4 things you need to do to get the most out of Office 365
Posted 26 March 2017 by Ella Jennings
You may have already made the move to Microsoft Office 365 within your organisation, and are happily using web-based versions of the iconic Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs – but there is much more to O365 than meets the eye. Blue Chip’s Ella Jennings tells us how you can utilise some of the lesser-known apps in your everyday working life.
If you’ve already deployed Microsoft’s latest iteration of its Office suite of programs and applications across your business, good choice; you’re likely already enjoying the many benefits it offers. As well as being incredibly reliable (it has 99.9% uptime!), Office 365 allows you to access your files and documents via the Cloud on pretty much any mobile device of your choosing, which is really useful if you’re always on the go. Considering Microsoft Office made an appearance in August 1989 you’re probably an Excel expert or Word wizard by now, so what other features of O365 are there that can make our lives a little bit easier? Read on for four of my favourites, which can help improve productivity, creativity and collaboration.
Want to impress in your latest report? Then you need Power BI. This business analytics tool pulls in data from not only your own company, such as Excel spreadsheets and SQL Server databases, but from other sources including hundreds of popular online tools like Google Analytics, MailChimp, SalesForce, Quickbooks - and even Facebook!
Once your most important metrics are in one place, Power BI then allows you to create your own dashboards and reports, incorporating beautiful visuals with a few simple clicks, and without having to spend hours manually searching for data. You can publish these securely to your organisation, and can set up automatic data refresh so colleagues always see the latest information. In March 2016, Power BI Embedded also became available on Azure - Microsoft’s own Public Cloud platform. This is an ideal tool for those who want to jazz up reports to get their message across in a more aesthetically-pleasing way, but won’t want to spend all day doing it.
Skype for Business
By no means a new piece of software, Skype is also no longer just about instant messaging and free phone calls abroad. While it’s still an excellent tool to do those things, Skype for Business can do so much more. Previously known as Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Lync, this latest version compiles the best features of these past incarnations - as well as the consumer side of Skype and the now-obsolete MSN Messenger – to create a powerful yet easy-to-use communication essential. If you work in a company with more than one office, have remote workers or simply want to communicate quickly with someone on a different floor, you can see the presence of your associates based on the Microsoft Outlook contacts stored in a Microsoft Exchange Server. Put simply, Skype for Business syncs with Outlook and will display online and offline availability of your colleagues at the top of every email they are included in. Clicking their name displays a Contact Card, with information such as their department and if they are in a meeting, and extracts information from their calendar letting you know when they should next be available to contact. You can also IM, email and voice or video call at, quite literally, the click of a button.
Skype for Business also takes inspiration from MSN Messenger and offers a space for a status update – perfect for someone who is on the road as you can inform your co-workers if you have limited access to emails. There’s even somewhere to add your location, be it Head Office, home or a customer site which, if you have a large team or business, can be a real benefit! The advantages don’t stop there; it’s fantastic for conferencing, and you can build it into your telephony strategy by connecting to IP phone terminals - something that Blue Chip can advise on and assist you with.
This one is my favourite! While I’m fairly well-versed in the finer points of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, if I’m short of time (or even lacking in inspiration!) it’s useful to be able to produce interactive designs with just a few clicks. Sway allows you to unleash your creative side – even if you have no design experience - by enabling you to create interactive reports, presentations and newsletters with content from around the web. You can begin by adding your own text and pictures and then search for relevant content from other sources to import, with thousands of media from places such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia, as well as searching for images via Bing. The drag-and-drop interface makes it effortless to add and rearrange your content, while the Layout tab makes the actual design work a cakewalk. The real star of this innovative program, however, is the Remix button. This randomises text styles, backgrounds, layouts and colours that all include the content you’ve chosen – just keep clicking until you find an aesthetic that works for you.
While a standalone, free-to-use web program for anyone with a Microsoft account, there are limits to the amount of content you can include. Happily, Sway is included in many Office 365 plans, and this premium version offers a greatly increased capacity, as well as allowing collaboration between colleagues. Recent updates are also very impressive, offering support for importing content from PDFs and specific content from third-party sites via embed codes.
Here's one I made earlier; it took me 10 minutes to integrate content from Bing, YouTube and Twitter into two interactive slides.
Delve takes the professional side of social networking to a new level and offers the chance to glean information about your colleagues’ knowledge areas, skills and projects. A collaborative environment based on Office Graph, it brings personalised content to you from across Office 365 by searching your company’s programs like OneDrive, SharePoint, Exchange and Yammer, which can help identify co-workers with the exact areas of expertise you may need – and if, for example, you’re in a company that has offices in different countries and/or thousands of members of staff that you don’t know, this information may provide invaluable if you need to collaborate on a project. For the security-conscious there is no need to worry about privacy; Delve will only show documents that you would already have access to, and similarly others will not see your private documents. Information shown on Delve is based on what you’re working on and who you’re working with, and you can build up a personal profile showcasing this information and your particular skillsets. You can also see the profiles of other associates – as well as searching for people by skillset, projects, education or anything else they have chosen to add - and easily connect with them via email, chat or call.
Delve is also a great place to find and save information about your company. When you find a document you’re interested in, you can add it as a favourite or to a board for future reference. Have your Marketing department created a document about getting the most out of LinkedIn? Operations working on a new Process document? Save it in Delve and come back to it later. Cleverly, Delve uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to try to show you the most relevant people and content, meaning you should always see what interests you the most and is unique to you. Delve also acts as a portal to allow Office 365 users to search and manage their emails, meetings, contacts, social networks and documents stored on OneDrive or Sites.
Overall, the interconnectivity between the programs and apps is the real hidden secret of Office 365 – you can sync each piece of software you use with so many others in the Office suite without compromising security. If you want to take advantage of the features I have mentioned in this blog but your plan doesn’t allow it, talk to us at Blue Chip. We’ll not only provide advocacy on the best solution for your business, we can help with peripherals and support – and as a Microsoft Gold Partner and member of their Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) Program, we’re able to offer exclusive discounts. For more, visit the Office 365 page of our website, or get in touch on 0845 034 7222.
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