Microsoft Groups is a collaborative workspace inside Microsoft 365/Workplace 365 that acts as a central hub for office conversations, collaborative teamwork, video chats and doc sharing, all designed to assist employee productiveness in a unified suite of instruments.
Launched in 2017 as a rival to collaboration pioneer Slack, Microsoft noticed use of Groups rocket to 75 million day by day energetic customers because the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, in keeping with stats launched by Microsoft in April. The corporate referred to as Groups the quickest rising enterprise app in its historical past.
Since launch — and spurred on by the push for work-from-home connectivity — Groups has moved additional into the highlight as a key a part of Microsoft’s office productiveness and collaboration technique.
“Groups has emerged as a star product fairly than an add-on that’s bundled inside a bigger productiveness suite,” mentioned Raul Castanon, senior analyst at 451 Analysis / S&P International Market Intelligence.
Groups can function an alternative choice to — and even exchange — electronic mail communications solely, however it additionally acts extra broadly to attach staff and their apps, notably for distant staff. Consider it as a “digital translation of an open workplace house,” as a Microsoft spokesperson put it.
The collaborative workspace serves because the connective tissue that joins Microsoft 365 apps filling a “important void” for Microsoft, mentioned Dux Raymond Sy, chief model officer, Microsoft MVP and regional director at Microsoft accomplice AvePoint. “Microsoft noticed early on that an built-in hub bringing collectively persistent chat, information and videoconferencing was going to be the way forward for enterprise collaboration,” mentioned Sy.
Groups is offered as a desktop app, by way of net browser, and as a cellular app. It’s supported throughout all main working programs, equivalent to Home windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
The right way to use Microsoft Groups: Channels, groups and messaging
Groups consists of a number of, effectively, “groups” — primarily teams of workers inside a corporation, equivalent to advertising and marketing or design division employees. Groups can vary in dimension and scope from a complete enterprise all the way down to a extra targeted shared-interest group.
When a group is first arrange, a Microsoft 365 Group is routinely created, together with associated providers equivalent to a SharePoint web site and OneNote entry. In a way, Groups goes a step additional than Teams, appearing as a extra tangible thread connecting customers and apps throughout the group. “It’s nonetheless the behind-the-scenes spine of Workplace 365. However now, Microsoft can middle their productiveness and integration story round Groups fairly than Teams,” mentioned Sy.
Every group consists of particular person “channels” that are likely to have a extra outlined focus, equivalent to a piece mission or matter. Channels are group chat rooms which are higher suited to fast-paced conversations than asynchronous communications like electronic mail.
There are two essential kinds of channels: non-public channels are suited to confidential conversations, which could be notably helpful for authorized or finance groups, whereas “normal” channels let anybody inside a workspace see what has been written and entry shared information.
A “normal” channel is enabled by default and admins can then add extra to suit their group’s necessities. Every channel incorporates tabs with shared information and apps to get work completed with out switching screens. Groups can scale back app switching considerably, in keeping with a Forrester report, saving every employee an estimated 15 to 25 minutes per day.
Along with utilizing group chats inside a channel, staff can ship direct messages to colleagues in non-public, or add others to an ad-hoc group dialog.
Groups incorporates the same old immediate messaging options anticipated of a enterprise chat app, together with emojis, GIFs, rich-text modifying, @mentions, threaded conversations, bots, and the power to share information. When obligatory, customers can soar from messaging to a video name on the click on of a button. Discussions could be muted to cease notifications, or an necessary dialog could be pinned to the highest of the chat record.
Navigation must be acquainted to anybody who has beforehand used a collaboration instrument, although customers making the swap from electronic mail for the primary time would possibly want just a little time to get used to the UI.
The highest bar incorporates navigation arrows, a search instrument for locating messages, information and folks inside a corporation, and a manner of launching apps. The menu on the highest right-hand nook offers entry to numerous settings, together with availability standing.
A sidebar to the left (of the desktop app) incorporates shortcuts to components of Groups that customers work together with most regularly. Chat, Calls, Groups and Recordsdata apps sit alongside an Exercise information feed for mentions, replies and different notifications. There’s additionally a shortcut to the Groups app retailer, the place accepted Microsoft and third-party software program could be perused and added to the sidebar for fast entry. Third-party and Microsoft 365 apps could be additionally added to customise the left-hand bar.
The right way to use Microsoft Groups: Productiveness
Groups isn’t simply targeted on real-time messaging; customers can work collaboratively on paperwork inside the app. That is the place the power of Microsoft’s suite of productiveness apps offers a key benefit over rivals, serving as a hub or connector to the broader portfolio of Microsoft 365 instruments.
With out leaving Groups, customers can co-edit Phrase, Excel, PowerPoint and different file sorts in real-time. Paperwork within the “information” part are saved on OneDrive with the power to retailer and entry information. (There are alternatives to make use of Field and Egnyte, too.)
Groups syncs with Outlook calendars to offer prepared entry to schedules and arrange conferences. There’s additionally deep integration with enterprise social networking app Yammer due to the Communities app for Groups, and entry to SharePoint content material inside Groups.
Microsoft this 12 months has additionally launched new functions designed to be used inside Groups.
“Duties” was launched earlier this 12 months as a Groups-dedicated substitute for Planner inside Groups, combining performance of each the Planner and To Do apps. Duties (which remains to be referred to as Planner for now) helps customers monitor particular person and team-based work, with the power to assign duties and monitor progress utilizing a wide range of views, together with Kanban-style playing cards.
