The Office 365 Groups service is not new and simply acts as a central location for a group of users to access and manage a set of products within Office 365. Azure Active Directory is used to provide a group with single sign-on functionality to access all products within a set.
The goal of Groups is to improve the collaboration experience, and this blog explains the various Office 365 products that can be included in a group.
When a group is created, it will be assigned an associated mailbox with an email address. “Conversations” or emails sent and replied to within this mailbox are stored in a threaded view. This shared mailbox lets group members send emails as, or on behalf of, the entire group.
Outlook Conversations are always available within a group, regardless of the product with which the group was created -- with one exception. When a group is created with Yammer, the following applications are not available: Outlook Conversations, Outlook Calendar and Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams allows for instant, real-time chat and information sharing among a group of collaborators or “Team”. When a Team is part of an Office 365 Group, it is given the same name as that Group; however, Teams are only available for private Groups with less than 600 members.
Within a Team there exist multiple channels for different topics of conversation, but there is always a default General channel. The user interface for Teams is fully customizable, can integrate all other products within Office 365 and could become a Team’s homepage.
This Enterprise Social Network tool is a forum for conversations. Yammer conversations within Office 365 Groups must be created from the Yammer interface. Yammer groups are exclusive and will not integrate with Outlook Conversations, Calendar or Microsoft Teams.
This feature provides a centralized calendar to keep group members updated on appointments, events, team meetings, notifications, etc. The calendar cannot be integrated with Yammer conversations.
File Management in Outlook Conversations and Microsoft Teams
In addition to file management within SharePoint, files can be managed in in a Conversation or Team. A list of files available to the group is visible to all members who can download or edit those files through Office Online. Outlook Conversations also displays file attachments, which can be moved to document libraries.
A SharePoint site provides a more in-depth file management experience than the simple list and download/edit capabilities available in Outlook Conversations and Microsoft Teams. SharePoint supports multiple document libraries, metadata, content categorization and centralized workflows. It offers easy page authoring, weblink creation, and the ability to post team news updates.
OneNote, Planner, StaffHub & Power BI
Share notes with group members through OneNote, plan and track tasks for group members with Planner, connect remote workers to a Group with StaffHub and create dashboards for the group with a subscription to Power BI.
Governance and Office 365 Groups
Groups are intended to be self-serving. Users can create a group autonomously without submitting requests for approval or relying on their company’s IT department. However, this self-serving nature means there is little to no governance established for groups. If a governance tool is eventually introduced, it should be simple and align / integrate with Office 365 groups to ensure users follow governance guidelines.