Microsoft Office 365 – Effective and Powerful Collaboration

By: Matthew Bookspan

[This is part three in a four-part series]

Office 365 is a game-changer. However, before we define why, let’s understand a little history. As we continue this thread in learning about the platform offerings between Google and Microsoft.

Microsoft Office has always been the king of the hill when it came to desktop productivity. Practically every user (Mac or Windows) has used one of the Apps from the suite in the past (almost) thirty years. Our personal use started in college, when Microsoft Word v4 had come to market (this is 1989, and yes that was a long time ago).

For almost three decades, Microsoft took the approach of continuing to build upon their mechanistic software platform. Even when SaaS products started coming to market (think late 90s to early 2000s), Microsoft happily stood by the theory that business users needed desktop Apps including Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Fast-forward to today and there are many different choices in collaboration tools, including the aforementioned Google Apps for Work (Part II in this series), Quip, iWork for iCloud, and more. While those Apps became popular, many of us believed that Microsoft had missed the boat in the cloud productivity space.

That all changed in early 2013. Microsoft launched Office 365 with little fanfare. The firm then steadily, slowly and methodically built upon the platform to provide a robust cloud-based productivity suite that in many ways, captures the Cloud Productivity title. Ok, enough hype. Let’s focus on the benefits of leveraging Office 365 in the business environment:

  • Desktop Apps (OS X/Windows) with cloud connectivity.
  • Cloud Apps with a near-complete feature set of the Desktop Apps.
  • Mobile Apps (iOS/Android) with feature richness and cloud connectivity.

From a feature spectrum, there have been many articles written that compare Google Apps for Work vs. Office 365. What Blacktip believes is a key differentiator is the new Office 365 Groups feature within Outlook. The following is a short video on how this feature works:

Having the ability to perform in-context collaboration is the future for team workflow. The fact that you can share emails, discussions, calendars and notes all within your favorite email client is compelling, simple and most importantly, practical.

What’s also excellent to see is that Microsoft is heavily investing in this feature. In six short months, it’s grown from a small feature in Outlook Online to having integration with OneDrive for Business, OneNote and there is now an App for iOS (with push notifications for group updates).

Weaknesses of Office 365

Yammer – it’s purpose is a business social network. However, it’s a very limited communication tool when compared to Slack and other more modern communication tools.

SharePoint – this is your “Intranet” and/or “Wiki”. While SharePoint works, it’s clunky and has some odd overlapping of features with OneDrive for Business.

Summary

While Microsoft Office 365 might be more expensive than Google Apps for Work (not by much), the choice will come down to value. Blacktip believes there is an incredible value with this productivity suite.

In part four, we’ll discuss Blacktip’s recommendation as well as how we use both productivity suites. The denouement is worth the wait…