Office 365 Connectors is a new feature for Office 365 Groups that allow content from a variety of services to be surfaced in the Group feed. For example, imagine an IT consulting company that has IT and Sales staff that need to keep up with the changes to the Office 365 service. Each day, different members of the team check the MS Office Team Blog as well as news sites and they email each other links and interesting content. Also, the sales team will periodically update customer info in Salesforce, including customers who use Office 365, and they email the IT team relevant info about these customers.
To make this process easier, the team could create an Office 365 Group and use that in place of email. As documented elsewhere, this provides a number of benefits, including a OneNote notebook, a document repository, and others. However, with the Group, the team members still need to be checking other sources of info, as well as the fact that the sales team needs to remember to post content to the Group for things that they updated in Salesforce.
This is where the new “Connections” feature comes in. It allows users to add a “connection” to Salesforce, so certain updates will trigger an alert that gets sent to the Office 365 Group. (Of course, connections can be made to dozens of different services, not just Salesforce).
Also, a connection can be configured for the Office Team Blog (via the RSS feed connector), so any new content that is posted there will appear in the Office 365 Group.
As another example, a Bing News Feed could be added so that a daily summary of news articles that mention Office 365 could be added to the Group.
Again, it’s easy enough for users to go check the blog and other sources, but this puts all of this content in one place.
This “connector” feature also highlights the difference between a Team Site and an Office 365 Group. In a Team Site, we would have added web parts to the home page to surface this sort of content. With Groups, there is no customizable home page, and the main center of activity is the inbox. So connectors are, in a way, bringing us functionality that we’ve had in the past, though connectors also add the idea of surfacing content on a schedule or based on events, and bringing that info to people’s inboxes, rather than requiring the users to go look at a page to find out if something has changed.
On the other hand:
Who, exactly, has ever wished that all of their coworkers could have the ability to sign them up for more mass emails?
Because that’s what Connectors bring to the table.
Connectors are about surfacing relevant info from a variety of sources in one place.
And that place is your inbox.
So again, you might be part of a group that’s involved in something you have to do a few times a month, and the Office 365 Group allows the team to have conversations and such, which is great. And then one team member decides to set up a connection to a couple services, and now you’re getting several additional emails a day.
Connectors don’t allow you to specify that particular users should get the alerts, and you can’t opt out. Again, the “old” model was to have all this information from these different places aggregated on the home page of a SharePoint site, so it was there whenever you wanted to go see it. The new model is to funnel all of this content through your inbox.