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Top 5 Office 365 Collaboration Tools for Home and Business

Collaborative tools have become essential components of the digital workplace, and it seems nobody understands that better than Microsoft. While new tools and apps are introduced on various platforms in what seems like an hourly basis, they may not always be as effective in providing exactly what users need.

Microsoft Office 365 takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation by providing a suite of tools that are designed to work in your specific environment and can be tailored to meet your needs. When used properly, digital collaborative tools can help boost employee engagement and improve productivity. The biggest questions with Office’s range of collaborative tools are: Which ones are most viable for your workspace? And when should they be used?

What Are Office 365 Collaboration Tools?

Taking a look at the big picture is the first step in understanding what types of collaboration tools might be best suited for your particular work environment. The features on these tools allow users to share documents and information in real time, even when working on a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation — if they have the web-based apps. This can be used for both work and personal purposes, such as creating a calendar or agenda in which multiple people need to provide input. That’s really just the tip of a very big iceberg, however. Other tools are designed to take on more robust challenges of a busy workplace, allowing for file-sharing, co-authoring and real-time conversations to keep the workflow moving — even when users are on different devices or on different continents.

Looking at the features, benefits and best-use scenario for each collaborative tool can help you determine which ones are most beneficial for your environment.

What Is Outlook Email?

First up is an oldie but a goodie. Chances are you’re familiar with Microsoft Outlook, because it’s been around since 1997. Since then, Microsoft has constantly released new versions of it, each time adding new features and making it more valuable to users. At its most basic level, Outlook sends and receives emails. But it also is an efficient tool for managing email, including being able to integrate your personal data to see your whole life calendar at once rather than working off separate work and personal calendars. Sorting email into folders is easy and can be done by creating rules for different types of email, and you can also set reminders to follow up.

With so much of your work (and personal) life depending upon email, you want a robust solution that integrates with your other tools to improve efficiency — and Outlook Email is exactly that.

What Is Yammer?

In short, Yammer is a terrific collaborative tool with a silly name. It’s designed to help improve communication in the business space, and it accomplishes that by using a group setting that looks like a social network ... except that it is much more exclusive.

Businesses create a platform that allows for group collaboration. Think of it like Facebook, but for your entire company. This allows users to share information that the entire company might need to know, or ask questions to all employees or co-workers instead of seeking answers individually. It can also foster greater team interaction by providing a space for jokes, funny office observations, invitations to events and more. As with Facebook, the collaboration or conversation begins when someone creates a post in a feed and others can join in.

What Is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams picks up where Microsoft Outlook leaves off. Both are great for communication and collaboration, but Teams is sort of like the Inner Circle of Outlook. While Outlook is designed for communication with both internal and external sources, Teams is the place to shut the door, roll up the sleeves and do the work in real-time through chats, video meetings and file storage and sharing.

The platform can be customized to meet the unique needs of your work environment, and the online workspace is equipped with end-to-end security and administrative control to ensure that it remains confidential and secure for as long as you need it to be. The conversations appear in a thread format, so it’s easy to go back and review information or double-check your discussions for action items.

In Teams, users can collaborate on files like Word docs and PowerPoint in the Office app, and it’s designed to be used either by just a couple of people — or a couple thousand. It’s a powerful way to bring workplace communication together for more productivity.

What Is SharePoint?

If you remember the pain of having to route a single document to multiple users and get their input (“Remember to track changes, please!”), SharePoint is a welcome addition to your quiver of productivity arrows. SharePoint has been around for almost two decades, but it continues to be tweaked to work better with other Office applications and to improve collaboration. SharePoint allows multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously, so you can see in real-time what others are suggesting and how information is being added or reworked. It works well with Teams to create a feature-rich, collaborative environment.

What Is OneDrive for Business?

OneDrive for Business provides the storage component for all your Office 365 documents and files. It allows for complete accessibility from any approved user’s device, which means they can be shared quickly and easily. While it may not fall into the same category of collaborative tool as the other features, it’s an excellent way to boost collaboration because it allows for such easy sharing of files.

OneDrive for Business allows for permissions to be set to limit editing capabilities or you can even make files read-only for certain users. By setting permissions, you eliminate the danger of unapproved employees accessing or changing information.

Which Microsoft Collaboration Tools Are Right for You? Your business’s needs are as individual as your employees, so just as with Microsoft’s other business tools, certain features might work better for your environment than others. Identifying where you could improve on collaboration and knowing how your teams work together can help you decide which options are best for you. Then you can take the steps needed to begin streamlining your collaboration process and boosting productivity.

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