Getting the best out of Microsoft 365 Part 2: Communication and Collaboration

Welcome to the second part of our three-part series on how to get the best out of Microsoft 365, where we share tips and advice on the (often lesser known) features and functionalities available within Microsoft 365 to help you overcome typical business challenges around productivity, collaboration, efficiency, security and data management.

In part one we focused on security. This week for part 2 we look at Collaboration and Communication: how to get the best out of Microsoft 365.

Microsoft applications have become such a fixture in our daily lives. In fact, Microsoft Teams usage along has increased 50% since the pandemic. However, many businesses and users are only scratching the surface of the benefits it can deliver in terms of increased efficiency, productivity, collaboration and security.

Although many businesses are ‘using’ Teams we see that often their usage tends to be around video meetings and chat. The majority of businesses are still using email as their primary communication tool. Having been the way we communicate for over twenty years many users find it hard to imagine a different way of communicating. After all, it works, everyone understands it, so why do they need to have conversations and exchange information using different channels such as Teams and SharePoint?  Here’s just a few reasons:

  • When you’re on holiday, is there someone on your team that could answer the question you’ve been asked on email, removing the need to bother you in the first place?
  • When you are out of the office, could questions be addressed by others instead of sitting in your inbox waiting for you to return?
  • When people leave the company and someone needs a document they sent out over email, is it easy for your colleagues to find (i.e., stored on an easily searchable, readily accessible data repository) this or are you reliant on digging through their inbox to find it because you don’t know where they stored the original document?
  • Do you have email overload to the point that internal ‘how was your weekend’ emails messages have the same level of priority in your inbox as an important customer email?

Hopefully, the above is helping you to realise that there are a lot of reasons to use different communication tools for different needs. Microsoft 365 provides a new way of working which allows users to organise their conversations, messages, data and documents in a far more efficient way. By working differently and embracing the power of Teams and SharePoint your users are able to:

  • Keep high priority conversations in one place and low priority conversations in another.
  • Create channels in Teams for focused conversations for things like projects – thereby getting rid of ‘noise’ and enabling everyone to focus on what’s important.
  • Keep important documentation out of email attachments (this is not a secure or efficient way of sharing information), reduce enormous inboxes and put documents into SharePoint where others can access it and make it available in through search functionality.
  • Create a team in Microsoft Teams where all communication, files and data relating to that particular project or team are held centrally. This removes silos of information e.g., documents stored in a team members personal filing system, multiple email threads which some team members may not be cc’d in on etc.

Here’s our top recommendations of how you can improve organisation, communication and collaboration by utilising Microsoft 365:

Outlook: Keep Email to External One-Off Conversations

What do we mean by external one-off conversations? Well, this is someone who doesn’t work for your organization, and that you don’t have a long term, ongoing relationship with. This might be a new customer prospect, a new supplier or people that you generally don’t have day to day interactions with.  These people are often quite important to the growth of your business, so by filtering internal conversations into Teams you can see easily when external priority emails land.

Tip: Enable the Focused/Other tabs in Outlook to further refine your important emails from newsletters.

 

Outlook: Modernise your email distribution lists with Outlook Groups

As already mentioned, email remains the main communication channel for most businesses. You can improve collaboration and communication within Outlook by modernising your legacy distribution list with Outlook Groups.  Groups in Outlook allows you to:

  • Create a shared inbox – this works like a traditional distribution list with the added benefit that new members can see and access previous discussion threads. Outlook Groups integrates with OneNote (for shared note taking) and SharePoint (for cloud file sharing).
  • Create and send a meeting invitation to everyone in the same group.

Tip: watch this video to find out how to create a group in Outlook

 

Microsoft Teams: Use Teams for Internal Conversations

This is how you engage with people within your own organisation, while you’re collaborating and working together.

  • Transition “group email” conversations into Teams under the “posts” tab. This might be project-related conversations, cross-functional teamwork, or even discussions within your own department.
  • Teams can even replace that “water cooler” conversation where you get some of those great ideas from random discussion, which many colleagues are missing since the pandemic.

Tip: Use the “Chat” feature instead of the Team Posts tab if you just need to have a quick 1:1 conversation outside of the Team discussion.

 

Microsoft Teams: Use Teams for External Sharing

  • Use Microsoft Teams to have conversations and share information with external partners and vendors that you work with on a regular basis. This should flow easily with your use of Microsoft Teams for internal conversations.
  • Keep better control of your intellectual property by having confidence in who can see the documentation you are sharing – one it’s been sent out on email it’s impossible to know if this has been shared with anyone other than the intended recipient.

Tip:  By communicating with customers in an externally shared Team, you no longer have those email chains sent to customers accidentally that they shouldn’t have seen!

 

Microsoft Teams: Use Teams for improved collaboration and efficiency

For groups and teams that work together on projects and key deliverables Microsoft Teams is the ideal tool for collaboration. Conversations, files, meetings, and all information relating to a specific project, task or business area are contained within a ‘shared space’ that is accessible to everyone in that team, both inside and outside of your organisation.

Microsoft teams is integrated with Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerBI, Stream and SharePoint making it easy to collaborate, share information and update documents simultaneously in real-time without having to leave this central project work-space.

And because it’s integrated with SharePoint team members can even share details, news and announcements about your project on your SharePoint company intranet.  More about this next…

 

SharePoint Online: Use SharePoint as Your Intranet Portal

SharePoint intranet which is a great way to cut back on your meetings and emails. It allows you to streamline communication within your businesses and make work more efficient. A SharePoint intranet improves internal communication, brings your workplace culture to life, helps employees find information (such as policies, procedures, news and events), simplifies employee onboarding (especially helpful for remote worker new starters) and encourages knowledge sharing.

In a nutshell, a SharePoint intranet encourages communication to flourish across your organisation. In our view, it offers the most flexible option for an intranet and the most value, particularly if you are using other Microsoft tools like Yammer or Teams that can be integrated into it. If you’re on Office 365 then a SharePoint Online intranet is pretty much a no-brainer.

Tip: Use SharePoint intranet for publishing information like corporate news and events, benefits information, and policies and procedures etc. You don’t have to worry about someone not seeing an email with the attachment or new starters missing important information that was provided prior to their first day.

SharePoint’s dynamic search functionality makes it easy to search for any document, person, video or news item using key words contained within the document or document name itself.

 

Microsoft Stream: Bring your internal communications to Life through video

Video is one of the most effective and impactful ways to communicate with your colleagues and employees. Microsoft Stream is an Enterprise Video service where people in your organization can upload, view, and share videos securely. You can share recordings of classes, meetings, presentations, training sessions, or other videos that aid your team’s collaboration.

Microsoft Stream is a secure video service so you can manage who views your video content and determine how widely to share within your organization. Secure application access is enabled by Azure Active Directory to protect sensitive corporate content.

Microsoft Stream also helps you organise content into channels and groups so it’s easier to find. Microsoft Stream works well with other Office 365 apps like Teams, SharePoint, OneNote, and Yammer, giving even more ways to discover more relevant content.

If you are using Office 365 Video and want to transition to Microsoft Stream, see Transition from Office 365 Video

 

For more tips on how to get the best from Microsoft 365 explore parts 1 and 3 here:

Other useful resources

Get in touch

If you’ve got questions about maximising the benefits of Microsoft 365, or perhaps you’ve not yet made the shift yet but want to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’d be delighted to hear from you.