Updates for Groups Management in Microsoft 365 Admin Center

Changes Slip Through When You’re Not Watching

Microsoft recently updated the Microsoft 365 admin center with several useful changes to improve the Groups section of the portal. Most of the changes relate to Office 365 Groups (sorry, now Microsoft 365 Groups). It’s entirely possible that these changes have escaped your attention, so let’s cover them briefly.

Restore Deleted Groups

Given the popularity of Microsoft 365 Groups as the membership service for applications like Teams, Yammer, and Planner, it’s inevitable that some mistakes will be made when removing groups or that an important group will be allowed to expire. The ability to restore deleted Microsoft 365 groups was first introduced through PowerShell cmdlets in early 2017. Soon afterwards, the feature appeared in the Exchange admin center.

Now you can restore groups in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Go to Groups and open the Deleted groups section. Any groups that have not exceeded their 30-day soft-deleted retention period are listed (Figure 1).

Listing deleted groups in the Microsoft 365 admin center
Figure 1: Listing deleted groups in the Microsoft 365 admin center

To restore a group, select it and either:

  • Use the Restore group option in the group header.
  • Click the group name to bring up the details pane, which has some basic information about the (display name, description, and email addresses) and click the Restore group button.

Both options perform the same processing to restore the deleted group. After a short delay, the group object is restored in Azure AD and begins the process of notifying the associated workloads to reconnect. It takes a little while for resources like the SharePoint site, a plan, or a team to be reconnected, but eventually everything comes together.

Selecting Licensed Teams Owners

Restoring deleted groups is a relatively big feature. A smaller, but still nice, feature is the way that the Add group wizard checks and displays if assigned groups owners have Teams licenses (Figure 2). Why is this important? Well, if you add someone who isn’t licensed for Teams as a group owner and then team-enable the group, that owner won’t be able to manage the team. And ownerless teams are bad.

Making sure that assigned group owners can use Teams
Figure 2: Making sure that assigned group owners can use Teams

The nagging doubt in my mind is that this feature might not work so well in very large tenants when many accounts can be nominated as group owners, but I’m sure this has been tested.

Improvements in Groups Section

The Groups section in the Microsoft 365 admin center has been nicely refreshed. Some of the changes have been around for a while, but I’ll note them here. In Figure 3 we see:

  • The ability to edit the name and description of a selected group. This is a shortcut to calling the group details pane where you make the changes.
  • Edit email addresses. Those of us who like PowerShell would run Set-UnifiedGroup to do this, but normal people will find it much easier to change the primary SMTP address of a group or add new proxy email addresses here.
  • See the set of Teams-enabled groups. The Teams icon tells all.
  • Filters to show different kinds of groups. We sometimes forget the humble distribution list, but these objects are managed here too.
  • The sync status property tells you where a group is homed. In this case they’re all in the cloud.
Improved UI in the Groups section of the Microsoft 365 admin center
Figure 3: Improved UI in the Groups section of the Microsoft 365 admin center

Usefully, you can export the filtered set of groups to a CSV file. This kills off many PowerShell scripts written to do the same job (using cmdlets or Graph calls), but there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s nothing earth shattering in anything that Microsoft has done and it’s likely that the changes help them reduce the number of support calls that flow in to ask how to do these operations. Changes that help both Microsoft and tenants are a good thing and collectively the changes make group management just that bit easier for those who don’t manage these objects very often. Best of all, Restore Deleted Groups is useful for even hard-bitten professionals. I’ll let you decide if you fall into that category.

Changes like those described in this post add value but they can slip by without you noticing. This is why we monitor what’s going on inside Office 365 and update the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to make sure that our subscribers are always in the know.

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