Manage Office 365 Groups: What you get and what to use

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What shared resources come with an Office 365 group, and how should you use them? We explain how to schedule a meeting in your Office 365 group calendar, all the ways to have a conversation, and how to access a group’s SharePoint document library through the “Files” tab.

An Office 365 group comes with several things once created. But what are they exactly? Which should you use and when? It may seem confusing at first, but this is the new approach Microsoft is taking to tackle the shadow IT issue in organizations, so you’ll be hearing about it a lot.

Ok, maybe it’s also to make sure your end users don’t start subscribing to other random online tech that isn’t by Microsoft. Still, you should know what you get when you create an Office 365 Group and how it can be useful.

Before you read on, I recommend you start with the basics, which I covered in my last post. If you’re already up to speed on what an Office 365 Group is, let’s see what you get when a group is created!

The Office 365 Groups Series

  1. Office 365 Groups explained
  2. Manage Office 365 Groups: What you get and what to use
  3. 3 ways to manage who can create Office 365 Groups (new!)

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Office 365 Groups lets you grant a group of people access to a set of associated collaboration resources.

These resources include:

  • A shared Outlook inbox
  • A shared calendar
  • A SharePoint document library
  • A shared Planner
  • Power BI
  • Yammer (optional)
  • a team in Microsoft Teams (optional)

By default, any user can create an Office 365 group—unless you’ve decided to manage Office 365 Groups creation by limiting group creation to a specific set of users.

With an Office 365 group, you no longer have to manage permissions for each individual resource. Adding members to the group automatically gives them the permissions they need to use all the tools attache to that group.

There are some differences in permissions for the roles of owner, member, and guest. For more details on who can add members, view shared resources, or take part in group conversations, check out our blog post.

Let’s break down some of the most useful group resources you should know how to use for:

Office 365 group calendar: Meetings

Each Office 365 group comes with its owned shared calendar. This is where every member of the group can schedule, edit, and see upcoming events and meetings. So where does this calendar live?

The Office 365 group calendar is actually stored as an Exchange-based calendar in Outlook.

Schedule a meeting on a group calendar in Outlook

To schedule a meeting in a group calendar in Outlook for Office 365:

1. Click on the Calendar icon at the bottom of the page.

2. In the navigation pane on the left, under Groups, select the group you want to schedule a meeting for.

Select the group under Groups in the left navigation

3. Now schedule a meeting like you would in any Outlook calendar: select a day and time, enter a meeting title, location, and end time. Then add the group to the attendees list to send the invite to every group member’s inbox.

Add the group to the attendees list

Add a group calendar to the SharePoint team site

If you want your group calendar to be visible from the group-connected SharePoint team site, you can add a web part in just a couple of steps.

1. Start by navigating to your Office 365 group-connected SharePoint team site and click Edit in the upper right-hand corner of the page you would like it to appear.

2. Click the + symbol and choose Group calendar from the web part list.

Select Group calendar from the web part list

3. Select Republish, and your group calendar web part should now be visible!

Group calendar web part should now be visible!

Office 365 chat: Conversations in Outlook, Teams, and Yammer

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I think this is what confuses people the most, because there are many different options. Ironically, when visiting a website that has a forum, a chat and a contact email, we don’t seem to be troubled by it.

The same with Facebook: Posts vs Messenger has never been an issue; we always know which to use and when. Same goes when you create an Office 365 Group, you get different options for your conversations.

Outlook group conversations

When you create an Office 365 Group, Exchange generates a mailbox for it. This gives the Group an email address to send and receive through Outlook, and enables the members of the Group to communicate openly using email as a conversation mechanism.

Exchange Mailbox Conversations Office 365 Groups
  1. A feed of email threads displayed as conversations
  2. Once you’ve clicked on one of the emails, you can see every email and reply that was sent in the thread.

What you should know about Outlook conversations:

  • Members of the Group considered as Guests, meaning they are external users outside of your organization, will not have access to this interface to browse the previous conversations.
  • Outlook Conversations are always included in Office 365 Groups, except when created from Yammer. As mentioned before, a Group can be created from within SharePoint, Outlook, Planner, Power BI, Teams, Yammer and probably other products in the future as well.
  • The mobile app is available on Windows Phone, iOS and Android.
  • It’s not available in Outlook for Mac (though it has been announced) – so Mac users should use Outlook Web.

