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Office 365 includes a number of productivity tools that users may never have tried. An overview of 12 of them PHOTO: Austin Ban

Everybody has corporate email, right? Along with email, most of us in the corporate world rely on our calendars, spreadsheets and word processing documents to get our jobs done. These tools make organizations across the U.S. and across the globe hum.  

But the corporate workforce has become more global. People are working from everywhere on all kinds of devices. We don’t sit in cubicles anymore with our desktops in front of us. As the workforce has evolved, so too has the basic productivity toolkit we all use. Not only have the tools like email become more mobile, they’ve had to become more collaborative.

Many enterprises have moved on premises email functionality to the cloud and in many of those cases, it's through Microsoft Office 365.

How Office 365 Changes Day to Day Work

Six years after launch, Microsoft’s Office 365 is the most popular enterprise cloud service, according to a Skyhigh Networks analyis. It's estimated that one of every five corporate employees (20 percent) use an Office 365 cloud service. In fact, Office 365 has 70 million active users, representing about 6 percent of its total 1.2 billion office users.

Beyond always having the latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Sharepoint, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business and Access, Enterprise clients cite these reasons for moving to Office 365:

  • Anytime, Anywhere Access
  • Security
  • Reliability

Apart from having the latest versions of office productivity software, office workers have a wide range of tools at their disposal. Let's take a look at some of those features to understand how they can benefit the average worker.

Microsoft publishes several versions of Office 365. Let’s assume it’s your lucky day and your company selected E5. E stands for Enterprise and 5 represents the most extensive, feature-rich plan.

So what comes with it and how do those features make a difference in your day to day work?

It goes without saying you get email, but Office 365 is really meant to be a web-based productivity tool to help you collaborate and communicate securely across any device. In addition content can be managed and shared between users.

There are 12 cool productivity tools outside of email that the average user may or may not be taking advantage of on a consistent basis or may not even be aware of. 

12 Underutilized Office 365 Productivity Tools

1. Microsoft Flow

This tool allows a user to automate workflows, called Flows, across applications. You can use Flow to connect email and instant messaging alerts, synchronize files between applications or copy files from one service to another. For example, if someone fills out a form in SharePoint, you could use Flow to create a new lead in Dynamics365.  

But it's not limited to Microsoft services. You could just as easily pull information from Facebook or push files into Dropbox using Flow. The key feature is connecting systems to enable your business to work.

2. Microsoft Forms

Want to find out what everyone wants on their pizza for Friday’s lunch? You can do that with Microsoft Forms. This tool allows you to create surveys, quizzes and polls and see results as they come in. Good news: It will work with up to 5000 recipients. That’s a lot of pizza.

3. Microsoft MyAnalytics

This tool shows you how you’re spending your work time: everything from how much time you’re spending on email to who you collaborate with the most, along with other schedule hogs like how many meetings you attend a week. The tool is broken down into a few sections: Your Time, Network, Meetings, Email, Focus Hours, After Hours. Think you’re spending most of your day in meetings? You might be right.

4. Microsoft Planner

Is your team distributed across the globe with many simultaneous projects and deliverables due at the same time? This tool can quickly move your current task management process into the digital age. Planner gives users a visual way to organize teams. It provides four primary functions:  an information hub, flexible categorization, communication and insights. Users on a team can create plans, assemble and assign tasks, share files, communicate with other users on the team and receive progress updates.

5. Microsoft PowerApps

Build your own app with predefined templates Microsoft provides. Even better, you can connect that newly created app to other services such as your CRM, SharePoint, an Oracle database and more. You can share your PowerApps with a coworker by just typing in their email address.

6. Microsoft StaffHub

This app lets workers and their managers use a mobile device to manage schedules and keep in touch. Employees can use the tool to request time off, trade shifts and communicate with co-workers. Messages can be sent to individual members of the team or the entire team.

7. Microsoft Delve

This nifty data visualization tool incorporates elements of social media with machine learning. Delve discovers content across four Microsoft integrated platforms — Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Yammer. But it doesn’t just aggregate data points. Instead, it looks for relevance in the information such as past interaction and activity between users.

8. Office 365 Groups

This platform provides a shared workspace for team members. It provides options to create and store documents, as well as shared email. Group administrators can add members to the group or remove them.

9. Office 365 Video

This tool allows for upload, sharing and playback of video messages.

10. Sway

Sway is a professional presentation tool which may at some point replace PowerPoint. It has a built-in design engine that helps produce visually appealing reports and presentations, allowing you to drag and drop images, text, videos and charts in a canvas-based format.

11. Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro is for those users publishing reports, sharing dashboards, collaborating with colleagues in workspaces and engaging in other related activities.

12. Microsoft Advanced eDiscovery

In the law field? This tool allows you to even more productive. The ediscovery tool supports easy search through Exchange Online mailboxes, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business sites in a single search. Ediscovery allows organizations to process thousands of files and to quickly and efficiently find pertinent data. In the most recent upgrade, Microsoft added in machine learning, predictive coding, the ability to recognize “near duplicate” files (documents with similar content to others), email threading which identifies only new, unique messages in an email thread, and an export for review function. Export for review allows you to export all data to a .CSV file which retains all of the document properties and metadata.

Collaboration's the Name of the Game

Workers today do their jobs from their homes, from their offices and from their mobile devices. Teams are dispersed across cities, countries and continents.  Collaboration is key to productivity and productivity tools enable modern knowledge workers to collaborate. By exploring some of the tools available in your Office 365 license you’re opening up the possibilities of a true mobile, collaborative platform.