Microsoft 365 Groups: Enable self-service creation to empower users

Microsoft 365 group creation self-service

Managing Microsoft 365 Groups is a key part of governing collaboration across Microsoft’s powerful suite of business apps. With the help of Microsoft MVPs, we explain how taking a self-service approach to group creation produces a win-win scenario that will benefit your users just as much as it will benefit your IT team.

As explored in our benchmark report, State of Microsoft 365: Migration, Modernization, and Security in 2021, 84.4% of IT admins say that enabling self-service functionality in Microsoft 365 saves time and money. 

Going all-in on Microsoft’s modern workplace means leveraging the capabilities and features in Microsoft 365 that enable remote work and make life easier for IT. That includes letting users provision groups.

Microsoft 365 Groups is a membership service that allows users within your organization to collaborate across the Microsoft 365 suite. It works with the Microsoft tools you already use to create an ideal interface for shared projects and group work.

In this roundup, we cover some critical benefits of enabling self-service for group creation, including ways to maintain a well-managed digital workplace while giving your users the freedom to create the resources and tools they need, when they need them.

Self-service is Microsoft 365

Our State of Microsoft 365 report shows an increasing shift toward IT self-service: 61.4% of organizations have some form of self-service functionality enabled in Microsoft 365.

In a way, self-service is Microsoft 365—it’s what makes cloud-based collaboration the most flexible and efficient way for teams to build things together.

Microsoft 365 puts their users back into the driver’s seat—which leads to more thoughtfulness, more consciousness, and more autonomy, bringing the best out of people: creativity and critical thinking.

Luise Freese, Microsoft MVP (@LuiseFreese) Tweet this

By leveraging self-service functionality in Microsoft 365, IT can empower employees to create and provision groups to get work done without “gatekeeping.”

Managing the creation process for Microsoft 365 Groups

By default, any user can create a Microsoft 365 group—and any group created opens functionalities of and impacts many associated collaboration tools. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up with a graveyard of inactive groups in your tenant, creating clutter and complicating administration.

While some IT admins think it’s better to restrict, or even disable, the self-service functionality that makes Groups so great, it can deprive users of the freedom and flexibility to do their work.

So, how should you go about governing the creation of Microsoft groups in your environment?

Enable self-service creation for all users

We recommend that you enable self-service creation and allow users to get the most out of the tools they use every day. And make sure you have an effective governance plan in place, so things don’t get out of control. 

Here are a few ways you can keep your Microsoft 365 manageable while allowing users to create groups freely:

  • Teach your users about key Microsoft 365 concepts. Microsoft’s Microsoft 365 Training Center is a treasure trove of resources designed to help everyone in your organization make proper, productive use of the tools available to them. Education really is one of the crucial components of successful Microsoft 365 adoption in the workplace.
  • Establish a naming convention for your Microsoft 365 groups and enforce it with a policy in Azure AD (requires a premium AD license) to prevent duplicate content creation and optimize search result relevancy
  • Set group expiration policies in Azure AD (requires a premium AD license) to automatically delete groups of a certain age unless their owners choose to keep them active.
  • Use a third-party Microsoft 365 management solution to monitor activity on all Microsoft 365 groups in your tenant and automatically notify owners when a group is obsolete. Letting the right users decide whether or not to archive their inactive groups promptly means everyone—not just IT—has their fair share of the responsibility for keeping clutter under control.

Enabling self-service group creation lets you create an environment of user empowerment

Microsoft’s vision for a better employee experience focuses on the principle of “empowered, self-service collaboration.” 

To benefit from these new ways of work, IT admins need to be the key lever in implementing adoption and allow users to take on more responsibilities that give them autonomy.

But how?

Shifting towards Microsoft self-service allows people to create groups without going through IT. This way, users can make the best decisions for their own content. 

The self-service aspect of Teams is kind of like the whole point. Or one of the major points, anyway. 

Alex Fields, Microsoft MVP (@vanvfields) Tweet this

In a distributed workplace, IT teams can quickly become overwhelmed if users rely on them to approve the creation of each new group. This IT-led provisioning model is inefficient and virtually impossible to manage at scale. 

With that in mind, we believe that collaboration between IT and the teams they support is crucial. User empowerment—whereby IT acts as a guide, not a guard—is key to overcoming the challenges of working in a fully digital environment.

Moreover, working in an evolving digital environment means improving your IT modernization strategy. Thankfully, these tips make Microsoft 365 integration easy.

Turn self-serve off on your main Microsoft 365 settings. That might sound weird since we’re totally in favor of self-service. But, if you leave it on while using ShareGate’s provisioning features, Microsoft’s default “Create a team” experience will still be available for end users, and having two buttons (one default, one on ShareGate) can be confusing. So we recommend enforcing ShareGate as the only option for provisioning teams. This way, you’ll leverage provisioning to the max, enforcing governance with your dynamic templates while enhancing collaboration.

Enabling self-service group creation facilitates distributed collaboration

Enabling self-service creation boosts collaboration for distributed teams, and in Microsoft’s modern workplace, that means letting users manage their own tools.

People are looking to automate or reinvent their processes now that they’re no longer working in person together.

Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin) Tweet this

With the introduction of concepts like Microsoft 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams, users can collaborate with the right people, regardless of location.

And the shift from a product- to intent-driven approach in Microsoft 365 enables users to focus less on individual products like SharePoint and OneDrive, and more on understanding the collaboration goals of their distributed team. 

What are they trying to achieve? What is their goal? What are the products they can use to try to achieve that goal?

Any group owner of a Microsoft 365 group can grant access to their group’s conversations, files, calendar invitations, and the group notebook. Opening up group creation to everybody will help users collaborate within project-oriented teams, and move seamlessly between products to achieve a common goal.

Enabling self-service group creation improves security without hindering productivity

Preventing users from creating the things that, in turn, create Microsoft 365 groups might sound like an effective way to curb sprawl, but it’s far from a perfect solution.

If your users can’t do what they need to with Microsoft’s cloud applications, chances are they’ll turn to other, unapproved tools—thus contributing to another major cloud management pain: shadow IT.

It’s all about finding the right balance between allowing users to create groups and implementing effective policies without limiting users.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to self-service. What we believe in [at ShareGate] is to try and find the middle ground where it makes sense.

Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin) Tweet this

Microsoft 365 Groups includes a variety of governance controls such as an expiration policy, naming conventions, and a blocked words policy to help you manage groups in your organization.

With the proper guidance, users can do their part in keeping your environment organized and secure. By entrusting your team to make decisions about group creation, external sharing, archival, and deletion, security becomes a shared responsibility.

One way to address competing demands and requirements is to leverage a shared responsibility model—a cloud security framework that defines security obligations to ensure accountability.

Joanne Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein) Tweet this

We’ve unpacked a variety of benefits and strategies you’ll want to consider when managing group creation. Successful Microsoft 365 Groups management is a team effort, so take the time to educate users and find a way to be as self-service as possible—driving your team to greater agility, collaboration, and productivity.

Want to read more MVP advice and tips? Check out our expert-led eBook: Guide to winning as a team!

Dig into our Microsoft 365 Groups series:

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