Have you noticed an increase in community content around Office 365 Groups? It’s interesting to see the shift in messaging from Microsoft, and the reaction from the community. Initially, there was a lot of push-back from customers and even within the Microsoft MVP community around Groups, which is not surprising. Anything new will generally encounter some level of resistance. But Groups seems to be hitting its stride, with leading voices within the community beginning to see the future path of this important architectural detail in Office 365.
For an overview of Groups, there is some great content from community experts like Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin), MVP, an evangelist at Sharegate, who recently blogged and conducted a webinar on the topic, and Jeremy Thake (@jthake), former Product Manager at Microsoft who is now VP of Product Technology at Hyperfish, who is creating a series of YouTube videos that provide a deep dive into Office 365 and groups.
Why Groups Are Important
Groups are a natural progression of SharePoint and Office 365. Because different teams and organizations work in different ways, and need to collaborate and communicate across several different channels, many companies are finding that their users have been drifting away from the traditional intranet model. One of the reasons companies liked that model is that it centralized tools and activities that were often spread across different platforms and technologies, allowing those companies to create “one version of the truth” around their content and activities.
The problem was that companies could not deliver the capabilities that their users wanted fast enough. That’s when SharePoint came into the picture, giving companies a collaboration framework around which they could build their intranets. But even SharePoint could not move fast enough for the explosion of services and tools that can now be offered through the cloud. As Office 365 has rapidly expanded, so has the competition. Cloud-based productivity solutions have become cheap and easy, so that marketing and business users no longer need to go through IT to get this powerful functionality. All they need is a credit card and login.
What we’ve done as an industry is go in a circle. The battle for many companies is to reign in unsupported, non-compliant cloud solutions that add complexity and risk to the enterprise. Recognizing this rising need, Microsoft introduced Groups as a way to connect the growing number of solutions being offered through Office 365, so that when a new Group is created, its members gain access to shared tools and resources within the group. Things like SharePoint, Planner, OneDrive for Business, Yammer and soon – Microsoft Teams. Also, more basic features such as a shared calendar, shared Outlook alias and streamlined permissions.
Enabled through Azure Active Directory, an Office 365 Group is provisioned much like a security group. And as Microsoft continues to compete with (and oftentimes beats) the many different collaboration and productivity competitors, they’ll continue to refine the Groups model and add new capabilities, giving companies a “utility belt” of options for their users.
Not that the technology is perfect. While it is directionally correct there are some definite organizational impacts as companies consider leveraging Groups. For example: who owns the provisioning of new Office 365 Groups? By default, anyone in your organization can create them and many customers are reporting that Groups navigation is out of control. There is limited management of the provisioning process (many companies prefer to have a review and approval process), an inability to limit visibility of the groups that are created (what executive team wants to keep a project under wraps?), and no method for consolidating or migrating content and conversations between Groups (because once in a while there is a reorg).
At tyGraph, we are trying to solve some of these organizational impacts. In case you didn’t notice, we’re undergoing some minor branding changes, including a new company tagline: Intelligent Tools for Better Collaboration. While we’re known for tools that provide deep insights and powerful analytics, we have much more coming this year to help knowledge-driven organizations get more out of their Office 365 investments. We hope you follow us through this blog and our social channels, because we are excited about the year ahead.
We would love to hear your thoughts on Office 365 Groups and how they are impacting your organization. Take this short survey (less than 5 minutes) and we’ll share the results on this blog at the end of the month.
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