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Microsoft 365: 3 Tools for Your Team to Collaborate Better

Microsoft has been working furiously and very effectively, at improving their cloud technology stack. When we say “tech stack”, we’re referring to the combination of applications your team uses to get their work done. It’s important to note here that Microsoft’s renaming their stack from Office 365 to Microsoft 365 was a meaningful change. The traditional Office applications are just the cornerstone to the overall suite now. In this post, we’re going to direct your attention to a few other new applications that are adding value. Those are Teams, Planner, and Lists.

Teams

Teams is now the portal to your work. It’s easy and doesn’t require managing a lot of its use. Here are some of the ways it’s changing work:

  • Ties in Office Files: Sync and collaborate securely.

  • Text: Get the power of text, both one-on-one and with a group, inside the security of your Microsoft account.

  • Teams Voice: Yes, you can even integrate your whole corporate phone system into it.

  • Apps: There is a robust and growing ecosystem of Microsoft and 3rd party apps that you can add to expand the value

Planner & To Do | https://tasks.office.com/

Everyone struggles with to-do lists. They’re everywhere and more gets added than gets removed. The following is becoming a standard bit of advice. Use one platform for all tasks, across all teams and individuals. One you should seriously consider is Planner. Planner is found in the M365 list of apps and integrates with Teams (hit that plus on the top of your Teams tab and look for it).


It provides a lot more capability than meets the eye. I always like to say that you should keep data granular so that you can filter/sort/focus more effectively. Well, Planner lets you do so in several ways, including:

  • Owner

  • Priority

  • Label – These could be whatever you like. We use things like “Content, Procedures, Capacity Building, etc..” So, when we want to focus on an area, we can filter on just those tasks.

  • Priority

  • Date

  • Bucket

If you use Planner, Use “Microsoft To-Do” | https://to-do.office.com/ Here’s one that not enough people have discovered. There is an actual To-Do app that is extremely well built. It puts all action items, personal and team-based (if you use Planner) in one place.


Lists

How many of you use spreadsheets to capture and store data? Well, the newly updated Lists app just takes that approach and expands on it. Why do it this way? There are a few advantages:

  • Integration with Teams

If you hit that plus up there at the top of your Teams window, you can create a new list. This is a straightforward way to create something like a project Risk list. It’s visual, easy to use, harder to break (i.e., accidentally erase), and collaborative.

  • Structuring them is easier

What percentage of people know how to make a drop-down menu in Excel? Maybe 5%? It’s easy in Lists. You can even link lists so that they pull from each other. Making a staff list? Make a department or services list and link them so that when you add a staff member, you select their department. You’re really making a simplified relational database. Again, possible, but difficult with spreadsheets.


  • Next Level: Forms and Power Automate

Here’s where it gets fancy. You can create Microsoft Forms to capture data that lands in Lists. Think about every form you have and where the data goes. Add to that any action that is taken on the data. All of this can be streamlined. We’ll delve into Power Automate another time, but know that it’s there, and it’s a highly flexible tool that can inspect data submitted in forms and trigger actions such as approval workflows. Say, an expense claim comes through a form. If it’s less than $50, it routes to Finance, if it’s $50 or more, it routes to Johnny Utah for approval, then to Finance. The possibilities are endless, depending on the workflow at hand. When the workflow completes, the data is stored in the list for reference and/or reporting.

Tying it Together

We use Teams to collaborate with clients, and we use all these features. We collaborate on files easily, yet securely. We share task lists with Planner, and we have video calls when we need rich communication for brainstorming or complex problem solving.

Those that have been around Microsoft for a long time may be skeptical of an end-to-end solution. I respect that, as over the decades, you have always needed some 3rd party tools to fill in gaps where they weren’t executing. I can say with confidence that things are different now. They have built an incredible stack of technology that can address the needs of most information workers in the 2020’s. I would encourage you to explore around and ask us for advice anytime if you see a potential solution for your team.

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