Microsoft keeps adding new features to its Office 365 suite, and now it has made easier for people outside a group to collaborate on files. A new feature, for Office 365 groups, allows people who aren't staff members, or members of a particular group, to join in and collaborate.
Group owners can now use the web version of Outlook to invite non-staff members in. "We are rolling out guest access functionality in phases. Starting today, group owners can add guests to a group in Outlook on the web,” it says on the Microsoft blog. Microsoft says that it doesn't matter which email account the guest uses—it doesn't necessarily have to be Outlook.com. However, if the guest's email is linked to Microsoft, they can use those details to log in. Following the successful add, the guest will first get a welcome email, followed by messages and calendar invites from group members. Guests can also get SharePoint group files access.“Once added, guests receive a welcome email, are granted access to group files in SharePoint Online, begin receiving email messages and calendar invites sent to the group, and can access the group in Office on the web and the Outlook Groups mobile application. They also have automatic access to cloud-based file attachments.” The company said it made a clear visual distinction between guest members, and those who are not. It’s worth noting that this could be part of a larger trend. Just this week, Box announced Box Relay, a new workflow tool developed in conjunction with IBM that includes the ability to invite people outside the organization to be part of a project workflow.
In Box’s case, it enables the project lead to set security for the guests, so they might be given read-only document access, while an internal team member would get full editing rights.Both companies are acknowledging the changing nature of work in a modern cloud and mobile context. People can work anywhere and can collaborate with any number of individuals, whether they work directly for the organization or not.Being able to include these people as part of the project team is going to become increasingly important and Microsoft’s announcement is proof of that.