If you’re like my company – and so many of our clients – you probably subscribe to Microsoft Office (the most popular version among our clients is Office 365 Business Premium for $12.50 per user per month). Yet, I’m betting that you’re probably using only the main applications like Word, Excel and Outlook and passing over a lot of the other features that are offered.
That’s a shame, isn’t it? Microsoft continues to aggressively add new functionality to their Office suite and many of us are too busy to take notice. My recommendation is that if you have Microsoft Office, keep it updated and bring in good consultant or trainer (you can find that person via Microsoft or sites like LinkedIn or UpWork) at least once a year who can help you get the most out of it. When they visit, here are just five applications that deserve a close look and maybe an investment.
Many big companies are adopting Teams – Microsoft’s answer to its rival Slack – to bring a company’s collaboration and communication into one place. With Teams you can make phone calls, or video calls (which can even be translated into other languages!), chat and message each other via any device and guess what? All your messaging will be not only stored, but searchable. The application also gives you the ability to create folders for customers and projects so that files, images and other data can be stored and shared with your workgroup, depending on their permissions. With a little bit of setup and training Teams can be your primary application for collaboration and communication and – as I’ve seen at companies that have made the investment – it will a significant impact on your organization’s productivity.
In September, Microsoft released a new version of its popular presentation software PowerPoint that promises to leverage new AI tools to simply make our presentations better. How?
By watching and listening to you present in “rehearsal mode”, the new PowerPoint Presentation Coach – which is part of the Microsoft 365 office suite – is not only smart enough to analyze the pace of your presentation, it’s also able to detect whether slides have too many words on them. It will even make word choice suggestions so that you can avoid things like “um’s” and “ah’s” and also steer away from culturally insensitive phrases like “you guys” or “best man for the job.” In addition to offering suggestions, a timer and commentary as you practice in real-time, once the rehearsal is over you’ll then receive a summary dashboard of recommendations. Look for more enhanced features powered by AI throughout all of Office in the future. But for now, it’s a great idea to take advantage of PowerPoint’s computer-aided advice to step up your presentations.
Before jumping into PowerPoint, though, you may want to check out another cool presentation application in your Office suite called Sway. Sway differs from PowerPoint in many ways. It can perform interactive presentations and content without a presenter. It has vertical (scrolling through a webpage), horizontal (continuous scroll sideways), and Slideshow (like PowerPoint) layout options. With Sway, you can upload content, like a Word document and add content from Microsoft’s storage service OneDrive or from the web and it will automatically start building a presentation for you, along with suggestions. You can use Sway to share and collaborate on content or even embed the entire presentation on your website. While PowerPoint is probably still best if your presentation is very data heavy with charts and graphs, Sway may be a much better tool for you to use if you’re relying on more online content and where users are self-guiding through a presentation on your site and need dynamic updates.
Although Microsoft claims that its small business customers have made “millions of bookings” over the past few years, most of my clients don’t know much about this powerful application. With Bookings, you can create an online page that’s accessible via any device and where customers can schedule appointments – even with specific staff members. From there you can manage these appointments, assign staff, establish schedules and better customize services and pricing. In addition, you can track customer demographics, preferences and other data. The benefits seem pretty obvious. The service of course works 24/7 and reduces unproductive phone time. It comes with automatic appointment reminders and gives your customers the ability to change or cancel appointments on their own. For any small business that sets up customer appointments – like salons, consultants, landscapers, roofers to name a few – Bookings seems like a no-brainer tool that deserves a close look.
One of the many challenges any small business that employs sales and service people faces is tracking driving miles for reimbursement and expense management. Microsoft’s solution to this is MileIQ, a GPS service that, once installed on a smartphone works in the background to automatically log and store the miles travelled on any trip and then provide a complete record of the mileage activity for tax and reimbursement. The application lets users set their work hours to avoid the tracking of personal driving and can accommodate multiple shifts and frequent routes. When all is said in done, you can then get detailed reports for costing and tax purposes.
Will you use all of these applications? Probably not. But I bet if you take the time to learn about them you’ll find yourself using more of Office. And why not? You’re paying for it, right?