How to Get The Most From Office 365's Collaboration Tools

office365 collaboration toolsSometimes it takes a village to get work accomplished. The problem: today’s villages are often spread across different cities, states, and countries (not to mention different departments and organizations). A single project can include someone working from their home office in a New Jersey suburb or a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

Microsoft understands this and has developed a great set of tools across the Office 365 collaboration universe. This article looks at these tools and helps our readers figure out how to optimize their performance.

Microsoft Collaboration Tools That Get the Job Done

Network collective efforts are simply not possible without collaboration tools that span email, instant messaging, conferencing, file sharing, customer service, and project management.

Here’s the lowdown on the Office 365 collaboration package and how you can get the most from each tool:

Email through Microsoft Outlook is the most widely used digital communication tool in the U.S. and around the globe. We don’t need to tell you how to maximize it; most readers have been using this tool for the past decade (at least). In fact, we are increasingly turning to other Microsoft tools because our inboxes are too full.

Skype for Business has been a brilliant addition to the Office 365 collaboration family. That’s because our dispersed teams need a way to see each other through video conferencing where attendees can still whiteboard their ideas in a virtual setting.

OneDrive is a simple, secure place to store files in the cloud. It keeps a desktop uncluttered while creating an accessible paper trail that cannot be destroyed by a spilled cup of coffee on a laptop.
SharePoint takes OneDrive to the next level. It is a Microsoft Collaboration tool that’s most frequently used for team communication and organization. Getting the most from SharePoint can include creating project-specific Intranet sites to store and share documents, setting up calendars that sync with Outlook, instant messaging in real-time during document editing – and more.

Yammer is an instant messaging tool that can pool opinions from a group immediately. For fun, use it to figure out where to go to lunch. Or, talk about a client meeting – or even last nights favorite TV show.

A Connected Universe: Office 365 Collaboration

When Microsoft launched the Office 365 collaboration tools, the entire point was to create an easy-to-access universe of tools where one login could give the user everything they need to make work happen. A few years back, organizations had to use multiple tools with tool-specific sign-on, unique user interfaces – and many of them simply didn’t play well with each other. The result was a lot of busy work between applications involving copy/paste and retyping information that was already entered on one platform.

Microsoft’s collaboration tools were created to provide a seamless and efficient user experience. Each tool is already optimized to get the most from each application under the Office 365 umbrella. To find out how to streamline your communication and collaboration efficiency, contact CWPS to discuss your options.

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Collaboration Technology Trends: A Look at the Modern Meeting Room

collaboration_technology_trends.jpgTeamwork is the key to any successful enterprise. The easier your employees find it to complete their collaborative projects, the more smoothly your company will run. Collaborative technology is likewise incredibly important -- and there have been great strides made in just the last few years.

Here are just a few of the ways in which the modern meeting room has changed.

Employees now maintain multiple points of contact. In particular, email, instant messaging, and texting are all being used throughout the office -- often in lieu of phone calls. This wide variety of options makes it easier for employees to get the responses they need when they need them.

via GIPHY

Seamless connectivity is the ultimate goal of many collaborative platforms. Employees are now able to see each other working on documents, view changes in real-time, and revert back to their original copies as needed. This makes collaboration far more intuitive and easy to manage, even amongst larger teams.

Cloud-based, unified communications platforms are becoming more popular -- and more powerful. All-in-one systems such as PureCloud Communicate and PureCloud Collaborate are making it easier for employees to manage all of their communications through a single portal. This includes not only communications with other employees, but with clients as well.

Web conference rooms are now being developed to encompass entire meeting spaces. Rather than having web meetings on-the-go, many businesses are creating a single "web room" that is rigged up for web and video conferencing. This makes the process of connecting much easier.

Real-time communication is becoming much easier. Employees will soon  be able to see and talk to their colleagues as easily as sending an instant message, as bandwidth has improved and video calling features have become easier to manage.

The "web meeting" has gotten a lot bigger. Cisco Spark's WebEx Meeting Center is able to host meetings of nearly two hundred individuals, with advanced features such as video recording and multiple VoIP options. This allows for better, more direct collaboration among larger groups.

Many companies are now moving towards a "virtual office." With as many global workers as there are now, virtual office spaces have become the most affordable method of doing business. Companies such as 8X8 provide virtual offices and virtual contact centers, to connect workers from anywhere in the world.

All of these trends are often successfully managed by all-in-one, consolidated platforms; after all, collaboration is best managed through a central location.

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Key Considerations for Investing in Collaboration Technology

collaborative technologies, collaboration technologyWhen investing in collaboration, it's important to first consider the technology that will be used to bring the collaborative teams together. Here are three of the major considerations.

1. Decide What You Want to Deliver and to Whom

In collaboration, goals need to be aligned before any work can be done. Effective collaboration begins by determining the success cases for the collaboration: what is the final deliverable? At this point, it's a good idea to drill down to exacting standards:

  • What: When does the product need to be delivered?
  • How: What does the collaboration need to provide the product?
  • Who: Who is receiving the product and what are their specifications?

 

2. Understand the Collaboration “Must-Haves”

Everyone has a horror story about a collaboration that didn't work well. Perhaps the video conferencing was a nightmare - maybe no one could receive their documents in time or properly sync their files. For a good collaboration, there are a few "must-haves" that need to be met: intuitive user experiences, secured accessibility, and easy management. Even with the most talented team in your corner, you can't be expected to get anything done if your technology is actively working against you.

True collaboration - especially on a global scale - requires that all users be able to easily communicate, trade files, sync files, and find the information that they need. A collaborative system has to be well-secured to protect intellectual property, employee information, and financial data, and it has to be easily managed so that project leads can quickly check-in on progress and allocate resources. Without these must-have components, the process of collaboration becomes difficult and less productive.

3. Start With the Right Foundation

The goal of collaborative technologies is to make it as easy as possible for employees to communicate and share. Modern collaborative technologies create a single universal experience that all team members can use as an even playing field and a strong foundation on which to build. Collaboration requires that each team member be approaching a program in some universal medium. Through video conferencing, call controls, monitoring, analytics, and gateways, collaboration technology can provide this type of shared working environment in an entirely virtual space.

With clear goals, the right technology, and an appropriate foundation, you'll be have all the workings for a successful collaboration. After building out your collaborative system, the rest will all be up to your talented team members.

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