Office 365 FAQs: Answers from Industry Expert Ryan Thomas
If you own Office 365 and haven’t used it for much more than email, document storage and Skype for Business, we’ve got some good news for you: you have a high-end platform right at your fingertips – and it may very well solve for a host of problems that you thought you needed to look elsewhere to solve.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at some come Office 365 FAQs, as this will help surface some of its capabilities that you may not know about. (Don’t worry, we’ll start with the easy ones!) While many of these solutions may require configuration and training, they can also be transformative and highly successful for your organization.
Q: I don’t have a quality, integrated solution to manage my projects or tasks on an enterprise-wide level. My project resources don’t like Microsoft Project; but my Project Managers love it. Is there a better solution?
A: Yes! Office 365’s platform supports an enterprise-quality Project and Portfolio Management solution that may be difficult to discover unless you know where to look. Using Project Server Online, available as an integrated solution within your Office 365 tenant, you have access to a whole new level of project, resource and portfolio management. Keep in mind, this is NOT your father’s Project Server. By that I mean it’s much nimbler and more “lightweight” than you might think: the infrastructure investment is gone, giving you more time to focus on ways to optimize and improve your project management.
Q: I would love to eliminate company emails entirely – they should not be the main source of finding information. What’s the best way to disseminate and publish current information in an efficient, yet personal, way?
A: This is an easy one for Office 365, and most of you probably know about the ability for SharePoint Online to provide a robust platform as an Intranet, content management system, and information sharing. This is a core competency for the Office 365 platform, and there are numerous customization options for branding, content creation and personalization.
Q: I need an informal way to collaborate in real time on projects, both within my organization and with external partners. Some project users have third-party tools — but I’d love to centralize our services within a platform that we already own, pay for, and know how to manage. Does Office 365 solve for this?
A: Yes – in fact, in terms of security, compliance, support and cost, you’re smart to stick with something you already own. Office 365 provides a one-stop experience for replacing many of the third-party tools (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Basecamp and Trello) that most organizations don’t want to pay for or support. With Office 365, setting up secure sites to provide internal and external collaboration is very easy. The platform also supports highly robust auditing to ensure data is monitored and secure. Plus, Microsoft provides specific services to match many of the ones mentioned above, and that support is integrated into the existing platform to make permissions management and search intuitive and user-friendly.
Q: I need to better way to transform email-based, paper, or manual processes into an electronic version to prevent human error. Also, I need a new system that will provide reporting and search capabilities for these new processes. How can I do this?
A: You may not realize that Microsoft has an entire infrastructure based on workflow services and capabilities within Office 365 and SharePoint Online. It’s designed to replace email and paper-based and/or manual process. With electronic forms, signatures, routing, approvals, and reporting, you would be able to automate extremely complex and cumbersome processes.
Q: Our company has a set of file shares (that are 5, 10, 15, even 20 years old) and they contain everything from personal music and cat videos to confidential SEC filings. It’s truly a mess – you can’t find documents without knowing exactly where they are. Plus, I’m afraid of potential legal or compliance issues that may be lurking. What should I do?
A: There are a couple options here: One is to just move everything to the cloud and get it out of your existing infrastructure so you can retire your classic file shares. While this solves a couple of problems, it may perpetuate others: you would alleviate your on-premise or hosted infrastructure needs and gain much better search and retrieval capabilities, but your data growth and “bad data” will continue to grow, possibly even faster. At some point the clutter of poor data, duplicate (and almost duplicate, which is even worse) data could create overwhelming efficiencies in daily work.
Here’s what I would highly suggest: invest some time and education in moving this data to more appropriate locations through some taxonomy and information architecture exercises. Even if you don’t classify and categorize every single document, some middle ground may be OK in this scenario – and in that case, Office 365 is the perfect solution to help you do this.
Q: My employees are very disconnected from one another, and basic tools like email and IM are definitely not enough. I really need to come up with a strategy for connecting people on both a business level, as well as a personal and social level. Does Office 365 have features to support these needs?
A: It sure does. In fact, Office 365 contains a number of features that are specifically designed to move communication and collaboration into a real-time, “just-in-time” scenario. Through instant chatting, the solution takes advantage of co-authoring, community features, profiles and artificial intelligence in searching. Plus, in using embedded real-time chatting, Office 365 merges some classic concepts that combine “talking about data” with “working on data.”
Q: I would like to know what my team and colleagues are working on. For example, when are team members publishing documents? Which documents are actually being looked at? That sort of thing. How can I do this?
A: Try this: check out Delve using Office Graph in Office 365. There is also a mobile app that notifies you when your colleagues post documents that may be useful to you. The software builds upon this intelligence to “learn” what information is most valuable to you, and provides notifications accordingly.
Q: I’ve found the following processes to be highly inefficient: sending documents back and forth via email, checking to make sure I have the right version, and IM’ing colleagues about what they want to change in a document. What are my options for streamlining this process?
A: Office 365 supports real-time document creation, co-authoring and chat within a Microsoft Office document – all from a web browser. With some modifications to your normal process, there are many options to allow you to take advantage of these features to optimize efficiency, reduce errors and minimize data loss.
Q: My organization has A LOT of data — but without reporting or visualization, we have great difficulty in understanding it. I really need to build some visual reports tied to actual data, both inside and outside of Office 365. How can I do this?
A: Using Excel or Power BI within Office 365, you can connect to a large number of data sources and then use those connections to create visual charts, graphs and drill-down reports that make sense in context. Visualize and build a dashboard to help you understand what’s happening in your organization —which in turn will help you to make better decisions and divert resources to what’s needed most.
Q: I need to be able to store a lot of backups, both with and without Office 365 data. I really want to stop buying and maintaining this infrastructure myself. What are my options?
A: One of the big draws for Azure is the ability to use it as a secure and highly available data storage solution. Using this infrastructure to store on-premise or Office 365 data as a backup for compliance reasons is an extremely cost-effective method.
Q: I need applications like call or ticket management, inventory systems, contract management, and apps for lots of other business initiatives. I’m hesitant to seek out third-party disconnected tools, buy them, learn them, train my users on them, etc. Can my existing Office 365 platform do this for me?
A: Not only can Office 365 do it for you, but it can do it without you having to worry about infrastructure management and licensing fees. What most people don’t understand is the deep capabilities exist to build entire custom applications on the Office 365 platform. Although the classic days of “back-end” code may be gone in this world, the client-side options and hosting of data and processes within Azure and Office 365 have a created a whole new set of options for building intellectual property that’s unique to your organization. If the existing services and features don’t meet your needs, deeper customization is still strongly supported and encouraged. In fact, many organizations still develop and maintain custom applications that were designed for their specific needs.
All in all, I hope these Office 365 FAQs serve as a good way to highlight the platform’s comprehensive range of capabilities. One important to note, though – while Office 365 may be a good “short answer” to many of these questions, implementing the right tools and solution does require time and commitment. As with implementing any solution, you are changing how people work – and such transformations don’t occur overnight. Be sure to build in time, resources, training and support you need – and remember that you can contact us at any time for help.
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