Friday, March 23, 2018

All About Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups allow users to collaborate in Shared emails, Conversation, files, Teams and so on. Groups can be created from different Microsoft tools like Outlook, Teams, Yammer, SharePoint site collection and so on. It provides different set of features depending on the tool that is used to create a group.

When you create an Office 365 Group, Exchange online behind the scenes 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.

Once you create an Office 365 Group, Office 365 behind the scenes starts cranking related services like shared calendars, SharePoint modern team site, OneNote etc in the background.

Creating an Office 365 Group from Outlook
If you create a Group in Outlook, then the background worker process starts hitting the below tools to create their own features:
§  SharePoint - A new site collection workspace gets created on the Group Name. You can provide the team with all the functionalities like creating Lists, Libraries, Sites and others.
§  Microsoft Teams - new channel gets created on the Teams. It is Chat based collaboration platform allows the users to engage in the conversation.
§  Shared Email - An email id is created for the Group. Any Group member or Group owner can make use of it and mail the Group users. It allows the members to use a shared outlook for the Group.
§  Calendar - You can able to set up a meeting invite specifically for the group members. The Shared calendar is a separate one from the actual Outlook calendar in the organisation.
§  Yammer - It is a kind of modern Facebook which allows you to collaborate in the community environment. It allows you to reach the community level peoples in the technology on the Organisation level.

Types of Users in a Group
There are 3 types of users in the Group:
a.       Group Owners
b.      Group members
c.       Guests

Group Owners: Group owners are the one who can add/edit/remove users from the Group.  As a Group owner you can manage the Shared outlook mail and conversations in the group.

Group Members: Group members are the members in the Group. As a group member you can participate in the conversations, Planners, Teams and other collaborations. But you are restricted to Add/Edit/delete the users from the Group. You can add up to 256 members in a group.
Guests: Guests are external users that are not in your organisation. Guests can contain any email id like school, personal or work account other than our organisation account. Group owner can provide the level of access that is needed for the guest. Guests can be added to the SharePoint and other tools provided if office 365 admins allow other users in the tenant level.
Group owners cannot add the Guests if tenant level setting is disabled to allow External users.

Naming Policy:
Tenant Admins can create naming policies which is automatically implied when Group Owners create a group. You can also create some custom naming policy to block the letters and special characters while creating Office 365 Groups. Below is an example of Prefixing “AQL_” + Department of the user creating the group + the group name

Refer this article for more details on Naming policy

Group Expiration Policy:
From Azure Active Directory an admin can set the expiration days for the Group so that the group expires within a certain period. Once expiration period is met a renewal email is sent out to Group owner and if the owner does not renew it, the group is deleted. The Group can be restored with in a period of 30 days after it has been deleted. Below is a snapshot of Expiration page from AQL’s Azure Active Directory.

The Owner gets a Renewal mail and it mentions the expiry days for the Group.

Different types of Access to the Groups:
There are 2 different types of access levels for a Group:

Private level groups and their assets will be available only for the set of group members internally. Others cannot access or join the Group without the Group owner permission.

Public level groups are shared across the tenant users. Anyone can join the group and the resources are available at the Public level.

Office 365 Group Classification
Another feature of Office 365 Groups is Classification which does not exist OOB and require a quick PowerShell to enable it. Good thing is when this classification is enabled, users can specify how sensitive the data is. In my case I have set it to High, Medium & Low.

After classification is set, it is visible on the team site like below.

Dynamic Membership
Form Azure AD it is possible to specify dynamic membership rules so that new users are automatically added to a certain group. In my case below I have created a group at AQL for all the IT guys and I would want users to be automatically added to this group.

Outlook Group Apps

You can avail this app from Android or IOS Play store. This app allows you to work extensively on all the application that are available in Office 365 Groups.

Microsoft set an announcement to retire this app on May 2018, but all the functionality of a group can be accessed from Outlook App, I personally think having an app for Groups was an overkill. Go ahead and experience it still its available on the Play store :-)

Benefits of Using Office 365 Groups
Some of the benefits of Office 365 Groups are:
·         get started instantly and use anywhere in Office platform.
·         They are public by default which enables users to discover and join new Groups easily
·         Easier to manage membership and permissions in one place both for end users and IT administrators
·         Private groups provide the flexibility to control access to your group

Guest Access
You can configure guest access to a group.

Click on Add Members and it will open the below window

They will receive an email which will look like below
Clicking on “Access files” opens other windows where these users must enter a new password for their non-office 365 email

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