Microsoft 365 Groups at Microsoft Ignite 2020


Microsoft Ignite, our yearly flagship event for Microsoft products and technologies, is a 48-hour digital event experience taking place from September 22-24, 2020. Microsoft 365 Groups is the membership service that drives teamwork and powers collaboration across Microsoft 365. With Microsoft 365 Groups, a group of people can access and share a collection of collaboration resources, such as a shared Outlook inbox, calendar, SharePoint document library, a Planner, a Team, and more.


To coincide with Microsoft Ignite, the Microsoft 365 Groups team has created a series of videos that highlight the innovations made over this past year and provide a glimpse on what’s coming next. Below is a summary and list of those videos. Have a look and let us know what you think!


Microsoft 365 Groups overview and architecture deep dive –

Microsoft 365 Groups is the membership service that powers collaboration across Microsoft 365. There are more than 20 Office apps that leverage groups inside their experiences for capabilities such as sharing, and there is a thriving partner ecosystem with apps that provide additional governance tools on top of what we provide. Easily the most common question we get from customers is how does the Group creation and provisioning process work. A related and often asked question is why do we see Outlook Groups in Teams but not in Yammer?


In a brand-new video, Arunkumaran Varadharajan, a Principal PM Manager on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, answers these common questions and more. Arun provides an overview of Groups, and dives deep into the internal architecture of Groups in both the enterprise and consumer spaces. Next, he covers the Group creation and provisioning process to help you better understand what happens when you create a Group in, say for example, Outlook, versus Teams or Yammer.  Arun walks through the lifecycle and flow for Groups, including creation and naming policies, using sensitivity labels with Groups, and data residency considerations.


Arun then discusses Group activity tracking, Group deletion, and deleted Group restoration and retention, as well as the differences between soft-delete and hard-delete.  Next, Arun shares what happens when someone joins a Group from both inside and outside your organization. Finally, Arun discusses Groups governance, including both app-specific policies across Exchange, Teams, and SharePoint, and tenant-wide policies, such as naming, creation, and expiry, and security and compliance across the suite.


Governance and management best practices for Microsoft 365 Groups –

Microsoft 365 Groups include a variety of governance controls to help you manage Groups in your organization, including as I mentioned, expiration policies, naming conventions, blocked words policies, and self-service capabilities.


Groups can be created by users from a variety of endpoints, such as Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint. You can control who can create groups but be aware that limiting group creation can hinder productivity because many Microsoft 365 services require Groups to function. Other governance options include limiting group creation to members of a dynamic security group containing, for example, all full-time employees. In this scenario, you may also want to consider requiring users to complete training on your organization’s policies for Groups before they can become members of the security group.


To limit group sprawl, you can use expiration policies to automatically delete groups that are not being used. You can specify an expiration period begins when the group is created, or on the date it was last renewed, and any group that reaches the end of that period, and is not renewed, will be deleted. Note that any group that is deleted can be restored within 30 days by the group owners or an admin.


In a brand-new video, Vinay Jagannatha Rao, a program manager on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, provides Microsoft’s recommended guidance and best practices for managing and governing the Groups lifecycle. In it, Vinay talks about a variety of governance tools and our latest best practices.

Support for sensitivity labels on Groups, which we announced at Ignite last year, is now generally available, and Vinay talks about the benefits of using labels on Groups and how it can help you protect high value information. Vinay also provides guidance for migrating any existing Azure Information Protection labels to sensitivity labels, and details how to restrict who can create public or external groups.


Next, Vinay talks about support for Information Barriers that allow you to create ethical walls and block communication and collaboration as needed to prevent any conflicts of interest within your organization. Vinay also talks about a survey we are conducting around your information barrier needs.


Vinay provides a sneak peek at Ownership Governance, a new feature in development and expected in early 2021, and he shows you how you can sign up for the preview program.


If you are wondering how to effectively govern groups, or how to manage groups at scale, or whether you should enable groups self-service, this video is for you!


Microsoft 365 Groups roadmap updates –

Last year at Ignite 2019 and on the Ignite Tour, we spoke about the Office 365 Groups platform and how it powered collaboration across Microsoft 365. We showed you how Groups can help you share knowledge and information using email, calendaring, documents, among other things. We described the Groups lifecycle that moves from exploration to pilot and from pilot to a controlled rollout. We explained how to deploy groups at scale, how to empower end users, and how to control who can create Groups.


Finally, we talked about the roadmap for Groups. We provided a progress report over where we were since Ignite 2018, and we described how upcoming investments would help you drive new levels of collaboration. Since we were covering roughly a year’s worth of work, we discussed a lot of innovation that had taken place between 2018 and 2019. The session was packed with demos and information, which is why it was one of only five sessions in the admin track on the Ignite tour.


