Office 365 has become a testament to Microsoft’s vision: a singular, constantly updating home for all Microsoft collaboration tools. This creates a single, unified platform for the majority (if not entirety) of applications a user will need to complete their daily work. From managing your emails in Outlook to working on documents in Word and collaborating through SharePoint, users are able to transition seamlessly through tasks and processes. For such seamless working to exist, the ability to freely collaborate with colleagues company-wide is crucial.
In today’s post, we’re going to explore the extent to which users can do so with Microsoft collaboration tools.
Since Office 365 launched in 2011, the platform has undergone significant yet gradual changes. The services dedicated to company communication are no exception. Yammer, Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams all focus on connecting users, offering you a number of ways to collaborate through the business.
The rise of Facebook around 2006 and subsequent social media boom revolutionised our ability for wide-scale, real-time communication. And that revolution would quickly carry over to the enterprise space, leading to Microsoft buying Yammer in 2012.
Dressed in the same clothes as Facebook—a smart move, given its widespread popularity—Yammer was heralded the first social networking service for the enterprise: connecting people and teams across their organisation in a less formal, ‘social’ manner. Customised feeds bring relevant content to the user in the same way a Facebook or Twitter feed would, while comments, likes and private messaging allow for ‘friendlier’ and more natural responses between users.
Despite a lot of hype surrounding the potential and future of Yammer, the last four years haven’t been ideal for the platform:
- July 2014:Founder David Sacks leaves Yammer.
- September 2014:The Yammer Developer Network is shut down.
- February 2015:The standalone Yammer Customer Network (YCN) is shut down in favour of an Office 365-focused community.
- January 2016:Yammer CSMs report that about 40 Customer Success Managers are laid off.
While Yammer perhaps did not manage to equal adoption rates of sites like Facebook, the tool is still used by 200,000 companies (and 85% of the Fortune 500) thanks to its ability to facilitate company-wide communication. And yet Microsoft were not content with this alone.
Office 365 Groups
Microsoft Office 365 Groups, located within Outlook web app, offers a local hub for teams to communicate and collaborate on their work. Groups act as a more focused and dedicated home for content, rather than the far-reaching (but less personal) capability of Yammer. Whether it’s for working on a new project or to collaborate with your sales team, Groups are customised to whatever specifics you need:
- Join meetings
- Start conversations
- Add notes
- Share documents
The idea behind Office 365 Groups is relevancy. Able to fit around the specific needs of you or your team, Groups are a localised space for your content, communications and efforts allowing you to get work done faster.
In keeping with the tradition of Office 365, Microsoft have now looked to push the potential of collaboration the platform further this year. The result is Microsoft Teams—released this November—that builds on the foundations of Office 365 Groups as a “chat-based workspace”.
- Centralised communications
It can become increasingly difficult to keep track of deep email threads, Skype conversations, text messages etc. Communications in Teams all happen in one place. Users can assign themselves to whichever channels are appropriate and to keep up with relevant work.
There are a number of applications available that integrate with Teams. Services such as the Office suite, Planner, OneNote, PowerBI and SharePoint can each be added as tabs.
You can also add ‘connectors’ which allow you to connect external services to Microsoft Teams. Current available services include GitHub, Twitter, Bing, Trello, Asana and more.
- Searchable content
Quick and easy search allows you to find all your content across Microsoft Teams. Filter options can also be used to narrow and refine your search – particularly useful if you’re in a larger group of users.
- One-to-one & private conversations
Transparency in team communications is certainly a great option, but there are times when you need to communicate something privately between the members of your team. Perhaps it’s payroll related or some other personal situation the whole team doesn’t need to know. Microsoft Teams make it simple to exchange messages privately between two people.
Variety speaks volumes
The flexibility of Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, Office 365 Groups and Yammer allows workers a multitude of ways to get their work done. All you have to do is select the one best suited to the needs of your business and your way of working.
Of course, there is such a thing as having too much choice. For some companies, this can ultimately result in added, unnecessary confusion. At Lightning Tools, we employ our own SharePoint developers to ensure our products are evolving at the same fast pace as the technology industry and Office 365.
Social Squared, from Lightning Tools, offers fully-integrated enterprise discussion forums. Multiple forum groups, gamification, instant messaging and an integrated SharePoint newsfeed provide users with even more ways to collaborate. Get your 14-day, completely free trial today.