Office 365 Groups and Categorize emails


Hi, We used to have shared mailboxes where customer support team has a shared mailbox to receive complaints, and then members of the support team use shared mailboxes and outlook categorization to assign emails to members.


Now we are trying to sell the Office 365 groups, and get advantage of the shared mailbox feature integrated on it.

But inside the Office group conversation, you can not assign categories.


This would be a killer feature. Any planes to do this? Anyone has the same need

30 Replies

The shortcomings of Groups when used as replacement for shared mailboxes have been discussed numerous times, most recently here:


Make sure to leave your business reasoning and feedback here or on the other thread so that the team can potentially plan for some of the missing features.



It has been often said before and I guess it's worth saying again that Office 365 Groups are not the silver bullet for all forms of collaboration that exists within the service. Sometimes, as in this instance, shared mailboxes are a better solution because you have full access to all of the Outlook desktop features that interact with the mailbox. I should imagine that it would take quite a bit of engineering effort to enable Outlook to support the same functionality with Groups.


The best advice is to keep on using shared mailboxes. They work. 

Hi i have to say that it is not abiut what is offered on Office 365 but what people need and what enterprises need.
Google already has the collaborative Inbox since long time and it simply delivered what people require.
Office 365 is there also for long time and when it started to offer groups, it did not deliver a unified complete solution for enterprises, but an experience that has not much customization and then we are hearing that we should continue use shared groups.
So I imagine our teams will have shared mailboxes that cannot be accessed via mobile and then office groups for another type of collaboration.we are getting heat from management why dont we simply use google collaboration if it delivered a unified solution and i am fighting to keep using O365.

We are in a position that we need to deliver full business solution. At least planner has roadmap for mobile app and will have ability to invite external parties so those are needed features and microsoft will deliver. But for groups the roadmap doesnt have totally new features, so we are not sure what would be the future of groups.

Dont get me wrong, I love O365 and love groups, but if groups is going to be the next big thing then we expect it to deliver like other solutions in the market at least.

We cannit go with (ok use shared mailboxes for this and DL for that and groups for this) instead people wants one unified workplace. If groups is not gonna deliver then it will not be deployed. People will not go with two solution they want one.

best response confirmed by Ammar Hasayen (MVP)

I disagree. You can't point to a single feature enabled in one product and say that every other product on the market should offer an equivalent. That's not the way that things work. And any reasonable assessment of what G Suite offers in terms of functionalty will conclude that Office 365 has more.  (My view on the matter is at


Customers can't behave like babies and stamp their feet and say "we want" either. That's no way to exploit the potential of software. Instead, after they make a decision as to what cloud application suite to use (hopefully Office 365), they need to understand the capabilities of what's available and decide what makes sense for them to use in the context of their business requirements. There is seldom a 100% perfect fit, so some compromise is necessary. Heat from management might highlight an issue, but it won't solve it. Nor will it make software change to create new functionality.


The Office 365 Groups roadmap has a lot of new features coming in the relatively near future (see the Ignite sessions for details). Some of those features (like soft-delete) are absolutely more important than shared access to a group mailbox through Outlook desktop, especially when a perfectly reasonable alternative (regular shared mailboxes) exists.


All software follows a development plan. Features in that plan are weighted against other demands in order of importance. My perspective (and feel free to disagree) is that what you're looking for is relatively low importance when compared to other features, like making sure that the hybrid experience for groups is more seamless than it is now. You can lobby for the feature you want... But you'd probably be better off understanding the full breadth of collaborative capabilities that exist within Office 365 so that you can guide customers to make the right choice for their needs. In fact, it seems like Outlook desktop is the point of unification here as both shared mailboxes and groups are resources accessible through the same client.


What you can also point to is the dramatic evolution of Office 365 Groups since their introduction two years ago. Groups have come a long way. More needs to be done and will be done, if not when and how some people expect that to happen.

I agree Tony to some degree.


I am working with multiple customers all around the world, and when introducing the Office Group, 90% to them, they ask for similar if not better shared mailbox experience in addition to the other group capabilities.


It is not like customers behaving like babies. It is what enterprises want. If we are going to give them Office group experience and shard workspace, then teams will want more options than the shared mailbox experience like assigning email thread to team members or see sent items.


Of course, Microsoft did offer shared mailbox before because they listen to customers and they know enterprises want such shared mailbox experience so why not deny them that on Office Groups.


Now, Office groups come and people asking for at least similar capabilities in the group mailbox, and this is fair request and not a request that came from nowhere.


I guess if office groups is to be the next collaboration experience, then we cannot push people to shared mailboxes and at same time to office group. People will be confused and they will not have time to move between the two solutions. 


