Office 365 Groups Management

Overview

Peter Charles Limited was an early adopter of Office 365.

When Office 365 Groups were introduced, Peter Charles decided to move from a controlled structured SharePoint model to the flatter Groups structure in order to benefit from the improved user experience.

It quickly became clear that the number of groups, in a flat structure, would require management to keep things from getting out of hand.

The brief from Peter was to ensure management could know who had access to what types of information, to allow users the freedom to create groups as they see fit, but have visibility over what was created, how much it was used, and to enable archiving of groups that were no longer needed.

The solution was to introduce a 365 Groups categorisation method and use Azure Automation to gather information about 365 Groups and use of group resources, to archive groups, to maintain email distribution groups to address all members of groups classified as front, middle and back office, etc.

Solution

  • Create a custom SharePoint list to store all group information including membership, use data, etc.
  • Manually assign categories to 365 Group details in the SharePoint list
  • Develop Azure Automation routines to:
    - populate the list from the existing 365 Groups and keep the list up-to-date
    - assign categories from the list to the 365 Groups' extended attributes
    - gather usage data about 365 Groups' document libraries, conversations, Planner tasks, etc.
    - gather membership of 365 Groups and create Exchange Online email distribution groups for categories
    - archive groups which have been marked as ready to archive in the SharePoint groups list
    - secure files and folders which have been shared with users outside the 365 Group
    - identify users who have not been active for 30 days and automatically remove permissions and licences

Benefits

  • Users are free to create groups and share content as necessary
  • Peter Charles can easily see who has access to what
  • Emails can be targeted at groups of users by category without having to work out who is working on which project, etc.
  • Unused groups can easily be identified and marked for archive, keeping groups lists to a manageable size
  • Security is improved by ensuring materials which are shared for a one-off purpose, are not left accessible indefinitely
  • Licences are freed up automatically when people drop off projects