Hidden Outlook Groups present problem for Microsoft Teams meeting organisers

I was organising a meeting in Microsoft Teams. Our team at Adopt & Embrace have been enjoying the benefit of keeping all the meeting conversation and files together in the same thread. We also record meetings to Microsoft Stream, for easy play-back from the same conversation thread. However, while organising a meeting, things became difficult.

It was only a small meeting request. Just two other people in total, John and Ben. I created the meeting in the conversation thread, choosing to schedule the meeting rather than meeting now. Meet Now will start an online meeting, turn on my video and give other team members the opportunity to join. I invited the two team members explicitly. In the past, I felt I had to do this to ensure they get the invite in their mailbox and consequently their calendar. It appeared to me that unless team members were following a channel, they would not get the invite delivered to their Inbox. But current behaviour is that the invite will be sent to all team members, whether or not they are following a channel.

Jon accepted and Ben declined. That will happen. But as the meeting organiser, I didn’t get a notification in my Inbox to say one member declined (or accepted for that matter.) There isn’t a notification in my Teams Activity Feed either. It relies on me checking the meeting invite in Teams to see who has accepted or declined. OK, that’s kind of inconvenient. But if I’m living in Teams, I guess that’s OK.

At this point I considered sending a chat to the team member who declined, asking if there was a better time to meet. No. I should discuss proposed times in the conversation thread in the team channel. That gives an opportunity for the other team members to agree or suggest other times. Come to think of it, is there a meeting poll bot for Microsoft Teams like Find Time in Outlook? I must check.

Here’s the problem. Ben didn’t just decline. He declined the invite with a proposed time. That’s good meeting etiquette and you can count on Ben to maintain that standard. But I didn’t see that new proposed time. I didn’t see his meeting response. Only that which is visible in Microsoft Teams. I couldn’t respond to Ben’s proposal and maintain good meeting etiquette.

Microsoft Teams is powered by Office 365 Groups. Every Office 365 Group gets a shared mailbox. There are other Office 365 Group types that give you different conversation experiences; Outlook Groups and Yammer connected Office 365 Groups. Each use the shared mailbox to varying degrees. Meeting organisers create a meeting in Microsoft Teams and a meeting invite is sent to all members of the team by the organiser on behalf of the team. The meeting I created appeared to be from Darrell, but it was actually sent from the team mailbox. Any responses to the meeting invite are sent back to the team mailbox. This includes meeting declines with new proposed times.

As a meeting organiser using Microsoft Teams, where do I go to manage meeting responses? Opening the meeting invite in Teams doesn’t show enough information. I need to open the shared mailbox in Outlook, essentially it’s the Outlook Group. I found Ben’s proposed time there and I could accept the proposal, sending out a new invite with the proposed time. It’s far from ideal. I need to manage meeting responses and proposals across Microsoft Teams and the Outlook Group in Outlook.

In March we received an update in the Microsoft 365 Message Center that has a significant bearing on organising meetings and this scenario. Most people who create Microsoft Teams have very little to no use for the shared mailbox connected to the Team. Some of the technical community have requested that shared mailboxes connected to Microsoft Teams be hidden from view in Outlook. The positive effect of this is it reduces confusion for some team members. Those who haven’t understood how Teams work may send an email to the Microsoft Team shared mailbox and get no response. No one is checking it and all conversation is being held in Teams. This is a good reason to hide the shared mailbox connected to a Microsoft Team.

But for meeting organisers, they won’t have a place to check for meeting responses and new proposed times. It also means that the Team calendar won’t be visible in Outlook. We don’t have a way to view that calendar within Teams. You can add the Team calendar to the connected SharePoint team site page, using a web part. Soon, you’ll be able to pin that page to a channel. But it’s still not as functional as accessing the calendar from within Outlook. There are a few Teams that make use of the shared mailbox. They can receive email from outside the organisation, such as service requests or customer feedback. The coming update will not hide shared mailboxes from existing Teams. Only newly created Teams. For those exceptions where a new Team wants to use their shared mailbox, an Office 365 Admin can unhide the mailbox using a PowerShell command and new attribute. But I would like to know how meeting responses with proposals will be managed when the shared mailbox is hidden. I’d also like to know if the hidden shared mailbox will also hide the calendar. Time will tell.

I think the Team mailbox will be missed, especially when viewing a Team calendar or managing meeting responses with proposals.

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