Also, Microsoft till now did not enhance the shared mailbox experience since years. Take this example that we hear from most of our customers. I want a shared mail experience for customer support where team members can see email threats, they can be assigned to specific mail threat and can see un answered threats. Simple but long asked solution. Shared Mailbox deliver some of those requirements but not all of them till the moment, that is why we see people use email categorization for assignment.


Now when we introduce Office group as the next big think, not only they expect it to deliver like shared mailboxes, but they expect to make their life easier.


This is fair request, and Microsoft should hear the feedback, and embrace it, instead of pushing people to stick to shared mailboxes or not to dare to compare their products with other competitors. 


I talked to the Office Group product group at Ignite 2016 at Atlanta and I hope they hear what people are asking for. This is software industry, and everyone is delivering solutions in the market. If people find a solution that delivers what they want, they will go for it, and we hope they will stick to Office 365, and that is why we are delivering this feedback.

The role of Office 365 Product Group is to listen to feedback and deliver features, and the role of us as IT Pro is to hear people and deliver that feedback to product group. This is software industry and open market, and customers have the right to behave like “Baby” and pick the product that fits their needs. Hard fact but this is a reality.



We seem to talk to different customers. I can't recall a single customer asking me about shared mailbox-type functionality for Office 365 Groups. Perhaps it is the way that I position Office 365 Groups and make it quite clear that Groups are not the swiss knife of collaboration.


Groups use different identification and authentication methods than do individual users. It's therefore reasonable to assert that some work would be required to introduce shared mailbox-like functionality into Groups. If we agree that work is required, let me then ask the questions:


1. How essential is this work given that a perfectly adequate solution (shared mailboxes) already exists?

2. How important is it to give Groups shared mailbox functionality when so many other requirements exist, like soft-delete, more seamless hybrid interoperability, and so on?


Personally, I can easily make a case to customers that they have shared mailboxes already and can use them while Microsoft gets on with the work to enable a whole pile of new functionality for Groups that doesn't exist now and is necessary for operational reasons.


You've also got to remember that you're using a cloud service. One of the aspects of cloud services is that their functionality is tailored to meet the needs of the many rather than the specific requirements of the few. If you want to customize software to the nth degree, use on-premises servers. When you decide to use the cloud, you have to accept that you can't get everything to work just the way that you want. In return and in compensation, you get a faster pace of innovation and updates that might one day give you what you really want. Customers who choose the cloud and then demand that the cloud works the way that they want are behaving like babies. They wouldn't ask the electricity company to provide a special version of power for them, would they?

I understand your point of view.


It is a surprise to me that having shared mailbox like solution where you can assign people to handle specific emails in the shared mailbox is something people are not asking for. You said that you talk to different kind of customers, and frankly speaking havign you not hearing once such a requirement is a surprise to me.


So John, Joe, Ross and Lisa are in the same team and they have email address that is assigned to shared mailbox. Ross as the team leader wants every email going to to reach that shared mailbox, and want someone to declar that a specific threat will be answered by him. So Ross can come, open the shared mailbox, and see that Lisa makred a specific email communication so he knows she will handle it and so forth. This why everyone in the team knows who will handle each and every email thread.


Of course there is no mobile app for shared mailboxes but there is mobile app for Office groups. That is why people expected to use the shared mailbox feature of the office group feature.


So back to the question, do you think Google when they offer a similar feature to what I mentioned, it did not talked or listened to customers? ofcourse it did and google knows this is a logical natural needed feature that applies to large set of businesses and cases. That is why it is offered. This was years back.


So the fact that this is odd strange not asked for feature is out of the question. The fact that (we both talk to different customers) does not make sense to me frankly speaking.


Back to that O365 is cloud feature and customers should take the package as is. Well, this is old school way, and Microsoft knows that. Microsoft proved that it listend and adapt to what people need and they know they are not alone in the market, and they recently start to offer true cloud collaboration services that can compete. To stay in top, you should listen to customers and businesses.


Sorry to disagree, but I guess Microsoft MVPs, Microsoft product group and other influencers could take such a business scneario and see the practicality of it. It is practical since everyone else is doing it, so it is matter of how/why and when to introduce this if it make sense.



You can handle the scenario as described with a shared mailbox and Outlook.


"John, Joe, Ross and Lisa are in the same team and they have email address that is assigned to shared mailbox. Ross as the team leader wants every email going to to reach that shared mailbox, and want someone to declar that a specific threat will be answered by him. So Ross can come, open the shared mailbox, and see that Lisa makred a specific email communication so he knows she will handle it and so forth."