Microsoft Teams chat

Microsoft Teams is a tool that allows you to create chatrooms, or live and persistent conversations if you will. Within these Teams chatrooms, you can create channels to isolate a specific conversation topic.

What’s interesting about Teams is that the interface, especially the navigation, is well integrated with the concept of Office 365 Groups. If used, it will likely be considered the “Home” of an Office 365 Group.

On top of the live chat experience it provides, it opens up a world of customization with Bots. Bots are like the “apps” of chat services. For example, we created a bot to survey our organization.

Microsoft Teams Conversations Office 365 Groups
  1. The name of your Team, which is also the name of your Office 365 Group.
  2. You get a channel called General by default, but you can also create your own. In this example, I created one called Logistics.
  3. Customizable navigation for the rest of the products that come with your Office 365 Group.
  4. Live chat, whether you want to type in plain text, rich text or even create an appropriate meme.

You can even host team meetings using audio and video, where all chat conversations are stored and available in the chatroom even after the meeting has ended.

Microsoft Teams Video and Audio Conversations Office 365 Groups

What you should know about Teams conversations

  • When a Group is created through Teams, the privacy of the Office 365 Group is automatically set to private and cannot be changed.
  • You can add a Teams chat to an existing Office 365 Group if it’s set to private and has fewer than 600 members in the group. Note that this may change in the future.
  • Teams cannot be added if the Office 365 Group uses Yammer for conversations instead of Outlook, as mentioned above.
  • There exists a mobile app, available for Windows Phone, iOS and Android.
  • Teams can be extended with Bots and Connectors.

Yammer conversations

Outlook conversations are for emails; Microsoft Teams are to live chat; and Yammer is for forum-like threaded conversations. Yammer conversations are a little different, as they are not always available with Office 365 Groups. To get an Office 365 Group with Yammer Conversations, you must create it from within Yammer and Yammer only.

If you decide to create a Yammer connected group, it’s exclusive. You will not be able to use the Outlook Conversations, Microsoft Teams, or the Calendar.

Yammer Group Popup Box

Which conversations should you use for your Office 365 Groups?

That’s the beauty of this Groups concept, when one is created, you’re providing the members with a set of tools that they can choose from. Of course, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide them with some guidance, to help them know and understand what those tools are.

I am often asked or told that there is too much confusion with three choices for conversations, but I tend to disagree. You don’t need to be told when to use live chat, emails or a forum… You just know. It comes naturally. However, you should explain what each of them does and how it can be useful for users in different scenarios.

Office 365 Groups - What You Get and How tu Use Them

SharePoint document library: Access your group’s shared files through the “Files” tab

You’ll notice a tab, or navigation item, called “Files.” This is a full-featured Document Library in your SharePoint site, but surfaced directly within your Outlook or Teams experience.

Microsoft Teams Navigation Tab in Office 365 Groups
SharePoint Site Office 365 Groups
  1. Create files right from this simplified interface
  2. Browse to the full-featured SharePoint Document Library

This is a very welcome experience, not everyone in an organization wants to deal with SharePoint for their project. Think back to all those times when all your team needed was a place to get the work done and work on a few files.

This is what Office 365 Groups are all about, allowing teams to grow… organically.

Full-featured SharePoint team site

Regardless of how a Group is created, it will always come with a SharePoint site. There, you can create Document Libraries and manage your Metadata through Content Types, Columns and even add Workflows. You can find out more about the new Modern SharePoint in a recent article we wrote on the subject.

You’ll be able to create Mobile Apps using PowerApps and even create responsive pages to share information with others.

Responsive Team News Page Office 365 Groups
  1. Responsive Pages to provide Team News
  2. Group Classification and Privacy always on display, an indicator for external users will also show up here
  3. Jump to the Outlook Conversations or manage Group members right here
  4. Create something new: Document Libraries, Lists, Pages, etc.

And the list goes on; Planner to manage tasks using cards, a Power BI workspace to visualize your data and OneNote to provide a shared notebook for all members.

Office 365 Groups are about centralizing membership and policies in one place, while providing the best possible user experience for its members.

Stay in control, manage and govern Groups while empowering end users to get the work done.

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