Well buckle up because it’s back again this year!  And with a new name! To reflect the fact that Office 365 Groups power collaboration across Microsoft 365, Office 365 Groups became Microsoft 365 Groups.


And in a brand-new recording covering Groups roadmap updates, Venkat Ayyadevara and Mike McLean, program managers on the Groups team, provide the team’s yearly roadmap update that includes various usage metrics, and details on the evolution of the Groups platform, which now crosses work and life.


Once again, it’s been a busy year for Microsoft 365 Groups. In addition to rebranding, Venkat and Mike recap their roadmap update from Ignite 2019, and then they cover the abundance of Groups innovations we’ve made since then across three areas: governance, management at scale, and work and life. These improvements include general availability of support for sensitivity labels, Microsoft 365 admin center support for exporting groups, managing Group email addresses, support for application authentication in Microsoft Graph, and support for Teams for personal use, to name a few.


As always, Venkat and Mike’s roadmap update is packed with information and demos, so be sure to check it out, and give us your input and feedback on how we’re doing. Do you like what we’ve done since last year? Do you like where we’re headed with Groups? Watch the video and let us know what you think.


Making IT more efficient with improvements to Microsoft 365 Groups –

We’re doing work to make admins more efficient. Admins have a variety of controls for managing Groups, but they are wanting greater efficiency with Groups and visibility into how Groups are being used.


In a brand-new video, Mike McLean and Ramya Rajasekhar, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, talk about the many improvements we’ve made to Microsoft 365 Groups that span the Microsoft 365 admin center, Azure Active Directory, Yammer, and more. For example, we’ve enabled key scenarios in the admin center, such as the ability to export Groups with a simple button click, and you can restore deleted Groups and edit Group email addresses in the admin center. You can also manage ownerless Groups and Teamify a Group in the admin center, including Groups created in Outlook.


Mike and Ramya discuss the admin experiences for Groups, including new capabilities around group-driven membership. They describe the improvements we’ve made around exporting Group membership from Azure AD, and how you can now validate dynamic Groups rules. In addition, Groups can now be assigned roles in Azure AD, allowing you to manage roles at scale.


In the video, Ramya also talks about Groups improvements in Yammer. As of last month, the All Company community experience in Yammer is now backed by Groups. All Company is the default community that is created in Yammer, and it contains all users in the organization. All Company is now a Microsoft 365 Group, which enables new capabilities, such as editing the Group name, description, avatar, and so forth. Posts can be restricted to admins only, and admins can promote others to be admins. And now you can host Live Events from the All Company community.


Finally, the video covers Group Driven Membership (sometimes referred to as nested groups), which is one of our top requested features. Customers want to nest security groups in Microsoft 365 groups, and Ramya talks about a new open source Group Membership Management tool that is now available to manage nested groups. The tool is based on .NET and uses Azure functions and Azure table storage, and the Microsoft Graph API as a data source. We’ve been using this tool at Microsoft for over a year where we currently manage more than a hundred of these Groups, some of which have tens of thousands of members. You can send an email to request the tool from Microsoft.


The video includes details on the other Groups improvements for IT efficiency.


Drive external collaboration for your organization using Microsoft 365 Groups –

Guest access for Microsoft 365 Groups is enabled for all tenants by default. As an admin, you can control whether to allow guest access to groups for your entire organization or a selective subset. When enabled, group members can invite guest users to a Microsoft 365 group. Invitations are sent to the group owner for approval, and once approved, the guest user is added to the directory and the group. Guest access in groups is often used as part of a broader scenario that includes SharePoint or Teams, and those services have their own guest sharing settings.


Within Microsoft 365, we see millions of guests have been provisioned through Microsoft 365 Groups. And we know that the need for cross-organization collaboration is increasing. But it can be a bit of a challenge for admins to achieve the right balance between preventing unauthorized access and allowing unfettered collaboration. But there are several benefits to be gained by enabling guest access. For example, guest access enables safe teamwork outside your organization’s firewall. It works with any email address, and it’s based on the Azure B2B platform.


In a brand-new video, Salil Kakkar and Nandini Bhavasar, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, provide Microsoft’s latest guidance on enabling guess access for external collaboration, managing the lifecycle of external collaboration, and best practices for managing guest access at scale. They discuss the benefits of enabling guest access and how to enable guest it, as well as our best practices for governing guest access, including best practices around granting permissions and restricting domains.


Salil and Nandini show you how to track guest user activity using audit logs and guest access reviews, and how to use guest policies effectively in your organization. They walk you through the process of entitlement management, where guests can be automatically invited after being approved, provisioned with time-limited access across Groups, Teams, sites, and apps, and automatically removed when access is no longer needed.  They also talk about the guest lifecycle and adoption.


