Maximize your Microsoft Office 365

Jul 5, 2018 by Brian Dunzweiler

There was a time when Microsoft Office was simply Word, Excel and PowerPoint—but that time has long since passed.

Today, your Microsoft Office 365 (O365) subscription provides you with numerous cloud-based applications beyond those three fundamentals; it’s now an enterprise’s wholistic productivity tool. OneDrive, Teams, PowerApps—there’s a lot at your fingertips. But most companies and users underutilize their O365 subscription because, at first glance, that plethora of apps can be overwhelming. It seems easier to avoid the confusion all together, right?

Office 365 is More Than the Traditional Office Suite

In truth, the potential of what you can do is far reaching: increase and encourage collaboration, visualize data in new and engaging ways, effectively stay on top of all those to-do’s. Plus, with all the money your company shells out for your subscription, it’s a financial drain to only use a fraction of your options.

In other words, it’s time to start maximizing your O365 potential (and if you haven’t guessed it yet, that’s what this article is going to help you do).

The first step is truly understanding the powerful tools that are at your disposal. This will help you understand what apps you should be using and how should you be using them.

Without further ado…

SharePoint and OneDrive

One of the most basic needs O365 can satisfy is file storage—SharePoint and OneDrive for Business comprise your two options.

But…when should you use which?

Ultimately, it comes down to who needs to access the documents you’re storing.

Sharepoint versus OneDrive

OneDrive for Business is best suited for individual use and personal work file storage. OneDrive for Business (not to be confused with the consumer version of OneDrive), is like a cloud-based folder for all your personal documents, although it can be accessed from desktop, browser or mobile app. Users also get great features like file version history and the ability to share files in a granular manner thanks to OneDrive for Business being backed by SharePoint.

SharePoint is the other side of the storage coin. Think of SharePoint as an internal website—in fact, it can even be used as a company’s intranet. SharePoint is a collaboration hot spot, great for team-based projects. Much more than OneDrive for Business, SharePoint is designed to facilitate communication and file sharing between members of a group with features like a team calendar, and document libraries.

Skype for Business, Teams and Yammer

Collaboration is also dependent on communication, and O365 offers three apps dedicated to fostering inter-communication: Skype for Business, Teams and Yammer.

Skype for Business, Teams and Yammer

For quick chats or conferencing, Skype for Business and Teams are your two options. Many have heard of both but struggle to articulate the difference. The truth? It’s not so black-and-white with these two. Typically, Skype for Business is the ideal platform for one-to-one and one-to-many chats, as well as for conference calls. However, these features will be rolled into Teams in the near future.

Teams, coupled with Skype for Business communication features, is intended to be your team collaboration hub. Features like conversation-based chatting, file-sharing, wikis, team OneNote and many other integrations aim to keep your team members in one app to get work done.

The other O365 communication platform is Yammer. Something of a corporate social media, Yammer creates Facebook-esque posts and is a space for more casual conversations. In Yammer, users can also easily see the various discussions occurring, which helps illustrate company connections and conversations.

Flow and PowerApps

Indeed, productivity is critical to business. So O365 offers Flow and PowerApps to optimize what you do and how you do it.

Sample Microsoft Flow Templates

Flow lets users create wizard-driven workflows. These workflows tie into any and all of your O365 apps but can also extend outside of the O365 platform. It operates on an “if this, then that” basis—automating various triggers. Most likely, workflows will originate from your O365 email, but they can also be driven by a host of other options, such as OneDrive for Business or SharePoint.

Microsoft PowerApps

The other application that will help increase your output is PowerApps. PowerApps is a low-code or code-free option for creating mobile applications to streamline simple, yet critical processes. Whether you start with an Excel worksheet or from scratch, you can create an application that other members of the company can download and use to safely interact with a data source.

Power BI

In continuing along the lines of data, there’s also Power BI, a data and analytics app that extends the advanced Power Query and Power Pivot features of Excel. Whereas Excel works well for analysis of grids of numbers, Power BI allows users to design data models and easily build compelling visuals and reports, reimaging the way users encounter or share data.

Planner and To-Do

Lastly, Planner and To-Do present two different options of a digital space for users to easily track tasks and set timelines.

Planner versus To-Do

Planner is a team-centric task management system. Users can assign members to their team’s plan, and then all members can post tasks related to the project, receive alerts about tasks assigned them and even create workflow tasks that automatically add criteria to your planner.

To-Do is the more individualized approach to organizing your tasks. It has a general To-Do list—which can be curated from your Outlook tasks or created within the app itself—but it also allows users to create more specific lists for individual projects. To-Do also breaks down your task list into daily task sheets, called My Day, and will even suggest tasks that should be added to your My Day list by learning from the tasks you add.

Conclusion

Plain and simple, O365 is the modern workplace platform.

Venturing beyond Word, Excel and PowerPoint, there are tons of applications at your disposal, which can optimize nearly every aspect of the work you do. While many options—SP, Delve, Teams—can heighten the ease with which co-workers communicate and collaborate, there’s also apps—To-Do, OneDrive for Business—designed to streamline individual work.

When you unlock the untapped potential of your O365 subscription, you can start working smarter, not harder.

We’ve only just scratched the surface on the key apps within O365 that are helping organizations run a more digital business. If you’d like to learn more and go deeper on anything O365, you should check out our Microsoft Immersion Experience.

HMB is one of the only partners in Central Ohio and Louisville Kentucky certified by Microsoft to provide this niche training.

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