Office 365 Group Management and Auto-Expiration Public Preview

If you’ve been working with Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, you probably remember a utility that was made available as a part of SharePoint Server 2003 to automatically delete old site collections that hadn’t been worked with in a while. This was an incredibly helpful utility for system administrators that were watching their SharePoint systems grow virally with the use of Self Service Site Collection creation.

If you’re not familiar with Self Service Site Collection Creation, it’s probably because it was removed from the SharePoint Products and Technologies and then brought back. Self Service Site Collection creation was incredibly beneficial to when users needed to get something up and running as quickly as possible but typically meant that users were creating site collections that may or may not have necessarily fit within the taxonomy of sites that were being implemented by their organization. What does that mean? Well, in some instances duplicative sites and site collections that were owned by different individuals that perhaps weren’t knowledgeable of one another were created, nor did they always find out that the other site / site collection existed since SharePoint Search follows the permissions model and trims out things that you don’t have access to see.

With Office 365’s SharePoint Online, site collection followed a similar life cycle where only certain individuals (SharePoint Service Administraotrs) had the ability to create them. This helped to limit the sprawl of site collections and knowledge but in some instances caused end users to use other Rogue IT services as they found the process for creating a new site to be cumbersome.

Enter in Office 365 Groups and the ability for end users to quickly stand up a collaboration group without the need of an approval from an IT Manager or someone concerned with site taxonomy.  This effectively allows end users to provision a document library, a OneNote notebook, a calendar and a running history of messages that have been sent to the group. Sure it’s possible for the overarching administrator to turn this capability off (Groups) but the question then becomes, “Do you want to limit what your users can do with this Software as a Service platform and limit their ability to collaborate?” That’s a question that I know I comes up regularly – primarily when it comes to governance.

Back with SharePoint Server 2003 the added ability to have a script run and determine when a site collection was last modified which gave them the ability to then send an email to the site collection owner asking them if they were still using the site. Alternatively it was possible to just have the script watch and if it didn’t see a change over a certain period the site collection would be deleted.  Pretty handy – this actually was introduced with Office 365 in OneDrive for Business service for when a user’s license was removed for Office 365 (14 days later their OneDrive for Business went away). Fortunately Microsoft has worked on the tooling for the OneDrive for Business capability to allow a little more flexibility as to how this now works.

In similar fashion the Microsoft Office 365 Groups has a capability announced recently to allow for a similar function of a “soft delete” with a 30 day window to get an Office 365 Group back. The messages that this will send seem to be a bit friendlier based on the blog post from the Enterprise Mobility and Security Blog‘s article “Azure AD Automated Expiration for Office 365 Groups in Public Preview“.

Personally I see this as a great capability but also realize that there will be some gotchas. Specifically in that when a Group is created, an Exchange Distribution list is created. This is helpful since you’re able to have message traffic sent to this address. However if you think about the use case where a Group is deleted and the users fail to realize that the e-mail address that they received notifications on now no longer exists, there may be problems for end users.

Additionally it should be noted per the configuration documentation that an Azure AD Premium license is required to implement Office 365 Group Expiration – if you don’t have these they’re available at a per user cost and have several benefits in addition to this.

All in all, definitely an exciting feature and functionality but wondering how things will work for organizations where end users are truly business users that don’t quite understand all the components of an Office 365 Group or what the information lifecycle truly is…

Reston SharePoint User Group – August 2017

Every so often, I take a few nanoseconds and reflect on the activities within the community. Like everything in life, things ebb and flow. In the case of the SharePoint and Office Server and Services community though, it continues to thrive. This past weekend the Women in SharePoint Group within the DC area hosted a terrific set of sessions. The other SharePoint and Office 365 user groups in the area continue to grow in their respective communities, supporting their members and helping to continue to encourage growth in knowledge and practice.

This week at the Reston SharePoint User Group, we had the privilege of Matt Wade of H3 Solutions presenting on Microsoft’s Groups capability and how it relates to end users and the solutions that they are looking to build on top of the Office 365 platform.

Matt brings the topic down to earth and rather than getting muddied in the provisioning that takes place behind the scenes for Groups to work appropriately, he hones in on the end user and their interactions with Groups and their benefits to the users.

All in all, a decent turnout for the presentation and great engagement with the group. Thanks to Matt for presenting and also for the attendees for engaging and continuing to thrive! I look forward to having the honor of working with Microsoft and the local Community to continue to help users find benefit from tools that they’re provided with.

If you’re not engaged with one of the local area user groups in the DC area, check out Reston SPUG, they meet the first Monday of the month typically (holidays sometimes push the group to meet the second Monday).

Office 365 Groups and Outlook 2016 for Mac

Recently announced, hot off the press, Office 365 Groups are coming to Outlook 2016 for Mac!  More about this and what the scope of this release is yonder on the Outlook for Mac Insights blog on 2 March 2017 titled “Support for Groups in Outlook for Mac.”

Caveat, this is by way of the Insider builds fast ring at the moment, so if you’re a corporate user and you’re wondering where this is, give it sometime and keep on accessing groups through either a Windows VM in your favorite hypervisor on Mac (whether that be Parallels, VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion) or through Safari / Chrome / Firefox.

What does this look like you ask?Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.18.17.png

Pretty standard. If you’re used to the web view then you’re probably familiar with something that looks a little more like this:

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.24.37.png

The interactions with the UI are pretty decent. The caveat is that within the Outlook for Mac 2016 UI, you don’t have the ability to “easily” create a new thread in that discussion unless you go and create a new message and then lookup the discussion list name whereas in the Web UI you merely click on “New”. Of course the other thing to make note of is that since Groups make use of distribution lists, if within the Outlook for Mac client you click on “Reply” you’ll notice that you’re sending a note directly back to the original poster rather than a note to the entire group, thereby segmenting your conversation.

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.30.30.png

However, if you click Reply All, you’ll notice that you’re pushing to the Distribution list…

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.31.14.png

And as mentioned, to create a new message within the context of the Group, you’ll need to know the distribution list name of the group when you click on “New Message” within Outlook 2016 for Mac…

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.32.43.png

After you work through your message you’ll notice that when you press send it will post back into the thread as one might expect it to…

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.33.47.png

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.34.37.png

If you’re curious about other capabilities like Calendars and such… they’re coming soon (hopefully) but as the blog article mentions there are supported scenarios at the moment as follows:

Scenarios to try out:
  • View your top 10 list of groups in the left navigation pane.
  • Select a group in the left navigation pane to view conversations and attachments in the group shared space
  • Compose/Reply/Forward messages and send attachments.
Know issues:
  • Groups calendar view is out of scope for V1 release.
  • Scenarios that not enabled yet but are slated for V1 release:
    • Add groups events to your personal calendar
    • View group details, and manage my subscription settings from the group card
    • View entry points to other group workloads and navigate to them from the group card

To make suggestions, UserVoice is your best friend in this case or through the “Contact Support” button located in the upper right hand corner in the Outlook 2016 for Mac client as shown here.

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.40.35.png

which then takes you to the feedback dialog that looks something like this…

Screenshot 2017-03-05 10.40.59.pngProps to Microsoft for continuing to integrate these capabilities into the desktop client software!