How to Create a

Modern Workplace With MS Office 365

Managing Your Modern Workplace with Microsoft Office 365

Besides familiar tools like Outlook, SharePoint and Skype for Business, the Microsoft collaboration world offers advanced interfaces and platforms for efficient and productive shared environments. For instance, Yammer, Office 365 Groups and Teams create so-called modern workplaces. We’ll use this article to give you a run through the most important collaboration platforms, outlining concrete examples and scenarios to demonstrate how you can build a modern workplace with Microsoft Office 365.

From Classic Communication to a Modern Workplace Strategy

Let’s skip briefly through previous methods of document handling in collaborative settings. Once created, documents were saved to the desktop or placed on a fileserver. Colleagues wishing to access the files simultaneously wound up blocking each other. Searching for a certain document in the endless expanse of fileserver structures was laborious and elaborate. Once found, it was impossible to tell which document was the most recent. In addition, it was also necessary to send huge attachments by e-mail. Forwarding them to several recipients – all of them keen to add comments – simply triggered the familiar game of e-mail ping-pong. Sounds familiar? Ah, the good old days! But changes brought about by the dizzying pace of digitization have finally confined this form of communication and collaboration to the annals of history.

The following diagram charts how communication styles have changed.

Classic versus modern communication, source: SoftwareONE

This is why many companies and institutions are currently investigating a future strategy known as the modern workplace. Here, the focus is placed increasingly on end users. It is imperative to understand which requirements the users have – and therefore their colleagues as well – in order to provide suitable technology for faster, more productive and modern collaboration.

Yammer: Social Network for Enterprises

Generation Y – known as the millennials – can no longer imagine life without social networks. They use the networks to obtain and also share information. Today, social media are the fastest way of staying up-to-date. Microsoft Yammer Enterprise is a social network solution for companies. But what added value will you actually gain from Yammer Enterprise?

The Yammer Enterprise platforms helps in the socialization and sharing of ideas throughout the company or in areas of common interest. You can foster communication and collaboration by ensuring a greater reach and by including internal employees, external business partners or target groups in your network. This takes place using groups and topics. What’s more, you can quickly and easily share information with your organization and business partners to guarantee that everyone remains consistently up-to-date and to provide them with a platform to discuss ideas on various topics.

You can also start surveys to obtain new insight in a flash and to commend employees for remarkable achievements. Overall, universal participation in this kind of platform will vastly increase staff satisfaction.
Screenshot of Yammer Enterprise:

Microsoft Contoso test environment
Microsoft Contoso test environment, source: Microsoft

Office 365 Groups: a Shared Workspace for Everyone

Office 365 Groups provide group and workspaces based on SharePoint Online, bringing together e-mail, calendar, notes, tasks and file directory functions at a central location. This allows group members to collaborate on various topics and projects and to air their ideas. They use a shared interface and are not required to switch back and forth between several programs and screens.

Office 365 Groups can be used as a browser-based service or integrated in the MS Outlook client.

Office 365 Groups support collaboration with external users. Business partners can be invited into the groups and have complete collaborative access.

The Yammer Enterprise technology is integrated in Office 365 Groups. This means that social network functions can also be used in Office 365 Groups.

Microsoft Teams: Flexible and Virtual Collaboration at Any Time

The world has changed in terms of our working methods and our habits as well. These days, collaboration is everything other than a 9-to-5 job. Employees are becoming increasingly mobile, working on various devices and at different locations, so they want easy access to data and the option of working flexibly in virtual teams.

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based solution in the area of communication and collaboration. This solution provides you with a modern workspace that your employees can use across devices and wherever they happen to be. Like in Office 365 Groups, this solution also brings together the following technologies at a central location:

Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams combines technologies, source: Microsoft

Microsoft Teams can also incorporate other Microsoft technologies such as Power BI Pro to integrate real-time evaluations. And if that were not enough: even external apps like Smartsheet (smart solution for work and project management) can be added to your team.

