Posted On November 26, 2015 By Alison Hardy

In 1989, it became synonymous with the office with the release of a suite of Windows-based applications called Office 1.0.

Just over two decades and many versions later, Office entered the cloud with Office 365 — a collection of cloud-based tools with online storage, enhanced communication and collaboration tools. Today, it connects 80 million users, or nearly ten percent of all Office users on the planet.

Office 365 presents new opportunities for businesses to take the way they do business to a different level. Its many features and benefits are already having a big impact on business productivity, so of course we wanted to know more. We invited Michelle Markham, a Microsoft product marketing expert, over for a webinar to get ‘under the bonnet’ of Office 365.

Here are some of the key learnings from that webinar.

So, what is Office 365, exactly?

Office 365 is a new kind of Microsoft Office subscription. It includes all the familiar Office applications plus new productivity and collaboration tools, accessed over the Internet.

As well as the convenience of a cloud-hosted suite of products, the applications are integrated with each other and across any device, online or offline, with one log in.

We asked Michelle for a quick overview of the main elements of Office 365.

  1. The Office suite

“You can connect to the usual Office applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint online through the Office web app, and download the apps to your PC, tablets or even mobile devices to access them even when you’re offline,” says Michelle.

“Another benefit for businesses is that updates to these products are automatic and continuous, saving the hassle and expense of major upgrades every few years.”

  1. Email, contacts and calendar

Office 365 syncs emails, calendars and contacts across devices in real time.

“Whereas most organisations used to have to manage their own Exchange Server, we now do that for them in the Microsoft Data Centre. Plus they get our Enterprise-grade security and protection and guaranteed 99.9 percent uptime,” Michelle explains.

  1. Skype for Business

Skype for Business is the tool for instant messaging, video conferencing and desktop sharing.

“It shows you who’s online and available for a typed chat session or you can upgrade that to a video or regular call where up to 250 people can participate. You can even record that,” says Michelle.

“There’s also some pretty cool functionality that will enable businesses to be very customer-centric. For example, Skype Translator will help break down any language barriers so that you can engage better with your customers.

“Again, Microsoft manages all the back-end server infrastructure here so once your active directory and tenant is set up you just download the client to get started.”

  1. SharePoint and OneDrive for Business

“OneDrive for Business is cloud storage to keep all your documents securely in one place. This makes it easier to access them on different devices and control what you share with others,” Michelle explains. “And when your employees leave the organisation, your IP doesn’t leave with them.”

“SharePoint lets you create shared properties like team sites or an intranet. One of the key advantages of SharePoint over a shared directory is mobile access. You can view SharePoint documents from a mobile phone really easily. It’s also great for collaborating on documents in real time or even for work flows.”

Microsoft has also made two recent additions to SharePoint, Delve and Video.

“Delve is a new way to discover relevant information and connections in your work life,” says Michelle. “It displays the information that’s most relevant to you based on the work you’re doing and the people you’re engaging with.

“Office Video is like YouTube for the Enterprise. It enables organisations to store and securely manage all their videos. We use this a lot in Microsoft for both readiness and for marketing resources.”

  1. Yammer

Michelle is a big fan of Yammer and what it can do within organisations.

“Yammer is a really great social tool. If you’re not using it, get it now as it’s free outside of Office 365. Go to yammer.com and sign up,” she says.

“In essence, it’s a social network for your business. It’s great for supporting ideation and innovation in a very agile way, but one of the biggest advantages is that helps break down organisation silos.

“I can go into a group, even an external one, or I can connect with people doing my job in London or anywhere else in the world. Our Managing Director, Pip Marlow, is highly active on Yammer and will frequently post questions asking for feedback or how we can improve. Yammer gives everyone a voice,” Michelle says.

What are the challenges customers may face in embracing the new technologies of Office 365?

Success is measured by long-term user adoption.

“Deployment alone is not enough,” warns Michelle. “Driving adoption of the tools is critical, but it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not a case of build it and they will come. You can’t just put Skype for Business on everybody’s machine and hope they’re going to start chatting and creating video conferences. You have to take users through a process and give them a reason to use it.”

Michelle explains that it’s important is to know what business problem you’re trying to solve with the tools you’re deploying in Office 365. There’s no point, for example, switching Yammer on and expecting big groups to come and use it. You need to have a planned approach.

She says the four key attributes of a successful adoption are:

Set your vision and identify the business scenarios

Map your business scenarios to usage scenarios and create an adoption plan

Commit resources and then implement that plan

Measure the progress against your plan. Showcase or highlight successes and identify new scenarios.

Michelle points out that it’s not a one-off activity either. “With new features coming out all the time, keeping up with that can be a challenge as well,” she says.

How much preparation is needed to get users accustomed to the change?

“Every organisation it is different,” says Michelle. “Giving users advanced notice of the change and taking them on that journey is critical. Give people a heads-up that change is coming at least a month before launch and don’t forget to offer them training, formal or informal.”

How do you keep the momentum going?

Michelle knows that a big part of momentum and growth is sharing the success stories. When people see things working they are likely to want to be part of it.

“Adoption is not a one-off activity. You don’t just launch and that’s it. You need to think of a 12-24-month plan of adoption around Office 365. People will get excited at first, but interest can quickly dwindle unless you’ve got people within your organisation championing the tools.”

Where to go for help and advice

Microsoft has a heap of resources available for anyone deploying Office 365 and wanting their employees to get the most out of it. Visit http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/ and http://www.microsoft.com/australia/work-wonders/ for an invaluable toolkit.

And if you’d like to learn how to use Office 365 like a pro, book your team or yourself in for an Introduction to Office 365 training session with us. We’re an official Microsoft Partner.

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