Office 365 Groups Accelerate Collaboration

February 11, 2016 Peter Day

Office 365 Groups are similar to traditional email distribution groups, in which members see messages sent to the group. The difference is that an Office 365 Group supports additional collaboration through access to other parts of the Office 365 service, including a dedicated:

  • Calendar
  • Location for file storage
  • Shared OneNote notebook

Each of the above features are specific to the current group and accessible by all members of the group. Together, they enable quick, efficient collaboration for your team or project. When you view the group’s calendar, you can also choose to view any other calendars to which you have access. For example, you can see the group’s calendar side-by-side with your own calendar. The shared location for storing the group’s files is a OneDrive-style site dedicated to the group. There you can store files and share them with others. The notebook shared by the group uses the OneNote application from the Microsoft Office suite, a powerful tool for organizing and storing data in a multi-media format.

How can I find and join a group?

First, logon to your Office 365 account in a web browser and go to the email page. On the left, below the list of email folders, you should see a heading labeled Groups with a list of groups you already belong to and an option to browse to find other groups.

Office 365 Groups List

There are two types of Office 365 Groups: public and private. When you browse for groups you can join any public group by clicking on a button. For private groups, you will be asked to submit a request to join the group. The request will be emailed to the group administrator(s) for processing. Whenever you join a group you will receive a welcome email giving you links to access the group’s features. Although you can access group content in Outlook 2016 for Windows, as well as the calendar and OneDrive sections of the Office 365 portal, it is only in OWA (Outlook Web Access) that you can join and create groups.

Can I create an Office 365 Group?

The answer depends on policies set in place within your organization. You may have a selection of pre-created groups to choose from, or you may be able to create Office 365 Groups whenever you need them. In the above image we can see that the account has a Create option and is thus permitted to create new Office 365 Groups. If you do not see the word Create, the option has not been enabled for your account.

How do I create an Office 365 Group?

Following is the screen you will see when you start to create a group. Privacy is set to “Public – anyone can see what’s inside” by default, however you can change that to “Private – only approved members can see what is inside” when you create the group.

Creating Office 365 Groups

What are some advantages of Office 365 Groups?

Once you are a member of a group you can also subscribe to receive email updates from the group. Then if someone emails the group’s address you will receive a copy in your Inbox, otherwise you have to go to the group’s interface to see the email in the list of the group’s conversations. This is different from a traditional distribution group, where an email sent to the group is automatically sent to all members of the group. An advantage of the new approach with Office 365 Groups is that it reduces the number of emails you get in your Inbox, plus, all the history of emails to the group is preserved in the group’s conversation list. This means that when a new member joins the group they can easily see the history of communications with, and within, the group – something that was more difficult to achieve with traditional distribution groups.

Can I communicate between groups?

Yes, it is possible to “@“ mention another group in a message within your group’s conversations. For example, if I typed @HR then my message would go to my current group and also to all members of the Office 365 Group called “HR”.

Are there any limits?

Files stored in a group’s file area count against a storage quota for your organization. If you have a lot of large files to share with the group, then you may wish to use an alternative location. For example, you could place them in a folder on your OneDrive and share the folder, then email the group with the link to your OneDrive folder. See our earlier article on administering Office 365 groups for further information.

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