Microsoft has a new solution to help IT administrators assess the use of applications in its productivity suite. It's combining the intelligence of the usage reports in the new Office 365 admin center with the interactive reporting capabilities of Power BI.

In a blog post, Anne Michels, senior product marketing manager for the Microsoft Office 365 marketing team, said the new Office 365 adoption content pack enables admins to visualize and analyze Office 365 usage data, create custom reports and share the insights within their organizations.

Now in limited preview, it should be generally available by the end of the year.

Tapping the Collaboration Space

Michels said Office 365 "is all about enabling users to be more productive and to communicate and collaborate more effectively." That's key messaging for Microsoft, which is pushing to maintain leadership in a field crowded with less expensive competitors.

There's Google’s recently rebranded G Suite, as well as yesterday’s launch of Workplace, by Facebook. While the latter has a way to go in terms of functionality compared with the likes of Yammer or Salesforce Chatter, it is expected to grow quickly

Combine this with the reality that many workers don’t use all the apps available to them in Office 365, which means enterprises are paying for tools that are not being used. Enterprises can either shift to a cheaper offering with less functionality — not an option in the Microsoft lexicon — or they find a way to make what they have from Microsoft work better.

Office 365 Adoption

To do that, enterprises have to know how Office 365 is being used. The new insights are provided through a dashboard split into four areas:

  • Adoption: Admins can see how many users have been assigned a license, how may actively use the product and how many return after first use
  • Communication: Provides details about the use of options like email and Yammer, including the number of emails sent, average number of Yammer posts read and average amount of time spent using Skype
  • Collaboration: Shows how workers are using OneDrive and SharePoint for internal collaboration
  • Activation: Shows Office 365 ProPlus, Project and Visio activations

There are other additional, specific reports that dig deeper into the use of individual applications, including reports for Yammer, Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Office 365 power users.

The dashboard can be customized to provide personalized views of enterprise usage and data.

Big Brother?

There is also an aspect here that Microsoft hasn’t discussed. But think about it: If admins can see what and how applications are being used, they can also get an idea of how productive workers are and how that productivity relates to application use.