The top eight Office 365 features

Here are the top eight Office 365 features that fill the demands of users and help them work autonomously, without the need of help from IT.

Workers in healthcare, finance and legal now spend more time than ever interacting with data. This happens whether...

they are at their desks or using mobile devices to access information. The need for quick and convenient access to relevant content has driven many to seek technologies that can eliminate the obstacles of some IT systems. When users talk about Office 365 features, it means they see a void that these services can fill, often in terms of user autonomy.

Comparing what Office 365 had to offer in the past, it is hard to imagine that the increase in features and capabilities has not resulted in an increase in monthly subscription fees. For many of the early adopters of the platform, the new face of O365 has an overwhelming amount of features.

Office 365 launched as an alternative to companies' hosting email servers internally, but it has flourished into a platform that is arming today's workers with a variety of powerful capabilities. The platform offers easy ways to improve the way workers leverage technology. Here are the top eight ways Office 365 features stand out from other services and how it addresses the common needs of users:

  1. How can users access their corporate data and services? Office 365 users need only an internet connection to gain access to files within the platform, making access to content and service is simple and easy. This offers flexibility that makes it more efficient than having to work with complex virtual private network connectivity or download files for offline work.
  2. What can help virtual teams be more productive and collaborate better? With many companies hiring remote workers or workers in multiple locations, Office 365 features several tools that help resolve common challenges for remote users. By combining two platforms: Skype for Business and SharePoint, workers have access to audio and video conferencing capabilities as well as real-time content collaboration where they can share data and work together on projects in real time. With upcoming solutions such as Microsoft's GigJam, Microsoft has delivered on effective ways for teams to work together regardless of location.
Microsoft has ensured that what has historically required more involvement of IT and developers for common tasks can now be done by users.
  1. Don't the high performers need an app to access relevant business data on the go? Based on numerous surveys, smartphones and tablets are seeing significant usage in enterprises. Employees not only use smart phones as a means to communicate, but also see them as a way to perform different data collection tasks as well as work related activities. Microsoft is adding more services that target mobile users. With its upcoming Power Apps and native mobile App for SharePoint, end users will be able to do far more on mobile devices than previously. They will also have the ability to create and design business mini-apps that provide the tools to collect data from other mobile users without the need for development experience.
  2. Can business users turn into "developers" and will that make a difference? Microsoft has ensured that what has historically required IT involvement and developers for common tasks can now be done by users. Tasks such as creating project web portals or having the ability to build basic or advanced workflows can be done using Microsoft flow, Power Apps or SharePoint. The platform offers easy to follow steps to create a number of automations and Apps by simply using a web browser. The result is more users are empowered to build what they envision is needed without needing to rely on IT.
  3. Can the system tell how productive and efficient a user is? The simple answer is Office 365 features can assist with that. Delve is a new tool that offers insights into productivity and time management and is part of the Office 365 E5 plan. Delve taps into information in email, document interactions and meeting transactions to know who we spend more time with, who we have not interacted with in a while and if we meet enough with our management team. This empowers end users to have better visibility on their productivity and time management that will enable them to manage their time better.
  4. Who needs to wait for IT when you have a fleet of support staff? Relying on a service that has triple 9s of uptime is valuable for users. Since the Office 365 platform and all its services support millions of subscribers, Microsoft ensures that all its system issues are addressed immediately to avoid major service interruptions that affect millions. Unlike organizations that have smaller IT teams, end users have more comfort that the days of incident resolution delays will be less frequent when working with a cloud provider like Microsoft.
  5. Does it help to have all the data and services in one place? Microsoft's goal is to have everyone use everything it offers, from Office 365 all the way to its upcoming ERP as a service. While it would be ideal to deal with one vendor and platform for all applications, Microsoft recognizes that users are likely to use other non-Microsoft products. The good news is that Microsoft plays well with capabilities around single sign-on (SSO) and the App Launcher -- end users can have easy access to all of their daily applications directly from the App Launcher in Office 365. This enables users to access their workloads efficiently from any device.
  6. How can the social aspect be addressed in the enterprise? For companies that recognize that employees can benefit from online interactions with one another and want to incorporate an enterprise social networking service as part of their systems, Microsoft offers Yammer within its Office 365 suite. With the capabilities available within Yammer and SharePoint, interactions and conversations amongst staff around company digital content are all available through the platform.

Companies that want to empower users and help them achieve their goals have traditionally relied on IT to identify products that can be adopted for this purpose. But as more vendors offer comprehensive technology with meaningful capabilities, platforms like Office 365 are trying to be full-featured and offer user autonomy. There are still risks around those users who may not be able to utilize all of the technology and only use a minimal amount of services from these platforms. This would require IT to invest significantly into training and aligning functionalities that add value, not just features.

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