Microsoft has put considerable amounts of time and resources into Office 365. At a recent Microsoft Partner conference I was impressed with the cloud-first strategy that Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) has created for the company. Office 365 is one of the key components of the cloud-first direction.
Beyond the traditional desktop and online applications within Office 365, such as Access, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, there are several additional services, apps, and add-ins that you may not know even exist, let alone know how and why they may be valuable to you, your colleagues, and/or your business.
The goal of this article is to review a great majority of the available (non-traditional) Office 365 services, apps, and features, and give our readers a better understanding of how and why they're used. Hopefully, too, this information will help our audience better decide whether they might be interested in acquiring any of these products for themselves or their organization.
But before we get into that—assuming you already use Office 365—make sure you're familiar with which apps and services are currently available to you within your particular Office 365 subscription. To do so, simply log into your Office 365 environment, and open up your “app launcher”, which is the blue grid in the left-hand corner of your web browser.
Below is our list and description of some of the most popular Office 365 services, apps, and features. Note that some of the information was gathered from our learning partners at Microsoft. Also, please keep in mind that many of the products which we'll review are only included in select subscription plans of Microsoft Office 365.
► ProPlus Client Tools
Office 365 includes online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. These apps include most of the functionality found in the desktop version of the apps with some additional collaboration features not found in the desktop apps.
► Microsoft Bookings
Microsoft Bookings is an online and mobile app for small businesses that provide services to customers on an appointment basis. Need to contact a customer about an appointment or reschedule on the fly? With the Bookings mobile app, you have full access to your customer, staff, and calendar info where and when you need it. Use the app to email, call, or text customers or create a new appointment with a few taps.
► Microsoft Flow
Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service that makes it practical and simple for line-of-business users to build workflows that automate time-consuming business tasks and processes across applications and services. You can use Flow to connect email and IM alerts, synchronize files between applications, copy files from one service to another, collect data from one app and store it in another, and more.
► Microsoft Forms
Microsoft Forms is a new part of Office 365 Education that allows you to quickly and easily create custom quizzes, surveys, questionnaires, registrations, and more. When you create a quiz or form, you can invite others to respond to it using any web browser, even on mobile devices. As results are submitted, you can use built-in analytics to evaluate responses. Forms data, such as quiz results, can be easily exported to Excel for additional analysis or grading.
► Microsoft MyAnalytics
Formerly known as Delve Analytics, MyAnalytics helps you focus on what matters most by providing personalized insights about how you spend your time at work. In addition to the capabilities that had been available in Delve Analytics, MyAnalytics will allow you to stay up-to-date with important contacts, share key metrics, and help you prioritize the time you spend with different groups.
► Microsoft Planner
Microsoft Planner is a tool that gives users a visual way to organize teamwork. Teams can create new plans, organize and assign tasks, share files, chat about what they're working on, set due dates, and update status. Microsoft Planner also offers the ability to associate documents with specific tasks, edit them together, and have conversations around tasks.
► Microsoft PowerApps
PowerApps, at its core, is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). It allows you to create Mobile Apps that run on Android, iOS, Windows, with almost any Internet browser. With PowerApps Mobile Apps, all of the PowerApps you create run through the PowerApp App. It takes care of the differences between the operating systems and just allows you to run your apps. It is essentially a container that makes mobile apps much easier to use across mobile platforms.
► Microsoft Sway
Microsoft Sway is a professional digital storytelling app for business that helps you and your colleagues express ideas using an interactive, web-based canvas. Microsoft Sway’s built-in design engine helps you produce professional, visually-appealing reports, presentations, and more without the need for extensive formatting or additional training. You can also modify the results to get the unique look and feel you want. Microsoft Sway makes your creation look great in any browser on any screen, and it can be shared with colleagues and customers by simply sending a link. Microsoft Sway helps you find and pull together all sorts of content without leaving the app, so you can drag and drop your images, text, videos, and charts right on to your canvas.
► Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is a chat-centered workspace in Office 365 that helps team members achieve more together. Microsoft Teams serves as a hub for teamwork, providing instant access to chat conversations, content, and tools from across Office 365 into a single workspace. SharePoint and OneNote are built in, and team members can work on Office documents right within the app. Aside from chats, Microsoft Teams also supports video calls and meetings to enable teams to meet live, whether on demand, or scheduled. Team members can easily collaborate with multiple teams and search across people, chats, and files anytime. Microsoft Teams works across Windows, Mac, Web, Android, and iOS platforms.
► Office Delve
Microsoft Office Delve is a data visualization and discovery tool that incorporates elements of social networking and machine learning with the search capability of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Office Delve is a cloud-based service powered by Office Graph, which helps users find and discover pertinent information across integrated Microsoft products by pulling user content from Microsoft Exchange, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint 2016 and Yammer.
► Office 365 Groups
Essentially, Office 365 Groups are a shared workspace for email, conversations, files, and events where group members can collectively get work completed. You can use groups to collaborate with people across your company, even if they don’t have access to Dynamics 365. For example, you can create a group for your sales team and invite other Office 365 users to join the group, and then share documents, conversations, meeting notes, and OneNote information related to specific accounts or opportunities. According to Microsoft, Groups works with any entities, even custom ones.
OneDrive is Microsoft's online Cloud storage product and is available for free to all owners of a Microsoft account. It was previously called SkyDrive but was re-branded in 2014. OneDrive offers users a simple way to store, sync, and share files with other people and devices on the Web. OneDrive is the central point for hosting and sharing files online when using Microsoft's services and applications. The only way to access it "independently" is using a web browser. Simply go to the OneDrive website, enter your Microsoft account credentials, and sign in.
► SharePoint Online
SharePoint Online is a cloud-based service that helps organizations share and collaborate with colleagues, partners, and customers. With SharePoint Online, you can access internal sites, documents, and other information from anywhere—at the office, at home, or from a mobile device. SharePoint Online is a powerful set of tools that empowers sharing and collaboration on your intranet.
► Skype for Business
Skype for Business, formerly known as Microsoft Lync, is a unified communications (UC) platform that integrates common channels of business communication and online meetings, including instant messaging (IM), presence, voice over IP (VoIP), voicemail, file transfers, video conferencing, web conferencing, and email. Skype for Business can be deployed on premises, in the Cloud, or as a hybrid service. Clients can run on Windows operating systems, Android phones and tablets and Apple iOS devices.
Note: As part of the Microsoft intelligent communications vision to deliver smarter calling and meeting experiences, they’re building Skype for Business capabilities into Teams. This will happen over time, and ultimately Teams will become the single client experience.
Yammer is a private social network for organizations and is built around open communication. For example, you can use it to efficiently resolve support issues, gather feedback on projects and documents, and spread best practices. Yammer groups are a place where members can get up to speed on a project, participate in threaded discussions, and loop customers and vendors into conversations. Yammer also helps you discover relevant information, groups, files, and people so everyone can share their knowledge across departments and time zones.