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Taking a closer look at Office 365 Groups

So, what exactly is Office 365 Groups?

Office 365 Groups is a collaborative workspace, providing a dedicated area to set up a collection of resources through Outlook for a group of users. Groups is a collection of popular functions such as distribution groups, shared mailboxes and calendars all rolled into one. Historically setting up all these features separately would have to be done by an administrator and would be a lengthy process. With Groups, it allows end users to set up and manage their own groups quickly and easily.




Group Features

When a user creates a group in Outlook they will benefit from immediate access to the following applications:

  1. Shared Inbox
    For email conversations between group members. This inbox has an email address and can be set to accept messages from people outside the group and even outside your organisation, much like a traditional distribution list.

  2. Shared Calendar
    For scheduling events related to the group. This will show in outlook like other personal and shared calendars.

  3. SharePoint Document Library
    A central location for group members to store and share files.

  4. Shared OneNote Notebook
    A shared notebook for gathering ideas, research, and information.

  5. SharePoint Team Site
    A central repository for information, links and content relating to your group.

  6. Planner
    For assigning and managing project tasks among your group members.

What’s more, you don’t have to manually create any of these resources, initiating the group automatically creates them for you and assigns the necessary permissions for your group members so they can start using them right away.

So how do you access it?

Once a group is created you can access these resources through the familiar Microsoft Outlook 2016 desktop client, Outlook on the Web, Outlook 2016 for Mac (shared inbox only), Outlook mobile, or using the dedicated Microsoft Groups app on iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

After a group in Outlook outlives its intended purpose, it can simply be deleted to free up system resources and to remove the group from being listed or displayed.

Subscriptions

Any Office 365 subscription that has Exchange Online and SharePoint Online will support Groups. That includes the Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, and the Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 plans.

It’s important to note that if you have an Exchange-only plan you can still get the shared Inbox and shared Calendar features of Groups in Outlook but you won’t benefit from the document library, planner or any of the other features.

So, what’s the verdict?

Office 365 Groups should not be considered as a standalone product. It is simply a collection of existing functions, with added management features to empower end-users and encourage collaboration. The main advantage of using Groups is the automation of workspace creation when a user creates a new group, requiring no administration input. With zero cost to existing Office 365 customers, there’s no reason why businesses shouldn’t fully utilise Groups to make their workforce more productive.

Author: David Johnston, 01 June

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