Behind the Scenes of Office 365 Groups with Microsoft’s Christophe Fiessinger

Post Date: 01/17/2017
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Dux Quax: Behind the Scenes of Office 365 Groups with Microsoft’s Christophe Fiessinger [Video Interview]

Hi ya’ll! Happy New Year and happy 2017! As you may know, I’ve been traveling around the world meeting with people using Office 365 Groups. Some are already rocking out with features like Planner and Microsoft Teams while others are still trying to fit Groups into their broader collaboration picture. As the kids say, “the struggle is real” for some folks trying to figure out when to use what inside Office 365.

So, I decided that the only person who’s going to help get everyone on board is the man behind the scenes, Microsoft’s own Christophe Fiessinger, Program Manager for Office 365 Groups!

I have to say I was stoked to hear about the latest in Groups from Christophe, and what’s even better is that I’m going to share it with you all! Don’t miss a second of this exclusive look at behind the scenes of Office 365 Groups!

Ask Us About Office 365 Groups Anytime!

Remember to continue the conversation on Twitter by reaching out to us at @cfiessinger and @meetdux by using #DuxQuax

Click HERE for a free trail of AvePoint’s GroupHub!

If 15 minutes wasn’t enough for you to learn about Office 365 Groups or if you have any questions you need answering, join Christophe and I, along with our good buddy Jeremy Thake (@jthake), for an hour long webinar.

Bring your questions and ask the experts in our interactive, question-and-answer session covering:

  • An overview of what Office 365 Groups are, how they work, and what you get when you set one up
  • Use cases and customer stories showcasing how you can use Office 365 Groups to power your teams and projects
  • Prescriptive advice on how your IT and governance teams can manage Office 365 in the era of Office 365 Groups

By the end of our webinar, you will understand what Office 365 Groups are and the impact that activating them can have on your organization.

Office 365 Groups webinar

More from AvePoint about Office 365 Groups:

Full Transcript: Behind the Scenes of Office 365 Groups with Microsoft’s Christophe Fiessinger

Dux: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Dux Quax. It’s a beautiful day here in Redmond, the mother ship. Don’t you think, Christophe?

Christophe: Beautiful day in Redmond…

Dux: Yeah, and this is a normal day. But so excited to be with Christophe here. So Christophe, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell everybody how you’re changing the world?

Christophe: That’s a bold introduction. But hello everyone, I’m Christophe Fiessinger, I’m on the Office 365 Groups services team, and I’m sure you heard about Groups. And I’m a program manager on that team.

Dux: So Groups, I guess you’re the most popular kid in campus these days, huh?

Christophe: It’s definitely…it was interesting to me a lot of customers and partners at Ignite in Atlanta where maybe a year ago people thought it was an experiment from Redmond, and are we committed to that, and now that SharePoint integrates with Groups, Yammer soon, and now with the Teams announcement, at least people realize that we are serious about helping people collaborate.

[Editor’s Note: stay tuned for more blogs about “Office 365 Groups vs Yammer: When To Use What”. Subscribe now and get more blogs straight to your inbox!]

Office 365 Groups Blog Subscription

Dux: And I’m sure there’s a lot of information already out there around Groups, people can look it up, but let’s get to the crux of the conversation here. What have you heard and seen in observation since Groups came out? Like I’m sure you talk to customers, talk to partners, talk to MVPs. What kind of, I would say, behavior or responses have you been getting?

Christophe: I mean, I’ve seen all shades of gray. I think overall, especially this week talking to fellow MVPs that are our best and brightest, on the frontline, is a lot of people see the value that we did. There were a lot of friction in the past, a lot of silos to really help someone get started and run a project. Whether it’s a day project, a week project, or a six-month project. So people see the value with that.

There’s also a lot of questions and potentially tension of, “Okay, I get where you’re heading, but my…where am I today? I’m on premises or I start with a SharePoint diploma or I started with distribution group. So how do I rendezvous or potentially move some of those things that I already invested in, into that new world that Microsoft is investing in?

Dux: So speaking about that, existing investments, I’m sure there’s a lot of customers out there that may have already looked at the cloud or they may already be there, but then traditionally, all these workloads, from SharePoint to Exchange for email, even IM and all these other workloads, traditionally it’s different pockets of people that own it and are responsible for it. And then for Groups, Groups is like the all-knowing, consistent keychain that ties everything together. So how should people think about that, and how should, I guess…they should plan for it in their organizations to make it work?

