Office Groups can spark conversations using information pulled from Twitter, Salesforce and other popular services.
Microsoft has begun rolling out Office 365 Connectors, software that enables business customers to link their third-party apps with their Office Groups. The connectors deliver updates and content from those apps into shared Office Groups inboxes, providing an interactive hub for team-based collaboration.
Launched in 2014, Office Groups is a social collaboration feature inspired by Yammer Groups. Once gathered, members can chat, share files, jointly edit Office documents and schedule events that sync with their calendars. (Microsoft acquired Yammer, the popular enterprise social networking service, in 2012 for $1.28 billion.)
The software giant has been steadily enhancing Office Groups with more enterprise-grade functionality, including e-discovery support and rule-based memberships that integrate with Azure Active Directory premium to automatically configure groups as employees move between projects and departments. Now, Office Group users can work together on information from other, third-party app providers.
"Whether you are tracking a Twitter feed, managing a project with Trello or watching the latest news headlines with Bing—Office 365 Connectors surfaces all the information you care about in the Office 365 Groups shared inbox, so you can easily collaborate with others and interact with the updates as they happen," wrote Sonal Pardeshi, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft Office 365, in a blog post.
Office 365 Connectors, a new Office Groups feature, eliminate the need to log in and out of multiple services or keep a Web browser full of open tabs to monitor social media accounts and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps. They package updates from their respective services into messages that Group users can then use as a springboard for conversations.
"Each time a key activity takes place in the service you're tracking—for example, when a new task is added to a Salesforce opportunity, an update is made to a Trello board or an incident is triggered in PagerDuty—a message is sent to the Groups shared inbox," said Pardeshi.
Connectors are configured using the Groups functionality in the Outlook Web application. In Twitter's case, users input their credentials, follow accounts and hashtags, and set their notification options. The connector then delivers those notifications as a Groups conversation. Users can reply to tweets directly and share them with other members.
Currently, more than 50 Office 365 Connectors are available, including Bing, MailChimp, GitHub, Stack Overflow, Aha, Zendesk and UserVoice, to name a handful. Pardeshi reported that Microsoft is working with its partners to build up its collection of connectors and more are on the way.
Office 365 Connectors are available now for customers enrolled in the First Release early-access program. General availability will soon follow, according to a company FAQ. For now, support is limited to Outlook 2016 and Outlook Web App, but Microsoft is working on extending the functionality to the Groups apps for iOS and Android.