By Thomas G. Stephens Jr., CPA, CGMA, CITP
According to Microsoft, there are more than 214 million Office 365 subscribers. However, if you pay careful attention to how most business professionals use their Office 365 tools, you may find most are not taking full advantage of all they have available to them.
Here are a few of the ways you can use your business-oriented Office 365 subscriptions to work more efficiently and, in turn, increase your return on investment (ROI).
Most business professionals carry mobile devices, so being able to access and edit data on the go is important. For Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft has a suite of apps that allow users to access and work with their data from mobile devices. Among others, the Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote apps provide the ability to access documents stored in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business. With the Skype for Business app, you can conveniently take advantage of the Skype platform to communicate and collaborate with others.
Related to the mobile apps, those with business-oriented Office 365 subscriptions can collaborate with others on documents through a process known as co-authoring. For example, an Office 365 subscriber can store an Excel workbook in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business and then click Share to allow others to simultaneously access and edit the same workbook. Each user can make changes to the workbook in real-time and others will be able to see changes instantaneously. If necessary, the author of the workbook can edit others’ privileges, and even revoke them, if necessary. This co-authoring environment facilitates collaboration without getting involved in the challenges of trying to collaborate via email and gathering up all the “stray” and duplicated copies of the workbook.
One of the most overlooked components of Office 365 is Teams. Teams is a relatively new tool that brings together various Office 365 components and puts them in one location. For example:
- Teams incorporates functionality from Exchange Online for communications and shared calendar functionality.
- Teams uses cloud-based storage “borrowed” from SharePoint Online.
- Teams takes advantage of the communication capabilities in Skype for Business.
By incorporating the tools above with other tools and services, Teams creates a single location from which to launch virtually all of your cooperative work efforts, including accessing and working on files, scheduling meetings, messaging with others (both inside and outside your organization), collaborating in real-time on documents, and participating in video conferences.
In addition, you can integrate other apps into Teams for even greater levels of controls, productivity, and efficiency. For example, you can add Microsoft’s free Planner app into Teams so you can schedule and assign tasks to other members of your team and receive automatic status updates and reports. If you have not yet experienced working with this tool, I suggest you try it.
Another relatively new service available to many subscribers of business-oriented versions of Office 365 is Bookings. Bookings allows customers and clients to “self-schedule” appointments from a cloud-based app that can be incorporated into your website. With Bookings, a company can show available appointment times on the web and customers and clients can schedule appointments, meetings, on-site visits, etc. Once the customer completes the scheduling, Bookings adds the appointment to the service-provider’s Exchange Online calendar. Bookings can be customized to have the service send automated reminders to those who choose to book online.
Space does not allow for a full discussion of all the tools, apps, and services available with Office 365 subscriptions, but some other tools you may want to consider include the following:
- Forms – a cloud-based form/survey/testing engine
- Yammer – a social-networking tool for larger organizations
- Delve – a tool for providing personal insights and relevant information about the people and data you work with
- Stream – an organization-based video/presentation delivery engine
- Sway – an alternative to PowerPoint for creating compelling and captivating presentations
Additionally, do not overlook the variety of embedded security options available in Office 365, including data loss prevention, mobile device management, multi-factor authentication, and tools to manage and control the flow of email.
Some users focus on the “core” products and services of Office 365 – such as Excel, Outlook, and Word – while others are beginning to explore the range of lesser-known tools and services that can improve efficiency and teamwork. If you have not yet ventured down this path, consider how these other tools can help you to improve your ROI on Office 365. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Thomas G. Stephens Jr., CPA, CGMA, CITP, is a shareholder in K2 Enterprises, where he develops and presents continuing professional education programs to accounting, financial, and other business professionals across North America. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more about Office 365? The PICPA offers several webinars over the next few months for your convenience.
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