Office 365 Groups – It’s all about collaboration

There is considerable hype right now around Office 365 Groups. Groups seems to be more of an evolutionary step that makes Active Directory/Distribution groups something that Office 365 makes its own. With Active Directory and Exchange, we’ve always had this concept of Security Groups, Distribution groups and mail enabled security groups which is a combination of the two.

Office 365 takes these concepts and adds all of its collaboration bits to it, thus becoming mail enabled security groups on steroids. Office 365 will continue to be based around groups going forward, so it’s important to get the concept and start using them. This blog will talk about creating groups from an administration point of view and talk about what you get with groups. I think the what you get, is what sells groups.

Creating Groups

When you go to the administration portal, and click on Groups (just below users), you’ll immediately have a choice to make on what type of group you’ll want to use.


Each selection has its place. You may only want to create distribution groups or security groups for sharepoint only permissions. Where you will want to use groups is for collaboration. Perhaps if you are replacing a file server and want to create a similar space in Office 365 to replace the file share. Groups will work for this.

Group ID: Items that are important to take note of in the field selections. Make sure Group ID is something that makes sense for your group, it will also be an email address for your group.

Privacy: This is important to think about. This will either make the group and its documents etc. available to anyone in Office 365 or make it private to the members of the groups.


If you click on Group Details, you can see all of the information around the group.


What’s important here is the field that says “Allow outside senders”. This setting is similar to creating distribution groups and allowing outside senders to send email. The way you do this in Exchange is remove the requirement for users to be authenticated to send emails. By default this setting is off, just like Exchange.

What does groups give me?

Here’s where I tell you why I call this mail enabled security groups on steroids. Not only does Office 365 Groups give you an email address, and your users access to some resources. The resources you get access to as a member of the group is what makes it so collaborative powerful.

  • Group Calendar
  • Files = Preconfigured SharePoint Library
  • Notebook = OneNote Notebook for Group meetings
  • Planner
  • Collabsible Conversations in Outlook


With your Groups having access to so many things, it makes collaborating so powerful. Let’s look inside and see what navigating groups looks like. If we click on Files, we are brought to a SharePoint Library. From here we can create an Office document, slideshow, spreadsheet. Once we do that, we are brought into an Online version of Microsoft Office.


Once Word is open you can edit the document and it will automatically save, as a matter of fact, you will find it impossible to find the Save option under File. To navigate back to your Group area, click on “Blog Discussions”. Now if you click on Notebook, you will be brought into OneNote Online to be able to work with your meeting notes. Here you can create multiple notebooks and sections for your Group meetings.


Introduction to Office 365

I think if you are introducing Office 365 to your user base, I think Groups is where you start and focus on how Office 365 Groups enable collaboration. Collaboration is where this product shines.

In one of my projects the first workload we moved to Office 365 was Exchange. Exchange on its own doesn’t show much value to the end user, the end user shouldn’t know where their mailbox resides if the migration went well. If you introduce Exchange, Office 365 groups as an offshoot SharePoint Online (Groups document library), you can really show value and get your user base excited about Office 365.

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