shared resources together but does not have to be the first thing created. Creating a new Microsoft Team creates an M365 group. Creating a new SharePoint site creates an M365 group. The list goes on. Use the visual below to see the ripple effect of creating something new in M365.

Out of the gate, Microsoft allows every user to create any of these resources freely. So, when a user creates a new Team to share their grandma's recipes with their colleagues, a SharePoint site is created, a OneNote Notebook, Planner Plan, PowerBI workspace, a shared inbox and much more without them ever realizing. This creates a nightmare for Records Managers, IT, and security teams alike as files are being added anywhere with no governance in place and there is an overflow of unused and unmanaged SharePoint sites, Teams, inboxes, Planners, etc. To control content sprawl, we recommend using an Information Architecture model in SharePoint and Teams that will serve as the single source of truth repository for all files within the organization. Policy should mandate that all records be saved into the Information Architecture design.

Secondly, to further reduces content sprawl, we recommend limiting the creation of M365 groups to a subset of users who may approve content creation.


About Cadence Solutions

Jordan Uytterhagen founded Cadence Solutions starting on the client side of the table. His mandate has been to help organizations struggling with digital transformation implement projects without losing their trust and confidence. Our solutions include automation of human resources, finance, accounts payable, contract management, document capture, drawing and records management, as well as managed services. Cadence Solutions has proven, time and again, that our client's projects will be successful because we are authentic with unmatched experience.


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