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Warning: Provocative post - When is MS going to kill Groups?

Occasional Contributor

Well, don't say I didn't warn you with that subject...

In my (and probably many others) opinion Groups is a horrible user experience. The fact that it's also been miss-represented/marketed doesn't help either. There is no "group" - it's just an interface ¨to try to tie together other applications.
And for MS to have launched Teams alongside has created massive confusion amoungst customers. Lets face it, Teams is a significantly slicker application and better user experience.

So, the question is... when is MS going to kill Groups and just go with Teams?

35 Replies

Teams are Groups though, just another interface layer. So they will be killing both :)

 

Remember that O365 is huge and catters to all types of customers, what's not good experience for enterprise customers might be great for 5-people shops, and vice versa.

best response confirmed by Kady Dundas (Microsoft)
Solution

I think you have a lot of potential terminology collision going on here that would be best to clarify.

 

When you're saying Groups, I believe you mean "Outlook Groups" and not "Office 365 Groups". People still confuse these constantly as there has never been good documentation from Microsoft and the shared name is not helping at all.

 

Office 365 Groups are the membership construct that underpins all the various tools and services in Office 365.

 

Outlook Groups is the email based communication and collaboration method that attempts to centralize all the tools and services in the Outlook/OWA interface, although not very successfully at this point as you pointed out. These use an Office 365 Group as their membership service to determine who has access.

 

All three communication methods (Outlook, Teams, and Yammer) use Office 365 Groups as their membership service now. Much of the confusion was created when Office 365 Groups and Outlook Groups were released at the same time and not differentiated at all. This resulted in everyone calling the email based communication method an Office 365 Group, which is not correct.

 

@Christophe Fiessinger and @Kady Dundas There is still massive confusion about this :)

When is MS going to kill Groups?

Short answer: never !!!!.

Continue reading if you want to know why :)

 

Demystify Office 365 Groups !!

An Office 365 Group is a "container" whose identity is mastered in AAD which could have many resources / workloads associate with it unlike legacy distribution group which could have only single resource i.e. email 

Few examples of Office365 groups resources (outlook, msteams, yammer (*conversation resources)), Calendar, Planner, SharePoint Site, Power Bi, NoteBook, CRM, Assignments, etc.

 

Being a centeralized identity with attributes such as public / private , owner/members/guests, hiddenmembership and others that all O365 workloads understand enables Office365 Group to be really powerful and productive platform for diverse collaboration needs.  The new MSGraph api for groups will also allow client to create O365 Groups with different workload configurations and resources.

 

Outlook Groups was the first consumer of Office365 Groups therefore they were used interchangeably for sometime. When other collaboration experiences such as MSTeams and Yammer opted in for O365 Group for its strength and for the right reasons it got confused by some people as a replacement.

Outlook Groups, MSTeams and Yammer are just different collaboration hubs build on top of Office 365 Group identity and each provide a unique value proposition;  and there no single winner !!. It really depends on the end user needs as each platform have different collaboration strengths. Note almost all O365 Connectors work for both Outlook Groups as well as MSTeams.  

 

Teams : Great for realtime chat and AV support, Works well for small teams (in my opinion), modern gestures support and overall fun to use.  It could be challenging to follow long threads and search for a thread unless you are @mentioned. Channels compensate for not having subjects but it requires that group members are displined to use right channel. I have seen Channel overload where a single group have 30 channels and it could get hard to follow. On other side Channel to have emails was a good addition for interop across organizations / teams. For private group you cannot @mention external people.

 

Outlook Groups: Backed by email and easy adoption for existing outlook consumers and DLs. When a new user joins a group he can just see all previous conversations which was not possible with DLs. Threaded conversations are a lot easier to follow. There is no sub folders support but searching is relatively easy if you know what you are looking for, msg from, to , has attachments, etc... Member ability to subscribe to groups enables to stay on top of important groups. In a private outlook group you could still include people to a thread who are not member of the group. Groups is backed by mailbox which have all rich functionailiy of normal mailbox such as sender restrictions, ediscovery, litigiation or inplace hold, etc. 

Outlook Groups could futher be broken down into two sub parts

a) Group Mailbox Experience in Outlook 

b) Group Mailbox or Group Shard as storage. Group shard is  backbone for many resouces such as Delve, Conenctors, and also used by MSTeams and Yammer. 

