Many organisations are moving from the traditional Microsoft Office 2016 product – that must be purchased, downloaded, managed and upgraded – to an Office 365 software subscription. It is always updated, available on any device, and perfect for a mobile workforce. As soon as a new version is released, it can be accessed as part of the service without paying an additional fee. Microsoft Azure provides infrastructure in the cloud, while Microsoft Dynamics 365 is your ERP and CRM in the cloud.
According to Microsoft, 120 million active users - 56% of all businesses – are currently using the commercial Office 365 product. Why?
1) Like Microsoft Office, but better
Most companies use Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, which all come with Office 365, including web versions of these applications. This means users can benefit from integration with their local Microsoft Office applications.
Microsoft Office 365 also provides Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Planner, Teams, Groups and more, with rich functionality across multiple applications. Then there’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 – a full ERP and CRM – all available through the Office 365 portal. And with integration to Microsoft Azure and even LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft), you can see the breadth of possibilities.
Compare competing products with specific Office 365 features and they stack up well. But if you look at the full Office 365 capability, there’s no comparison.
2) It’s great for mobile or temporary workers
Because Office 365 sits in the cloud, it can be accessed from anywhere. People working from home or on the road can access the same document versions as their office-bound colleagues without the palaver of emailing local versions. Temporary workers can be allocated company email addresses managed in O365 with unique management policies rather than housed on the Exchange server. Speaking of servers…
3) Avoid Exchange server costs, maintenance and upgrades
Accessing Office 365 and particularly Outlook via the cloud means all updates and security patches are taken care of, freeing up IT resources that would normally be dedicated to mailbox server maintenance, Exchange updates and the inevitable associated downtime and issues.
4) Show me the money
Accessing Office 365 as a service enables costs to be paid for from Operational expenses, saving capital reserve for marketing and other worthy purposes. Monthly fees are predictable based on your active users, making forecasts straightforward. On the revenue side of the balance sheet, productivity tools offer significant competitive advantage.
5) Microsoft are committed to Office 365
Microsoft has thrown the kitchen sink at Office 365 and continues to do so. Additionally, Microsoft established themselves in most companies back when Office was first released many moons ago, consequently most companies already run Windows, SQL Server, .Net applications and more. The trust with IT security is already there, given that Active Directory is at the core of many companies’ account management.
Now we are agreed that Office 365 is the answer to your prayers, what is in it?
Key features of Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 contains dozens of applications and features. Here are a few that can transform your organisation with the right approach.
SharePoint is a powerful collection of tools. Straight out of the box, SharePoint provides a perfectly acceptable experience but if you configure it and create a decent user interface, it can deliver serious productivity across your organisation.
You can use SharePoint to create applications with:
• Forms that capture data.
• Web pages to present information.
• Document Management to tag, share and control documents.
• Workflows to enable automation, e.g. approving a leave request form.
• Dashboards and reports to present data visually.
• Email integration and notifications.
• Active Directory (AD) integration to assign permissions.
• Video, audio or graphics: it’s all web content, delivered through SharePoint’s Content Management System.
• Websites: intranets, extranets or public-facing websites (public websites on Azure-hosted SharePoint or on-premises SharePoint).
In fact, SharePoint offers too many unique features to mention, plus thousands of third-party add-ons - a far cry from the glorified file server it often becomes. For solutions that require a mix of functionality, SharePoint is hard to beat.
Use Flow if you need to create a sequence of actions based on certain criteria. Flow allows you to set up all kinds of actions and can integrate with numerous applications. Want to know when a Twitter contact reaches 100+ followers, and then automatically add them to your Dynamics 365 email list? How about setting up a rule to automatically copy a Dropbox file over to OneDrive for Business? Flow offers limitless opportunities to automate tasks: you just need your imagination, some pre-configured connections, and you’re half way to automating repetitive tasks that waste time every day. As an added bonus, Flow is easy to use; and most people will be able to create Flows to suit their needs – not just the tech experts.
Microsoft Power Apps
PowerApps enables you to manage data by running apps – either ones that you’ve created yourself, or that someone else created and shared with you. Those apps can run on Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Alternatively, you can run them in a browser within Dynamics 365. You can create a variety of apps without knowing a single line of code.
Forms is a lightweight app that allows you to create surveys, quizzes and polls. You might use it to collect feedback, measure employee satisfaction or a host of other uses.
Groups let you create groups of people to share certain information with. For example a project team might want a central location for information. They can share documents, a calendar, an email inbox, a OneNote notebook, a Yammer group and a Planner task board all in one location. New members automatically get the permissions they need without bothering IT.
Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack; and is a revolutionary way of working. You can set up a Team and give them access to everything they need: content, tools, people and conversations – all in your Team workspace, PLUS:
1. Link to content you require with a tabbed interface.
2. Integrate feeds from different applications.
3. Get built-in access to SharePoint, OneNote and Skype for Business.
4. Work on documents, hold group chats or calls. Teams provides whatever you need for your Team, all in one place.
Microsoft are strongly backing Teams and have even introduced a free version to get you started.
A Strategy for Office 365
Because Office 365 is so complex, it’s essential to have a plan for how you’ll utilise it - a clear, conscious strategy around what you’ll use, when you’ll roll it out and to whom. Will you turn on everything right from the outset and watch the chaos or take a more measured approach?
Giving people access to everything can be a mistake, because it introduces them to a confusing smorgasbord of technologies that often have similar features. For communication alone you have email, Skype, messages in Yammer, in Teams, in Groups... the list goes on. On the other hand, restricting access to only email and OneDrive limits the benefit your organisation will get from Office 365, and if you do not provide people with the tools they need to do their work, they will find their own with all the associated risks of shadow IT.
"There's a baseline of value to switching to the cloud, especially if things were expensive to manage on premises, but the real value comes when you start changing your work processes to take advantage [of Office 365] to its full extent."
Craig Roth, VP, Gartner Research
The answer is different for each company. Most people start with the available features and decide how they’ll use each one. However, this is like buying a toolbox and deciding whether you’ll use the spanner or the screwdriver first. Instead, look at where your organisation is going. Get clear on what the vision is, then set your strategy accordingly.
Take a step back and look at all of the information holistically. Map out information categories, audiences, locations, file types and collaboration needs. Once you have a clear picture of what the organisation is working towards, you can then look at your Office 365 toolbox and see what fits, like in this simple table:
Once you complete your table, identify which Office 365 tools best meet your needs.
Some businesses find that they have identified your business problems and created a strategy but are still unsure how to address Office 365 and its many applications. In a Forrester survey, almost half of all respondents felt that the tools they had access to were too specific to be used effectively. The larger issue? Employees didn’t have a unified access point for the tools they needed.
Occasionally, a team member who is familiar with a particular feature pushes to bring it into their own business area, resulting in inconsistent adoption: part of the business might use Yammer, while another part uses Teams which can get messy.
Managing Office 365 with a Digital Workplace
One solution is an intranet or Digital Workplace - a central location that pulls in information and apps from different parts of Office 365 and helps guide users to the right tools for the job.
If you can present Microsoft Office 365 services to people in a straightforward way as part of their workday, it will encourage adoption and homogenise the tools that people use for certain tasks, minimising issues with shadow IT.
Office 365 is the business tool of choice for the world’s most successful companies - don’t miss out on the productivity gains it offers, start creating your plan to harness the benefits today.
Want to learn more? Explore the Office 365 Galaxy. Choose a use case or select an app by name and your personal spaceship will cross the void of space to the right information in an instant.
WebVine provides Microsoft Office 365 Consulting, Development, Support and Training.
Contact Webvine for your Office 365 needs today.