Best Office 365 Apps You May Not Know About, But Should be Using
As more and more organisations migrate to the cloud, Office 365 apps are becoming increasingly popular. This powerful collection of online tools includes nearly everything a business needs for day-to-day operations, from email and word processing through to project planning, presentation and collaboration software. Cloud-based software provides numerous advantages over locally hosted solutions, including better access, improved scalability, easier collaboration, unlimited storage space, and automatic updates.
Along with well-known applications such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, the Office 365 suite also includes a range of additional apps that are often ignored. From the collaboration software known as Teams through to the Forms survey creation application and Yammer enterprise social networking service, much of the power of Office 365 lies below the surface waiting to be discovered. Let’s take a look at the lesser known and best Office 365 apps, so that you can take full advantage of this software suite.
Microsoft Teams is a powerful collaboration platform that makes it easier to work with colleagues or external parties, either across the office or in remote locations. The Internet has changed the way people do business on a fundamental level, with instant communication and file sharing making it easier than ever before to collaborate and exchange ideas with people regardless of their physical location.
Teams has been designed to simplify group work through the introduction of communication “Channels”. This messaging tool is designed around communication, with users also able to initiate Skype voice or video chats which can be recorded and shared with others in the Channel. While Microsoft’s digital version of an open office space is similar to a group chat room, Teams features tight integration with the rest of the Office 365 suite.
Like most of the best Office 365 apps, Teams gets a lot more powerful when you use multiple tools at the same time. For example, it’s easier than ever to share documents with colleagues or clients, from basic Word documents and spreadsheets through to forms and presentations. Because everything resides in the cloud, storage of content is automatic, with files synced to either your personal OneDrive or a corresponding Group SharePoint site.
Check out this article for Microsoft Teams tips on improving collaboration and reducing emails.
Arguably one of the best Office 365 apps, Microsoft Planner is a project management application that benefits from seamless integration with the rest of Microsoft’s suite. Similar in many ways to the popular app Trello, Planner helps teams to organise, coordinate and plan their work efforts more effectively online. Rather than a complex project management application, Planner has been designed as a lightweight and highly visual collaboration tool that is simple to understand and easy to use.
Planner is a lot like a digital version of a task list, with the standard “Board” view allowing you to create and access task cards which are organised into “Buckets”. As you create and work your way through individual task cards, you can share them with individual team members or assign specific tasks to multiple people. You can also perform work in the “Hub” or “Charts” view, which gives you a higher-level, manager-like overview of all projects and timelines at once.
The visual nature of Microsoft Planner can be a real asset in terms of organisation and collaboration. Not only is it easy to see what you have to do next, it’s also much easier to invite people into specific projects and manage access to multiple projects at the same time. There’s also a strong timeline aspect to Planner, with horizontal organisation making it easier than ever to view histograms, set deadlines, and create schedules that leave nothing to chance.
Microsoft Forms is an online survey creator now available to all Office 365 commercial users. The app was created initially for the education sector and is a (free!) alternative to Survey Monkey. Forms can easily be created within Word, PowerPoint, Excel and other Office 365 apps, for anyone who wants to include surveys, polls, quizzes, and form analysis as a part of their project.
Customer feedback and interaction have become important parts of the online experience. Forms enables publishers to reach out to their audience through the creation of surveys and other tools designed to gather valuable information. Along with making the surveys, Forms can also send out invitations, review and publish results in real time, and analyse the collected data based on selected criteria. Forms allows users to get involved anonymously and interacts well with the Office 365 suite.
Microsoft Flow is a clever service that helps people automate workflows, synchronise data, and share information between Office 365 applications. Flow allows people to be more productive through automation of work processes, giving users the ability to avoid repetitive tasks by transforming them into automated multi-step workflows. The app provides a library of standard templates available for users to build upon, or you can create a flow that is specific to the confines of your business.
