Microsoft 365 Groups Best Practices and Limitations for Collaboration with email

Much of your company's communication with customers is via email. Customers often inform you of issues by sending an email to your company's role-based address (often called team, shared, or group address) and would like to get a prompt and helpful response. While your company is small and you have a limited number of emails coming in, you can manage your email without a well-thought-out strategy but as your business grows, you need more team members to be able to keep up with all the messages. However, email is not designed to be used collaboratively, so you need a tool for your whole team to be able to read and reply from the same address because sharing credentials for the same account is insecure. Two popular options for managing a role-based address in Outlook are Outlook Shared Mailbox and Microsoft 365 Groups. In this article, we explore best practices and limitations for Outlook in Microsoft 365 Groups.

What is Microsoft 365 Groups

Microsoft 365 Groups is a service that enables teams to collaboratively use other Microsoft services including Outlook by creating an Outlook Group. Outlook Groups enables you to create a group inbox and share access to the inbox with multiple people. Therefore, Groups can be used to manage your team's email address.

Outlook Groups is first and foremost designed to be a replacement for distribution lists. However, Outlook Groups can be used to manage a team inbox albeit with some limitations. In particular, Outlook Groups may be useful for large teams of 6 or more people. Outlook Groups creates a shared inbox accessible to all group members, but the shared inbox has very limited functionality. Optionally, you can subscribe to group email and all of that group's email will be sent to your user inbox, and you will know that all your email is in one place.

Groups are very useful when you need a distribution list. Meaning that when you need to send notifications to a certain group of people but do not necessarily need them to do any specific action in response to email. In that case there is no real need for collaboration. Collaboration is necessary when someone must respond or do something specific in response to an email.

Best Practices for better collaboration

With many users reading and replying to the same emails, mistakes are easy to make. Teammates each need to work out for themselves if each email is relevant to them, thus wasting time. If your Group receives a lot of mail, it quickly becomes difficult to navigate. Email may then get lost, and customers will be left feeling dissatisfied. Outlook Groups has few built-in features to enable collaboration. Therefore, it is especially important to establish clear procedures and follow best practices keeping your email communication organized.

Designate group members who are responsible for assigning emails

Your priority is that every important email is answered in a professional and timely manner. For this to be possible emails must quickly reach an employee with the relevant skills. You can have one or more people specialize in deciding who can best handle a customer's request. Then you can have people who know who can handle which requests and most of your team can focus on their tasks rather than incoming messages.

Outlook Groups gives you a choice if you subscribe to group email or not. If you choose to subscribe you will get a lot of emails, much of which you may not be interested in, on the other hand, if you don't subscribe to group email, you will need to constantly monitor all your group inboxes which can be time-consuming. Preferably, users would get only email relevant to them to their inbox but still have access to all email in the group inbox. You can achieve this by designating one or more users as first line support who are responsible for distributing emails to the appropriate employees by forwarding the email to their inbox. This way, most users don't need to constantly monitor the group inbox but will get relevant email quickly while some users know they need to actively monitor the group inbox.

First line support should constantly monitor the group inbox so they can forward emails as soon as possible. If they are part of many groups or don't receive email to a group often, it may be troublesome to monitor all groups. Therefore, it is useful to subscribe to group email so that they can see all the group's email in a consolidated view. However, it may be confusing If you have multiple people responsible for assignments as the inbox won't have any trace of what has already been assigned or otherwise handled.

Your second line support should not subscribe to group email. Instead, first line support should send emails relevant to them directly to their inbox. Thus, second line support can quickly react to email they need to respond to without spending time sifting through lots of email to find what is relevant to them.

SBX makes assigning email easy for first line support and allows second line support to easily see past assignments for additional context.

Send a copy of sent email to the group

Your whole team should be able to access emails you have sent if needed. This way your teammates can rest assured that you have handled the email. In addition, access to past messages in an email thread allows someone to take over from you in case you are unavailable. Past email conversations have valuable context about your interactions with customers.

Outlook Groups does not have a sent folder. Furthermore, it is not possible to create a rule to send email to a group email address. Therefore, you need to always send a copy to the group to ensure other users are able to see your replies.

SBX ensures that when you send from a group address the group is always sent the reply.

