Office 365 provides a variety of ways to let your employees collaborate effectively, whether you’re in a large enterprise or an SMB. However, in order to be effective, you need to develop and implement a collaboration strategy and the training that’s necessary to allow you to leverage the collaboration tools that are part of the Office 365 product.
Effective collaboration isn’t automatic
Recent research indicates that collaboration can have a very positive impact on productivity and business outcomes.
For example, a Stanford study found that participants working collaboratively stayed on task 64 percent longer than solitary workers did, and they reported a higher success rate. Another study found that companies that encouraged collaboration were five times as likely to be high performing.
This type of research is motivating many companies to jump onto the collaboration bandwagon by implementing software such as Office 365. However, when you complete an Office 365 installation, you’re asking your employees to change the way they work, not just the tools they use. As a result, many organizations migrate to Office 365 and then find that employees aren’t taking advantage of the collaboration tools. On the other hand, sometimes the tools are overused, usually in the area of social networking.
Either situation will cause your organization to waste your investment. In addition, you won’t get the benefit of increased productivity and better business outcomes that collaboration can produce.
Why Office 365 collaboration isn’t automatic
Two factors influence the success of establishing Office 365 collaboration. One is the fact that employees must change the way they work. The other factor is that Office 365 is a multi-faceted system that can be overwhelming.
Here’s a summary of the services, apps, and features that you can use, depending on your Office 365 subscription plan.
1. Exchange Online
A hosted messaging application that includes access to email, calendars, contacts and tasks.
2. Microsoft Bookings
An application that allows you to schedule and reschedule appointments both internally and with customers.
3. Microsoft Flow
This cloud-based service allows you to build workflows to automate business processes.
4. Microsoft Forms
You can use this to create quizzes, surveys, questionnaires and more; built-in analytics evaluate the results.
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5. Microsoft MyAnalytics
This application was previously called Delve Analytics; it provides personal data about how you spend your time and help you to prioritize.
6. Microsoft Planner
Teams can use this tool to visually organize teamwork by creating plans, assigning tasks, sharing files, sharing and editing documents associated with tasks, and chatting.
7. Microsoft PowerApps
This Platform as a Service (PaaS) lets you create mobile apps without worrying about the difference in mobile operating systems.
8. Microsoft Stream
Allows employees to upload, view and share videos on a secure platform.
9. Microsoft Sway
You can produce professional reports and presentations without the need for extensive formatting or training to achieve a visually appealing end product.
10. Microsoft Teams
Teams is an application that provides a hub for teamwork, combining chat, shared content and various Office 365 tools into one workspace. SharePoint and OneNote are included.
11. Office 365 Groups
This feature creates a shared workspace where group members don’t need access to Dynamics 365 to join.
12. Office Delve
A cloud-based service that helps users discover information across several Microsoft products.
A cloud storage capability allows users to store, sync and share files among themselves and with other internet devices.
14. Power BI
These business analytics tools connect to hundreds of data sources and simplify data preparation to produce and publish reports.
15. SharePoint Online
A cloud-based service that provides a hub for accessing internal or outside information.
16. Skype for Business
A unified communications platform used for a wide variety of communication vehicles including instant messaging, online meetings, video conferencing and more.
This private social network allows for discussions internally and with outside users such as customers and vendors.
How to Promote Office 365 Collaboration
Based on the review of Office 365 capabilities above, it’s easy to see how effective collaboration can get lost in the rush of new technology that follows an Office 365 implementation. Therefore, take these steps to help solidify a collaborative workplace.
Define an Office 365 collaboration environment
Determine how collaboration needs to work in your organization and select tools accordingly.
Communicate the vision
Take a top-down approach to communicate the vision to everyone that will be affected by increased collaboration, identifying the tools that will be used.
Complete the implementation/migration
Conduct ongoing training
Without extensive training, collaboration will get out of control. In fact, some employees will often turn to third-party tools to get the job done, even if they’re not using the right tools. You need to train on the correct types of collaboration and enforce abandoning other tools.
Monitor activities and results
You’ll need to know if employees are using the new collaboration tools. Be prepared to identify and address issues such as email distribution of document drafts rather than shared editing. Measure your progress to inform future projects.
Establish a strong administrative function
The Microsoft 365 Admin Center is the place to manage users, devices, apps, and services. Large organizations will often prefer to use the Office 365 PowerShell. A strong administrator will help ensure that Office 365 is being used to its fullest potential.
Experts often cite Microsoft Office 365 as the most powerful collaboration suite on the market today. There are a variety of tools to support implementing collaboration in a way that specifically suits your organization.