Office 365 Groups

Published: 17 April 2017

Have you requested for a collaboration site, popularly known as Team sites from your IT team to work on a project for you and your team? Did your IT team took more than 2 to 3 weeks or even 1 week to provision a team site due to organization policies. But you want to start immediately. 

Did you use Dropbox to store the files even your company is using Office 365?

Do you need more control to manage the things while collaborating with the team and less dependent on your IT team? Enter Office 365 groups. 

Groups for Office 365 is a logical way to group different products that already exist in the Microsoft space.

So, they take a little piece of SharePoint, a little piece of Exchange for, say, the calendars, a little piece of Power BI for the dashboards, a little piece of a new thing called Planner coming out for task management. And they say, "Look, if you create a new group, a new team that works together, we're going to give you all these little pieces, put them together, and that's your team." And you can use what you want, but, we know this, there's a lot of things, things are changing quickly.

Every time you create an Office 365 Group, you'll get a full SharePoint Site Collection with it. This means the members of the Group have the full power of SharePoint, but can also easily navigate to other products under the same Group banner, with a common navigation. But the Site collection will be invisible. When you navigate it will take you to One-Drive for business page. If you delete the group it automatically deletes the site collection and vice-versa.

SharePoint Team site

Microsoft added new default features to team site. Members can create beautiful and responsive news pages, which will also be integrated into the SharePoint Mobile App. mobile app aggregate all my news for the sites where I'm a member of.

What are groups?

Groups in Office 365 let you choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. You don’t have to worry about manually assigning permissions to all those resources because adding members to the group automatically gives them the permissions they need to the tools your group provides. Additionally, groups are the new and improved experience for what we used to use distribution lists or shared mailboxes to do.

The specific resources that are provided depends slightly on the group’s experience your team wants to have, so let’s quickly look at the choices. While you’re considering the options it’s important to remember that one size rarely fits all. Different teams may prefer to work different ways and Office 365 has the tools to enable collaboration in whatever form your teams prefer.

Private Groups Vs Public Groups

Groups can be created by any member from your organization. Invite outside people as guests is nothing but public group. As the names states content in a public group can be seen by anybody in your organization, and anybody in your organization is able to join the group and the Content in a private group can only be seen by the members of the group and people who want to join a private group have to be approved by a group owner.

Neither public groups nor private groups can be seen or accessed by people outside of your organization unless those people have been specifically invited as guests.

To change your group from public to private (or vice-versa) go to the group conversation location, either in Outlook or Yammer. For Office 365 Groups in Outlook, go to Outlook 2016 and choose Edit Group from the ribbon. On the group settings pane that appears you'll be able to toggle the privacy setting. In Outlook on the web click the More group actions button at the top right (looks like three dots) and choose Edit group from the drop-down menu. For Office 365 Connected Yammer Groups, go to the group in Yammer and click the settings icon in the group header to edit the group's privacy setting.

How do i manage my groups?

Every group has at least one owner that can add or remove members and do some basic curation of the group and its content. Additionally, if you have Exchange Online Administrator permissions you can administer your groups from the Office 365 Admin center and from PowerShell.

Groups in Outlook

Groups in Outlook is nothing but shared inbox mode of collaboration. Creating a group in Outlook you’ll get:

  • Shared Inbox – For email conversations between your members. This inbox has an email address and can be set to accept messages from people outside the group and even outside your organization, much like a traditional distribution list.
  • Shared Calendar – For scheduling events related to the group
  • SharePoint Document Library – A central place for the group to store and share files
  • Shared OneNote Notebook – For gathering ideas, research, and information
  • SharePoint Team Site – A central repository for information, links and content relating to your group
  • Planner – For assigning and managing project tasks among your group members

You can access these resources through the familiar Microsoft Outlook 2016 desktop client, via Outlook on the Web, via Outlook 2016 for Mac (shared inbox only), via Outlook mobile, or using our dedicated Microsoft Groups apps on iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

Creating Group

To create group click on the below Mail icon.

