Businesses large and small are continuing to adopt Office 365 for collaboration at a fast rate, but most businesses don’t use many of the Office 365 tools and applications that could benefit them, leaving dollars and productivity on the table.
The number of Office 365 business users continues to grow strongly, and Office 365 is often cited as the most popular productivity suite and cloud app used in the workplace (by number of users). However, according to research by Skyhigh Networks, many businesses on Office 365 primarily only use OneDrive, Outlook, and the basic Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Also, in companies of over 100 employees who are on Office 365, less than one-third of the employees are reported to actively use the many collaborative tools Office 365 provides. We find this to be true with our customers as well.
There are many reasons for this but nonetheless many businesses on Office 365 aren’t using it to their full benefit and aren’t making the most out of their Office 365 investment.
That’s why in this piece, we uncover how businesses can fully leverage Office 365 for collaboration and get more out of their investment, boost productivity, lower organizational and IT costs, and improve the way they work at the same time.
1. Understand the tools Office 365 provides and how to best use them
The Good: Office 365 comes with a myriad of tools that can make work easier.
The Bad: The functional offerings of Office 365 tools can be overwhelming and it is often hard to understand what these tools do and how your business can benefit from them.
We wrote a quick overview on Office 365 tools and summarized a few below, but the point is that many of these tools can absolutely benefit your business and employees so we recommend learning more about them and understanding which ones can address your needs.
Yammer nicknamed the “Facebook for Businesses” is a communication tool that is like a social network for your employees and business. It also provides the ability to attach files to a post, use hashtags to make posts easily searchable, and to create groups/teams for collaboration.
Skype for Business– allows you to send an instant message, initiate audio or video conference calls, and meetings, particularly useful for businesses that have offices and customers in different locations and employees that work remotely.
MS Teams– is a chat-based workspace. You can communicate in real-time on mobile and desktop, enabling teams to work together via one-on-one chat, group chat, file sharing, and more. It helps keep communication in one place and reduces the clutter of email.
Summary: Office 365 offers various communication tools for different forms of communication, but all help improve the way businesses communicate, especially those that still rely on email and shared folders.
Communication and collaboration are often interchangeable, but the Office 365-based collaboration tools mentioned below are more like digital workspaces where businesses can keep their working documents, projects, etc., all in one place.
Exchange online – provides a central place for all your emails, calendars, contacts and tasks.
SharePoint – allows team members to manage documents, work on projects, co-author documents, automate forms and other workflows, track tasks, and manage timelines, and much more. SharePoint is a powerful tool and a great starting point for growing businesses because it helps store, organize, search, find, manage, and collaborate in one place.
Summary: Office 365 provides intranet and digital workspaces, mainly SharePoint, where your business and employees can get organized and collaborate together in one place.
Power BI can bring your data to life with visuals and interactive reports. You can connect to your SQL or Access database or even an Excel spreadsheet to create reports and dashboards without the help of IT or database experts.
There are tools that we haven’t mentioned: Microsoft Planner to manage tasks, Power Apps to easily build custom apps, and many more. The number of Office 365 tools out there can be overwhelming, but that shouldn’t stop you from learning more about these tools and their uses. These tools are powerful and easy-to-use.
2. Bring your Office 365 apps together in one place
Once you have the tools you need or if you are already using various Office 365 tools, you can easily bring those tools together in one place. Powerful intranet and digital workspace solutions can integrate with Office 365 so that you have all the tools and everything else you need in one place. Rather than opening and closing various applications, you can access them from one place. This allows for a seamless, unified, and time saving experience.
Consider using SharePoint and other SharePoint-based products to have a consolidated view of all the applications that Office 365 provides. SharePoint allows you to:
- Plug in the individual apps on a page so that you can use them without navigating away from SharePoint, or
- Pull information from various tools to create a dashboard of information at your fingertips
There are many SharePoint-based products out there that integrate with Office 365 and other business application out-of-the-box.
3. Use Office 365 to maximize your disparate applications and systems
It is common for companies of all sizes to have invested in a variety of business systems to fulfill their growing needs. And many of these systems are added on as a point in time solution for their growing needs. As they grow, businesses can no longer rely on these systems, but find themselves stuck with these tools. Sound familiar?
