One of the more potentially useful tools offered by Microsoft Office 365 is called Office 365 Groups. It allows teams of users to set up virtual work areas under a single group identity. The Office Group also establishes a single set of permissions across Office 365 apps. The key benefit of these Office Groups is that any user in your enterprise can create one—and the IT department doesn't have to get involved.
However, that does not mean that IT is completely out of the picture, especially when it comes to compliance issues or enterprise directory management. That's why Microsoft has created a set of administrative tools specifically for Office 365 Groups.
Office 365 Groups fits in with Microsoft's vision of a mobile collaborative workforce: A workforce with a certain amount of autonomy over how teams and groups actually do their collaborating. But there are times when some oversight and administration must take place.
For example, if your enterprise is subject to government regulatory oversight, there must be a way to document what a group is doing. There are compliance issues to address. So Microsoft created tools that allow for auditing, and if necessary, for eDiscovery and litigation hold.
The new and enhanced set of administrative tools for Office Groups also includes features that allow IT administrators to enforce naming rules for groups. And if your enterprise uses the Azure Management Portal, admins can create dynamic membership rules that will move users in and out of groups as their status within the organization changes.
Numerous other administrative tools are currently available, or soon will be, but there are too many to name here. If you want more details, I encourage you to check out the Office 365 Groups blog post.
In general, I think it's a good idea for users at any level in an enterprise to be able to create and use whatever collaboration tools they need to be productive. Enterprises, especially when it comes to knowledge workers, are dynamic work environments. Users sending requests to establish group work environments to the IT department is just bad business—for everyone.
It is bad for the employees trying to get work done and it is bad for IT which, quite frankly, has more important things to do.
However, that does not mean collaboration can be done willy-nilly without any rules. IT should concentrate on establishing the framework for collaboration. When users create an Office 365 Group, they should have guidelines for naming the group, for determining who can be a member, and for establishing what permissions are allowed. Creating the framework before users begin creating Office Groups will save IT some hardship in the future.
Enterprises adopting and deploying Microsoft Office 365 are providing their workforce with productive collaboration tools that can, should, and will be implemented at the individual level. These tools have great potential for increased productivity, but they also have great potential for chaos.
Before things get out of hand, it would be a good idea for enterprise IT departments to establish a framework for how these collaboration tools will be used. Familiarizing yourself with the numerous administrative protocols for Office 365 Groups is a good place to start.
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Have you used Office 365 Groups? How well does it work for you? Did you get any guidelines or instructions on how to use Office Groups from IT?
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.