Organize email assignment

It is best to have clear roles and responsibilities for your team. Ideally, you could assign emails as otherwise teammates may start simultaneously working the same emails which leads to wasted time and possibly duplicate responses that can make you look unprofessional. In addition, users won't need to sort through the company's entire mailbox to find email relevant to them, and we can tell easily if someone is working on an email.

Outlook Groups has no shared folders or categories, so it is not possible to create an assignment system in Outlook. However, you can arrange a policy to use an external ticketing system with some extra steps you can reliably monitor the status of your company's email.

SBX integrates a full-fledged ticketing system into Outlook, so you can treat every email as a ticket meaning you can easily assign emails and track if they have been resolved.

Reply to the customer with the same address to which the email was sent

If you are sent a letter to, for example,, then you should reply from the same address. This way you can ensure that your company has a consistent and presentable means of communication. In addition, employees can easily take over from one another if needed. Furthermore, this ensures that when customers reply, their reply reaches the group inbox rather than an individual group member's inbox, which is important as it is useful for the whole group to have access to the whole email conversation. While we can include a copy to the group address in our reply hope that the customer replies to all, we can't rely on the customer replying to all.

Outlook allows you to send as the group by manually selecting the group email address in the from field. However, it requires some extra steps and can be inconvenient.

SBX has the option to automatically reply with the same address that the email was sent to.


We consider some important limitations that cause problems even if we diligently follow our best practices.

Can't track email lifecycle

You may find it useful to track the lifecycle of an email. When and who assigned, closed, or replied to an email. This information ensures accountability and can clear up any misunderstandings quickly.

Outlook Groups has no built-in way to assign emails, close emails or otherwise track an email's lifecycle. You can create and assign tickets in an external system but creating tickets can be a substantial amount of work, especially if the email request small tasks, creating tickets may take as long as the task. In addition, emails and tickets would be in separate systems so you can't easily find if you have missed an email that should have been turned into a ticket.

SBX offers a well-supported ticketing system, you can assign and close emails easily and later track an email's lifecycle.

Reliance on forwards

You would like to make an email known to your teammates as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

With Outlook Groups we recommend relying on a few people designated people forwarding to people who will work them from then on. This will lead to a lot of internal forwarding. Forwards are not ideal as, for one thing, you need to clean forwards of internal communication once you need an answer to the customer. In addition, once you forward it you will no longer know what happens to it.

SBX removes the need for forwarding as emails are instead assigned. Everyone with access rights can monitor all the group’s emails. Emails relevant to them will be sent to their inbox, and they can view their assigned email separately.

Difficult to coordinate

To collaborate effectively, you want to be able to share information quickly. You may want to organize email by categories that everyone on your team can see. For example, you may receive some important contracts that you would like to refer to often. It would be useful for the entire team to have a uniform way to find these emails quickly with a shared category.

Outlook Groups has no way to synchronize the state of users' inboxes. There is only a shared inbox with limited features. You cannot create shared categories or folders in the shared inbox and categories and folders are not synchronized across user inboxes. Therefore, you can't have an easily usable and coherent company-wide system for organizing email.

SBX offers shared categories that are synchronized across user inboxes.

No way to communicate about emails in your inbox

Often, you want to discuss emails with your team. For example, you may want to ask your superior for permission to give out a special discount, you may want advice from a co-worker or leave a comment when you delegate an email.

Outlook Groups has no convenient way to communicate about email with only your team. As such you need to either use a different channel altogether or discuss via separate email messages or forwards. However, if you use a different channel or a separate email thread, it will be difficult to find your internal discussion should your discussion with the customer continue later. Furthermore, if you use forwards to discuss with your team, then you need to be careful not to send your internal discussion to the customer when replying to them, so you need to manually remove internal discussion from emails if it is present.


Outlook Groups can be a viable way to manage your role-based email address despite significant limitations. For teams of 5 or fewer members an Outlook Shared Mailbox is most likely a better option but for teams of more than 5 Outlook Groups may be useful. If you follow our best practices, you can set up a process to reliably answer emails without much confusion. That being said, the best practices are time-consuming, and you will spend valuable time trying to overcome the limitations of Outlook Groups.

Learn how you can use SBX to take back control of your inbox and collaborate effectively in Outlook