- You may be using different applications for sales, finance, CRM, project management, HR management, and reporting
- You may have documents and reports from these applications stored in different places
- You may be manually consolidating reports generated from each system
Consolidating disparate systems and reports is quite an overhaul and expensive, and many businesses are understandably reluctant to do anything about it. However, continuing to use these disparate applications can be a headache as well.
Office 365 tools can consolidate your business applications, data, and reporting. Like point #2 above, SharePoint and SharePoint-based products can bring your applications together. Power BI can turn your data and reporting from these systems into easy to understand graphs and visuals. Then teams can share and communicate this information through Yammer or Teams. Bringing your applications in one place will help you get more out of your existing investments, not just Office 365.
4. Use PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps allows you to create your own custom apps easily without having to write any code. You can create an app quickly to solve a pressing business problem or specific data need. For example, if you have an Excel spreadsheet on OneDrive that various users are updating, you can create a mobile app that will let you view and track the data when you are on the go.
Power Apps connects to your systems and provides pre-built templates. The app can be published for the web or for mobile devices.
This is an extremely powerful and underutilized tool that your business can easily use.
5. Fully embrace and migrate to the cloud
Many companies that already are on Office 365, haven’t fully embraced the cloud. They are still hesitant or resource and time constrained to completely move their documents and applications to the cloud. Office 365 has strong security. Also, the benefits of the cloud often outweigh your worries and time it takes to move to the cloud. So, spend the time and investment to fully move to the cloud, and reap the benefits of storing everything in one secure place, having your teams communicate and collaborate on one common platform, reducing your overhead, operating more efficiently, and saving time on updating computers, finding documents, and maintaining your in-house security and infrastructure. Also, Microsoft FastTrack can provide resources and tools needed for your migration to the cloud. You may even qualify for a personal remote assistant.
6. Use it as a launch point for your mobile workforce
More and more companies have employees that work in different locations, have flexible work from home arrangements, travel frequently, and have work life balance needs so that they can work at anytime from anywhere. It has become more important than ever for companies to provide the tools to accommodate its ever growing mobile workforce to not only meet changing workforce needs, but also to improve your business productivity and stay in line with the competition.
Encourage your staff to use the mobile solutions that are offered through Office 365. Once they do, they will have access to all documents, policies, calendars, and directories no matter where they are or what device they are using. They can access applications, collaborate with colleagues or clients who are hundreds of miles away, and attend meetings from anywhere and on any device.
7. Simplify your IT Management
Leverage the benefits Office 365 provides to simplify your IT management. When you use cloud solutions you don’t have to manage IT in-house. For example, with Office 365, there is no need to keep track of new versions of the software and different versions on different computers and systems. This is just one example. By having Office and fully leveraging the cloud, your IT infrastructure and maintenance needs are drastically lessened. Take advantage of this to free up time and resources to focus on business growth.
8. Increase employee usage and adoption of Office 365 Tools
An obvious one, but the more your employees use the Office 365 tools, the greater the benefit. Office 365 tools improve communication, collaboration, and productivity, but you can’t maximize these results if employees are not fully utilizing these tools together. Below are some general tips on how to increase usage and adoption of Office 365.
- Phased approach – Before implementing or deciding on which Office 365 tool to use, be clear on the goals you seek to achieve. For example, are you using Yammer to generate more ideas, keep everyone in the know, or to improve the speed and quality of communication? Divide your overall goal into chunks of manageable phases, each with its own focus – communications, training, forms routing /processing, and project /task management. Start with pressing needs and pain points, and the associated Office 365 tool and feature to help you address these needs.
Another approach is that rather than promoting the product or tool to all, select a group that has the highest need for a particular tool, such as collaborating on documents. Then continue to adopt the tool group by group so you can better manage and monitor success.
- Advocates – Identify a few influential people in the organization like managers, business stakeholders, and employees who will energize the movement, set an example, and motivate others to follow.
- Training – It’s a good idea to demonstrate the features and uses of Office 365 to the users so that they know how to navigate the system to get the most out of it from the get go. You could hold group training and learning sessions or simply send short how-to videos online that your employees can watch when they have the time.
These are just a few key ways you can get more out of your Office 365 investment to propel your business. Office 365 has a myriad of tools and benefits that many companies don’t take full advantage of. All it takes is some education, time, and some help. But the investment is well worth it because of the time, costs, and resources saved and productivity gained.
If you want to learn more on how you can get more out of your Office 365 or need help in achieving any of the points above, feel free to email us email@example.com. We are here to help.