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Leveraging Office 365 Groups in a Project

9 Feb 2017 by Jim Knotts

At first glance, Office 365 Groups may seem a slightly confusing addition to Office 365 applications. But Microsoft’s latest orientation delivers a unique combination of solutions to make your project-based business more successful.

Office 365 Groups works with the Office 365 tools you already use, providing the ability to collaborate with teammates directly through documents, spreadsheets, calendar and email.

In any industry, the more people you have working on a project, the more important it is to communicate and collaborate effectively. This need increases exponentially when your team is geographically separated. Conversations, documents and reporting all should stay connected in real time across various devices and locations.

At Insight, we often have multiple people from multiple offices working on a single project with different deliverables. At one point, there was no easy way to keep the entire team in lock step. Even with SharePoint, Outlook, Microsoft Teams and OneNote, it was still difficult to ensure 100% productivity across disparate systems.

Now, with Office 365 Groups, these tools can all work in sync. When you create an Office 365 Group, each participant gets access to the following:

Outlook conversation thread

With each group, a new system is created to handle email threads, so you can keep conversations within context, even outside of your normal inbox. This helps de-clutter your inbox, placing all project-relevant content within the group conversation.

Group calendar

Each Office 365 Group also gets a group calendar. This can hold information such as project milestones, delivery dates, customer closure dates, meetings and many other calendar-related items. When one person adds to the calendar, the entire group is automatically able to view it. And, just as in other calendars in Outlook, these events can be overlaid directly onto your personal corporate calendar for improved visibility. I personally use this feature to ensure my day-to-day obligations can be worked around dates related to my various projects.

OneDrive files

File sharing is a key component of effective project collaboration. Everything from statements of work to architecture documents, quotes and reports all need to be shared quickly and securely with internal members — as well as with key project contacts.

By providing a separate file storage area for different projects, Office 365 Groups makes it easy to share files with your team while ensuring the files stay hidden from prying eyes. Best of all, these files can be synchronized to your PC just like other OneDrive files can.

OneNote notebook

The longer I work in consulting, the more I realize how important it is to have an area for notes. This might be scratch paper, a dedicated notebook or simply a place to drop documents I'd like to reference later.

With Office 365 Groups, each project team receives a synced OneNote notebook to ensure everyone can maintain project notes in the exact same place. My team and I use this feature daily to record information from meetings or to track project progress. Now, I rarely get questions such as, "How'd that meeting go?" or "Any follow-ups from the meeting?" Everyone knows what was discussed and what our next project objectives will be.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams provides some additional benefits to Office 365 Groups. This application leverages Groups to enable continuous conversation threads between teammates and creates a general channel where documents and OneNote and other files can reside. All of these tools work together to form a cohesive tool set for your project-based business.

With Office 365 Groups, your workforce will no longer be left searching for project files or data. If they're part of the project, they're part of the group — if they're part of the group, they’ll have instant access to all of the information they need.

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About Jim Knotts
Senior Consultant, Business Productivity

Jim is passionate about workforce enablement. He leverages Microsoft cloud technologies, including Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, Azure and Communications, to help businesses gain a competitive edge. Jim has expertise in technical services, as well as architecture and deployment.

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