What are the benefits of using Office 365 for Business?
Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud toolset.
When you subscribe, you get access to Outlook and the original Office suite of Excel, Word and PowerPoint, along with an additional suite of new Microsoft apps.
All apps within the Office 365 suite are designed to work online anywhere, and on any device.
So, whether you’re working from a PC on a desk at the office, a laptop on the train, an Apple iMac at home, or using your mobile phone, or any other touch device - if you’re connected to the internet, you can get to all your work stuff.
In fact, even if you’re offline you can still get to your files when using Office 365’s Sync tool.
What is in Office 365?
You get more than just the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Outlook etc), depending on the plan your organisation subscribes to, you’ll have access to a wide variety of tools and apps.
Many SME businesses subscribe to the Business Premium plan in order to get the full suite of apps.
To help put some context to how you’d use these apps in your company, I’ve outlined some scenarios and examples I’ve seen in action using Office 365’s core apps.
Microsoft Office Apps in Office 365
Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook will be familiar to most users. With Office 365 you now have access to an online version of the desktop counterpart.
Although the online versions are somewhat cut-down versions of the desktop version, the software is still extremely functional and easy to use. Brilliant if you are out of the office and need to make a quick edit to a document.
There are a few new steps you would need to become familiar with, particularly around saving and version control, but nothing that some quality training can’t shed glorious light on.
SharePoint and OneNote for Easy Collaboration
Other apps like OneNote and SharePoint have been around quite a long time but have suffered from poor marketing and past functional flaws, so their value is greatly underestimated.
oth apps offer amazing capabilities for collaborating with others, either internally or externally to your organisation.
SharePoint provides a platform to build engaging and collaborative workspaces and intranets. Moving on from its murky past, SharePoint is now easier to use, better to look at, interact with, and way easier to administer and maintain.
We’ve helped many clients customise their intranet to include content like:
automating workflows for document reviews and approval
health & safety incident and risk/hazard forms
annual leave and training requests
newsfeeds for staff to share news and celebrate milestones
workspaces to collaborate on files and access templates
access to key policies and forms
lists to manage new starter inductions, first aid certification and emergency contacts
There are heaps of new features and add-ins to help create a dynamic company intranet that’s the go-to place for employees to find and share files and information.
OneNote is a simple to use digital note-taking app. It’s both a Desktop app and Online app that sync your notes so you can use OneNote from your PC or mobile phone, or any device that has internet connectivity.
You can share notebooks with others to collaborate as a team. Some of the most successful examples of collaboration in OneNote I’ve seen are:
managing meeting agendas and minutes
creating template forms for staff to complete at client site visits
capturing frequently asked questions (and answers) for the team to read and refine
screen clipping website pages for competitor research
photographing issues onsite and staff back at the office actioning them immediately
There are also heaps of reasons to use OneNote for personal use (as opposed to collaborative note taking with colleagues or associates).
I personally find it amazing for storing passwords (in a password protected page), and I’ve got a bunch of pages that are just random ideas or links to websites I want to review later.
The search tool is great, so it takes next to no time to locate my notes. It’s also a great tool to store research, maps and itineraries for when you travel.
OneDrive for Business for Personal File Storage
OneDrive gives each staff member a place to store files that aren’t ready to be shared on SharePoint or in Teams. It’s the perfect place to start a draft or a document that only you need to access or share when you’re ready to share.
Many people use it like a Dropbox. By storing a file in OneDrive, you can access it from any device – so it’s mega useful when you travel and want assurance that you can get to your file from anywhere.
What is Teams?
Teams is a place to collaborate with other departments and teams across your organisation, as well as contractors, clients and others that are external to the company.
It’s great for working on projects, as it keeps conversations, files and meetings related to the topic together in one place.
Teams brings together an activity feed, and real-time chat feed, as well as quick access to your calendar, shared files and systems.
You can also manage meetings in Teams, using voice and video calling to conference with others, share screens, collaborate on documents, whiteboard ideas, and so much more.
I’ve recently seen some brilliant Teams in action:
an Admin department moving all their internal team communications and meetings out of Outlook and into Teams for transparency, and task collaboration
managers managing staff performance and KPIs in Teams, where regular progress updates and achievements are discussed and celebrated on the activity and conversation feed
engineers discussing jobs and sharing knowledge and expertise for quicker resolution to customer issues
project managers creating ‘Teams of One’ to manage their workload and the various project streams, as well as record meetings and manage change control
What is Planner?
Planner is an app that can be integrated into Teams or used on its own. It’s a beautifully simple task management tool that displays boards of to-do lists and actions that the team (or individual) needs to progress.
There are several views to help manage the pending, in progress, completed and overdue tasks – tasks can also be allocated to staff members and a timeframe set for completion date.
One of my clients has their active jobs board displayed on a giant touch screen wall – all new jobs are logged in Planner and available engineers are allocated the maintenance job.
The engineer receives the task in a pop-up on their phone, and proceeds to complete the job. Back at the warehouse everyone can see the outstanding jobs on the board, and follow them up, as required.
How can I use a combination of Office 365 Apps to get my job done?
All of these Office 365 apps are super useful individually, but the real power comes when you utilise a combo of tools to take advantage of Microsoft’s integration features.
Here’s the process I followed and the apps I used recently to complete a major piece of work:
I joined a Teams Meeting online where we collaborated in real-time using OneNote (to run the agenda and record minutes) and Planner (to allocate tasks and actions).
Each of the meeting attendees was working from a different office, meeting room, or from home – but we could all see and edit the same tools and docs directly from Teams.
Over the next few days, I checked and progressed my tasks in Planner via my phone, laptop and Outlook Email notifications. I then scheduled time by importing tasks to my Outlook Calendar.
I’d already been working towards one of my key tasks (to update a User Guide) by dumping ideas and links to useful website articles into a OneNote Notebook.
I’d previously pasted a link to the old user guide (stored in SharePoint) and inserted some screenshots and typed up some blurb, ready to add to my document at a later stage.
From my OneDrive I created a new draft user guide in Word Online. It was easy to start the initial draft using the ideas jotted in my OneNote, and I quickly progressed the document by copy/pasting screenshots and the text I’d already written.
When the draft guide was ready to share, I uploaded it to the relevant team channel in Teams and asked my colleagues for suggestions and feedback.
We had an informal Teams meeting and made edits to the user guide together, all at the same time, using Word Online’s co-authoring feature.
I later sent on a copy to my client by logging in to their Teams as a Guest and uploading the user guide to a conversation.
I then received immediate feedback, likes and queries – all contained in the relevant Teams Channel.
Looking at all that work above, it’d be reasonable to think that I must’ve been bouncing from app to app to app (and the rest!), but the reality was a totally seamless experience for me.
There was no wasted time spent opening apps and remembering logins or passwords, instead I accessed all the tools I needed directly from Teams.
A true digital workspace. And of course, by using Office 365 cloud apps, collaborating with my workmates is a doddle, everything is automatically backed up and version controlled.