For years organizations have relied on distribution groups to communicate and collaborate with groups of people both inside and outside the company. Now, however, Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook offer a more powerful solution for collaboration.
What are Microsoft 365 Groups?
When you set up a Microsoft 365 Group in Outlook, you can choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. You don’t have to worry about manually assigning permissions to all those resources because adding members to the group automatically gives them the permissions they need to the tools your group provides.
Those additional resources include:
Shared inbox- Where the conversations you traditionally have in your distribution lists take place. This shared inbox is fully searchable so it creates a living archive of the group's messages. Newcomers to the group can search or scroll back through the history to get up to speed quickly on what's been posted in the group previously. See: Have a group conversation in Outlook.
Tip: If you still want the group messages to appear in your personal inbox, as they did with the distribution list, all you need to do is subscribe to the group by clicking the Membership button on the ribbon in Outlook.
Shared files library- Your group has a SharePoint files library where your users can store, share and collaborate on documents, workbooks, presentations, images or any other kind of file they need to work on. See: Share group files.
Shared calendar- Your group gets a shared calendar to post events related to the group. Each member who has subscribed to the group is automatically invited to events posted to the calendar so those events can also appear on their personal calendars if they wish. See: Schedule a meeting on a group calendar in Outlook.
Shared OneNote notebook- The group automatically has a shared OneNote notebook where group members can collect and collaborate on information. Many groups use the notebook to create a living wiki with frequently asked questions and other resources.
Those are just a few of the features that make groups a more powerful solution than distribution groups.
Frequently Asked Questions-
What are groups in Outlook?
Microsoft 365 groups in Outlook are a single collaboration solution for teams/groups that want a place to share discussions, files, calendars and notes in a unified way that is easy to find. Probably the single-best feature is that the Inbox for the group maintains a history of the discussions, making it easy to search previous discussions.
Why are we making this change?
People have frequently requested the ability to search the messages posted to our distribution list in order to find information that's been discussed in the past. Upgrading the distribution list to a group means that people don't have to ask or answer the same questions over and over.
Also, the new group will include a calendar for our group events, a shared files library and a OneNote Notebook where we can collaborate and gather information for future reference.
Do I need to do anything to join this group if I was already a member of the distribution list?
No, if you were already a member of the distribution list, you'll automatically be a member of the new group.
How do I access the new group in Outlook? What about Outlook on the Web?
To access the new group in Outlook just go to the Groups category towards the bottom of the navigation pane on the left. If you use this group often consider pinning it as a favorite by right-clicking on it and choosing Show as favorite.
Additionally there are free mobile clients for Microsoft 365 Groups available on every mobile platform (iOS, Android, etc.) so you can easily access the group on the go.
Can't I still just email?
Yes, of course. The same email alias you used for the distribution list will still work just fine for the group in Outlook.
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