CRM & Office 365 Groups, a Match Made in Heaven

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This article is a guest post by Jasper Oosterveld. Jasper is an Office 365 MVP, blogger, and a co-author of two SharePoint manuals. As a Cloud Consultant, he facilitates seamless implementations of SharePoint Online and Office 365.

At our Sparked office there is a recurring joke where SharePoint and Office 365 Consultants make fun of the CRM Consultants when they start talking about CRM. We pretend to fall asleep when they start talking about it.

I know, pretty silly right? That’s IT humor for you in a nutshell. Joking aside, we do acknowledge the business power of CRM and secretly really like the service. Just don’t tell them ok?

CRM enables and enhances many business scenarios. For example, you can easily manage all your sales leads and opportunities in one location. Imagine you are a sales consultant and want to view all your open opportunities. By opening CRM this valuable information is presented to you:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the power of CRM.

Microsoft released Office 365 Groups in the fall of 2014. I always find it very exciting to hear about new updates and technologies coming from Redmond. This wasn’t any different with Groups. Although I liked the concept of Groups, I was very skeptical. Mainly due to the absence of important collaboration features such as:

  • Document Management
  • External invites
  • Task Management
  • Yammer integration

The absence of these features wasn’t a complete surprise to me because Microsoft doesn’t work for three years on a product or service. The new Microsoft works on concepts and new technologies that aren’t necessarily finished (Groups) or too far ahead of its time (Delve). They are often a work in progress and you have to decide if it fits your business requirements. I prefer the new Microsoft and rather have them be ahead then behind with new features.

Although Groups seemed a bit disappointing by many people, Microsoft really committed to improving the Group experience. During the Microsoft Ignite conference a lot of improvements were announced and released. My good friend Benjamin Niaulin wrote a must read blog about Office 365 Groups, click here to read more.

Working Together With CRM and Groups

Before you can start with CRM and Office 365 Groups, you have to activate Groups in CRM. Please read this article from MSDN. By now you probably shout at the screen: “Enough with the chit chat Jasper! How can CRM and Groups benefit us?

Let’s take a look at the following business scenario:

Jasper, Alan and Allie are sales consultants at Contoso. They are working on a new opportunity together and recorded all the information in CRM:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Although CRM provides all the relevant information, the sales team is looking for more collaboration tools. Jasper is used taking notes with OneNote, Alan prefers to use a central calendar and Allie is looking for a centralized file storage that’s not a file share.

Next to these requirements, they noticed that information gets lost and scattered in e-mails. They want to centrally store all e-mails about the opportunity. Sounds familiar?

These are key features from Groups! It’s time to start integrating these two services and make everyone’s lives easier. The great thing about the integration between CRM and Groups is that you are able to use the power of both services. The Group members aren’t required to obtain a CRM licenses but are still able to collaborate by using the features of Groups such as notes, files, conversations and calendar.

Conversations and Attachments

Allie is responsible for the Contoso purchasing order of this opportunity. She worked on this presentation and stored it in the Group files.

She really wants the input of one of the purchasing colleagues: Alicia Thomber. Allie starts a new Group conversation and wants to add an attachment. She can do this by using the awesome new Group attachment interface:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Allie is able to retrieve the attachment from her OneDrive, other Groups, the current Group or even locally. After selecting the attachment Allie has a decision to make:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Not much of a decision right? You want to share through OneDrive so you have one central document where all the changes are applied. Alicia receives an e-mail with a link to the presentation. She is able to immediately review the presentation and send a reply to Allie:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

I really love this new feature and am positive business users will appreciate it as well. In this case, Alicia and the other Group members are able to collaborate on other documents related to the opportunity. The Group members are able to view and create conversations from the Group interface but the sales consultants can use CRM:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Taking Notes

Jasper is a huge fan of OneNote and wants to promote the use of the tool with its fellow sales consultants. All the relevant opportunity notes, e.g.: meetings and phone calls, should be available for all the participants. The sales consultants are always on the road and want to use their iPad to view the latest notes before they visit the prospect.

Luckily the Group comes with an out-of-the-box notebook. The notebook can be opened from CRM and the Group. All the participants are now able to open the notebook locally in the OneNote client. The advantage is that the participants can view the notes offline and don’t need to use the browser to create new notes.

Don’t forget to download the Office lens App for your mobile phone. Office lens allows you to take pictures of whiteboards and directly import these within OneNote. Great stuff!

One Calendar

Alan really wants to use a central calendar for sharing important meetings and activities with all the participants. By using the Group calendar, everyone is able to stay up-to-date:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

Every participant can add an event to his or her own calendar:

CRM & Office 365 Groups

This way everyone is always up-to-speed!


I love Office 365 and I am a huge Microsoft fan but I also have an obligation as MVP to be honest with the community.

Although the integration between CRM and Office 365 Groups opens a whole new level of collaboration and efficiency, there are some minor issues. The Group components within CRM don’t always work. The documents aren’t displayed and the link behind the notebook refers to a wrong URL. This is recognized by Microsoft and an update is on its way.

After this issue is resolved I highly recommend everyone looking into the integration and see how you can make your business processes more efficient and make everyone’s live easier. That’s what technology is destined to be and do.

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