The first question is…why would I want to do this? What’s the purpose? (OK, maybe that’s two questions. ;-))

Here’s why – using one of the latest new buzzwords in everyone’s wheelhouse – collaboration. When you set up a group in Office 365, you can select a subset of people that you wish to collaborate with, as well as set up a collection of shared resources for those people to leverage. There is no manual lifting of assigning permissions to all those resources; the addition of members to the group dynamically provides them the permissions they need to the resources with which the group is associated. So, what ‘goodies’ can be passed around like Halloween candy? Here are a few flavors:

 Key Features for Users

  • Shared inbox: a fully searchable archive of the group’s messages where newcomers to the group can perform historical searches on older messages to get up to speed quickly on what’s been posted to the group previously
  • Shared files library: integration of SharePoint files library for storing, sharing and collaborating on documents, workbooks, presentations, images and many other files types
  • Shared calendar: for posting events and invitations that can be used from both the shared calendar as well as personal one
  • Shared OneNote notebook: the group is automatically provisioned a shared OneNote notebook for data collection and collaboration
  • Guest access: external contact access and utilization of shared resources in addition to email
  • Discoverable content: public or private content that can be hidden with join request approval from the owner
  • Self-Service creation: admin controlled setting allowing users to create their own groups which helps cut down on help desk support requests

But, as we all know, end user experience is half the battle. The other half is the administration/support side. The following highlights key features for admins to utilize:

Key Features for Administrators

  • Dynamic membership: set group membership by rule and add/remove group members based on Azure AD attributes
  • Naming policies: keep group naming conventions in line with IT policies
  • Hidden membership: keeps membership hidden from the address book
  • Creation permissions: control who can(‘t) create groups
  • Audit logs: leverage 365 reporting capabilities to probe and analyze who is doing what with the groups
  • Assignment of ‘Send as’ or ‘Send on Behalf of’ rights to the group
  • Sender restrictions: control who can send to the group
  • External user support: invite and add outside mail users to the group
  • Transport rules: leverage Office 365 mail flow rules to control if/then conditions for mail flow to/from the group
  • MailTips: useful information that appears during mail composition that can help reduce potential end user error when using the group for mail distribution
  • Multiple proxy addresses: customization of email addresses for simplified
  • Max Send/Receive size: control over message size to keep usage in line with IT policies for mail flow and storage
  • Data classification: create a customizable data classification system for groups that allows separation by policy type. In this manner, your groups can exhibit the policies of other content in your organization. Extensible policy for configuration of an endpoint that can leverage policies for group creation or changes.

So how is this done? Easy.

In the Office 365 admin portal, go to: Exchange Admin Center – recipients – groups.  Then click the “Upgrade the distribution list” button which opens another screen that offers the option to upgrade the lists that qualify.

For the PowerShell enthusiasts, you can use readymade scripts from the Microsoft Download Center for bulk upgrades of the lists; This also includes a script to run to see if they’re eligible for upgrade. Please keep in mind as of this writing, this is focused to cloud identities, not on-premises synced. An updated upgrade eligibility list can be found here.

Sound enticing? Need more information? Email info@peters.com. We are happy to help. Thanks for reading and good luck!