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November 18
Office 365: A functional review of the new Groups

Office Groups are one of the latest offerings to come to the Office 365 suite of products. This article will provide an overview of how Groups are intended to function and how your team can leverage that functionality to collaborate effectively and quickly. Each of the topics below (and more) will be covered in a series of Office 365 Groups blog postings.

Welcome to your group! Taking Outlook to another level
When a Group is created in Office 365 several things happen on the back end to provide a collaboration space. The first thing you will notice is the Distribution List that is created in Outlook, any group you have access to will show up in the left hand navigation:

Microsoft has finally embraced the fact that people are used to working through email and Groups will now serve as a central location for all things related to a specific project or activity. When you access the Group through Outlook you will see all of the other “pieces” of Office 365 that are part of the overall Group experience. The email generated by creating a Group is your guide to this experience:

Here you see the common threads for a Group, such as Conversations (emails), Files and Activity (SharePoint) and Calendars. There is also the awesome ability to now access all of this content using the new apps for iOS and Android! All of this (along with a few more options is available at the top of the Outlook navigation:

File Sharing (SharePoint “light”)
There are two options for managing group files. A SharePoint Online site is created for each Group, Contribute permissions are automatically granted to the Distribution List created for the Group. Any documents created or shared by the Group via email will automatically be stored in the Files tab found in Outlook. The Files tab will show you all documents related to the Group in one location.

A Calendar is created for each group, this calendar acts just like an Outlook calendar for a shared email account. All users can view the calendar from Outlook, invitations can be sent to and from the calendar to make sure that everyone in the Group has the latest meeting information. Scheduling team meetings has never been easier!

Group Notebook: Sharing Informal Information
Each Group gets its own OneNote Notebook for gathering informal information. Common uses for OneNote are:
-    Taking meeting notes
-    Providing quick status reports
-    Collecting contact details for people outside of the group
-    Collaborative note taking (users can coauthor notes in Office 365)
OneNote provides offline sync capabilities so users can take notes in any situation and sync them back to the Group site when they have connectivity.

Planner: Easy Tracking of Group Tasks
Planner is a new feature for Office 365 that allows for easy categorization and sorting of tasks. You can easily create task “Buckets” that group related tasks. You can assign tasks to Group members directly from the task:

or by viewing the tasks by Assigned To dragging it to the desired bucket:

Planner also has some very useful reporting features for the status of tasks:

The new Office 365 Group functionality has a lot of potential. There are obviously many different aspects to a Group that need to be considered when implementing them. This blog a the following series will outline many of those decisions and provide practical guidance to help you with those decisions.

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