Office 365 Groups is a membership service in Office 365 that allows team members to work in a collaborative workspace. Office 365 Groups comes with conversations, files, calendar events, OneNote Notebook, PowerBI Workspace and project/task management tools.
In this post, I will explain the features of Office 365 Groups, why do companies use it and how you can leverage it within your organization.
Why do we need Office 365 Groups?
In the past, when a group or team needed a distribution list or a SharePoint site, they would request IT to provision this in Exchange and SharePoint.
Office 365 Groups addresses the needs of groups and teams and empowers Power Users and Information Workers to quickly get access to a Group mailbox, a SharePoint team site, a Group Notebook, Calendar and much more just by creating an Office 365 Group.
Who can Create Office 365 Groups?
When an Office 365 Group is created, a SharePoint site, outlook mailbox for the group (conversations), planner workspace and calendar are automatically provisioned. A user just has to create a group and then add members to it. The group has an owner who is usually the person who created the group.
By default, any user In an Office 365 tenant, can create a group. The process to create an Office 365 Group is straightforward and very user-friendly and does not require involvement from IT.
Some organizations may want to have a governance plan in place first and may want to restrict which users can create groups in Office 365. In such cases, the creation of Office 365 Groups can be restricted to a certain security group managed by IT. This can be configured via PowerShell.
Features of Office 365 Groups
When an Office 365 group is created, a mailbox for the group is automatically provisioned in Exchange. It comes with a group email address and emails sent to it are delivered to the member’s inbox as well. This is a useful feature that accomplishes what a Distribution list does, but with the added benefit that all emails sent to it are stored centrally and is available for any member of the group.
If a new employee joins the company and they are added to a group, they can gain visibility immediately to all the group’s emails and activities.
SharePoint Team Site
An Office 365 group also comes with its own SharePoint team site/site collection. The Documents library in the SharePoint Team site is the default library visible in the Office 365 group. All members of the Office 365 have contributor access to the library.
You can create additional document libraries and lists, add columns and workflows as well as you would in a regular SharePoint team site.
An Outlook Calendar is also another feature available in an Office 365 groups. Members of the group can add events and appointments. The Calendar events and appointments are also visible on a member’s Outlook Calendar. Meetings created on the calendar are delivered to the group mailbox and the personal inbox of members too. Any member of the group can edit or cancel a meeting.
Office 365 Groups has a OneNote notebook that can be used to capture notes for the group’s team discussions, meetings, plans, and activities.
The planner is an Office 365 planning and task management tool. The planner can be used to manage small projects, assign tasks to members and view pending/completed tasks report on the planner dashboard. When an Office 365 group is created, a planner environment or a plan is set up for the members of the group.
Each member of the Office 365 group can add their own tasks and assign members to them. The Charts in planner allow members to view the progress of projects and individual tasks relevant to the project in one place.
Microsoft Teams is a new Office 365 chat-based workspace that brings teams, conversations, files, notes and project plans from Office 365 together in one place. Office 365 Group comes with its own group chatroom in teams, where members can chat with each other individually or send a message to the group. Members can also share files and notes and even have video calls and schedule online meetings.
Yammer is a social networking tool for the enterprise that makes it easy to work together on projects and events by providing a central place for your conversations, files, and updates. Yammer integrates with Office 365 Groups. It is useful for broadcasting messages to a wide audience across the organization.
Types of Groups (Public vs Private)
Office 365 groups are private by default. Only approved members or members who have been invited by the group owner can view the content of the group. A public Office 365 group can be viewed by anyone inside the organization and its contents are not private.
A Group Admin can change the group setting –
- Open Outlook on the web.
- Navigate to the Office 365 group that you want to change the privacy settings on.
- Select Edit group.
- Under Privacy, choose Public or Private to match the setting you want.
- Click Save to make your selection. It may take a few minutes for the changes to take effect.
Office 365 Group Security, Members, and Owners
The Group owner is usually the user who created the group. The Group Owner and other Members can add other users to the group. The Group Owner is the only one who can remove members from a group. The Group owner is the only one who can change the group settings like update the name of the group, change the privacy (public or private) and upload a picture for the Group.
Adding members to a group
In Outlook on the web, click on the Group Name. Click the members on the top right. Select Add members, enter the name of the user and click Save.
An Email will be sent to the user inviting them to the Office 365 Group. The new user will automatically have access to the group Outlook conversations, SharePoint site, Group Plan and the Group Calendar. The Group owner is the only one who can delete an Office 365 Group.
A Group Owner can also allow people outside the organization to email the group. An owner can also set the group’s outlook conversation to be delivered to the members’ mailboxes. Individual members can unfollow or stop following the group if they want to.
Removing members of Office 365 group
In Outlook on the web, click on the Group Name. Click the members on the top right. Select the Next to the name of the member you want to remove and click Remove from group.
Promoting a member to Group Owner
In Outlook on the web, click on the Group Name. Click the members on the top right. Select All to see all members of the group. Hover over the name of the member you want to promote and select Make owner
Office 365 Groups as a service is a powerful tool that can be leveraged within your organization to give users access to a shared workspace for email, conversations, files, and events where group members can collaborate. I hope this post will encourage you to explore its use case within your organization. In a future post, I will cover some governance best practices and reporting on Office 365 Groups.