Migrating traditional distribution groups to Office 365 Groups

Migrating traditional distribution groups to Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Group adoption has increased over period of time and there has been considerable understanding about how and where to use Office 365 Groups.  However, if you are one of those organizations that have not yet started using Office 365 Groups, I would highly recommend to start them now because

  1. Shared Mailbox – Unlike distribution lists, where emails resides in individual mailbox, Office 365 Groups uses shared mailbox which provides newly joined members access to history of emails and content that predates their membership. With a Distribution Group, new members only see discussions starting from when they joined
  2. Discoverable – Office 365 Groups are discoverable for users within your Office 365 tenant. That makes it easy for people in your organization to search for a topic name and/or description and join any related groups.
  3. Self Service – Users can easily create or request for access Office 365 Groups based on their permissions. Creating Distribution Groups, as well as adding and removing members, is usually done by the organization’s Exchange administrators on behalf of the users.
  4. Collaboration – Users have access to shared calendars, document library, OneNote notebook, etc. for collaboration needs beyond email. In case of distribution list, assorted efforts are required to form a collaborative platform.

However, with vast number of distribution groups created for disparate reasons, it was difficult for organizations to drive end-user adoption for Office 365 Groups.  So Microsoft released this new functionality to transform traditional Distribution Groups to Office 365 Groups and have recently added two sets of tools to meet this request.

Exchange Admin Center 

Microsoft is rolling out  a change to the Exchange Admin Center to help remind Office 365 administrators about the advantages of Office 365 Groups. When administrators begin to create a new Distribution Group, they’ll be taken to the Office 365 Group creation page and encouraged to create a group there.

  1. Exchange Admin CenterLogin to Exchange Admin Center and navigate to recipients -> Groups.
  2. Click on “Upgrade to Office 365 Groups” icon.
  3. On the information dialog, choose Yes to confirm the upgrade.
  4. If the distribution group is eligible to be migrated, then the distribution list will be converted to an Office 365 group. See the table below for distribution list eligibility for migration.
    1. If the distribution list isn’t eligible a dialog appears with the information that the group can’t be migrated.
    2. If the distribution list is eligible, but there’s a failure during migration, the distribution list won’t be changed.

PowerShell – You can also download PowerShell scripts from here to migrate the Distribution Lists to Groups in bulk.

Distribution Lists transformation to Office 365 Groups has an eligibility criteria. The following distribution lists are not eligible for Office 365 Groups Migration.

  1. On-premise managed distribution list.
  2. Nested distribution lists. Distribution list either has child groups or is a member of another group.
  3. Moderated distribution list.
  4. Distribution lists with send on behalf settings.
  5. Distribution lists hidden from address lists.
  6. Distribution lists with member RecipientTypeDetails other than UserMailbox, SharedMailbox, TeamMailbox, MailUser.

All distribution lists with member join or depart restriction as Closed will be migrated as Private

Microsoft has not enabled any migration of Security Groups to Office 365 Groups as yet and I am sure that whenever that happens, it might end up dirty for Exchange and Active Directory Admins. Also, for customers with a hybrid infrastructure, migration will work for the Distribution Groups that are based in Office 365; but not for those based in the on-premises infrastructure. You’ll need to delete or rename the on-premises Distribution Group and create a new Office 365 Group in Office 365 using the same membership.

Office 365 Groups adoption has always faced equal criticism as appreciation. And this utility might expedite adoption and thus stream


Office 365 Planner

Office 365 Planner

Microsoft made Office 365 Planner generally available in June 2016. And this product would be rolled out to eligible users who fall under Office 365 Enterprise E1–E5, Business Essentials, Premium and Education subscription plans. According to Office Blog, “The addition of Planner to the Office 365 lineup introduces a new and improved way for businesses, schools and organizations to structure teamwork easily and get more done. With Planner, teams can create new plans; organize, assign and collaborate on tasks; set due dates; update statuses and share files, while visual dashboards and email notifications keep everyone informed on progress.”

Having said that, you can login to your Office 365 tenant and click on the app launcher. If Planner has been released on your tenant, you should be able to see in the app launcher.

Planner-Office 365


With tools like Wunderlist to manage personal task list with limited collaboration and Project Server to manage large portfolio of projects in planned and defined manner. Planner holds the middle ground as an end to end work management tool by leveraging simplicity  of managing a task list with flexibility to work with ad hoc teams and projects with extreme agility. If you have ever used Trello, ASANA or Basecamp, you will find Planner to fall under similar cadre of work management tools except that Planner is tightly integrated with other Office 365 line of products like Groups, Exchange, etc.

Let’s see how Planner works. I will go ahead and create a fictitious plan for migration of mail server to Office 365.

Create a Plan using Planner

You can choose to make this plan public or keep this plan private by invite only. When you create a new plan, it will create subsequent Office 365 group.

Once the project is created, you can add more buckets to the project.  The +Add new bucket appears when the view is “Group by” Buckets.  I have added two buckets namely Communication and Governance.


Planner Blog

Let’s start adding some To do’s . I can start creating and assigning tasks by entering task name and clicking on Add task.

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As you can see, I have added few tasks and assigned it to a user. I can make modifications to this task and assign a label as well. I can add a checklist for each task that can appear in the preview.

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So this shows the board tab where you can add tasks with checklist, description and images.

If you look at the Charts tab, you will see awesome graphical representation for your task status’s. The status web part  shows color coded depiction of each tasks by their status. The members web part shows by each user. If you click on color on status or members web part, it will refresh the Task pane with grouped view based on what the user clicked on.

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For instance, I clicked on the red on the status and the Task pane grouped by due date. You can also group by assigned to, progress and buckets. Planner Blog 6

Planner is built upon Office 365 groups and is very well integrated with that functionality. The eclipse expands additional functionality as shown below.

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Clicking on conversation would open up conversations view for that project. You can send / receive communication to other members of the project.  
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Whats coming up ? Microsoft is planning for the following features to add to Planner.

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External user access: Allow external users to access Planner.

Multiple user per tasks: I guess this is significantly missing functionality that should be made available soon.

Mobile Apps: Mobile Apps for Windows Phone, iOS & Android.

In the world full of Trello’s, ASANA and BaseCamp, how would Planner fare?

  • Unlike other tools,  Planner is dependent on Office 365 subscription and is not available as a standalone product. But that should not hinder adoption if your organization has invested in Office 365.
  • Multiple user assignment is lacking, but as Microsoft highlighted, it should be soon rolled out.
  • Unavailability of Mobile Apps is an issue. Microsoft shared, they should be out soon.


If you are invested in Office 365 and has a business case for work management tool, Planner is the best bet for you due to its seamless integration with other Office 365 products. If you are planning to roll out Office 365, this could be a value add in your business case to get your roll out moving. Planner, just like all other Office 365 products will mature into a enterprise wise tool once these voids are filled.