The Renaming of Office 365 Groups

Microsoft 365 Groups Just Trips Off the Tongue

Who would be an author? The news that Microsoft wants to rename Office 365 Groups to become Microsoft 365 Groups wasn’t popular with the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook team. We have tons of references to Office 365 Groups in many chapters of the book, all of which now need to be checked along with screen captures as Microsoft makes the change “over time.” Oh well, it’s not like we had anything else to do.

Branding for Branding’s Sake

On a serious note, I wonder about why Microsoft bothers with changes like this. The folks in charge of Microsoft 365 marketing might be happy because yet another thing has been rebranded. But anyone outside Redmond will wonder why Office ProPlus absolutely had to become Microsoft 365 Apps. No added value is created, no new functionality launched, and customers gain no benefit.

In the case of Office 365 Groups, this is just another attempt to nail a name that sticks (Groups in Outlook – Figure 1 – is a particularly horrible example), often to reflect a changed position in Microsoft’s spectrum of collaboration products.

Groups in Outlook aka Office 365 Groups aka Microsoft 365 Groups aka Outlook Groups
Figure 1: Groups in Outlook aka Office 365 Groups aka Microsoft 365 Groups aka Outlook Groups

A Better Distribution List

Launched in November 2014, the original idea behind Groups was to create a better form of email distribution list which combined the best of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online to replace the ill-fated site mailbox initiative. And maybe persuade some customers to move away from Exchange public folders as their preferred repository for shared documents.

Office 365 Groups have never succeeded in being a better distribution list (no support for nested groups). Their progress as a collaboration platform was restricted by internal competition, first with Yammer and then with Teams. The desirability of Groups was also affected by the antics of the Azure Active Directory team, who demanded premium licenses for features like a naming policy (a free feature for distribution lists).

Membership Focus

What Office 365 Groups have succeeded in is delivering a membership service for Microsoft 365 applications like Teams, Yammer, and Planner. It would have been silly if each application had been allowed to develop its own approach to user management, and it made sense to use a common service, even if the lack of granularity in the owner/member model used by Groups has been decried by some.

If the long-term mission for Office 365 Groups is to be less of a threaded conversation application for Outlook and OWA to focus on being a management service for Microsoft 365, then the rename makes more sense. So perhaps I should stop worrying. Or complaining. Or both.

Frontline Users Can Continue Sending Urgent Teams Messages (for now)

On the good news front, Microsoft has halted plans to limit frontline users from sending more than five priority (urgent) Teams messages per month. The limit was originally supposed to come into force on January 1 but was bumped to April 1. Now the Covid-19 situation has caused Microsoft to sayTo assist our customers and community in their crisis response efforts, we’re extending the priority notifications promotion until the second half of 2020.”

It’s a good thing because urgent messages are often used in hospital situations. In fact, you’d wonder why urgent messages is a premium feature. Maybe it’s time for a rebranding.

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