 

Yammer: Great for large groups, community discussions and was pioneer in social collaboration.

 

I use all of them.  

 

I agree one of the main challenge have been that each workload call Office 365 groups a local name which for some people was not clear in the begining

Outlook = Outlook Groups

MSTeams = Teams

Yammer = Groups

Sharepoint = TeamSite

Planner = Plan 

If you create a new Plan you actually create an Office365 group. If you create Sharepoint TeamSite you actually create an office365 group. Today when you create TeamSite or Plan they choose outlook as the main conversation module. In future that could be configurable based on Organizational and customer needs.

One small note for you on your Teams paragraph. Teams actually does allow subjects for new conversations in a Channel. Hit the rich text button and you'll see where you can add them.

 

My main team has actually found this very valuable and we've set a norm that if you start a new conversation in a Channel, you MUST add a subject. It helps keep things clear and segmented without causing additional Channel sprawl.

Not too provocative imo :) I wrote about Teams being a good interface for O365 Groups back in March ;) (http://www.techmikael.com/2017/03/context-to-function-function-to-context.html)

 

To me it's not a problem. O365 Groups will back many offerings, and you pick the UI most suitable to you. If that is Teams, then fine, or it could be some other 3rd party portal app, and Insort of see Teams as a third party app, as it happens to use O365 Groups and adds more in their "portal" UI.

 

So yes, the oob Groups UI is confusing at times, but it is what it is and won't be killed any time soon. I think perhaps the Yammer UI might turn into a nice experience as well on top of Groups.

I very much doubt that any appetite exists for an axe to be taken to Outlook Groups for the very good reasons that:

 

1. Outlook is still the most important desktop client in the world of Exchange. Having Groups in Outlook gives people a collaboration platform in the client that they use.

2. Teams is lousy at email. Even when external access comes, I suspect that the free and open nature of SMTP-based email will allow email to continue in its predominant role in partner communications.

3. Ditto Yammer.

4. And back to email again, 10 million users of Outlook Groups is a lot of people. Ok, that's still only 10% of Office 365 MAU, but it's a lot. https://www.petri.com/microsoft-crusade-office-365-groups

 

As others have pointed out here, Groups the service is just that (flawed and imperfect, but very usable). The implementations of collaboration applications built on top of Groups will serve individual needs for different companies and allows Microsoft to have answers where other companies do not. For these and other reasons too boring to go into here, I don't see Outlook Groups hitting the buffers anytime soon.

 

Concur. And to reinforce the point I don't think that "Outlook Groups" is an official term from MS, except in the context of the mobile app.

Completely agree, but no one at Microsoft seems to have a handle on this. Here is the official site for Outlook Groups which should mean the app, yet it shows pictures of OWA and Outlook desktop on the landing page, above the fold. :)

 

https://groups.outlook.com/

I doubt MS will ever kill Groups, (most corporations seem loathe to admit they might have made any kind of mistake), but I have a feeling we'll see a name change or two at the very least.

 

Or company is slowly migrating to O365, and the confusion around when to use Teams vs when to use Groups vs when to use regular SP sites, (remember those?), is causing us no end of problems.  To make it worse we are in a hybrid environment, with "almost" everything of a "group" nature being handled by our Service Desk through AD.  They create all Distribution Lists and Security Groups, and make sure that all policies and naming conventions get followed.

 

Now all of that is out the window.  We have users creating Groups and Teams willy-nilly.  I I have multiple groups with almost the exact same name, and I (as admin) don't have any idea which is the correct one, or what exactly is in that site.  At least on my 75 on premises SP servers I can easily log into a SP site and see exactly what is on that site.  Not with groups, (or at least any way I have found).

 

We are now looking at completely restricting the use of Groups and Teams until MS get's this mess sorted out.    MS says they use this all through the company, and that's all well and good for them, but for our users it's just a confused mess.

 

Ted

 

They definitely dont need to be killed, but they do need to be "fixed"

 

Our organization is not "impressed" by Teams, too flashy, but Groups works exactly how we work.  I actually wish Microsoft would adopt Groups as a legit collaboration tool (like teams), instead of continually diminishing it as "just a membership service"

This is part of the point of this thread, and why I keep politely poking Kady and Christophe. Office 365 Groups IS a membership service. Outlook Groups, or Groups for Outlook, or whatever it is actually called, is a communication medium for users to select from. They get to choose Email, Teams, or Yammer, and Office 365 Groups takes care of membership and connecting everything together.