[Editor’s Note: Learn all about Office 365 Groups administration, Office 365 Groups vs distribution lists, Office 365 Groups vs Teams, and more in our 1 hour free webinar!]

Office 365 Groups webinar

Christophe: So two answers, I’ll give you the quick one. Hopefully users don’t have to worry about that. If Christophe needs to collaborate with you, Dux, who is not part of my active directory, and we need to work on a presentation, have a couple of meetings, take some notes, hopefully it should be seamless to bring Dux in, and you and I use the different apps to get work done.

From an IT perspective, what I’ve seen recently or during the past year or so, is traditionally IT, for the right reason, were organized by applications. You had the SharePoint admin, the Exchange admin…

Dux: The security team, yes.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”A2eqW” via=”no” ]”Groups is the glue for all #office365. Figure out what governance means across all of your services.” @cfiessinger [/ctt]

Christophe: …the security team, definitely an active directory person. And as you mentioned, now that Groups is like that glue, that substrate across all those workloads, I’ve been telling customers, or at least when I talk to IT, if I’m talking to the active directory person that’s talking about policies and mini-conventions, it’s like, “Okay, great, great discussion, but please bring in your SharePoint admin if you have one, or your Exchange admin if you have one, your community manager from Yammer if you have one,” and so forth because that glue is tying all those services. And I wanna make sure you guys agree on what does governance mean for “Contoso”, from both the active directory down to, let’s say, an application at SharePoint.

[Editor’s Note: stay tuned for more blogs about “Office 365 Groups vs Yammer: When To Use What”. Subscribe now and get more blogs straight to your inbox!]

Office 365 Groups Blog Subscription

Dux: And from that perspective, obviously it’s a big shift in how people work and people operate, but I think more and more at the end of the day, if we start thinking about that way, we have that group mindset per se, I think in the end the experience would be much better for end users in the business, but it’s not gonna be this siloed initiative, “Hey, we’re launching SharePoint, hey, we’re upgrading email.” But then there’s this consistent thread, because as users, I use all these things to get my work done.

Christophe: You’re an advanced user, so you’re special. You’re a power user.

Dux: All right, I’m a power user. That’s what my mom says, I’m special.

Christophe: No, but I agree, like it’s this journey where we definitely wanna delight the users and make people’s lives easier, whether it’s managing a project, running a team, or a community of interests or community of practice. But I see we also think of differentiators historically being Microsoft as being, make sure we give you all the controls, the security and trust, especially with the clouds. And so it’s this journey where we wanna make it easier and move from the people that manage around the hook, day in, day out, to operate the services, but obviously start by delighting the users.

Because one thing that I’ve learned when I was on the Yammer team is, sure, you can build all the toggles to control things, but at the end of the day, if users aren’t gonna use it, suddenly you wasted a lot of money into things that aren’t gonna delight users and they’re using third-party, shadow IT and then you’ve got a bigger problem.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”22gb0″ via=”no” ]”You can build toggles to control #Office365, but if users don’t use it, you wasted a lot of money.” @cfiessinger[/ctt]

Dux: So Christophe, I’ve known you for a long time, right? We’ve known each other, I would say, 10 years now. At least that’s the first time I met you. But do you think your background in all these different technologies and different roles, help you shape your thinking, especially your role today in Groups? Because you were with Project at one point, right? And Yammer, and then I’m sure you’ve done a lot of other stuff in the past.

[Editor’s Note: stay tuned for more blogs about “Office 365 Groups vs Yammer: When To Use What”. Subscribe now and get more blogs straight to your inbox!]

Office 365 Groups Blog Subscription

Christophe: It actually has. I think…it’s true that I started on Project, on Project Server, before that I was in consulting. I think that maybe it’s my own motto that I wanna keep learning every day. And I don’t think, like what we say, to one size…yeah, I mentioned last week that we don’t think one size fits all for collaboration. And again, if I rewind back to when I started my career, where it was a one-page memo, that was the way to make decision. You printed it and religiously you got signatures from everyone. Hopefully everyone check. If you didn’t check, you had to go redo it again.

And so I don’t think one size fits all. You need to provide a modern tool that people can easily use.

So along the way when I was on Project or when I was at Yammer or later with Groups, I always learned something. I think one thing that I learned with Yammer, back to this notion of toggles, is you really got to delight the end users and provide value before you start thinking about putting a lot of controls and toggles and fancy UI. And sometimes the…what you thought would be a good UI, a good experience, and that not being correct when you look at how users use your product, and that’s why I was making fun of you that you and I are power users, we definitely have an opinion, but we might not be representative of what 80%…how people collaborate.

