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Microsoft 365 Guide
Gone are the days when Microsoft Office was a well-defined suite of software that came on CD, in a box, and required manual installation. Nowadays, Office 365 is Microsoft 365, a suite of cloud-based productivity tools and services so wide-ranging and comprehensive that even IT managers struggle to define what it is or to pinpoint what it includes.
In this guide, our accredited technical experts are going to look at what is included in Microsoft 365 for businesses. We’ll explore not only the latest iteration of popular Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel and Outlook, but the many lesser-known collaboration, communication and management tools available in M365 that enable and empower businesses with enhanced productivity, streamlined operations and advanced insights in one integrated, familiar ecosystem.
We’ll also look at the different levels of subscription that mean for businesses large, small, and everywhere in between, Microsoft 365 is a truly bespoke environment offering exactly what they need.
Microsoft Office has been a mainstay for businesses since its launch in the early 1990s. It quickly became the go-to suite of productivity software and services for businesses and home users alike, and over the years, it has underpinned everything from the creation of some of the greatest novels of the 20th century (Harry Potter was written in Word) to the most crucial data analysis tasks of thousands of businesses around the world (hello, Excel).
With the advent of the internet and cloud-based computing, the Microsoft Office 365 environment has expanded and evolved to meet the changing needs of businesses. These technological and societal changes have been so seismic that the Microsoft suite now delivers so much more than a traditional ‘office’ might have needed. In April 2020, as remote working became the norm, Microsoft renamed Office 365 as Microsoft 365 to better reflect the range of tools and features included.
Most people have a basic understanding of what is included in Office 365, but many are unsure about the newer cloud-first apps and collaboration tools of Microsoft 365. Is Microsoft Teams part of Office 365, for example? Is OneDrive part of Microsoft 365? Is Dynamics included with an Office 365 subscription?
The beauty of M365 is its flexibility, and the truth is that businesses can tailor their environment not only with the subscription they choose but also with the add-ons and upgrades they select.
The standard offering changes as new apps are developed, but let’s take a closer at look at what is included in Microsoft 365 as we head into 2024, what the key features and benefits of each app are, and the different M365 business subscription levels available.
Features: At most subscription levels, Outlook supports custom email addresses and provides plenty of storage space, with a 50GB inbox as standard. Outlook allows users to prioritise messages and focus their inbox, ensuring the most efficient and effective communication across the business. Alongside the expected email functionality, Outlook comes with an integrated calendar feature that supports the creation of shared calendars, making it easy for teams to schedule meetings without all the usual back-and-forth. Other features include scheduling and contact management, and collaboration across critical documents.
Subscription levels: Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5, Enterprise F3.
Meeting and collaboration application
Features: The popular all-in-one meeting, conferencing, file-sharing and collaboration platform keeps countless businesses connected and productive in the age of remote and hybrid working. From real-time chat and automated transcription to third-party app integrations and robust security features, there isn’t much Teams can’t bring to the virtual boardroom table – so it’s a real selling point that Teams is included in all M365 subscriptions for businesses.
File storage application
Features: A cloud-based storage application, OneDrive offers easy file access, sharing and collaboration from anywhere, on any device. Automatic syncing and version history gives businesses peace of mind that the most up-to-date version of a file is always available, wherever users are logging on from.
Subscription levels: Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, 365 Apps for business, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5, Enterprise F3.
Word processing application
Features: Everyone knows where Word excels in the business environment – it’s ease-of-use in terms of document creation, editing, formatting and sharing is renowned. When operated as part of Microsoft 365, the integration opportunities make it even more powerful, with advanced collaboration, sharing, review, management and storage features designed to make file-sharing and collaboration more streamlined and efficient.
Features: Excel has been a favourite productivity tool for businesses for decades, saving them countless number-crunching hours. Integrations for Excel in the M365 environment give businesses access to all the advanced formulas and data analysis of the offline app, with the addition of powerful data sharing, collaboration and storage options.
