December 10, 2018

Office 365 Apps That Deserve Your Attention

When it comes to office productivity software, Microsoft Office 365 remains the dominant choice, but Office 365 is more than just Outlook, Word, and Excel. Despite its popularity, many powerful Office 365 features aren’t known, and many popular applications aren’t used to their full potential.

Sky High Advantages

Last time, we talked extensively about the advantages of a cloud-based solution, and Office 365 has those advantages in spades. For enterprise users, there’s even more benefits including:

  • Data Sovereignty – With an Office 365 Enterprise E3 license you can specify where your data is stored so there are no concerns about where in the cloud your data might reside, and there are even multiple locations in Canada you can select for east, west and central data storage options. 
  • Mobile made easy – All of the applications are mobile-ready so whether you depend on mobile devices today or plan to, you’re ready.
  • Rapid deployment – As a cloud-based suite, there’s no infrastructure to set up. Microsoft handles the networking requirements so it’s just a case of getting users set up. Adding new users and scaling for growth is also easier. 
  • Management Features – There’s a built-in management dashboard for licenses, subscriptions, features, and security, and while it can appear like an easy self-service option, configuring security and managing users can be tricky if you don’t have trained in-house resources.
  • Security handled – Office 365 has threat-protection technologies to help protect against spam, malware, viruses, phishing attempts, malicious links, and other threats. The Office 365 Cloud Security app lets you monitor and address abnormal activity from a central dashboard. 

Learn more about the benefits of migrating your applications to the cloud

Powerful Tools on Hand

We’ve found clients get familiar with one tool and want to use it for everything when another component might work better. We thought we’d share five of our favourite, under-utilized, Office 365 tools to introduce you to some of the powerful features already at your fingertips. 

1. Get with the Flow

Processes are the lifeblood of businesses. In the digital era, many of the processes have or are becoming automated. Enter Microsoft Flow, which lets you easily create and automate workflows across multiple applications in the cloud including SalesForce, Adobe, Amazon (and not just Office 365 applications), opening your processes to a world of possibilities. 

Let me give you a simplistic example: Let’s say you are getting emails with documents from Client X. Instead of forwarding the email to your team or opening it manually and saving the attachment to a shared folder, you can create a Flow that automatically saves all attachments and emails from Client X to a shared folder or SharePoint site. Flow also has templates such as the approval centre to help you set up review processes. 

SharePoint aficionados might be thinking, I can do that in SharePoint … and you’re right, for now. Microsoft describes Flow as the successor to SharePoint Designer so it’s worth getting to know.


2. Team Up for Collaboration

When we talk about collaboration, most companies think SharePoint, but you can’t ignore Teams as a communication resource for Office 365 (which will soon replace Skype for Business). Teams’ channels are equipped with chat and messaging capabilities, meeting, calling and video conference interfaces and functionality to collaborate on shared deliverables. Think of Teams as a digital hub for people working closely together on a project. We create Teams here at Whitecap for every client project. I don’t think I need to remind you that, as part of the suite, it’s integrated with SharePoint, OneDrive, Outlook, Word etc., but what’s also amazing is Teams provides integration with non-Microsoft applications like Google Drive or your SAP system, with a single sign-on.

3. Smarter Forms

Microsoft InfoPath is nearing its end of life, and while many users loved it for creating forms, it could quickly become unwieldy, especially when trying to update it from another data source or when connecting to an external service. Despite issues, and end of life, many people still use it, but there’s a better option. Included with Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics licenses, PowerApps is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that lets you build high-functioning apps (including forms) for a powerful, connected solution that’s modern, up-to-date and mobile-ready, and by using common data model functionality, you can leverage advanced analytics.


4. Give Presentations Some Sway

When thinking presentations, PowerPoint immediately comes to mind, but file sizes can get large, and creativity is limited to text and images. For a better experience and more creativity, try Sway for your next presentation or demonstration. It is webpage-based, which makes sharing much easier, but you don’t need web design skills to use it. You drag and drop content to create a page-by-page view, include videos and take your demonstrations to the next level.

For your clients or guests, Sway displays your presentations in all their beauty, on any and every device. Clients use simple navigation buttons, have nothing to download and don’t need special software to view it since it’s all in a web browser. Sway lets us create more beautiful, dynamic presentations, and collaboration is built-in making it easy to work with others.


5. More than Email

Many enterprise users are familiar with Outlook and Exchange as the service handling their email and calendar, but it can do more. We recently showed a client looking to build a customized SharePoint meeting room booking system that they could more easily manage meeting rooms using the calendar in Outlook. And, since all Office 365 components are fully integrated, the booking system is seamlessly accessible by SharePoint or Team sites without opening multiple applications or layering custom solutions.

A bonus for our client was getting the booking system set up in Outlook was much faster than building the custom app in SharePoint.

Set Right from Start

While Office 365 is user friendly and has a lot of pre-configured options to ease deployment, setting up solutions correctly from the get-go is a must. Setting policies for establishing Teams sites and ensuring strong governance policies are in place from day one can help avoid management issues down the road that could impact performance and the user experience. 

In addition, ensuring security controls take advantage of the advanced security features can be tricky. Having expertise on hand can help further protect sensitive data from threats inside and outside your organization. 

With Office 365 for enterprise, our clients have many of the tools they need, right in their pocket, they just don’t realize it (or know how to use them all). We can help you put these tools together to work for you.

Not sure which Office 365 tools are best for you and your specific requirements? Let’s chat and see how we can help.