Finally, the video also briefly covers how we manage guest access here at Microsoft. Be sure to check out this video and start enabling safe and secure guest access for your organization.


Managing work and life with Microsoft 365 Groups –

If this year has done anything, it’s blurred the lines between work and life like never before. We’ve now reached an inflection point. As the global response to COVID-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of “remote everything” into a more hybrid model of work, learning, and life. We’ve always known that technology isn't only for work. Technology can help you stay connected to friends and family even when you're apart. It can help you make the most of your time so you can focus on what matters. You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can make the most of your time.


In a brand-new video, Sandra Vargas and Rahul Rai, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, explain our vision for a unified Groups platform across Microsoft 365 for enterprises, businesses, family, and home. For Enterprises, Microsoft 365 Groups is a true membership service built on Azure Active Directory that powers all teamwork scenarios in Microsoft 365. In the consumer world, Groups is an identity and membership service built on top of the Microsoft Account experience (MSA) that aims to powers all Group scenarios in Microsoft consumer apps, like So just like in the enterprise world, on the consumer side, Microsoft 365 Groups power intelligent apps that bring together groups of people with the resources they need to achieve amazing outcomes. These Groups can be used by families, social and professional groups, and self-directed workers, such as contractors.


In the video, Sandra and Rahul explain why we have extended the Groups platform, and how this extension can help you find new balance in this blending of work and life.  They’ll introduce you to Alex, a persona we created to illustrate the new normal.  Alex is the IT admin for Contoso. She’s also a wife and the mother of 2 children. As the admin at work, Alex uses the Microsoft 365 admin center to manage features such as Groups and Teams. She also uses Outlook, Teams, and Groups extensively. Alex is also the IT admin at home where she manages her family’s devices, apps, and calendar.


With COVID restrictions in place, both Alex and her husband Mark have been working from home and with all the overlapping meetings, they finally decide that they need another home office. To help manage this project, they decide to use Microsoft 365 Groups, which allows them to coordinate tasks and schedules across their family, and the contractors involved in the project.


Check out the video and see for yourself how Groups can help you with work and life, providing whole day experiences that make your life easier.


How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees –

Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations, or CSEO, formerly Microsoft IT, began embracing digital transformation and the culture changes that go with it a few years ago. CSEO is very much a global IT organization, with a significant amount of data, people, services, and devices to manage. Their vision for seamless teamwork is to use Microsoft 365 to create productive and aligned teams, and to engage employees with leadership and the company.


Today, nearly all our IT infrastructure is in the cloud using Azure as our primary platform, and Microsoft 365 as our platform for productivity. Microsoft’s IT environment is quite expansive, with nearly 9 petabytes of data being managed across more than 100 countries, and dozens of cloud services.  We have hundreds of thousands of users, guests, mailboxes, sites, and teams, along with thousands of Yammer communities. And we have more than 350,000 Microsoft 365 Groups.


One of CSEO’s guiding principles is to enable employee self-service throughout the company. For example, any full-time employee at Microsoft can create a Microsoft 365 Group. We know firsthand that by enabling self-service we are:

  • Reducing IT overhead;
  • Discouraging shadow IT; and
  • Discouraging large groups, which can sometimes lead to oversharing.

In a brand-new video, David Johnson, a Principal Program Manager on the CSEO team, talks about how Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees. David provides answers to the questions we get around how we empower employees, enable collaboration, and manage data. David talks about how CSEO decided to invest on container ownership, which is critical in a self-service environment, and content identification, which enables Microsoft to protect content and reduce the chances of oversharing.


David talks about Microsoft’s principles of container and content governance, which involve several important focus points to help ensure that Microsoft data is safe and secure. He also talks about group driven membership at Microsoft, as well as the Group Membership Management tool I mentioned earlier.  David also talks about the custom solutions CSEO developed to protect assets and ensure employee accountability.


David’s video helps to assuage the fears often held by IT around data protection and compliance, perceived chaos and sprawl resulting from employee empowerment, content overexposure or oversharing, and employees introducing shadow IT, so be sure to check it out.


Next Steps

Here’s the complete list of Microsoft 365 Groups videos and their URLs. We hope you enjoy them!


Making IT more efficient with improvements to Microsoft 365 Groups

Drive external collaboration for your organization using Microsoft 365 Groups

Microsoft 365 Groups roadmap updates

Microsoft 365 Groups architecture overview and deep dive

Governance and management best practices for Microsoft 365 Groups

Managing work and life with Microsoft 365 Groups

How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees


One last takeaway: Your call to action.  Please remember that we don’t just want you to watch these videos; we want you to use the new features, we want to engage with you; we want your feedback, and your help to prioritize our work. Our goal is to bring you features and experiences that delight you. We can’t do that without your help, so please engage with us and let’s get to work!


--The Microsoft 365 Groups team

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