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Five Reasons to Create an Office 365 Group for your Project Team or Committee

All WWU employees are on at least one email distribution list at Western, and you have probably seen them in Outlook's Global Address List (anything that begins with a "grp" prefix). Employees can request these lists using an e-Sign form. In the past, the manager of a distribution list could edit that list's membership using the Outlook address book. When the university moved to Office 365, list managers lost the ability to edit their lists and have since needed to ask the Help Desk or another IT support group to add or remove members on their behalf.

Fortunately, Office 365 introduced a new kind of group that employees can create, manage, and even delete all on their own. We first wrote about Office 365 groups in the Winter 2015 edition of ATUS News. Today we have more than 150 Office 365 Groups. Some of these groups are "public" meaning that any employee can join or view the group's conversations and files. Most groups are "private" which means that you must be granted membership by the person who created the group (or another person they designated as a group administrator). Only members can view or participate in a private group.

Private groups are ideal for workgroups, project teams or committees that need a secure location for storing shared files and notes. Here are five reasons to use an Office 365 Group instead of a standard distribution list:

You can create and delete Office 365 Groups yourself, and you can control the membership. You won’t need to ask someone to create or manage an Office 365 group for you.
Conversations are more flexible. You can send an email to the group to start a group conversation, just like you would do with a standard distribution list. In addition to accessing these email conversations from Outlook, group members can also see the messages by browsing to the group in Office 365 or by clicking on the group’s name in the Outlook folder list. 

Files can be shared with the group by uploading them to the group's OneDrive. Group members can edit documents and spreadsheets simultaneously, and even compare and restore previous versions. Notes can be shared using the group's Notebook. You can access the Notebook from the group's web page or open it in OneNote so you can always access it from there. The Outlook Groups Mobile App lets you access group conversations, notes and files from your iOS, Android or Windows smartphone or tablet.

Do you just want an email distribution list? You can still create an Office 365 group and use it only for email. The group will appear in your Outlook address book just like the ones created by ATUS. All group members will receive messages sent to the group, and they can reply to the group right from their Inbox. If you ever decide to utilize the additional features, they will be there.

Ready to get started? You can create an Office 365 Group even if your committee or workgroup already has a distribution list. If you find that the additional functionality is helpful, you can ask us to remove your standard distribution list.

How to Create an Office 365 Group

There are still some situations that are better handled with a distribution list or Team Site including

  • Any large distribution list that you wish to populate by combining smaller distribution lists. You can't add a group or distribution list to another Office 365 group. Only distribution lists allow you to "nest" groups inside of other groups.
  • When you know that your team will need even more functionality. A Team Site can provide additional features for project and task management, custom forms, issue tracking, multiple document libraries and more.