On 18 November 2015, Microsoft announced the public preview of Office 365 Connectors for Groups. This is how Microsoft describes the Connectors:
Office 365 Connectors are a great way to get useful information and content into your Office 365 Group. Any user can connect their group to services like Trello, Bing News, Twitter, etc., and get notified of the group’s activity in that service. From tracking a team’s progress in Trello, to following important hashtags in Twitter, Office 365 Connectors make it easier for an Office 365 group to stay in sync and get more done.
Sounds like a great feature!! Let’s see how it works :-)
Because Office 365 Connectors are still in preview, you have to explicitly enable the feature by adding a parameter in the URL for a Group: &EnableConnectorDevPreview=true (please note, the parameter is case sensitive!)
Example: I have a Group called “Connector Demo” in my sharepointsushi.onmicrosoft.com tenant. The URL for that Group is: https:[email protected]hi.onmicrosoft.com/mail
I can enable Office 365 Connectors for this Group by changing the URL into: https:[email protected]hi.onmicrosoft.com/mail&EnableConnectorDevPreview=true
After refreshing the page with that parameter added, you will notice there’s a new Connectors option in the context menu of that particular Group. Click the three dots … and you’ll see the Connectors option (figure 1).
Figure 1: With Office 365 Connectors enabled, there is now a Connector’s option available for this group.
Now when you click Connectors, a new window will appear with some services that you can connect (figure 2). You will see that over a time, the number of services available will increase.
Figure 2: Services available for Connectors to Office 365 Groups.
For our demo, we will use Trello. The Trello connector notifies your Office 365 Group when activity occurs on Trello cards, lists, and boards.
Click the Add button behind Trello. An OAuth connection window will pop up (figure 3) to authorise Office 365 Connector to use Trello on your behalf.
Figure 3: Authorising Office 365 Connector to use your Trello account.
You can then choose the Board you’d like to receive notifications for, and you can select which kind of notifications you’d like to receive. Note that if you click Show more notification options (figure 4) there are many, many more notifications you can subscribe to.
Figure 4: Trello notifications for Office 365 Connectors.
Click Save, and you’ll return to the Connections overview window where you can see that your Trello Connection has been configured (figure 5). If you want you can add more Connections to this Office 365 Group.
Figure 5: Trello notification configured for Office 365 Connector.
Click the Cancel button on the left top side of the window, and you’ll return to your Group homepage where you will have received a message that Trello is now connected to your Group (figure 6).
Figure 6: Trello is connected to your Office 365 Group.
Now when you create a new Card in Trello, you will receive a notification (figure 7) in your Office 365 Group.
Figure 7: Your Trello new card notification in Office 365 Groups.
I love this feature!!
Now a couple of remarks:
- In the preview phase of Office 365 Connectors, only View actions are available on notifications. Later on, also other actions will become available.
- Although all members of a Group can see which Connectors have been configured for a Group, only the person who created the Connector can remove that Connector. I can imagine this will change in the future, but for now, this is how it works.
- You don’t need to be admin to create Connectors. Even members of Groups are allowed to create Connectors.
- There’s also an Incoming Webhook Connector available. You can use this Connector to hook up your own application to Office 365 Connectors. Very powerful! If you’d like to play around with that, please visit https://dev.outlook.com/Connectors. Wictor Wilén wrote a blog post on this as well: http://www.itunity.com/article/enhancing-office-365-groups-custom-connectors-cards-groups-2842
As I said, I love this feature! I can see a lot of potential for this. Way to go Microsoft!
You can find Maarten’s original blog here: http://www.eekels.net/office-365-connectors-for-groups-walkthrough