At the end of the day, Microsoft Flow is all about efficiency and integration. Once you’ve reflected on your workflow patterns and have identified your routine actions, all you have to do is input these processes into Flow and let the computer do the work for you. While most flows start with a trigger, you can also set up prescheduled or business process flows. For example, you can have an email sent to you every day if certain conditions are met or create a new record in your database based on the actions of a user. The power of Flow is based on its ability to integrate with more than 150 data sources. When Flow is set up properly, it has the ability to save you time, money, and stress through the reduction of repetitive tasks.
As its name would suggest, Microsoft To-Do helps people to get stuff done. This application functions much like a pen and paper list, only it’s fully integrated with Office 365. To-Do helps you to manage your day, prioritise your tasks, and focus on what’s important so that you can meet your immediate and long-term goals. Microsoft To-Do keeps your lists in one place and helps you to collaborate and share information with friends and colleagues.
This software starts out with an empty “My Day” list, which you can fill either manually or with suggestions from previous lists. You can prioritise certain tasks, keep track of deadlines, and share information with other people in your network. This application is a lightweight and flexible time management solution that can be used on a personal and professional basis. The latest update of To-Do features “Steps”, which allows you to break down your tasks into manageable chunks.
Enterprises often avoid social networking due to a lack of control, so Microsoft created a solution that allows for deep engagement without the inherent risks. Yammer is Microsoft’s enterprise social networking solution, and is built around communication and transparency. Rather than competing with big names such as Facebook and Instagram, Yammer offers a professional alternative for businesses and organisations. Yammer has been designed to help organisations build community, engage customers and staff, and create an environment where new ideas and innovations can flourish.
Yammer has been around since 2008 providing open and dynamic communication with built-in security and compliance controls. Yammer accommodates internal, external and customised networks, enabling an unprecedented level of privacy and information control. The app features advanced analytics and group insight functionality, which makes it easier to observe and understand the activity in your network.
While Yammer is an open service that can be used in countless ways, there are a few common use cases that are worth expanding upon. To offer one example, a business may use this service as a marketing tool to connect with customers and get real-time feedback. In another use case, a company may use Yammer as a way to connect with employees and create a strong workplace culture.
Microsoft Stream is an Office 365 media sharing platform; the YouTube equivalent for companies and organisations. Stream is a web-based, mobile media solution that is available for iOS and Android mobile devices, enabling corporate video streaming on-the-go.
Rather than videos of funny cats and cute kids, this enterprise video service is made for sharing recordings of your meetings, training, and presentations. Other than the content itself, Stream functions much like a standard video sharing application, with users able to add comments, tag timelines, and refer to specific points in a video. This software integrates seamlessly with the Office 365 suite and allows you to organise your content into Channels and Groups for collaboration and controlled viewing.
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a powerful analytics application that provides an unprecedented level of business intelligence. With multiple ways to view, report, and share information, you can transform dry data into engaging visuals capable of creating key insights. While data drives all business decisions, companies need a way to make sense of the facts and figures before they can act on them. Power BI creates stunning interactive graphs and other visuals that help you to explore, collaborate, and bring your data to life.
One of the best Office 365 apps, Power BI is useful across departments and industry sectors, with the delivered insights a valuable tool for management teams, business analysts, IT professionals, and app developers to name a few. The ability to connect with interactive, real-time dashboards and analytical reports is worth its weight in gold, as is the ability to make better decisions based on key insights. Power BI allows users to build custom apps through PowerApps and interact with Microsoft Flow and other Office 365 services.
Harnessing the Power of Office 365 Apps
Office 365 is a powerful and often underutilised collection of business tools. While everyone will have their own opinion on the best Office 365 apps, each is valuable in its own right and the real power of this software suite is the way the apps integrate and work together side-by-side. Learning some of these lesser known tools and integrating them with your everyday work processes is a great first step in taking advantage of all the best Office 365 apps.
Information Management Specialist
Rob is a strategic information management specialist with a wealth of experience working within clients in government agencies and the resource sector. Rob has in-depth knowledge of Content Manager, RecordPoint, SharePoint, Office 365, information architecture, governance and compliance.
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