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Microsoft 365 Groups

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Overview

Microsoft 365 Groups is part of UW Office 365 and is a FERPA- and HIPAA-compatible platform that allows you to choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and set up a collection of resources for those people to share. It gives you the ability to collaborate with your teammates when writing documents, creating spreadsheets, working on project plans, scheduling meetings, or sending email. Group owners can add or remove members as well as change group settings.

Microsoft 365 Groups can be accessed through Outlook clients or via a web browser using Outlook on the web (aka OWA).

Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook

When users request a Microsoft 365 Group, they will access the group through Outlook and get the following collaboration features:

  • A shared inbox – For email conversations between members. This inbox has an email address and can be set to accept messages from people outside the group and even outside your organization, much like a traditional email distribution list
  • A shared calendar – For scheduling events related to the group
  • A SharePoint Online Document Library – A central place for the group to store and collaborate on files
  • A Shared OneNote Notebook – For gathering ideas, research, and information
  • A SharePoint Online Team Site – A central repository for files and content related to the group
  • Planner – For assigning and managing project tasks among group members

Microsoft 365 Groups vs. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365 Groups several years before Microsoft Teams.  Microsoft 365 Groups is primarily a membership service, with additional functionality as detailed above, which uses Outlook as the collaboration interface.  Microsoft then released Microsoft Teams as a collaboration tool with an entirely different collaboration interface centered around a chat-based interface.  A Microsoft Team utilizes a Microsoft 365 Group as its membership service.

In short, Microsoft 365 Groups provides a collaborative experiencing utilizing an Outlook interface while Microsoft Teams provides a collaborative experience using a chat-based interface.  Most users choose Microsoft Teams when requesting a new Microsoft collaboration resource.  It is possible to add the Microsoft Teams interface to a Microsoft 365 Group.

Responsibilities of the owner of a Microsoft 365 Group

Only UW faculty and staff can request a Microsoft 365 Group. The owner of a Microsoft 365 Group is responsible for:

  • Managing access to the Microsoft 365 Group
  • Securing content in the Microsoft 365 Group
  • Managing content in the Microsoft 365 Group according to UW records guidelines (or UW Medicine records guidelines, for UW Medicine employees)
  • Submitting requests for changes to the Microsoft 365 Group to UW-IT
  • Responding to requests from UW-IT regarding their Microsoft 365 Group
  • Designating a new Microsoft 365 Group owner when they depart UW
  • Deleting the Microsoft 365 Group when it is no longer needed

Microsoft 365 Group Deletion

A Microsoft 365 Group may be deleted by UW-IT when the last UW employee or Shared UW NetID is removed the Microsoft 365 Group owner.

The owner of a Microsoft 365 Group can delete the Microsoft 365 Group by following these directions.

Request a Microsoft 365 Group

Click here to request a Microsoft 365 Group

Sync Microsoft 365 Group Files with Your Computer

Click here to learn how to sync Microsoft 365 Group files with your computer using OneDrive for Business

External Sharing and Adding Guests to a Microsoft 365 Group

External sharing is enabled by default on a Microsoft 365 Group. The owner of a Microsoft 365 Group can invite a guest (an external, non-UW email addresses) to join a Microsoft 365 Group.

Click here to learn more about adding guests to a Microsoft 365 Group

Microsoft 365 Groups and Hidden Membership

By default, the ability to view the membership of a new Microsoft 365 Group is restricted to the owners and members of the Microsoft 365 Group. This is intended to increase the privacy of the owners and members of a Microsoft 365 Group in order to not reveal potential student status if a Microsoft 365 Group is being used for academic purposes, or other sensitive, confidential UW affiliations that owners and members may not want widely known. This hidden membership setting cannot be changed after a Microsoft 365 Group is created.

If you want the membership of your new Microsoft 365 Group viewable to non-owners and non-members, please let us know when you request your Microsoft 365 Group.

Renaming a Microsoft 365 Group

A Microsoft 365 Group has many different “name” attributes. The three most important names are the Display Name, the User Principal Name, and the Primary SMTP Address (Primary Email Address).

All Microsoft 365 Groups at UW are named starting with the standard prefix “og_”. On the Microsoft 365 Group request form, the user will enter a Microsoft 365 Group name “stem” and then a more specific Microsoft 365 Group name, e.g. ”og_uwit_collab_services”. By default, the Microsoft 365 Group is created with the Display Name, User Principal Name, and Primary SMTP Address all set with this initial value, as entered by the user. The “og_” prefix on the User Principal Name and Primary SMTP Address is required to prevent the creation of a Microsoft 365 Group that violates the naming policies for the greater UW NetID namespace, and prevent “collisions” from a Microsoft 365 Group being created with the same name as an existing UW NetID or UW Group.

That said, it is possible to rename the Display Name for a Microsoft 365 Group using the Teams interface. This does not update the User Principal Name or Primary SMTP Address, and is relatively safe with no known issues. However, Microsoft frequently makes changes to how Microsoft 365 Groups work and having a Display Name that is different than the User Principal Name and Primary SMTP Address may at some point cause issues. Additionally, there are numerous other interfaces in Office 365 for updating the names of a Microsoft 365 Group, such as Outlook on the web and Planner, and potential issues for using these interfaces to change names are unknown.

In sum, we recommend limiting Display Name changes to only when necessary. If you decide to rename your Microsoft 365 Group, we also encourage using a more descriptive name than just “HR” or “IT”, for example, as there are hundreds of HR and IT groups at the UW that may also be using Microsoft 365 Groups.

UW-IT does not support renaming the User Principal Name and Primary SMTP Address of a Microsoft 365 Group, and any Microsoft 365 Group found violating this policy will have these values returned to the original name values. If these values need to change, we recommend you start with a new Microsoft 365 Group.

Microsoft 365 Groups Help and Training

UW-IT is unable to provide individual or group training on how to use Microsoft 365 Groups. However, there are a number of excellent resources on the web:

  • UW-IT manages a SharePoint Community of Practice Microsoft Team consisting of UW individuals who work with SharePoint and related technologies like Microsoft 365 Groups – click here to browse
  • Learn about Microsoft 365 Groups from Microsoft – click here to browse
  • Get started with Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook with Microsoft’s help documentation – click here to browse
  • For advanced users, Microsoft has more extensive support articles on Microsoft 365 Groups – click here to browse
Last reviewed November 11, 2020