Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series of blogs that will offer condensed versions of several sessions from Microsoft Ignite 2017. 

Well folks, it’s over. Microsoft Ignite 2017 is in the books. For some in the tech community, that day-after-Christmas feeling is a little disappointing but now the real fun begins — putting all the information you gleaned from Ignite to good use! At AvePoint, we know that not everybody was able to make the trip, but luckily, most sessions from Ignite are available on Microsoft’s website on demand. This blog will recap ‘Embrace Office 365 Groups’, a 200-level session presented by Christophe Fiessinger and Shilpa Ranganathan, both principal program managers at Microsoft.

What are Office 365 Groups?

Collaboration and the ability to get things done across your organization’s departments and individuals are crucial to productivity and, by extension, success. It may help to think of Office 365 as a toolkit, or toolbox, for collaboration.Contained therein are a variety of tools, one of which is Groups. These tools used to optimize collaboration sit in what’s known as an intelligent fabric, which is comprised of Groups, the Microsoft Graph, and a security and compliance infrastructure.

Where do I Start a Conversation?

The first step in answering this question is determining exactly what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Are you collaborating on a direct report? Is it a project? Something else? Knowing what it is that you will be working toward will define the type of conversation that needs to be had. Consider your collaboration to have two loops: the inner loop — the people you work with regularly on projects, and the outer loop — people you connect with openly across the organization. For users in the inner loop, Microsoft Teams is ideal for your interaction with them. You know them, you know their style of work and you know the process through which you complete tasks. For the outer loop — people in your organization with whom you interact irregularly — Yammer is the proper tool for beginning a conversation. Outlook, Microsoft’s ubiquitous email platform may also be a suitable channel for your desired collaboration when it comes to isolated, point to point discussion.

How to Manage Office 365 Groups at Scale

There are two buckets when it comes to the management of Office 365 Groups at scale. One is the self-service, or open bucket. Despite its name, this is executed in a controlled way. Choosing this option allows users freedom, and your organization’s governance policies ensure compliance and security without detracting from the users’ freedom. This approach requires organizations to think about how they will proactively train (and reactively monitor) for compliance with organizational policies.

Bucket number two is controlled management. This means that an organization has disabled self-service. Often times organizations may allow only a certain department or team access to creating and managing Groups as it gets a feel for the process during the move to the cloud. the more success that comes with such actions, the more departments and users are given permission. Ideally, over time, the blocks will be completely removed and the organization would eventually become self-serviced.

Naming Policy and Other New Native Functionality

“Naming Policy” and “Expiration Policy” are examples of native tools that Microsoft provides to allow organizations to retain some control, even in the “open bucket” scenario described above. Microsoft announced naming policy, currently in preview, at Ignite this year. While the ability to create naming policies when creating a Group in Outlook was always possible, the question remained — what about creating a Group in Planner? SharePoint? Microsoft’s naming policy feature elevates the naming conventions at the AAD level, so now you can enforce all your naming conventions across all workloads, whether that’s SharePoint, Teams, Outlook, etc.

Group Expiration Policy

Group expiration policy, another new native functionality announced at Ignite, and also currently available in preview, was a highly requested feature from users. Expiration helps you keep the resources that you need and do away with those you don’t. For example, when self-service is enabled for a multitude of users, projects change, priorities change, people change the projects they’re currently working on. When resources are no longer used, you want to be sure they are sufficiently cleaned from the system. Once you set a Group for expiration, you can onboard it based on time period. This works at scale because if the original Group was onboarded and set for six months, owners of the group will get a notification after that time at which point they can renew or expire the Group. With ownerless Groups, you can set an email an address at the admin level, which will receive all notifications related to ownerless Groups and they can then either be expired or renewed according to the needs of your organization. Soft delete and restore are also available. Deleted Groups remain in the soft deleted state for 30 days at which point when you restore the Group, all conversations, files and other collaboration measures are restored as well.

In today’s workplace, collaboration is a must, and there are also myriad options to choose from. With Office 365 Groups, integration, security, and customizations come together to form a complete collaborative platform. Additionally, with GroupHub from AvePoint, you can optimize your Groups activity even further to make your teams work faster, smarter, and better.