One of my favourite features in O365 is Groups. I think it is one of the most useful features that Microsoft has rolled into O365 over the past 12 – 14 months and one that all organization sizes can utilize. Groups can be used for many tasks such as “light” project management, team collaboration, your own “private” sandbox, you name it. But I think Groups are of particular use to those smaller organizations that don’t have any real IT support of their own (read as: organizations that don’t have the skillsets available to “wrangle” SharePoint). Please don’t misunderstand me … SharePoint is a veritable Swiss Army knife but it takes a lot of forethought before you start pushing buttons. Groups, on the other hand, don’t require any advance “work” as they bundle a lot of the basic functionality that would be expected of a small SharePoint team site implementation — a document library (Files), a OneNote (Notebook), a calendar, Conversations (simple IM within the Group) along with security controls – into the Group. Groups access is integrated into Outlook and the O365 Mail client and also supports Apps on iOS and Android devices. But, best of all, Groups can be created by regular users!
Now, as usual, there is a bit of a caveat. The O365 admin for your tenancy must allow users to create Groups before users can do so, so it is always best to verify that you are allowed to create Groups before you try. Assuming you are allowed to create Groups the process is as follows:
Create in O365 Mail Client
In your O365 Mail Client look for the following on the left side of the screen:
When you click on the + sign you’ll get the following prompt:
As you can see, there is not a lot of information required to set up a Group. I want to set up a Group for internal IT to use so I’m going to call it Internal IT and add a description; these fields are obvious. It is the next three choices that need some attention.
The Privacy selection is very important as it sets the basic security features for the Group.
Public is just that, “public”. Selecting this means that anyone in your tenancy can see and access this Group. Private implies you will need to invite (approve) people to the Group. And this is an important point because you are the Group owner and, therefore, also the Group administrator. Keep this in mind.
The Language option is obvious but it does imply that you can set a specific language option for the Group that will over-ride the language setting in the O365 tenancy (for the Group only).
And, finally, the last option is quite important to understand. Each Group has its own Calendar and its own Inbox. Selecting this tickbox will cause the Group to send Group email and calendar entries to the user’s “regular” O365 inbox and calendar. This is probably the one setting that causes the most “grief” for Group creators because they misunderstand the functionality. You should discuss this option with your desired audience prior to creating the Group so that users are prepared for the way the Group operates.
Once you have the settings the way you want click the Create icon to kick off the Group creation.
The system will display a note that Group Creation is running then you’ll get the following:
You can enter email addresses of users in your tenancy as well as external users. I’m going to invite Sam Beagle.
I could add more members at this point but I’m just going to add Sam so I click Save to finish the process.
Now when I look in Mail I see the Group in the Groups selection:
Clicking into the Group gives me an overview:
There’s a lot happening here, there is a Conversation window (chat), links to the document library (group files), links to the group Calendar and beside the Internal IT icon there are more links available from the ellipses:
The notebook link takes you to the embedded OneNote.
As you can see the OneNote is ready to roll. And we have all the bits and pieces in place for Sam and I to collaborate on our Internal IT projects. We have central storage for files we need to share, we have a OneNote to capture all of our notes, procedures, screenshots, you name it as OneNote will hold it all. We have a internal email inbox and Calendar and we have a rolling conversation (kind of a Yammer “light”) for those things where we should be thinking out loud. And all of this was created with a few simple clicks without the assistance of an admin!
In my next post I’ll look at how you interact with Groups from your Outlook client and then we’ll explore Groups from an App. Stay tuned!