Why the Future Belongs to Teams

I believe that the future belongs to Microsoft Teams and that it’s currently the best Microsoft Office 365 technology for collaboration and communication between end users. Why?

Technically speaking, Teams builds on Office 365 Groups. An Office 365 group is created automatically for each team. But compared to Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams comes with a fresh interface and improved handling.

Every employee can quickly and easily create a team at the click of a mouse, invite relevant colleagues to join the team and collaborate on the project or individual topics. In a nutshell: your employees only need one central application for the team and project workflow in order to access all the functions they need to collaborate efficiently. Let’s not forget, legacy systems tended to produce more than enough data silos. When working with Microsoft Teams, your employees no longer need to ask where they sent information, how they did it and above all to whom. All documents and data are located at a central repository. The interface has an extremely attractive and modern design that your employees will highly appreciate and that will add more than a hint of fun to their work.

Source: Microsoft Contoso test environment

Microsoft Teams currently does not allow you to work with external users. It is not clear at this time whether and when the integration of external persons will be possible.

What’s the Best Way to Use these Applications?

Essentially there’s no right and wrong. What really counts is that your users understand the process and can decide in individual scenarios which technologies are best suited to particular user groups. This way, your users will deploy the systems to reach their targets quicker and more reliably.

For example, an employee in production will have different use cases to a sale rep. The sales rep requires quick and easy access to data on mobile devices. So the reps must be able to connect with the CRM online system, teams, documents and Skype for Business in order to take part in telephone conferences when travelling by car. In contrast, the production employee needs access to technical applications for machine operation, to the company intranet and to work rosters using Microsoft StaffHub (time management and communication).

Other Office 365 Use Case scenarios

Teams Yammer Outlook SharePoint Skype for Business
Chat-based workspace Social enterprise network E-mail & calendar Page & content management Voice, video, meetings
Use cases
Complete projects efficiently with your team Share practical research results or trends with the community Update mailing lists to create a group inbox with shared content Create an intranet for your company, e.g. for news or resources Create audio, video and web conferences
Share documents and collaborate on project results Use crowdsourcing to collect troubleshooting ideas Share updates with your group by e-mail Edit your Team Sites to automate document workflows and shared lists Hold large meetings with up to 10,000 participants
Connect your developer tools to your workspace Enable sharing between employees and management levels Keep a shared calendar to ensure your group remains constantly up-to-date Use OneDrive to collaborate on your documents

Place business calls via the Internet or telephone switchboard

Source: Microsoft

Conclusion: Questions to Help You Decide on New Tools

Are you uncertain whether these Microsoft Office 365 platforms are suitable for your company? The following questions can help you decide. Office 365 is absolutely recommendable if you can answer in the affirmative.

Considerations for the use of Microsoft Yammer Enterprise:

  • Do you want to improve your corporate communications at a national and international level?
  • Would you like to improve the reach of your information flow (internal & external)?
  • Do you want to give your employees the opportunity to share information quickly with colleagues and to obtain their opinions?
  • Would you like to commend employees for remarkable achievements in order to improve staff satisfaction?
  • What’s more, do you also want to give your employees the additional benefit of selling items privately on Yammer Enterprise?

Considerations for the use of Microsoft Teams:

  • Would you like to allow your employees to collaborate in virtual teams?
  • Do you want to give your employees a platform they can access to collaborate in teams with any device and from any location (without VPN connection)?
  • Is it important to you that your employees have a central application for teamwork and that they do not need to open and switch between ten screens

Considerations for the use of Groups:

  • Would you like to open your Office 365 Groups for external partners, suppliers or customers to enable collaboration in a group?

Office 365 Groups can be run parallel to Microsoft Teams whenever you have sensible use cases. In terms of usability and interface, I believe that Teams is a truly pioneering application for collaboration and modern workplaces. But ultimately your users are the most important factors within this context. It is essential to keep your users on board, to train them and to address their particular situations to ensure that they recognize the added value and that their initial experience with the new technologies is positive.

  • User Productivity
  • Office, Microsoft, Power BI, Smartsheets

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