Here's an example from a shared mailbox. I used categories to mark the message as being responded by me. You can assign different categories to Lisa, Joe, Ross, and John and the different colors used for each person will clearly identify who has done what...



As to whether or not Office 365 is "old school", I don't think that you can charge Office 365 with that because it changes all the time as new functionality is introduced. The point I made is that when you sign up for a cloud service, you accept whatever functionality is delivered in the service and don't get to vote on how that functionality is delivered. It's the same with Google - they have some functionality that they have implemented that is not inside Office 365 and might never be inside Office 365, but that's no reason for saying that it should be. 



Thanks Tony for such discussion. 


I dont think O365 is old school.I think it is the best one out there and the only one with full hybrid capabilities.


I also want to thank you for all your contribution in the community. I am following your work since a while.


Nevertheless, I hope to see the Office Group shared mailbox feature exposing at least categorization.



+1 that groups should provide a solution to track allocation and completion of response, like Zendesk's inbox service does. I can see it's a challenge, if a message is forwarded to a personal mailbox how would the categorisation or tracking update back in the group, but we agree with the requirement. Perhaps if groups were a trigger in Flow we could then use a SharePoint list to track it's response.


In our case Shared Mailboxes aren't a simple option as we have kiosk licensed users, who are entitled to use groups but not shared mailboxes (although it seems rather grey area).

We can set auto reply for Shared mailbox. Is there auto reply for Office 365 group?

Unfortunately, the Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration cmdlet does not work with a group mailbox, so no.

So Office 365 group cannot replace Shared mailbox in case which user need auto reply.

I know this is thread is a bit stale, but I want to weigh in here. I agree this would be a killer feature.


The ability to use a link (url) to the conversation in other programs is very powerful. But for that to work elegantly, you also need the ability to groom your Conversation "Inbox". By applying categories, you could Group By, View/Hide, Assign Rules/Flows, etc.


That would be extremely powerful and dramatically increase user adoption... which is currently very poor. 



I want to be able to connect a speficic email with a specific Group or Conversation within Teams. I don't believe this integration exists, unless someone can correct me?

As i understand, Shared Mailboxes and Groups are a like but different.


Groups is more of membership provider for many Office 365 services, and it consume some of the capabilties of shared mailboxes from the background.

Yet, I would like to see categories and other capabilties that groups can inhiret from shared mailboxes.

you might be able to write some custom code using the Microsoft Graph API to do what you want, but this functionality (as I understand it) is not availabe OOTB. Maybe you should state the business driver for such a feature and how it would be used so that the developers who read these forums understand what you need...

We created a custom addin for a customer that provides the category feature.  We did extend the schema using MS Graph.  We also looked at using the Planner buckets as categories since this creates the "ToDos" for the groups too.  Both are possible in our work.


MS Graph is a fabulous way to interact with all the new features in Office 365 and related apps.


We have decided to focus on creating these custom apps for customers making the journey to Office 365.  In this way, we can fill in the functionality needed for the customer to make the switch when a compelling business case exists.


I am happy to discuss our findings on this approach with anyone who is considering this road.  You can schedule an online session with me using our booking site or contact me directly 412-945-0063


I know this is an old chain but I looked through the responses.  This is definitely a need in our Organization.  We have battled this back and forth.  Unified Group vs. Shared Mail box.  Which should be used for the scenario where you have external parties or internal parties sending email to a help type queue and you want people to review those requests, deal with them and then once those tasks are completed file them away?


Our problem with Shared Mail boxes is supportability.  Microsoft has made Unified Groups so wonderfully self-service.  We love this, we want more of this (as Admin's and end users).  Shared Mailboxes are NOT self-service and rely heavily on someone somewhere to create them and to help end users manage the permissions.  This is why we are trending more and more to trying to use Unified Groups for the function of Shared Mailboxes.  Sure, Unified Groups has a bunch of other features we don't really want or need in this particular scenario (although we love them in the other scenarios), but we love the fact the end users can provision them themselves, we can set owners on the Unified groups (no place for documenting this on Shared Mailboxes unless you just make some notes or assume ALL those who have access are the specific and responsible owners).  Also,  coming soon, we really really love that Unified Groups will have their own management lifecycle and delete themselves if they are not being used as long as there are owners setup.  Shared Mailboxes have none of this.  The only downside to using a Unified group is the Mailbox itself.  If I could just find a better way to assign these emails to particular users to deal with and then once the email have been dealt with to use Flow, or PowerApps to scoop them up and move them to the attached library of the Group, or some other handy solution, we would be in heaven.  I want to stop using Shared mailboxes.  I don't see the point.