By choosing to leverage the power and flexibility of Microsoft Office 365, your business is in fine company. Many of the most successful businesses in the world (and locally in your industry) are reaping the rewards of having made the same decision.
But the big question is – are you getting the most out of your Office 365 subscription? Many organizations take the step into Office 365 to move their email to the cloud, which is great, but then fail to take advantage of all the other amazing stuff that Office 365 has to offer. And it has so much to offer.
That is why we decided to run our ‘New Ways with Office 365’ webinar, to give you a rundown on all the latest features available in Office 365. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, here is a video of the replay:
Here’s a recap of what is discussed in the webinar:
What is Office 365?
Historically, we would have purchased a ‘perpetual license’ to own a copy of a particular version of the Office software to be installed onto our servers and computers inside our offices. These days, Office 365 is a cloud based subscription, whereby we pay a monthly fee to access these applications. Because the programs are web based, they are continuously being updated behind the scenes and we will always have access to the latest versions and updates of the Office software for as long as we pay for the subscription.
Most people have their first contact with the Office 365 suite through email, using the Outlook software, and are familiar with Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Perhaps you also regularly use Sharepoint and Skype for Business. Today we’d like to focus on the less well-known features of Office 365.
App Launcher and Web Versions of Office 365 Applications
From your Office 365 web portal, you can quickly access any of the web versions of the Office applications through the ‘App Launcher’. Click on the button on the top left of the Office 365 portal which shows a grid of dots and you can choose from a list of applications.
If you click on the three dots to the right of the application name, you can choose to open the application in a new tab or ‘learn more’ about the application.
Some of the web versions of the Office programs have slightly less functionality than the full desktop versions, but they are very useable and can be good for making quick changes when out of the office.
Many of the Office 365 programs have native mobile apps. Because they have been designed to use on a mobile device, the user interface will be different to that available on the desktop version and the features more simplistic. However, they can be really handy if we need to open an Office document to make last minute changes while out of the office. As well as the more well known programs such as Word and Excel, you’ll find handy apps like Office Lens. These apps are available on the App store for iPhone and Google Play for Android.
Sharepoint has improved in leaps and bounds in recent times. Once only used in the ‘big end of town’ recent improvements have made Sharepoint much more accessible and appealing to smaller organisations.
Microsoft has invested in the ‘Sharepoint Modern Interface’, making Sharepoint now responsive when used on various mobile devices, much more user friendly and feature rich. Simple things like moving a file between folders had been ridiculously hard, but now can be completed in the click of a button.
As an example of Sharepoint’s capabilities, many organisations using Sharepoint now no longer need a file server, as all file storage for the organisation is in the cloud. Communication sites can be set up as a method of communicating internally. As well as being attractive and easy to use, they are also easy to manage on the back end.
If you have looked at Sharepoint in the past and decided it didn’t meet your needs, it is worth revisiting and assessing Sharepoint again in its current form.
Microsoft Flow is similar to programs such as Zapier and Ift, which enables multiple separate applications to be connected. For example, a set of rules and triggers can be set up in Flow so that attachments on an Outlook email will automatically be saved into a folder in OneDrive. It’s not limited to Microsoft programs – Flow will enable integrations between a large number of external programs, such as Facebook or Twitter, as well.
We personally use Flow to connect our company CRM (ConnectWise) to Hubspot, which manages our marketing automation. Ben uses Flow to set up ‘notes to self’ within Outlook without actually opening the Outlook app.
Microsoft Bookings simplifies how customers book and schedule appointments through a web based interface. Using a customisable web page, it shows clients and prospects the available dates, times, services and consultants and allows them to book, change and cancel the booking themselves. The application can also send reminders, and has a direct integration with Outlook calendars.
We all know what a form is – a series of fields in which we enter information. Microsoft Forms enables us to create electronic forms and send to people to capture information. For example, maybe you want to survey your clients or staff. We use Microsoft Forms in our business to check-in items for repair into our Workshop. With Forms, we can create basic forms, or make them a little more complicated with conditional fields. Forms easily integrate with the other Office applications, or you could use Flow to setup an integration with an external program.
Based on a Kanban method of task management, Planner works in a similar way to web based programs like Trello. It’s not a project management program (like Microsoft Project), but a way of organising tasks within an organisation or department. Task details are entered in a card, and the card can be moved between lists/buckets. The tasks can be colour coded, categorised, allocated a due date and a team member. With the ability to use across multiple devices and email notifications, Planner is a great way to visually keep track of where everyone in the team is up to on a particular job.
Microsoft StaffHub is designed to enable employees to manage and schedule rosters. The app can be installed on a mobile device, so even staff without access to a computer can utilise the features of StaffHub. Using the app, staff can read company announcements and communicate with other employees, swap shifts on rosters, and access training and onboarding information.
