If I had to pick one word to describe Microsoft's vision for the new workplace that I saw at the recent Ignite conference, it would be that used by CEO Satya Nadella during his keynote: "Transformation."
The ever-increasing complexity of the digital workplace mandates a transformative reliance on technological toolkits that can enable collaboration among and within disparate teams across the enterprise. One such tool that stood out for me at Ignite was Groups for Office 365.
Groups for Office 365
Groups for Office 365 looks to be the interface that pulls the best pieces of different products together for a team to access and use easily and without friction with other teams.
Essentially, Groups comprises different classes of task:
Conversations: This uses Exchange features to provide an email-like conversation among members of the Group. The real benefit is that the Group can be assigned an email alias and receive messages from people outside of the Group that can then be replied to by members of the Group.
Calendar: The main selling point for Groups vs. a Team Site isn't just the simple user experience, it's that we don't have to deal with a SharePoint Calendar. Groups leverages Exchange (Outlook) Calendars, which make it a whole lot more appealing. Examples include: Marketing Events, Blog Publishing Schedule and Work Social Activities. The calendar belongs to the Group, not an individual, yet it appears on personal calendars.
Notebook: Pretty straightforward, there is a OneNote Notebook created, and in the future I imagine we can have more than one. This allows the Group itself to share notebooks and for it to be associated with the Group and not an individual user.
Files: This is a big one. You'll notice that there isn't the word "SharePoint" in the image above. In an effort to attract a broader audience toward Groups, it made sense to call the files associated with Group "OneDrive" -- meaning OneDrive for Business, of course. It'll speak to users in terms of files, but they are in the cloud and accessible on mobile devices.
Of course, we know that there actually is a SharePoint Site Collection created and associated with the Group. However it is completely hidden, and we cannot navigate to it. When you access the files for a Group you are redirected to your OneDrive for Business that actually shows the files technically located somewhere else, in a regular Team Site Collection, so to speak.
Collaboration Transformed by Groups With Delve
It looks as if Groups for Office 365 is getting a lot of love and is at the center of our new dynamic teams. Though there are a lot of updates, one that stood out (and gave me goosebumps) was the integration with Office Graph through Delve Group Profiles.
By giving a Group a profile, we give it a personality and a home. Members will be able to add "articles" and also quickly get a feel for the activities of the Group. This can be looking at Yammer conversations associated to the Group, Files, Conversations, Notebooks, Events and the best part... wait for it... Links.
If a Group can have links on its Delve profile then we can easily link to our full-blown Team Sites for heavy-duty collaboration.
Now imagine all of this, responsive and available through a mobile app. It can be accessed from Outlook or through the Web interface and also integrates Dynamics CRM as well as external users. Combined with a more complete administration experience and integrated to the Office Graph, it is now one of the most exciting things in the world of collaboration.
To give you an idea, Microsoft showed a Delve Dashboard able to see which teams do not meet with each other enough -- information that's already there in the Office Graph that we could probably never collect on-premises by ourselves.
This level of collaboration is what the Team Site tries to master. But, as we have come to realize, it's not just about the list of features on paper, but about the user's experience. That's why Groups is catching on with business users.