One other latest addition is Lists, which mixes database and spreadsheet options to handle info to plan occasions, monitor recruitment or assist on-board new workers.
Groups is not only for office-based staff. So-called “first-line staff,” equivalent to discipline technicians, retail employees and hospital staff, have develop into a rising focus for Microsoft previously couple of years.
A wide range of capabilities have been launched for staff who are likely to depend on a cellular system fairly than sit at a desk. These embrace Shifts, a schedule administration app to handle employee shifts, and Kaizala, which offers a easy messaging app akin to WhatsApp, although with enterprise safety features.
The right way to use Microsoft Groups: Video and voice conferences
Video and audio conferencing are an more and more necessary a part of Groups, which has successfully changed Microsoft’s broadly used Skype for Enterprise On-line app.
This has been notably true through the pandemic as companies rushed to facilitate digital conferences between staffers working remotely. Microsoft reported a 1000% improve in video conferences throughout March as firms shut down and despatched staff residence, alongside an enormous soar in total day by day energetic Groups customers, from 32 million in the beginning of March to 75 million by the top of April.
“Probably the most related advantage of Microsoft Groups right now is that it mainly permits make money working from home,” mentioned Sy. “Options like videoconferencing, screen-sharing and simply collaborating and co-working on information are serving to companies and workers be much more productive than they have been pre-pandemic in some ways.”
To capitalize on the speedy swap in work conduct — and assist ease videoconference fatigue — Microsoft has rapidly added new options to enhance distant working capabilities, with video calls a key focus.
One of many main improvements was the introduction of Collectively mode this summer time; it creates a digital atmosphere equivalent to a convention room or café, cropping consumer video feeds and accumulating them in a extra practical atmosphere (a minimum of, in comparison with Brady Bunch-style squares) to create a shared house that’s extra conducive to conversations. Microsoft added extra such scenes and customized layouts in September.
To assist scale back distractions, real-time noise suppression has been added. It makes use of deep-learning algorithms to filter out undesirable background noise and retain solely the speech sign.
Groups additionally has primary video name options equivalent to customized backgrounds, display sharing, hand elevating, recording, and stay captions. One other extremely requested function — breakout rooms — is because of arrive by the top of 2020.
Other than group video calls, prospects can use Groups for company-wide broadcasts, live-streaming video for as much as 10,000 workers (or 20,000 with the Superior Communications license add-on).
Audio name performance consists of cloud voicemail, name queues, direct routing to present telecoms suppliers, and audio conferencing.
Microsoft Groups: Integrations and automations
Microsoft’s core focus is on integration with its personal apps; not surprisingly, it lags Slack when it comes to the sheer breadth of external-app integrations. That mentioned, Microsoft has additionally constructed out a powerful vary of third-party integrations and launched its app listing in 2018.
The app retailer encompasses a vary of choices: private apps, bots, tabs, connectors and messaging. These are deployed and interacted with in numerous methods. For instance, “tabs” apps are put in in channels, whereas connectors publish info from an exterior service right into a channel.
Common apps embrace mission administration instruments equivalent to Trello, Smartsheet and Wrike; mind-mapping and inventive planning apps equivalent to Mindmeister and Mural; and IT and developer-focused instruments equivalent to ServiceDesk, Bitbucket and PagerDuty.
Builders may also create and combine their very own inside apps, bots and tabs, utilizing Groups’ developer platform. Microsoft can also be letting third-party app builders combine their very own software program into the Groups assembly expertise earlier than, throughout and after a video name.
There are less complicated methods to create apps and customised workflows in Groups, as effectively, with no-code and low code choices.
Customized enterprise apps constructed with Microsoft’s low-code Energy Apps instrument could be included into Groups, whereas Challenge Oakdale lets customers “construct, deploy, share, use and administer Energy Apps options” — with out leaving Groups. And Energy Digital Brokers lets customers construct no-code chatbots.
Energy Automate permits for the creation of workflow automation capabilities, letting customers create “flows” to automate duties, equivalent to approvals, from inside Groups.
The right way to disable Microsoft Groups auto-launch
Wish to disable fairly than take away Groups solely? Many staff depend on sure Workplace 365 instruments however don’t need the Groups app to routinely launch once they flip their pc on.
To make this transformation, launch the Groups software, click on the icon within the high right-hand nook together with your initials, and go to settings. Below the Common settings part take away the tick subsequent to “Auto-start software,” “Open software in background,” and, “On shut, hold the appliance working.”
For Home windows 10 customers it’s additionally attainable to cease auto-launch by way of the Begin menu. Seek for Startup Apps, which presents a listing of all of the functions that open if you log into a tool, then find the Groups app and easily flip the app “off.”
Alternatively, for many who merely need fewer distractions from the appliance, it’s attainable to scale back the variety of notifications you obtain in Groups. Go to settings and choose Notifications. From right here you have got a wide range of choices, equivalent to the power to show of notification sounds, and select whether or not to obtain notifications for sure actions, equivalent to chat replies, mentions and reactions, or assembly reminders.
The right way to uninstall Microsoft Groups solely
Many Home windows 10 customers have complained that Groups has mysteriously reappeared after they thought it had been eliminated. That is apparently as a result of customers didn’t totally delete the appliance.
There are literally two items of software program that should be eliminated to totally uninstall Groups; the Groups app itself and the Groups Machine-Vast Installer. It’s the second piece of software program that may routinely restore Groups as soon as Home windows is rebooted.