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September 30, 2016

External access to Office 365 Groups

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 19:31

This is what I have been waiting for: External access to Groups. I can now invite people from outside our organization to join me in Office 365 Groups. This is great, because I do not only collaborate with my colleagues, but also with my clients.

Recently, I started to work on a small project with my client. We used Skype for Business to talk and show each other what we were working on, and that was just fine. But then they wanted to give me some input documents. And I wanted to share some drafts with them. We did not have a shared team site, so these documents were sent back and forth by e-mail as classic attachments. Really annoying, because:

  • it was hard to get an overview of what we had shared,
  • a new version had to be sent again, which clutters our inboxes
  • and are we sure we have the latest version before us?

I was on the brink of requesting an official project site, when external access to Office 365 Groups was announced. It was not available immediately in our tenant, but after a few days of increasingly eager attempts, it suddenly was there! The option to invite people from outside our organisations.

As an Owner of an Office 365 Group, I can now invite people by entering their mail address.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

The guest (in this case, Garth) then gets an invitation e-mail, from which he can start an e-mail conversation and open the shared files.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

And to open the shared files, his e-mail address does have to be connected to a Microsoft account. If it isn’t, the recipient of the invitation is prompted to create a Microsoft account and connect it to this mail address. My guests (now Garth,¬† in real life my clients)¬†fortunately have a Microsoft account associated to their mail address. But they do have to sign in.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.

 

What the guest can do in the Group is limited:

  • He cannot view the Conversations in the context of the Group. Only in Outlook.
  • He cannot see the Calendar in the Group.
  • He cannot use the Planner.
  • He does not see the “external group” listed with the groups of his own organization.
    So he needs to keep the e-mail with the link at hand or bookmark the external group in his browser.
  • He does not get the full list of all members and cannot see the details of the people.
    This is undoubtedly a security / privacy feature: it is none of Garth’s business who we report to and what else we do.

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details hidden from guests.

    People details hidden from guests.

But for my purpose, it was sufficient, because the guest can collaborate on documents and notes:

  • He can read, edit and upload documents.
  • He can use the OneNote notebook.
Sharing files with guests.

Sharing files with guests.

 

So I am definitely a happy camper, or rather: a happy collaborator.¬† I was able to share files and share notes with my clients in a quick & easy way, and that is exactly what we wanted…

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