There are so many great features with the new Office 365 that it’s hard to know which ones are going to be the most important for your business. The entire suite was built to enable and facilitate streamlined collaboration and communication – and it largely succeeds in this.
With Office365, you have access to the latest release of new Office versions, which in 2016 include enhanced performance of Outlook, and continuous improvement to the security options included in Office 365.
But early access is just one of the many features we think are going to make a big difference in your business’s ability to work collaboratively and efficiently. Our top eight features of Office 365 include:
- Automatic updates – If you‘ve ever had Word overwrite formatting that you spent a lot of time setting up to make a document backwards compatible, then you know how frustrating it can be when team members are using different versions of Office applications. One of the great things about Office 365 is that like any cloud-based application or platform, you don’t have to worry about whether you are working in the most recent version of Office. Microsoft will automatically push updates out to all team members who use Office 365 on a scheduled basis.
- Team Sites – Office 365 lets you set up a Team Site where you can share documents, a team calendar, a task list, a discussion forum, and a Wiki to facilitate better communication and collaboration between team members, both internal and external. You can set up a team site for your entire business, a project team or both. Team sites can also be made available to external users, providing them access to everything they need to be a valuable member of the team. In addition, Windows Phone 7 devices let users access Team Sites document libraries and work with documents on their smartphones for even greater productivity.
- Provide external user access to Sharepoint and email – Being able to provide full team member access to contractors and outside parties is key as more and more small businesses turn to outsourced partners and freelancers for their non-core business needs. This feature helps those collaborations be more successful by sharing the tools needed to complete their jobs.
- Concurrent authoring – Gone are the days when an entire document would be locked while one team member worked on it. With Office 365, more than one person can work on the same document at a time. Office 365 locks only the specific section each person is working on to prevent overwrites. This feature is very handy for collaborating between multiple team members on a short deadline.
- Skype while you work – Because Office 365 integrates Skype for Business and other Office applications, you can begin a Skype chat or call from within a document that you are working on collaboratively. You can continue the conversation even if you leave the document, so you can continue talking while the team makes edits.
- Control and manage smartphones – Personal smartphones and mobile devices are a major security threat for many small businesses (link to Tolar’s previous articles about BYOD) but Office 365 makes it easier to control the threat by bringing them into the network as other devices and applications, so that security updates and other management tools can be applied.
- Offline-online synchronization – SharePoint Workspace lets you work offline and then synchronize your changes to a document (or documents) when you reconnect to Office 365. This is great for continuing to be productive when you don’t want to be logged in to Sharepoint – for instance, when working from home or on the road.
- Integration with Docusign – This feature has the potential to be a huge benefit for businesses like attorneys and CPAs that need to gather signatures for important documents. In the past, these businesses might have relied on a cumbersome process that included printing, signing and scanning or faxing. Office 365’s Docusign integration walks you through the process to gather electronic signatures and gather signatures from others as needed (you’ll need to do your due diligence though, to determine whether e-sigs are recognized as legal for specific transactions).
There are so many more features we could include, but these are the ones that made our short list. If you’re thinking about upgrading to Office 365, what are the features you think will benefit your business most? We’d like to hear about it in the comments.