 

See if this helps everyone: https://twitter.com/cfiessinger/status/884833139004063744

Now all of that is out the window.  We have users creating Groups and Teams willy-nilly.  I I have multiple groups with almost the exact same name, and I (as admin) don't have any idea which is the correct one, or what exactly is in that site. 

 

This is precisely the scenario that I and some other MVPs warned Microsoft would happen when they briefed us about Office 365 Groups in Redmond in November 2014. Those of us who had been down the path of public folders and the uncontrolled sprawl that resulted when users were allowed to create public folders without let or hindrance forecast that the same would occur with Groups. Microsoft's response at the time was that they wanted users to control the creation of groups so that collaboration could flow without administrators or IT departments deciding what should happen. It was complete ill-smelling brown bovine material at the time and it is the same today. No sensible tenant operates without a group creation policy that restricts the right to create groups to a small set of people who might actually understand what they are doing. Yes, this impacts Teams, Planner, Stream, and so on, but it is the only reasonable approach to group management. 

 

I am sincerely sorry that your tenant has gotten into such a mess. I wish that every tenant came complete with a fully-functional group creation policy, but I guess I am less collaborative than Microsoft would like me to be...

Rule #1 of technology: Don't get distracted by marketing.

Rule #2...: The new stuff (like Teams) is always distracting because it is hyped by marketing.

 

Our organization is not "impressed" by Teams, too flashy, but Groups works exactly how we work. 

 

This statement is true of many organizations who have moved from on-premises Exchange to Office 365. In the on-premises world, Outlook is king of the hill and the integration of Groups into Outlook is pretty good. Outlook Groups (or Office 365 Groups that use Exchange to store conversations) are important to the overall success of Office 365, simply because so many people use the client.

 

The weakness of Teams is perhaps not that it is too flashy (UIs can be tweaked). Rather, the evident flaws in email support, external users, poor search, and lack of full support for the range of compliance technology now available inside Office 365 are more pertinent reasons for organizations to pause in their deployment. On the other hand, Office 365 Groups have great email functionality, have their content fully indexed and searchable, support external access, and support most (but not all) of the new data governance framework. So they have a lot going for them.

 

TR

Outlook Groups, or Groups for Outlook, or whatever it is actually called, is a communication medium for users to select from. 

 

Rather, Outlook Groups is the most functional and feature-rich of any of the collaboration applications available inside Office 365 today. Yammer is more scalable but less functional. Teams is the new kid on the block and needs work to meet the requirements of many enterprises. All the other applications that use Groups as a convenient mechanism for membership management Stream, Power BI, and Planner do so in the full knowledge that the membership service is a tad flawed because of its lack of granularity in access control. In fact, what is talked about as a membership service is really just a thin layer on top of Azure Active Directory group objects.

@Imran Masud - Thanks that was helpful, and ....  I have been creating groups using the new Unified Group commandlet in powershell.  This is provisioning an O365 Group right? Is there a way to create an O365 Group that is NOT surfaced in Outlook? In other words, I would like an O365 Group with an instance of MS Teams but I do not want it to display in OWA or the Outlook client.   Thanks - Greg

No, when you create a Team, you create an Office 365 Group. You can hide the group from appearing in the Exchange address lists afterwards with PowerShell by running Set-UnifiedGroup -HiddenFromAddressListsEnabled $True cmdlet, but the group will be there and the Exchange mailbox exists to host a) the team calendar and b) compliance records captured from conversations in the channels belonging to the team.

@Tony Redmond - Thanks - When I create a new Team, I have the option of using a O365 Group that I am an owner of.  Will the Teams client 'see' the O365 Group if I set -HiddenFromAddressListsEnabled $True, in other words do I need to run this after I create the Team from my O365 Group?

It seems to me that this commandlet should be run every time you create a O365 group for the express purpose of associating it with a team. Do you recommend this?

Well, the hidden from address lists property is really for Exchange rather than Teams. I have been able to use Teams whose Group is hidden from the address lists, but I have not done extensive testing...

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