​What are Office 365 Groups & Why Do They Matter to CRM Users?

Lets focus on Office 365 Groups first...

Essentially these are shared resources that help people collaborate and get work done.

Each Group represents a specific topic covering the associated conversations, files, activities and personnel involved.

In a business scenario a Group might represent a sales tender that several people are working on, or reflect an internal project such as a marketing event or a product launch.

Groups are also an effective way to manage the delivery of a client project.

You may already have an email distribution group e.g. projects@yourcompany.com for internal or external project communications.

But the team members for one project will likely differ from another and with numerous emails being sent individuals will inevitably receive messages about projects which they aren't working on adding to their mailbox clutter.

By contrast, Office 365 Groups are a more effective way to collaborate and share information around a specific topic from one location - especially when there is a lot to keep track of.

You can read more about Office 365 Groups from Microsoft but in summary these enable you to:

  • Create public or private groups for any topic
  • Invite individual members to a defined group
  • Track conversations using a unique mailbox specific to the group
  • Schedule appointments, meetings and other activity using a group calendar
  • Store notes specific to the Group using OneNote
  • Upload supporting documents and files to Group libraries

When a person joins a group they'll immediately have access to all of the work specific to this project.

Each time a new conversation is started they'll receive an email update. Each reply is automatically tracked thanks to the unique group mailbox.

Office 365 Groups is your collaboration hub to centralise all of the activity and communications for defined topics across multiple team members.

How do Office 365 Groups benefit CRM users?

With the release of CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online users can create 365 Groups from any record and invite non-CRM users as members.

Consider the possibilities that offers...

If you are working on a major sales opportunity you can create a new CRM opportunity record and use Office 365 functions to invite additional team members to help you win the deal. By creating a 365 Group from the CRM opportunity other individual within the organisation who aren't CRM users also be invited who will lend their specialist expertise to the discussion.

In the example below an Office 365 Group has been created from a CRM project record:

In addition to the detail captured in CRM form fields by connecting this record to an Office 365 Group the CRM user can see:

  • Upcoming appointments specific to this project
  • Group conversations tracked by Email and Skype
  • Notes and documents stored in OneNote and Sharepoint
  • Which team members are working on this project

It's important to note that the detail shown above is stored in Office 365 rather than Dynamics which enables it to be shared with non-CRM users if needed.

In this scenario, the organisation might involve an external specialist or a partner to assist in the delivery of this project work. As a non-CRM user this person can collaborate with other group members and participate in the group conversation through Outlook 365, or simply by replying to group emails with their responses automatically copied into the Group conversation thread.

Whenever any task is created for this project in CRM, everyone in the group is able to read and respond to it.

Members can start a new conversation or reply to an existing thread and the group mailbox / CRM record will automatically be copied in ensuring that other group members remain in the loop:

Microsoft will no doubt be adding more features to this in future releases and we look forward to the continued development of Office 365 Groups and its integration with CRM.

Whenever you need to track conversations around a singular topic we urge you to check out Office 365 Groups and connect it CRM Online.

Contact Preact to find out more about how you can deploy and benefit from this superb new feature!