It opens Outlook Inbox page. 

To create group click on the Create link as shown above, it opens a window as below (right side of the page). 

Ø  Enter unique name for Group Id it creates mail id with Group Id and displays the availability in green color else we need to enter another name for Group Id.

Ø  Select group type either private or public and language.

Ø  Select check box if you would like to send all existing emails to group members default when ever they add to group. Once everything done click on Create, it will create group and teamsite. Team site is not visible with site collecections, but you can access by url. Files and Site link takes you to group Team site. Team site is a sharepoint team site. Now you need not design separate site pages for different devices. That we will see later in this page.

Immediately it will opens the window to add members(in the same place).

Ø  You can skip this step and add members later.

Ø  If you created public group you can invite quests from outside organization. Any account you can add for example Hotmail or gmail or yahoo etc. 

Ø  Behind, groups and members adds to Azure active directory automatically. Once created, you can find your created group on left side in Groups sction of the same page and this is how the page looks like.

Wow, it looks great right. See the navigation it’s providing great features

  1. Conversations
  2. Calendar
  3. Files
  4. Notebook
  5. Connectors
  6. Planner
  7. Site.


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Ø  Another feature instant chat or send message to member. Mouse over on members display IM (instant message or chat)and mail option. Click on chat icon it connects with Skype and allows you to start chat. 

1. Conversations

Nothing but blog posts. You need not go anywhere to create a conversation(Blog post) to share your knowledge and ideas, by few simple steps you can create.

Create new Conversation

Ø  If you are on the same page go to step 3. Else from office 365 logged in page click Outlook.

Ø  In the navigation pane, under Groups, select group.

Ø  Click on New Conversation link to Strat new conversation. If you observe, the conversation window allows you to present your content beautifully. It allows to attach files, images and emojis, format your content and etc.

Ø  If guests are part of your group, you might see this message informing you that some recipients are outside of your organization.

Ø  If the tenant admin has restricted guest access to group conversations and calendar invitations, you'll see this message:

Ø  Click Send.

Ø  This sends email notifications to all group members including guests. Below is the guest got notifications regarding new conversation and added to HelpDesk group.

Ø  Lut us see how the new conversation mail looks like.

Ø  This message contains some links as shown above. If the guest click on View Group Files link it takes you to sharepoint team site document library. Guest perform operations on doc lib and site according to permissions. 

Ø  Other links we can understand by name Leave group | Learn more about Office 365 Groups

2. Calendar

Calendar automatically shares events to group members. It uses SharePoint Exchange server internally. It allows to create 3 types of events.

                                 i.            Calendar events

                               ii.            Email message

                              iii.            Birthday events

Wow, its automatically showing weather report.

i. Calendar event

Ø  To create calendar event go to New on the menu(as shown above) and select first option Calendar event. It opens a window as below. If you observe the Pan it allows to attach files, add Skype meeting and catregorize the meeting and also allows use your own templates. You can invite people or groups.

Ø  To attach afile click on Attach link on the pane, it takes to a page where you can select files from different locations. OneDrive, Group Files and Computer.

Ø  Once entered required info for event click on Save, automatically group members including guests gets email notifications. Below is the guest notification to gmail. 

ii. Email message

This gives facility just like Hotmail or gmail. To send an email message to a single member or group click on Email message link, it opens the below window, enter details and send.

iii. Birthday event

This is like simple birthday remainder calendar. To create birthday event click on Birthday event link from menu. It opens the below window, fill the details and click save button.

3. Files

When you click on Files link it shows as below. The documents here showing are from documents library which created with team site. From here also files and folders can upload to library.

Ø  Click on Browse library(Right corner) it open the sharepoint team site. Members can access and do operations with Documents library. This site is responsive, means screen adjust by device.

Ø  Browse Library takes to the sharepoint team site. Sync Button healps to Create OneDrive for business and work offline. OneDrive allows members to work offline from any device and sync.

