It’s no surprise that one of the biggest selling points Microsoft provides for moving to Microsoft 365 also happens to be one of the most confusing new ideas to some administrators. The problem doesn’t lie in the complexity of learning this new feature, because frankly, it’s quite simple to use. The confusion lies more in just getting a simple explanation of what this new “thing” (which really isn’t a “thing” at all) does, which is what I hope to clarify in a user-friendly way for you here.
The feature I’m addressing is Microsoft 365 Groups, which until recently was also called Office 365 Groups. Groups is not a tool, not an app, not a “thing”, really. Groups provide an experience. It is being touted as one of the best, integrated collaboration tools out there. Groups are designed to incorporate communication, collaboration, scheduling, and project management, anywhere from almost any device.
Simply put, a Microsoft 365 Group is a collection of people. Groups 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. It’s basically an upgraded version of an Outlook distribution group with added controls of a security group (primarily, using permissions for members to access/use various resources). But that’s not the experience you get when you work with a Group. Once you create the Group (the collection of people), it starts the chain of events that provide you a collection of Office 365 apps (resources) that you can use to communicate and collaborate.
You can create Groups from a variety of tools including Outlook, Outlook on the web, Outlook Mobile, SharePoint, Planner, Teams and more. The tool you choose will primarily depend on how your team desires to communicate and collaborate.
There tends to be three primary places where you’ll depend on Groups, at least when learning how to get started: Outlook Groups for email, Yammer Groups for social media/company-wide communications, and Teams Groups for chat-based collaboration. The most common, and the one most administrators will likely feel most comfortable starting with (due to the similarity of using a good old-fashioned distribution list/group in Outlook), is the Outlook Group. When you create an outlook Group, you get a whole host of things made available to members of the group:
- A shared mailbox to record email conversations between Group members
- A shared calendar to schedule events and appointments related to the Group
- A SharePoint team site/document library collection
- A OneNote notebook (which actually lives in your SharePoint site collection)
- A Plan in Planner to assign/manage project tasks among members
- A Stream video portal
- A Forms workspace
- A Power BI workspace (if you have appropriate licensing)
Of course, Yammer Groups and Teams Groups provide their own collection of tools/resources as well. The best part is, no matter which tool you use to create the group, you don’t have to manually create any of those resources. Just creating the group automatically creates the resources for you and assigns the necessary permissions for your members so they can start using them right away.
You can access these resources through the familiar Microsoft Outlook desktop client (2016 or newer), via Outlook on the web, via Outlook 2016 for Mac (shared inbox only), or via Outlook mobile.
Along with choosing your method/tool to create the group, when creating a group you'll also need to decide if you want it to be a private group or a public group. Content in a public group can be seen by anybody in your organization, and anybody in your organization is able to join the group. 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. You can even allow external users to see/join your public/private groups by inviting them as guests, if allowed.
To control and manage the group, you can easily specify group owners. Owners can rename the group, modify the group description or picture, add/remove members, delete conversations and change various additional settings of the group.
If a Group outlives its intended purpose and you find it is no longer being used, you can easily delete it. To automate the deletion/clean-up process, administrators can set expiration policies that will cause old groups to expire and be removed automatically after a specified period of time.
Essentially, the big deal about Microsoft 365 Groups is that it is the foundational membership service that is driving all teamwork across Microsoft 365. With Microsoft 365 Groups, you can give a group of people access to a collection of collaboration resources for those people to share. Groups provide a simple service with a great variety of usage, all designed to aid your organization and your users in the desire to be more efficient in all collaboration and communication efforts.
If you’d like to learn more about the requirements/prerequisites of using groups, how to create and manage groups, and where you may encounter limitations of using groups, the links below may provide you with more detailed information.
If you’d like to get some hands-on instructor-led training on Microsoft 365, consider attending one or more of our Microsoft courses. We’d love to have you attend in person or virtually using our Virtual Training platform to help you save travel costs. And in case you didn’t know, however you choose to attend these courses, you will also receive a FREE Pearson Vue Certification exam voucher to get you moving down the road to certification!
For more information on Microsoft 365 courses, check out our upcoming schedule at www.LrsEducationServices.com.
Here are some courses that may be of interest to you:
MS--900T01 - Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
MS--030T00 - Office 365 Administrator
MS-100T00 – Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
MS10997 = Office 365 Administration and Troubleshooting
If you have any questions or would like more information regarding courses scheduled at LRS Education Services, please call 877 832.0688 ext: 1493 or email us at getsmart@LRS.com.
Penny Morgan, LRS Education Services
MCT, MCSA, MCITP, MCTS, MCSE, MCP
Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert
Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
Microsoft 365 Certified: Messaging Administrator Associate
Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
References and documentation: