Microsoft 365: Your Toolbox to get everything done when working from home

As a person who believes in the importance of change management, I will start with what the toolbox delivers before discussing the actual tools.

The aim has never been to get as many people as possible to use a product (consumption), but rather enable employees to deliver their tasks efficiently, at the same time building and developing new skills. A bonus is when they can use these new skills to optimize processes for themselves, and if possible, for the teams they work with.

This is one of the reasons why I do not focus on personas / job roles. We simply do not have enough time and resources to do that. I focus on the skills needed by employees ‘in general’. It is much easier to talk about the skills people need to be productive, and now more importantly than ever – successfully work from home – than the tools needed. Especially if the need / purpose has not been established in companies.

Digital Literacy

I have always aligned with the 8 pillars of digital literacy as I immediately recognized the skillsets Microsoft 365 helps us develop.


 

Here is a quick overview of these digital literacy skills and how Microsoft 365 can help:

Creativity

The use of imagination or original ideas to create something, inventiveness.

Most of us go through life thinking and stating that we are not creative. And we have gotten away with it for years as we had assistants who fixed things up, or we could simply walk into the graphic designer’s office and request a graphic we need for a presentation or report.

Now with more companies adopting “working from home” policies (and yes also being forced), it is crucial for employees to have the tools to achieve desired outcomes, on their own, in shorter turnaround times. It is also important to realize that without the ability to do face to face meetings / presentations, the content itself has now become even more important.

I am a very creative person and at first, when introduced to the new tools and AI suggestions I was ‘offended’. Surely, I do not need these tools if I can do it on my own? But, with time I realized that I could do SO much more, by using the help available.

Here are some examples of apps / features that can help you be more creative – from anywhere:

Using Zoom, Morph & Design Ideas in PowerPoint can liven up an online presentation and give it some color. The ability to insert Icons, 3D Models, SmartArt and Online Pictures in Office saves time and helps with suggestions. Charts and Maps / 3D Maps in Excel brings your data to life. With some effort Power BI can help create visual dashboards. Recording videos in PowerPoint and then publishing these to Stream helps you express yourself. The ability to draw in Office, Ink to Text, Shape and Math, as well as using Whiteboard helps replace the physical whiteboard, we all got to know and love.


Collaboration

The action of working with someone to produce something.

Of course, Microsoft Teams (and SharePoint) comes to mind first when it comes to collaboration. A ‘virtual office’ where you can work together with your teammates & project members, have meetings, chat, share files and resources creates the perfect breeding ground for collaboration. Yammer also provides excellent collaboration features and let us not forget how @mentions in Office / OneDrive can quickly bring people together to co-author on documents, even when not in one physical office. Sway and Microsoft Forms also supply the functionality to share content for others to collaborate on and add their input / ideas.

Below you will see how Microsoft Teams brings resources and people together in a virtual office space:

Critical Thinking and Evaluation

The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgement.

Again, Power BI and Excel is top of mind, but do not forget about column formatting in SharePoint, using Microsoft Forms to gather information quickly to evaluate and using Power Automate to notify you of exceptions on data. Add these reports / results as Tabs in your Microsoft Teams Channels to include your team in the analysis and evaluation process. My Analytics also supplies you with insights into your personal work behavior for analysis and possible improvement.

The Power Platform is a combination of tools that brings the power of analysis and evaluation to employees. See below illustration:

Cultural & Social Understanding

Self-awareness as well respect of other cultures.

Windows accessibility features, transcripts in Stream, immersive reader in Microsoft Teams and sentiment analysis through use of cognitive services in Azure are only some of the features available to help with inclusivity and awareness. Using Yammer for campaigns to build employee engagement, Org wide Microsoft Teams, live events in both, Microsoft Forms for Surveys and Sways for awareness information packs are sure to push you in the right direction.

Curation of Information

Content curation is the process of gathering information relevant to a topic or area of interest.

Curation of content has never been easier! Use the Researcher, Smart lookup and Editor in Word, insert Online Pictures and Icons, use @mentions to get input and Co-author, Ideas in Excel, create Microsoft Forms and Power Apps to gather information and combine your information in OneNote, Sway, Stream and PowerPoint presentations. Do not forget about using hashtags / tags in Microsoft Teams and Yammer to bring information together!

E-Safety

The condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.

Apart from the incredible Compliance and Security features in Microsoft 365, there are many ways to protect yourself. These would include the permissions and members in SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, sharing of files with specific email address or passwords in OneDrive for Business, version control in OneDrive, SharePoint (Microsoft Teams) and the recycle bin where we can restore deleted items. Even Microsoft Forms can be selectively shared with specific emails and passwords and in Sway you can choose passwords as well. Passwords expire and two-step authentication in Microsoft, as well as Company Portal on Mobile adds that extra level of assurance.

Proficient Communicator

Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. Proficient is to be competent or skilled in doing or using something.

We can use various mediums to communicate and this platform delivers them all. Think live events in Yammer and Teams, News Pages on SharePoint Online, videos on Stream, surveys and quizzes in Forms and information packs in Sway. And although Outlook will never lose its place in this mix, the ability to consume data off your mobile device makes it all easier than ever before.

Just like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint gives us the ability to bring this all together for consumption.

Practical & Functional Skills:

Of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas. Designed to be practical and useful.

All the apps and services in Microsoft 365 are designed to assist with your practical and functional skills. As explained in the introduction of this article, every app has a purpose to deliver the necessary tools for the skills we need to not only be productive, but efficient and effective as well.

There is no way I could build an exhaustive list, and I have only mentioned some of the features. I hope this article will make you curious to find out more and discover your hidden superpowers within Microsoft 365.

    Collaboration means two-way communication!

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