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How Microsoft Teams fits together; organizations, teams, channels, apps and people

When you first go into Teams it’s a confusing jungle of terms and options.  As usual, Microsoft assumes we’ve all been born knowing how their software is arranged.   It’s not as difficult as it looks … once you get the structure or logic of Microsoft Teams.

Wrap your head around Microsoft Teams with this article on how Teams organize people and a related article about the elements that make up Teams.

Teams starts from an Organization (Org) splits into Teams and finally People.  Teams has three different types of People.

  • Organization
    • Teams
      • People
        • Admins
        • Members
        • Guests

Organizations and Teams can split into different Channels for communication … more on that later.


Everything in Teams starts with an Organization.

An Organization can be any broad group.  A business (obviously), club, sporting group, family, friends, whatever.

You can be a member of many different organizations (your work, as a guest in another organization, personal clubs or groups).

The Teams apps support multiple Organizations. When you login to the app, it will ask which Organization you want to use (even if you’re only joined to one).


An Organization can then split into Teams.  Teams are sub-groups of Organization members participating on a particular project or event.

A company might have separate Teams for each department: Sales, Marketing, HR, Factory etc.  Also Teams for specific projects like a new product, moving to a new location, opening a new store or other things like Xmas Party!

A sporting club might have a team (literally) for each team (Under 15’s, Under 18’s, Mens, Ladies etc) plus teams for the club board (agenda, minutes etc), coaches etc.

People can join (or be invited into) multiple Teams.  Someone from the Sales department will be in the Sales team but also included in a Product Launch team.  A coach would be a member of their Team group and also a team for coaches and maybe the Board team.

In effect, there’s an ‘Everyone’ team which includes all members of the organization.

Teams can be:

  • Public – meaning anyone in the Organization, not really public
  • Private – only team owners can add members. Use private Teams for topics, projects limited to certain people.  For example, a Board of Directors can have their own private team.


Microsoft Teams basis is People.  For a company it’s the staff, a club has members etc.

Teams has four types of People – Administrators, Owners, Members and Guests.


The folks who control the Teams organization, the top of the Teams hierarchy.   Administrators can create new teams, add/invite/drop people from a team and generally arrange things.


Each Team has one or more owners.  Owners are like administrators for the team.

For Private teams, Owners can add/invite people into the team.


Most staff or participants are at Member level.  They can participate in whatever Teams they’re joined into.


The lowest form of life in a Teams organization, though there’s little practical difference in regular use.

Guest level access is intended to let people outside the main organization join a Team.  An external contractor or consultant can be invited into a team for a specific project

A guest can have any type of email address; from another organization or a public service like Gmail, or whatever.  That address must be linked to a Microsoft account.

Guests can do all the things that Members can within the Teams they’re authorized for.  Guests can contribute to chats, add and edit documents, participate in audio/video chats etc.

Admins can block Guests from managing Channels.  Members may be allowed to invite Guests into Teams or Admins can limit guest invites to themselves.

The main Guest difference is for Administrators.  Teams licencing is per Member with no charge for Guests.  When creating a new Team or Channel, there’s an option to automatically join all members to the new item.  Guests have to be added each time.

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