Ø  Please refer here To Work together on Office documents in OneDrive

Ø  Now team site is responsive. Page layout adjust by device.

Ø  Pin to top:

    o   One beautiful property of document library is Pin to top. It helps to keep important docs at top.

    o   See below. Documents showing at top of document library

Ø  Get a Link: Idea is get a link (path) of a document and start conversation.

    o   Go to document property and click on Get a link as shown below.

    o   Click on Create button.

    o   Copy link and past in New Conversation window

    o   Remove link if you want to stop sharing.

    o   Past that copied link and start new conversation. 

    o   If you remove the link members will get below error message when they try to open the document

Ø  Site Pages

    o   To create a site page go to pagesàNewàSite Page

Ø  Enter Page Name, click on + symbol to design page. A window appears with some shortcut options,you may need to place on your page, which helps to design your page quickly. Add what you want and publish.

Ø  You can add Text,image,Document, News, Lists, Yammer etc you can see from the below window. These pages are also responsive, changes page layout depends on device.

Ø  You can make site page as home page just by select page properties as below

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4. Notebook

I can say, Notebook is another wonderful feature by Microsoft.

Ø  Click on NoteBook link, it opens OneNote Online page. Here can create Sections and pages. These pages automatically share to group members. At a time members can modify a page.

Ø  These pages are responsive, If you minimize the browser page automatically adjust its size. See the below image. 

Ø  Click on share button, it gives below options to share

    o   Invite people: You can share by inviting different permissions View and edit.

    o   Get a link: is to share by starting new conversation.

    o   Shared with: Different groups options to share. 

Ø  Next few images I am going to show you the interesting part of OneNote Online. Observe closely top right corner of page for the next few steps.

    o   2 members from the group logged into OneNote Online and navigating pages. When both editing same page, how you get notify these activities is really interesting.

    o   You can directly communicate with members from OneNote Online site page by chat or message.

    o   See at right corner of the page, 2 members are on same page.

Ø  Manjari and Gargi both are on same page and editing. See how they get to know.

    o   Member Manjari editing page and able to see Gargi changes at same time.

    o   Member Gargi editing same page and seeing Manjari changes as well.

    o   Observe at top right corner of page. Gargi Pranavi is also on same page and Manjari getting notify about that.

    o   In the below image, Gargi Pranavi is here but on Another page.

    o   This is how Microsoft facilitate to work on OnweNote online.

5. Connectors

You can directly connect and get updates from yammer, twitter etc.

6. Planner

Ø  This is going to help plan project,assign tasks and track Progress etc.

    o   Assign tasks to group members or guests(if it is public group)

    o   Check progress. Charts also available.

    o   View tasks Group by Buckets,Assign to and Progress

Ø  To assign tasks to members click on + under bucket enter details and Click on Add task button. 

Ø  Add assignment to members.

Ø  Adding another bucket(nothing but a task) and you can group by Assign to and Buckets Progress(tasks status)

Ø  Below is the all tasks report as chart.

Ø  Click on My tasks to check your own. It displays tasks group by progress. You can add members to tasks and change status. Click on tasks for status change and to add other required info regarding tasks.

7. Site

This is nothing but default team site created with group. If you delete group site also will get delete and vice-versa. 

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Conclusion

In this post you have learned about Office 365 groups on how to manage them. 

Hope you find this post helpful.

Your turn

Are you using Office 365 in your organization? If yes, How are you finding them so far, useful :) or do you want to specific improvements to this. Leave a comment below. 

Reference to Manage Groups using Powershell

v  https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Manage-Office-365-Group-Creation-4c46c8cb-17d0-44b5-9776-005fced8e618

v  https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-PowerShell-to-manage-Office-365-Groups-Admin-help-aeb669aa-1770-4537-9de2-a82ac11b0540?ui=en-US&rs=en-IN&ad=IN

About Author

Manju worked with Office 365, PHP, Asp.net, C#, SharePoint 2007, 2010, HTML, Javascript, Webservices, SQL Server, MySQL.

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