Like a corporate version of YouTube, Microsoft Stream is a secure video library for use within your organisation. These days, we’ve all realised the value of video as an extremely powerful knowledge transfer tool and it’s becoming a dominant form of content on the internet. Stream allows you to easily upload videos to a secure site, then categorise and present the video content and it’s great for keeping a library of team training videos and shared knowledge. At Grassroots IT, we use it as part of our onboarding process, with a video to welcome each of our new employees. We have an array of training videos, some quick how-to clips and recordings of some long, indepth training sessions with external consultants. It can be really beneficial to use the training videos to then create a written procedure. It’s very easy to create videos these days – most of ours are just created with an iPhone or a screen recording using SnagIt.
These days, many work teams (including ours) cross geographical locations and cultures. Microsoft Teams is a program designed to help collaboration between team members even if they aren’t working from the same office using various features, including text chat, calls, and virtual meetings, as well as shared file storage, and integration with Planner, Skype for Business, Sharepoint and other Office 365 programs. At this stage, the Teams program feels a bit “version 1” but we have no doubt it will evolve in the near future and become a really useful tool as it evolves. If nothing else, if you don’t yet use chat software (such as Slack) it might be worth giving the chat function on Teams a go as a starting point.
While we all have plenty of data in our organisations, it’s not particularly useful unless the data is transformed into information and business intelligence from which we can make informed business decisions. Power BI creates a visual representation of information based on one or more data sources. For example, you could bring in information from your financial software, such as Xero, and combine in with data from your email marketing software, such as Mailchimp, and create a map which highlights all your clients by location, spend and by degree of engagement with your marketing, so you can get a deeper insight into where your most profitable customers are coming from. While it can be a little more complicated than the other programs mentioned, Power BI can be an extremely powerful tool and is well worth investigating. There are some good tutorials online to help you gain a better understanding of it.
PowerApps allow for the rapid development of custom business applications with little to no coding. This is more for internal use within your organisation, rather than something for your clients or to sell (and make a billion dollars ;)). The apps can be delivered through a web page or a native app and can integrate with the Office 365 suite, as well as non-Microsoft custom applications that you may use in your business. One way we could use PowerApps at Grassroots IT would be to use the workshop form (as mentioned above in the Forms section), use our mobile phone to scan the QR code and scan the equipment, then automatically bring in information about the equipment from third party vendors, such as HP or Dell.
We had some great questions from the audience during our webinar. Here are a few Q&As we discussed:
Q: Would Flow work to import orders from customers onto our own database?
A: Hi, as long as there are integrations for the database that may be possible. There is quite an extensive list of systems that you can use with Flow these days
Q: Can people attach documents to the response in Forms?
A: Microsoft are currently working on the ability to upload document, images etc to Form responses.
Q: Is Stream the same as Sway?
A: Stream and Sway are slightly different animals. Sway is designed as a tool to make it simple to combine text and media to make a presentable website, whereas Stream really is a secure, corporate YouTube style of product. You can import your video from stream into your Sway presentations though!
Q: Can Power BI views developed, for example, by a finance team be served up to certain users based on their role in the organisation?
A: Yes. There is some good control in permissions with relation with how you can control access to PowerBI presentations.
Q: Can some of these Office 365 apps be also used by staff who do not have office 365 license? i.e. if someone has the old-school desktop license?
A: For staff to access these apps, they will need valid Office 365 licence and it would depend on what form of Office license they have. However, this may depend on the circumstances – for example, if you create a form in MS Forms, other people will be able to view your form, even if they’re not an Office 365 user.
Q: Does Office 365 have an effective CRM app or is it spread across a number of apps?
A: Microsoft Dynamics CRM is their dedicated CRM product. It can be purchased as stand alone subscription, but it integrates with the Office 365 suite (and it is being brought into the Office 365 model). It is a big and full featured service, so you would need to bring in an implementation specialist to ensure you get it right. Coming down a level, Microsoft Outlook does have a CRM module that you can use.
Q: Hi, after just upgrading to business 365, can I integrate my old 365 account?
A: We’re going to give you a cautious “yes” to this question, but it’s probably best to send through specific details so that we can ensure the integration is done correctly and you don’t lose any data.
Q: I bought my Office 365 subscription through GoDaddy. Does this mean access to certain apps would be limited?
A: You may need to check exactly which type of Office 365 subscription you have, as there are different plans available and they will include different applications.
We hope you were able to learn about some the latest features of Office 365. Are you making the most of your Office 365 subscription? Download our checklist to see how many of the latest features you are utilising.
If you need any help working out how best to use Office 365 in your organisation, make a time with our Client Success Manager for a free half hour consultation.