What do IT pros usually do when they don’t understand something or don’t have a clear direction? KILL IT! Kill it before something happens that we don’t understand!!!!

I’ve seen this a lot with Yammer external groups. IT don’t want users creating external groups due to data leakage or other compliance/governance purposes, so disable the feature. The problem here is that this approach in Yammer also stops users accessing external groups hosted in other networks.

This scenario gives rise to “Shadow IT” as users tend to find their way around IT and will find other tools like Slack, Facebook, Google Groups, and any number of others.

In some instances, IT wants to block users accessing external groups in Yammer completely. Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with this approach because users then turn to LinkedIn as it is generally not blocked, and has a community / group aspect where IT has no control. Often people will use their own phones to access services blocked by the corporate firewall/proxy. Or in cases like Yammer they might get an account created in someone else’s Yammer network and join the groups anyway (I and a few others I know play host to such wayward users who still want to participate in conversations, but their IT department has disabled external groups).

There’s two things IT departments can do here:

Allow users to access external groups, but prevent their ability to create them.

If you check the checkbox in the picture below, external groups will no longer work.

What other users in those external groups will see is this:

In one external group I’m a member of we’ve turned it into a sport to use memes and GIFs to make light of people disappearing in this manner. (The organisation in the screenshot below had the name “Connect” as part of their name.)

So, what’s the tip here? There is a way to prevent the creation of external groups by users, but still allow them to join external groups they have been invited to. You can read more in this support article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Create-and-manage-external-groups-in-Yammer-9ccd15ce-0efc-4dc1-81bc-4a424ab6f92a

Unfortunately, it’s not a setting you can change yourself, and instead you’ll need to contact support from within the Office 365 admin panel.

Get your house in order

As I mentioned earlier, users tend to find their way around blocks and restrictions which is actually worse for governance and compliance than giving them access to something that isn’t completely managed in the first place.

As new services pop up that IT doesn’t necessarily know about, users will subscribe to them which results in more shadow IT. Sure you can block Facebook, Slack, but if you start blocking Google or LinkedIn that will cause real problems – and there are plenty of other community and group chat solutions out there.

So instead of burying your head in the sand and turning things off or blocking access – prioritise the compliance and governance frameworks needed to support the use of tools like Yammer or more recently Microsoft Teams. This may require actually investing the time and effort to build a robust policy as well as potentially procuring a third-party monitoring system, but it’s better to be on the front foot with appropriate guidance and measures than annoying users and losing control of data.


Also published on Medium.

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