Features: PowerPoint’s drag-and-drop interface has made it easy for even the smallest of businesses to deliver stunning presentations – anyone with a subscription and a flair for design can quickly create a professional-looking slideshow or pitch deck. With PowerPoint in M365’s cloud environment, it becomes a key tool for visual storytelling, with integration support for animation and multimedia, collaborative editing and sharing, so teams can work together seamlessly.
Features: Arguably one of the most under-rated apps, OneNote is included in Microsoft 365 with a host of fantastic business use-cases. Far from being a simple note-taking app, it allows for multimedia information, including videos, audio files and documents created in other apps, to be stored, embedded, organised and shared. So you could have a ‘notebook’ for the overarching project, a ‘section’ for each team working on it, and a ‘page’ for each task within each section. All team members can access, share and edit from anywhere and any device, making collaboration seamless, and all meetings can be recorded straight from OneNote, so nobody misses a thing.
Task management application
Features: Tasks is designed to streamline the array of other productivity tools in the Microsoft 365 environment by consolidating and integrating tasks from apps like Outlook and Planner into a centralised task management hub. This means, instead of having five different tabs open, users can view, manage and prioritise tasks from different sources in one place, improving productivity, ensuring all tasks are visible, and reducing the risk that something important gets forgotten.
Content management tool
Features: SharePoint gives Microsoft 365 business subscribers the ability to develop and manage their own intranet sites, with easy site, page and library creation. Files can be synced and stored automatically from any device and location, so everyone has access to all the information they need, wherever they are working, and collaboration across workflows is quick and easy. Scalable, efficient and secure, SharePoint is essentially an alternative file server that enhances teamwork and improves productivity across the business.
Features: Planner does what it says on the tin, making it easy for teams to create plans, organise tasks, share files, assign responsibilities and get progress updates about projects. Tasks can be organised according to status or who they have been assigned to, and collaboration is enhanced through chat capabilities. Planner is truly team-orientated, ensuring discussions and deliverables stay within the plan and don’t get lost, forgotten or stuck in limbo in other applications.
Features: Forms is included in all M365 subscriptions, and helps businesses simplify and streamline the process of gathering and analysing feedback, whether that’s from customers or colleagues. Forms can be used to create and distribute surveys, polls and quizzes, and can collect and analyse the results for either deep-dive feedback or, for example, a quick temperature check on an HR issue through Teams. It integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft apps, including Power Automate, so tasks can be automated based on form responses.
Features: Far from a simple address book, People sits in Teams and is designed to put people at the heart of the employee experience by connecting them with colleagues and helping them build new relationships with experts across the business. People harnesses AI to tap into information around shared interests, knowledge and goals, to improve collaboration, deepen connections and enhance team building.
Data visualisation tool
Features: Power BI can be a gamechanger for businesses, helping them to communicate complex data, business intelligence and insights to key stakeholders in an easy-to-understand, accessible way. Part of the Microsoft Fabric platform, it allows users to connect various data sources from across the business to create interactive reports and dashboards, with additional features for data modelling, analysis and sharing. Power BI helps businesses make better-informed decisions based on tangible and measurable data not only from apps in Office 365, but from third-party software too.
Subscription levels: Power BI Pro is included in Enterprise E5 only. Power BI standard version is available as a free desktop tool for any user, with premium and pro upgrades available at an additional charge.
App building software
Features: This low-code/no-code platform allows users to create custom business applications without extensive coding knowledge – perfect for businesses that need a specific app for a specific purpose but don’t necessarily have a large in-house IT team. From data collection to process automation, Power Apps empowers businesses to build custom solutions to meet a huge array of challenges, quickly and repeatably.
Project management software
Features: For teams that oversee projects with a lot of moving parts, Project provides tools for planning, managing and tracking literally everything. It allows businesses to create Gantt charts, allocate resources, set deadlines and analyse progress, with features for collaboration and reporting to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget.
Subscription levels: Project can be purchased as an add-on to Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5 and Enterprise F3 subscriptions.