Dux: But that’s okay, right? Like I watched the launch of Teams. You were talking about Teams, and you talk about it’s not one size fits all, it’s a toolbox, and obviously people raised questions when Teams was announced. Like, “Oh, another tool,” right?

Christophe: Yeah.

Dux: But the way we think about…or at least the way I would tell customers when they ask me, so I ask them like…let’s take Microsoft Office. Today we don’t think about it, “Do I create a table in Word, or Excel, or Access?”

Christophe: Or OneNote.

Dux: Or OneNote, yeah. We just know.

Christophe: Or Sway.

Dux: Or Sway. No, it’s not gonna be perfect, right? There’s always that one person in the company that creates their tables in Word, right? And we can’t sort it. But that’s okay. And then I think with all these technologies, that’s the mindset we should progress with. I love my email. I’m sure you love your email too to a certain extent, and that’s okay. But then these modern ways of working, like Teams, for example, we had a quick conversation, it’s perfect for teams literally that are fast-paced, working together, feedback, talking, thumbs up, emojis, it’s all good. But if that doesn’t work, that’s okay too.

Christophe: So a couple of things. Teams, typically, we say is for high-velocity team. And what we mean by that, to be able to give you a concrete example, like maybe a team of traders that maybe trade in commodities, and maybe you and I are trading whatever, coal, oil, whatever, we probably have a second screen experience, when I say, “Dux, are you going high or low on coal or whatever? Blah-blah-blah.” And again, that second screen experience, we don’t have time to send email, it’s split seconds like thumbs up, thumbs down, yada yada yada.

[Editor’s Note: Still trying to figure out when to use Office 365 Groups vs Teams? Check out our free webinar with Microsoft’s Matt Berg (@bergasonic) and fellow MVP, Avanade’s Wictor Wilén (@wictor) and learn about Microsoft Teams vs Groups!]

Office 365 Groups vs Microsoft Teams free webinar

Or another example that we’ve seen in media, where if I’m working on the cover of the newspaper for tomorrow, or I’ve got to close my editorial, I need your picture or your editorial so I can close my cover page so I can go to the press, I don’t have time to say…

Dux: To write a nice email or a Word doc or…

Christophe: Maybe I might do a nice email afterwards for a great job and a great cover we did, but in the moment I don’t have time for that. And it’s kind of like, Christophe being European or maybe just being Christophe with Latin blood, a lot of the time I’m impatient. So what I do is, sure, I can use…

Dux: You, impatient?

Christophe: Don’t tell my wife.

Dux: Okay.

Christophe: She already knows.

But what I do is, yes, I use email, yes, I use Yammer to broadcast big announcement across the company. A lot the time what I do is I actually look at presence. And if the person is green, meaning available, it’s like, maybe it’s okay, you’re going to type, “Can you talk?” And because I’m old-fashioned, I just do a good old-fashioned voice call to you and make decisions or settle a disagreement. Yes, I could type an email, yes, I can use Yammer, yes, I can use Teams, but sometimes something more immediate, even more urgent than typing, it’s good old-fashioned talking.

Dux: I mean, last week, right, I texted you, “Hey, Christophe, can you talk?” And then you pinged me on Skype, “Okay, let’s Skype.” But we know, we inherently know. And in our personal lives, we text, we message on consumer tools like Facebook, and that’s fine.

Christophe: Yeah. It’s funny because that’s also the example I use when I talk to an administrators. They say, “Oh, we’ll block Groups. It’s like, okay, yes you can and you get the tools and you can block it. But in 2020, 50% of the labor in the U.S. will be millennials. So, I don’t know if you interview people out of university. I’ve done a couple of interviews lately…

Dux: Like focus groups or just…

Christophe: No, interview to hire, just for hire, new hire. And I always ask those kids, I’m saying, “Kids, like, what did you use at your university to collaborate on whatever, the computer science, the English project?” It’s amazing because most of them didn’t use email. And you could argue even us back then maybe we didn’t have email or it was not very accessible.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”548eW” via=”no” ]”Yes, IT can turn off #Groups, but millennials are joining the workforce with different expectations.” @cfiessinger[/ctt]

So the point is…back to the point to IT is, yes you can turn it off, but that generation that’s gonna join your workforce are gonna have different expectation on different patience. And if you’re not giving the tools, you’re…what you’re fighting against is it only takes Christophe two seconds to do a WhatsApp, a Facebook Messenger, and…

Dux: Boy, that company posted a big ad on New York Times.

