Skype’s subtle integration with Office 365 Groups – Outlook, Yammer and Teams

In case you missed it. Skype is integrated with Office 365 Groups – with Outlook groups, Yammer and Microsoft Teams.  But it’s something of an underused yet convenient integration. Firstly, just stop thinking about Office 365 Groups as a lolly bag of features for a moment. I want you to think of it first and foremost as a way to organize a group of people. Leave the lollies for later. When you want to start a project, you get a group of people together and you name the project. You talk about the purpose of the group and discuss how you want to communicate with each other. You agree on how you will organize, folder structures, naming and storing, even a metadata taxonomy if you’re that way inclined. But let’s go back to the activity of communicating with the group. It used to be that we always knocked on IT’s door and asked for a distribution group. “OK. What do you want to call it and who are the members?” Once the distribution group was created, how did we communicate with the group? We emailed the group name. Your group has a name. A name. We overlook this simple thing.

  1. I want you to pick the name of an Office 365 Group right now. In fact, pick a few. Pick an Outlook Group. You know, the Office 365 Group you created from Outlook. If you use Microsoft Teams, pick the name of a Team you use. If you belong to a Yammer group that has received it’s Office 365 Group bits (Team site, notebook, Planner), pick one of those too.
  2. Now open up your Skype for Business contact list and type the name of the Outlook group. It appears in the search results. Now try the Yammer group name. Yes, even that appears in the search results. How about that Microsoft Team name? Yep. Each Office 365 Group is found, regardless of your choice of communication modality.

What can you do with the Group you have found in your Skype Contacts? Add it to your contacts, and what does that achieve? Look closer. Each member of the group is listed under the group, so you can quickly see their online status, and contact each or all of them. It means you don’t need to maintain a list of Skype contacts for the Office 365 Group. If a member is added to the group, they’ll be added to your Skype contacts. It’s like one of those good old expanded distribution groups you can add to Skype. Don’t tell me you didn’t know you could add those too.

Aside from listing all the members of the Office 365 Group, what else can we do with it now it is in our Skype contact list? Right-click the group name in the contact list and choose See Contact Card. Pin the Contact Card so it stays open while we look at it.

Skype things we can do:

  • Start an IM conversation with all members. Let this sink in. You communicate using Outlook, Yammer or Teams IM. You could start up a Skype IM with all group members. A Skype IM is for getting a quick answer now. Though it could be argued that if your group culture is to remain in Outlook, Yammer or Teams, any short message to their Conversation experiences would negate the need for a Skype IM. Still, it’s there.
  • Start a conference call / online meeting / video call with all members – Use of this would still depend on your group culture. In Microsoft Teams, you’d be better using the Teams call/video call/meeting. But this is useful for Outlook Groups and Yammer groups.
  • Send an email to all members – For Outlook groups, this is the standard communication experience. Microsoft Teams members may benefit from using email alongside the Teams experience, especially if they need to loop someone into a conversation who is not a member of their team. The conveniently surprising thing when emailing a Yammer group is that the conversation will appear in Yammer, just like a standard email-to-Yammer-group experience. Formatting is lost, but hey, it works.

The Office 365 Group contact card for your Outlook group, Yammer group or Team will also display the group description and members. You can subscribe to updates if it is an Outlook group. Or you can leave the group.

The View Group section of the contact card will vary, depending on whether your looking at an Outlook group, Yammer group or Team.

  • Outlook groups display links to Conversations, Calendar, Files and Notebook. All open and redirect to the appropriate services.
  • Microsoft Teams also displays links to Conversations, Calendar, Files and Notebook. However, the Conversations link doesn’t open the Microsoft Teams Conversations.
  • Yammer groups display only Conversations and Calendar. Both links attempt to open in Outlook. But Outlook crashes. I’ll be looking for some consistency here because the Yammer group has a team site (Files) and a notebook. So we should see the links on a Yammer group’s Skype contact card. Yammer will get a group Calendar eventually, to coordinate key events for the group.

There are other integrations between Skype, Teams and Yammer. The Teams integration lists meetings and allows you to trigger joining them from either Skype or Teams. The meetings will open in their respective products. i.e. a Skype meeting listed in Teams will open in Skype. 

IM between a Skype user and a Teams user is reportedly unreliable. Message popups may or may not appear. But for the most part, if your team is using Microsoft Teams, you’ll probably be using Teams Conversations or the Teams Chat feature. Skype will still come into the picture for PSTN calls, and external Skype calls and online meetings with external participants.

Yammer integration with Skype will deepen soon, starting with the Skype web client available. Contact card and triggering contact options like an IM will come later.

So I encourage you to add the Office 365 Groups you work with, into your Skype for Business Contacts. Take advantage of the Office 365 Group name in other services too. That’s the beauty of it.


Also published on Medium.