Features: In recognition of the growing importance of video for businesses and consumers alike, Stream is included in Microsoft 365 at all subscription levels. The video-sharing, storage and collaboration app makes it easy for teams to create, work on and share videos across the business, with an intuitive interface that speeds up the content-generation process and saves businesses loads of time and resources.
Presentation design app
Features: Sway helps businesses create professional-looking digital newsletters, presentations and documents in next to no time. Seamlessly integrated within the 365 environment, it allows for photos, videos and other content to be dragged and dropped into a dynamic and responsive template to create impactful documents for sharing – there’s no reason a monthly round-up can’t be informative and nice to look at.
Features: To Do is a handy little app that helps individual users effectively manage their own time by letting them create, organise and prioritise tasks for the day. To Do is included in Microsoft 365 at all subscription levels and integrates seamlessly with other apps in the environment, giving users a simple and effective way of managing work tasks across programs and devices.
Subscription levels: Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, 365 Apps for business, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5, Enterprise F3
Chatbot development tool
Features: If you’re wondering what’s included in M365 for customer-facing tasks, this powerful tool enables enterprises to develop their own AI chatbots without any coding experience. Simply identify relevant queries and input the relevant answers, and customers can benefit from lightning-quick self-service resolutions across various channels. By automating routine tasks and enhancing user interactions, Power Virtual Agents not only improves customer service but drives better agent experience and retention too.
Subscription levels: Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5, Enterprise F3.
Features: This desktop publishing software helps businesses design and create pro-looking brochures, newsletters and other print and online marketing materials. While it is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Publisher is only available for PC and doesn’t have the same level of integration as other 365 apps. However, as a blank page for creativity and customisation, it’s still the design software of choice for many businesses.
Subscription levels: Business Standard, Business Premium, 365 Apps for business, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5.
Project management tool
Features: Essentially a revamp of SharePoint Lists, Microsoft Lists is another way for users to manage their time, projects and productivity within the M365 environment. While To Do serves at the individual user level, Lists provides a more holistic and intensive overview of projects that’s useful on a team level, allowing projects to be divided, tasks to be assigned, and workflows to be more easily managed.
Appointment scheduling tool
Features: In terms of what’s included in M365 to drive better customer experiences, Microsoft Bookings makes it easy for customers to schedule their own appointments online. For businesses, this frees up resources and streamlines the booking process, while giving them the ability to create and manage schedules more efficiently. Bookings integrates with other apps and functions across the Microsoft 365 environment, allowing for automation of appointment reminders, etc.
Features: Loop is arguably the pinnacle of Microsoft’s cloud-based collaboration apps, described by Microsoft itself as a ‘transformative co-creation experience’. The app brings together everything teams need for the smooth running of a project – from contacts and content to all tasks from across tools and devices – into a single, dynamic workspace that everyone can access and use. It includes tasks, progress trackers, planning and comment tools, notifications and so much more.
Features: Delve is great for larger enterprises as it acts as a personalised search engine for the M365 environment. It uses ML and AI to proactively identify the most relevant content based on user behaviour. Individualised insights give tips on workplace wellbeing and focus, and there are personalised boards where users and teams can collect, organise and share documents. Taking the time to explore everything Delve has to offer can make a world of difference to what individual users get out of Microsoft 365.
Given what’s included in Microsoft 365 as standard, most businesses can harness the power of the cloud-based environment to start streamlining workflows, increasing productivity and enhancing collaboration with even a basic subscription. For those businesses and enterprises that need a little more functionality, or those with a specific need for a particular piece of software, M365 offers a number of application add-ons and upgrade options. Our Microsoft-accredited experts can help you identify the best apps for your particular requirements, but some popular ones include:
Features: Power Automate is included in Microsoft 365 at most levels, giving businesses and enterprises the ability to streamline repetitive tasks, maximise efficiencies and reduce costs by automating workflows using AI. This powerful application can be used across desktop, mobile and web, allowing businesses to create and manage automations from a central portal that’s available from anywhere, on any device. Uses can include everything from automating notification that document approval is required, to automated email downloads, onboarding processes and custom push notifications.
Options: Choose between premium and standard versions.
