Office 365 Groups

May 17, 2018 by Ian Macnichol

Help Build your Modern Workplace with Office 365 Groups

There’s a growing trend in business to, well, buck the workplace trends of the past. One such idea that’s been resonating well with employees is the modern workplace. This entails bringing a company into the future by implementing better work/life balance, championing a more casual environment, and encouraging more diverse forms of collaboration. What all this means depends on each company of course, but mainly this modernization is about reducing the rigidity of old workplace norms.

An important area to focus on here is that last example of encouraging diverse forms of collaboration. Not every business is ready for an overhaul of culture, and not every company is capable of letting their employees wear sweatpants every day… But! The one area that every business can work towards modernizing is the tools they use for collaboration. Employees in our ever-increasingly connected world are looking for the same forms of communication at work that they use elsewhere. This has caused a rise in popularity of group-chat services like Slack, Teams, and others. With the rise of these new apps, it’s important to make sure they are facilitating work rather than hindering progress.

Not every business is ready for an overhaul of culture, and not every company is capable of letting their employees wear sweatpants every day… But! The one area that every business can work towards modernizing is the tools they use for collaboration.

As this ability to connect more quickly and directly becomes easier, the number of available ways to accomplish this connection increases. This can cause potential concerns or problems for teams working together in an office, and is especially concerning for teams working remotely. It is imperative that communication and collaboration be both effective and efficient. Too many differing apps can cause confusion, as does not having a plan in place for collaboration between employees.

Problems can arise quickly when designers are sharing mockups through Slack, devs are tracking work on Trello, and clients are providing feedback through email. This example only has three separate points of communication, but it’s easy to imagine a situation with even more applications handling different workstreams and functions. To combat this, many businesses resort to using a singular application to have employees communicate in lockstep… But as we discussed above, we wanted to reduce rigidity! Focus should be on implementing a robust platform rather than a single application.

Enter ‘Groups’ – a part of Office 365. But, not an especially easy to understand part.

At the most basic level, Groups in Office 365 can be thought of as a super-powered distribution list from Outlook. It’s just a collection of people that are going to begin collaborating. And this is what makes it sort of hard to describe the selling point of Groups – it’s not a standalone app, but more of a concept for the Office 365 platform. The Groups appear clearly defined in three main areas:

  • Outlook – referred to as Groups
  • Teams – referred to as a Team
  • Yammer – referred to as a Group or Feed
At the most basic level, Groups in Office 365 can be thought of as a super-powered distribution list from Outlook. It’s just a collection of people that are going to begin collaborating.

Behind the scenes though, these groups are essentially bundles of permissions that facilitate the app to help you do your work more effectively. Any communication/collaboration is done within the Group on the platform, and the permissions of the Group handles who has access and when. Upon creation, these different Groups will have effects through the apps and ecosystem of Office 365.

For instance, a Group made in Planner, Power BI, or Stream are the same as a Group created in Outlook. So really, it’s important to figure out how your team wants to communicate, and then use that app to create your Groups and drive the collaboration and use of other apps in the ecosystem. Files, notebooks, and wikis will all follow the permissions of the Group as long as they are assigned properly upon creation. Managing SharePoint then works the same way, basing its permissions for access on the relevant Group associated to it.

Any communication/collaboration is done within the Group on the platform, and the permissions of the Group handles who has access and when.

This sort of powerful communication concept allows a business to modernize how its employees collaborate across teams and workflows. Groups in Office 365 may just be the key to reducing the cost of communication for the modern workplace.

Interview conducted by Jared Starner

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