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Categories: SharePoint;Office 365

​At Softlanding we strongly follow the cliché but important motto "practice what you preach". It's simple, until you have truly used something in your day-to-day work environment, you won't be able to know its behaviour in "real life" scenarios.

At Softlanding within the applications group, we have regularly scheduled meetings called Creativity and Inspiration Conversations (CIC) to discuss emerging technologies, features, practices or generally a "cool" solution we might have come across. These are informal discussions rather than rigid meetings, which are intended to promote thinking outside of the box and sharing ideas. In the past we have supported this discussion by simply setting up a recurring calendar invite. Typically before the meeting we assign someone to generate a topic and maybe review the topic with members prior to the meeting. Again this is intended to be informal and more of a conversation starter, so when I heard of Office Groups, it just seemed like a natural fit to support our CIC use case.

It was simple, I created a new public Office Group, added the application team as members of the group. Then with the shared calendar feature of Office Groups I created a recurring meeting and invited the members. The members were notified that they had been added to the new Office Group, and automatically they were able to see the Groups calendar events overlaid on their calendar in outlook.

Next I started a new conversation in the Office Group, where I had control of notifying individual members or the entire group of the potential topics for the next CIC session. We were able to host discussions within the group conversation area, without having a dreaded mass email chain.

Any supporting files for the meeting are stored in the Files area of the Group. This cuts down having to email things like screenshots back and forth or creating a formal team site to store temporary documents.

The Good

  • Groups are easy and quick to set up, which really makes sharing content with others more natural
  • The calendar within the Group is really a core functionality, being notified for meetings and seeing Group meetings overlaid on your own calendar makes it hard to convenient and centralized
  • Office Groups provide a great way of potentially cutting down on email discussions, by providing a dedicated place to have conversations and be notified when you have been mentioned
  • Rather than adding individuals as members to your group, if you add an Active Directory group, it will detect the users within the group and add them for you

The Bad

  • There seemed to be a lag time between the web app and installed client version of Outlook when updating events in Groups. It took between 30 minutes to one hour to reflect event updates between both versions of Outlook, which I can see frustrating many users
  • Additionally, there also seemed to be a long waiting period before members were notified that they had been added to a Group

The Great

  • There is a dedicated Office Groups app also available for Windows, Android and IOS
  • There is now integration between Microsoft Planner and Office Groups, you automatically have a plan created per Group where you can start tracking and assigning tasks
  • It was also announced that there will be integration between Groups and team sites. This is for more complex scenarios where you want to have the power of using team sites and the versatility of Groups' scheduling and discussions