Making Teams More Efficient with Microsoft Office 365
One of my favorite technology products is Microsoft Office 365. A comprehensive post about the benefits of Microsoft Office 365 would be way too much to absorb in a single article but read on to get some of the high points of why your teams should be using Microsoft Office 365 instead of G-Suite, or even Microsoft’s legacy licensing model.
It’s What We Know, but Better
Love or hate Microsoft, there is little dispute that Microsoft Office is the king of productivity. We grew up with it. It helped us move from the age of pushing paper to the digital age. It has become a staple in our lives – most of us use Microsoft Office every day without ever thinking about the big picture of what it does for us. It helps us create, communicate, and collaborate. It makes us more efficient as a society and an economy. We use it to make products, communicate with our teams, crunch the numbers, and sell our ideas and services. Just think about it. Where would we be without Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook?
It’s true that Google has made inroads with their productivity solution with their G-Suite. They were able to make rapid success in this area by coupling free access with the innovation of office applications made available through the cloud. But Microsoft responded to this innovation in a big way, and has done a great job of moving these applications to the cloud which was the main value proposition for G-Suite. It hasn’t always been peachy – Microsoft’s rollout of OneDrive has been a little rocky. But just like all great American companies, they fixed it up, made it better, and cleaned up the mess. Today, Office 365 is robust, reliable, and eclipses G-Suite in terms of the value for business customers who want to get what they pay for. It’s online like G-Suite, but one of the great benefits of Office 365 is that their premium plans also include the desktop versions of the productivity suite. The desktop applications are what keep serious business users productive. They are snappy, feature-rich, and familiar. That goes a long way with serious business users.
Office 365 is everywhere you are. Technology is so prevalent these days that gone are the days of just having your PC at the office where you do your work. Most of us have multiple devices scattered around. One Office 365 subscription allows you to use all of the applications available under your subscription on up to 5 different devices. For example, I have a desktop machine at work, a desktop machine at home, a laptop I lug around to my clients and my smartphone. Microsoft Office 365 keeps all of my emails, contacts, calendars, and files synced up across all of these devices. If I make an edit to one file on my laptop, I can resume editing it when I get back to my office without having to transfer files. If I’m at a business meeting and I make an appointment on my phone, it’s there when I go to look at my day on one of my desktops. This is cloud computing at its best. Having the ability to work anywhere with any device is a very powerful value proposition and makes us much more efficient.
With Office 365, applications are now available online, so you can access your documents and the online versions of the productivity applications from any PC that you log into with your Microsoft credentials. So, even if you get caught without a device, someone around you will have one that you can use to check your email on the web.
It’s also mobile. You can access all of your applications on your mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. I just caught myself – while writing this article – reading and responding to an email with my laptop and Outlook open right in front of me. They really have made their product useable on mobile.
You Always Have the Latest
Have you ever used a retail version of Office for years only to find out that you no longer knew how to use the software when you finally decided to upgrade it five years later? Microsoft Office 365 solves this problem by releasing new features gradually over time instead of huge updates all at once. With your subscription, you get access to all of these new features as they are released. It’s a more natural way to manage change. Although some updates are bigger than others, you get access to them at no additional cost – the cost of new features is included in your subscription. What this means for the business savvy is that you always have access to all of the productivity tools that your competitors do, making sure that your competition doesn’t have a technological advantage.
Enterprise Class Email
Office 365 Business Premium also includes Exchange Online which is the cloud version of Exchange, Microsoft’s Enterprise-Class Email, and personal information server. It used to be, to have the benefits of Exchange, you had to have nerdy administrators and expensive servers installed at your business location. This was simply out of reach or not fiscally available to most small businesses. Now, Microsoft keeps both the expensive servers and nerdy administrators, and small businesses can take advantage of the economy of scale provided by cloud computing by letting Microsoft handle it. Exchange Online has spam filtering built-in. And they have over a 99.99% uptime over the last three years. Rock-solid.
A good advantage of using Exchange over other technologies like IMAP and POP, and web-based email like Gmail, is that Exchange doesn’t just handle email – it synchronizes your calendar, contacts, too. Across all of your devices seamlessly and with minimal configuration. IMAP, POP, and Gmail just handle Email. Exchange synchronization is seamless – the information you have on one device is what you’ll find on all your other devices, almost immediately.
We are so connected with each other these days that we really do need to be responsible for letting people know when we’re not available. This is when most people like to use an auto-responder. It’s such a simple feature, but it has been out of reach for small businesses using IMAP or POP for their email account access. It’s available with Exchange Online. You can turn it on to let people know when you’re coming back “on the grid.”
The premium versions of Office 365 also contain applications that allow teams to collaborate effectively – Skype and Microsoft Teams. Skype is Microsoft’s instant messaging, presence, and screen sharing tool. Like texting, instant messaging makes us more efficient by helping us to quickly share information while avoiding the overhead of a phone call and a conversation to convey it. Teams love it, and it’s available everywhere too – smartphone, desktop, tablet.
Microsoft Teams is one of Microsoft’s newer applications that aims to revolutionize the way teams collaborate. It provides an environment where users can organize information and collaborate on content in real-time on “channels” that they can subscribe to. So you might be on the operations channel for example, and see messages that are only relevant to operations, but not get messages from a different group on the accounting channel. You can spring up new channels for special projects, make channels for leadership, finance, operations – whatever helps you collaborate efficiently without creating information overhead for others. This is the way out of the “Reply All” culture that is prevalent in many companies.
Tasks, Teams, To-Do, Yammer, Sway, StaffHub, Sharepoint, Planner, People, Forms, Flow, Delve, Bookings. Some of these are add-ons, but most of these are already available in the premium versions of your subscriptions. These are all purpose-built applications that help you do certain things very efficiently. It is worthwhile to explore these apps to see how they can help your business. And if you’re looking for serious business applications like CRM and ERP, check out the Dynamics 365 suite.
We’re Here To Help
I hope it is clear to you from these points that Microsoft Office 365 is a great fit for your team. It isn’t completely administration free, though. Most small businesses need some assistance to get set up – getting your Emails routed to Office 365, setting up the initial environment, and migrating your existing email, calendars, and contacts to the platform. You’ll also need some assistance with routine day-to-day tasks like setting up new users, deauthorizing old users, assigning licenses, and so on. You’ll also need cloud-to-cloud backups, sometimes called SaaS (software-as-a-service) backups. Millcore Computing is here to help you navigate your path to adopting Microsoft Office 365 and help you move your production environment to the cloud. We can migrate your existing emails, contacts, and calendars to Office 365. We can help you get the most out of your subscription by setting up things like password policies, integrating Office 365 with any on-site servers you have, and educating your team on the many other features that are available to help your teams be more productive and efficient. Reach out to us to get plugged in!