Christophe: Yeah, absolutely. So, just be careful because people’s patience can only go so far in this day and age where I get a phone with any app that I can download, and potentially that could put the valuable IP at risk, and potentially the company can get in trouble and lose its competitive edge.

Dux: Exactly. You know, one of the…

Christophe: So, it’s a tension. I wanna fully realize that there’s compliance and regulatory, but also you cannot…you can’t say, “Mr. marketing team, you are launching a new product, you’re gonna spend \$15 million, wait a year till we give you a share repository to put all your PDF on your banner.” You don’t have time to wait a year to launch your product.

Dux: Or your VPN in because you can only use this machine. You know what, I need to get my job done, I wanna swipe my credit card somewhere and get it done. Now, that’s a great point.

So what would be your advice, moving forward, especially to our IT colleagues out there, how to think about this, but more importantly position it in their organization? Because Groups is still relatively new, it’s exciting, but this is something I think that would change the business. So how can IT be the innovators and the business-enablers to help advocate a technology like this?

Christophe: So I think, to start I would say–again, to make it very simple–if you bought Office 365 to not just put mailbox in the cloud, personal storage in the cloud, or just leverage Office Pro Plus. If you bought it to enable more than one person to collaborate whenever, whether it’s within your company or outside a directory, then you need to look at Groups. Because, like we said earlier, SharePoint…integrate with Groups, Yammer. Very soon you can have a Skype call with your Groups, Teams integrate with Groups…

[ctt template=”1″ link=”6Yk7W” via=”no” ]”If you bought #Office365 to enable more than 1 person to collaborate, then you need to look at Groups.” @cfiessinger[/ctt]

[Editor’s Note: stay tuned for more blogs about “Office 365 Groups vs Yammer: When To Use What”. Subscribe now and get more blogs straight to your inbox!]

Office 365 Groups Blog Subscription

Dux: OneNote.

Christophe: …OneNote, Planner, etc.

So if your charter is to help more than one person to collaborate, then you should definitely consider Groups. So the next question is, okay, how do I start? We do have actually extensive documentation on, not only at the high level or what are the governments, administration, but then at the individual workload levels, you know, “What does the new Team Sites connected to Groups give me?” and so forth, “What does Planner give me in terms of task management that…”

Dux: And even Teams, right? Because…

Christophe: And even Teams. So, we got a lot of content available and we get a lot of recordings from Ignite and stuff like that. And I think also the last thing is, like, look at all the content we have, and we’re not perfect, we also have things like FastTrack to help you onboard, and even if all those don’t answer your questions, then give us feedback, or ask your favorite partner to get on board with this journey because sometimes it might not be a technology question but more of a change management question.

[Editor’s Note: Still trying to figure out when to use Office 365 Groups vs Teams? Check out our free webinar with Microsoft’s Matt Berg (@bergasonic) and fellow MVP, Avanade’s Wictor Wilén (@wictor) and learn about Microsoft Teams vs Groups!]

Office 365 Groups vs Microsoft Teams free webinar


Dux: And then from a feedback perspective, obviously there’s UserVoice, which people…

Christophe: UserVoice, we got…

Dux: Tech Community?

Christophe: Tech Community. So a lot of channels to get feedback, in addition to consuming the content that we’re constantly releasing.

Dux: Awesome. You know, Christophe, this has been very, very helpful, and I’m definitely gonna take advantage of your impatience, I guess. We’re gonna do, hopefully, if you like this and everybody’s requested to learn more about Groups, we’ll schedule Christophe or somebody in his team for a webinar so we can do more live Q&A. But other than that, thanks again, Christophe, for this time. I truly appreciate you. We’ll see you again for next episode. Thanks. Bye.

Christophe: Thank you, Dux.

Dux: All right.

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Coming up Soon! Free Webinar: Office 365 Groups – Ask the Experts
Office 365 Groups: Ask the Experts Webinar

With over 20 years of business and technology experience, Dux has driven organizational transformations worldwide with his ability to simplify complex ideas and deliver relevant solutions. He serves as the Chief Brand Officer of AvePoint who has authored the LinkedIn Learning course How to Build Your Personal Brand, the book SharePoint for Project Management, as well as numerous whitepapers and articles. As a public speaker, Dux has delivered engaging, interactive presentations to more than 25,000 people at leading industry events around the world. He also hosts the modern workplace podcast #shifthappens that focuses on how leading organizations navigated their business transformation journey. Dux advocates tirelessly for inclusion, using technology for good, and philanthropic initiatives. Connect with him:

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