Office 365 Groups is a relatively new Office 365 service that helps you work with other people in your organisation. You can set up a group to collaborate on working on documents, creating spreadsheets, scheduling meetings or sending email. In the past you needed the help of IT support to create distribution groups, set up team websites and create shared calendars. Office 365 Groups automate most or all of these technical details so that you can create and delete groups as needed.

How Do Groups Work?

To set up an Office 365 group you choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and then set up a collection of resources that members of the group can access. All the technical details of assigning permissions is handled for you when you assign a person to the group. Think of groups as a new and improved version of distributions list or shared mailboxes.

There are a few different ways to set up a group that give slightly different results, so you need to be aware of these before setting up the group.

Office 365 Groups in Outlook

Most small businesses will create groups using Outlook. When you create a group in Outlook you get:

  • A shared inbox for email conversations between members of the group. This inbox has its own email address and can optionally be set up to accept messages from people outside the group and even outside your organisation.
  • A shared calendar. This can be used for scheduling any type of event for the group.
  • A SharePoint document library. This provides a central repository for the storage of and sharing of files.
  • A shared OneNote notebook. OneNote is very useful for collecting ideas, on the fly meeting notes and other unstructured information. It is often used to quickly jot down an idea for future development into a more formal document or presentation.
  • A SharePoint Team Site. This provides a central repository for accessing information for the group.
  • Planner. Used to assign and manage project tasks within the group.

These resources are automatically created when you create the group. Permissions are also assigned automatically so that you can start work immediately.

You can use the Outlook desktop client or Outlook on the Web to access resources. The are also Microsoft Groups apss for iOS and Android devices.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a new addition to the Office 365 set of collaboration tools. It is a persistent chat board for informal, real time conversations. It is typically used for talking about specific topics or by a subset of members of the group. Creating a Microsoft Team adds this persistent chat capability to the groups in Outlook.

Office 365 Groups in Yammer

Yammer provides an organisation social experience for your company. It is typically used by organisations to make new connections and discoveries across the organisation.

When you create Office 365 groups in Yammer you get similar resources to those for an Outlook created group:

  • A Yammer group. This is a shared place to have conversations and share information.
  • A SharePoint document library. This provides a central repository for the storage of and sharing of files.
  • A shared OneNote notebook. OneNote is very useful for collecting ideas, on the fly meeting notes and other unstructured information. It is often used to quickly jot down an idea for future development into a more formal document or presentation.
  • A SharePoint Team Site. This provides a central repository for accessing information for the group.
  • Planner. Used to assign and manage project tasks within the group.

These resource can be accessed via Yammer or using the Yammer app on an iOS or Android device.

Private and Public Office 365 Groups

When you create Office 365  groups you need to decide whether it should be private or public. A public group can be seen by anyone in your organisation and anyone can join the group. A private group can only be seen by members of the group and anyone wanting to join the group must be approved by a group owner.

If you want people outside of your organisation to be able to access the group resources those people will need to be invited as guests.