Most Popular Features in Office 365 and What You Should be Using

Posted by Jill Hannemann on October 2, 2018

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Office 365 recently just turned 5! The platform is continuing to transform businesses and the way people get work done. IT modernization is on the rise and many organizations realize they need to modernize to stay competitive in their industry.  


The tools and features bundled into this convenient cloud-hosted SaaS product make it easy for organizations to realize modernization.  The path to Office 365 is a no-brainer when you migrate a business-critical component, like email, into Office 365/Exchange Online. 

A benefit to working with so many different organizations in their adoption of Office 365 is being able to listen to how they work and align features in Office 365.  The great news is that many out-of-the-box features of Office 365 are instant game changers for many knowledge workers.

What do we find are the most popular features in Office 365? This list of out-of-the-box features have been known to be high on requirements lists, and when users get access to these features, it’s impactful.

  1. Real time co-authoring (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) – Everyone should be using co-authoring.  If you are not, then you need to get your files in Office 365 and start leveraging co-authoring to collaborate.  This is one of the most common collaboration scenarios and challenges that can be simply eliminated with your Office 365 tenant.  Co-authoring is the ability for multiple authors to edit a document at the same time, eliminating the need to manage versions, merge changes, or check out/in a file.  The platform will reconcile changes and allows for multiple authors to work in a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file at the same time.

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    We should mention that a good number of organizations will sign up for Office 365 when they renew their licensing for Office. Office ProPlus (perpetual subscription for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) is a popular feature of Office 365 in its own right.  However, we won’t belabor the enhancements in the latest version of Office.

  2. Work anywhere from any device – IT modernization consists of relying on cloud and hosted cloud infrastructure and the underlying security to house structured and unstructured data for your organization. This includes files.  File accessibility through apps on mobile devices with corresponding BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies to manage security are necessary for businesses to thrive. Workers have to be empowered to be productive anywhere and at any time. Knowledge workers, outside sales, executives and more all rely on accessing information from a smart phone or tablet wherever they are. Office 365 makes this very easy with apps that are available for each workload. 

  3. Document Sync between OneDrive and Laptop – There are many benefits to convert users to storing files in OneDrive for Business, or another shared file repository in Office 365 like SharePoint or a Teams File Library. Some of these benefits we’ve already mentioned: work anywhere on any device and co-authoring. To make the user experience similar to what users did before, deploy document sync. Document sync will allow users to interact with files in OneDrive for Business through a drive folder in Windows Explorer.  It also sets up the work off-line capability to work on a document while not connected to the internet and have the document sync with the latest version changes when the laptop is connected to the internet again.

  4. All Things Teams – Microsoft Teams is transforming small group collaboration. Teams is also on the cusp of full communication integration with the Skype for Business team merging with the Teams’ team. Soon, Teams will be the hub for meetings, chat, presence, file storage, persistent chat, and more. If you’re looking for a place to store files, have persistent chat, and collaborate with your internal and external colleagues, Teams will be able to get you started on this path quickly. For any legacy SharePoint users out there, who are used to interacting with a document library and list, the files tab in a Teams’ channel corresponds to a document library for the modern team site in SharePoint, and a list can be added as a tab to your channel.

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  5. Machine Learning – Artificial Intelligence, Delve, Bots – Microsoft is investing heavily into artificial intelligence and machine learning. Many of these features are available in some capacity within Office 365 today. Machine learning already powers search and has made discovery and findability a differentiator compared to other content management systems. The use of bots and artificial intelligence to execute processes, enable shortcuts, and make work easier for knowledge workers is here and it’s in Office 365.  It’s the direction we’re headed and focusing your IT team’s resources in leveraging these tools for your organization will give you an advantage.

  6. Power BI to understand the business – Data visualization s and analytics have been powering businesses for decades. With Power BI, the tool enables power users the ability to create reports and dashboards and create compelling visualizations for executives and business leaders.  Rather than waiting in the queue for the reporting team to run and create your reports, leverage Power BI to have ongoing, real-time reporting available with natural language queries.

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  7. Use Planner to keep the Team moving – Lightweight project management and task management are what many small project teams need to measure progress, maintain accountability, and allow for a project manager to keep track of many moving parts. Instead of creating a makeshift project plan with an Excel workbook, give Planner a try.  It’s simple to use and easy to learn and can keep everyone on the same page.

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  8. My Analytics and Workplace Analytics – Further to data visualizations powering business, sometimes we need to understand our own workday habits in order to figure out how to do more in a day. The My Analytics feature leverages machine learning to capture analytics for time spent responding to email vs. time when a SharePoint library is accessed, or a Teams’ channel. It will also provide insights into how much time you spend in meetings per week. At a larger scale, if managers and leaders are wondering about similar data on an aggregate of the workforce, similar data can be viewed in the Office 365 Administration.

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Most likely, if you’re gotten started with Office 365, you’re already using many of these features.  If you’ve gotten started with Exchange/email and Skype for Business, I hope this post encourages you to seek out leveraging the file management features in OneDrive for Business, Teams, and SharePoint. Modernizing your IT infrastructure with many of these features can become real game changers for how knowledge workers get work done. If you’re looking for help on where to start, look into a firm like ours to get some tips on how best to start.

Ready to roll-out new features and need some guidance? Schedule a complimentary consultation with an Office 365 expert by contacting us online or giving us a call at 240.406.9960.

Topics: Office 365

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Jill Hannemann

Jill Hannemann is a Principal at Withum. She is a recognized expert on the topics of portal strategy, governance and information architecture, and has a passion for transforming corporate intranets into digital workplaces that people love to use.

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