Guide to Orphaned Teams in Microsoft Teams
A common problem we see with customer Microsoft Team environments are Orphaned Teams.
Let us discuss what they are, how to find them, how to fix them and then how to plan to stop them from occurring.
What is an orphaned Team?
So, an orphaned team is a team where no one can administer the team anymore. This means that new members cannot be added as required or changes to the team configuration cannot be made.
This normally occurs, when all the Microsoft Teams site owners have left the organisation and/or the Microsoft Team has no owners assigned.
How can I detect orphaned Teams?
This should be straight forward but it is a little complex to do. To detect an orphaned Team you need the following information:
- A list of teams with their site owners (no problem).
- A date for each of those site owners last logged on (this is trickier).
To get a list of Teams from Microsoft 365 is quite straight forward using the Microsoft Graph API. However, the challenge comes with understanding when the user last logged on. This information is not held against a user object. Instead, the most reliable approach is to read and record the last time they logged using sign-in information.
The challenge comes from the fact that depending on your Azure Active Directory licensing, there are different retention periods. By default, sign-in logs are held for 7 days, however, if you purchase Azure Active Directory Basic, P1 or P2 license then they are held for 30 days.
More information can be found here [How long does Azure AD store reporting data? | Microsoft Docs]
This information should be extracted and stored regularly so that you can build a good accurate record of the last time a user logged in. This information should be held in a data store which is easily accessible by script or a tool like Power Automate.
How do I resolve an Orphaned Team?
So, an administrator for Microsoft 365, someone who is part of the Groups Admin or Global Admin role will need to update and assign new site owners.
What can I do to reduce the likelihood of orphaned Teams?
Governance and process
The first thing is that you need to put in place governance and a process around creating a Microsoft Team.
That process should require that when a Team is created there are at least two owners provided. This helps if one of the owners is on holiday or off sick. Also, the owners should be educated so that they know that if one of them leaves that they should assign a new owner to take over from the owner who is leaving.
Secondly, put some reporting in place so that you notified when a Microsoft Team has only one Site Owner. This will allow you to capture those exceptions. Use the sign-in information to check and identify Microsoft Teams where one of the owners has not logged in, in 30 days.
The report data can be established using the Microsoft Graph  to retrieve the site owners for a Team. This information along with the sign-in information can be used to highlight those Teams which have more than one Site Owner but where the Site Owners have left.
Lastly, using the reports, you can identify the Teams and then reach out to the owners and ask them to provide a new Site Owner which can add an owner or replace the existing one.
You can use tooling to tackle this problem, examples of tools that will help you control Orphaned Teams are:
- ShareGate Apricot [https://sharegate.com/products/sharegate-apricot]
- Orchestry [Work Made Simple in Office 365, Microsoft Teams & SharePoint | Orchestry]
- Provision Point 365 [https://www.provisionpoint.com/office-365-governance/]
- Avepoint [Microsoft Teams Admin Solution | MS Teams Management | AvePoint]
Try them out and see which one works for you.