Business social network
Features: Formerly Yammer, Viva Engage is included in Microsoft 365 for business as a Teams integration. In simple terms, Viva Engage is your company’s very own private social network, connecting teams not only to the information they need, but to each other. Businesses can use it to communicate company news, to share team success stories, or to launch polls and discussions around HR matters. The beauty of the app is its flexibility – businesses really can create the platform they want.
Options: Add on to any subscription, and BCN can help set it up.
There are Microsoft 365 packages to suit most businesses, from sole traders through to businesses with multiple sites or stores across the country. The real power of the Microsoft 365 environment is that it’s almost infinitely customisable – so even if the package that makes most sense for a business doesn’t contain a certain app or licence that would be useful, the chances are it can be added as a bolt-on.
Here’s what’s included in Microsoft 365 for business at the different subscription levels:
£4.90 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, 1 TB of cloud storage, and Teams calls for up to 300 attendees. Plus email, standard security and support.
£10.30 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web, mobile and desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as SharePoint, Exchange and the PC-only Access. Capacity to host webinars in Teams, with attendee registration and reporting tools. Plus 1 TB of cloud storage, business-class email, standard security and anytime phone and web support.
£18.10 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web, mobile and desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as SharePoint, Exchange and Access (PC Only). Advanced Teams functions and features, with webinar hosting and attendee registration and reporting tools. Plus, 1 TB of cloud storage, business-class email, advanced security, access and data control and cyberthreat protection.
£8.60 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: With a focus on apps more than teams, this package excludes chat, meeting and calling. Includes desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as OneDrive, and PC-only Publisher and Access apps. Plus 1 TB of cloud storage, standard security and anytime support.
For businesses that have a significant number of users, complex IT needs and/or specific requirements in terms of security, compliance and flexibility, a Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscription might be the way forward.
These plans are designed to meet the needs of larger businesses by offering advanced features, services and management capabilities, as well as a comprehensive suite of productivity, communication, collaboration and automation tools and software.
Here’s what’s included in Microsoft 365 Enterprise at the various subscription levels:
£33.10 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web and desktop versions of apps including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus Teams, Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Stream, Bookings, Lists, Forms, Sway, Planner, To Do, PC-only Publisher and Access, Viva Engage, Viva Connections, Viva Insights, Visio, Power Automate, Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents. Also includes Windows for Enterprise, advanced Teams functions including file sharing within workspaces, 1 TB of cloud storage and core security and identity management capabilities.
£52.40 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web and desktop versions of apps including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus Teams, Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Stream, Bookings, Lists, Forms, Sway, Planner, To Do, PC-only Publisher and Access, Viva Engage, Viva Connections, Viva Insights, Visio, Power Automate, Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents. Also includes Windows for Enterprise, and advanced Teams functions including file sharing within workspaces and audio conferencing for up to 1,000 attendees. Plus 1 TB of cloud storage, scalable business analytics with Power BI Pro, and advanced security, identity management and compliance capabilities.
£6.60 per user, per month + VAT
Includes: Web and mobile version of Microsoft 365 apps, plus Windows for Enterprise, Teams, Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Stream, Bookings, Lists, Forms, Sway, Planner, To Do, Viva Connections, Viva Engage, Visio, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents. Also includes standard security capabilities.
Because every business is different, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing, building, or deploying the right Microsoft 365 environment. Ensuring teams have all the tools, applications, and integrations they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently will look different for every business, and there are a range of supporting Microsoft cloud services and solutions that can help businesses meet any and all of these requirements.
As a certified Microsoft Solutions partner, BCN is ideally placed to help you choose and deploy a Microsoft 365 environment that not only meets the needs of your teams and your stakeholders but also empowers you towards achieving your overarching business goals.
Our team of accredited experts have facilitated hundreds of Microsoft 365 migrations across industries. We always take the time to get to know your business, how it works, and its plans for the future. We believe that, with the right support and planning, every business can unlock the full potential of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.
Learn more about BCN's Microsoft 365 for business service, or speak to one of our experts on 0345 095 7000