Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Microsoft 365 is a well-known platform aimed at enterprises that brings together all the workplace favourites: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Outlook. You’ve likely been using these productivity apps for years and know your way around a good number of familiar features.

As a cloud-based platform, new and improved features are constantly being deployed in Microsoft 365—many of which are seamlessly integrated in Microsoft Teams to create a powerful hub for collaboration.

This all-in-one system is designed to help you achieve a lot more in less time, but a lot of that potential goes untapped and daily tasks continue to be dragged out by incessant app-switching, endless document hunting and buried chat messages.

Learning just some of the capabilities of your everyday software can help employees revolutionize the way they work and help business owners get the most out of their investment. On that note, here are five under-used features that you can start using right now to help you and your team push collaboration to the next level.

Organize workflows in Teams with Microsoft Planner

Important tasks can pop up at any time, particularly during online chats. But unless they’re placed in some form of organizer and assigned to someone, tasks can easily get lost or forgotten.

Microsoft Planner is already known for its kanban-like dashboard where teams can create, assign and track tasks to better visualize workflows and organize group activities. What’s lesser known is that you can add Planner to Microsoft Teams for right-on-time task management that you can view or work on directly within the channel.

Screenshot of task board in Microsoft Planner within Teams. (Source)

You can also pin one or more plans as tabs in the channel for an easily accessible overview of what’s in the pipeline, who’s responsible for what, and how many tasks are pending.

Edit a file together with added chat or video

Collaborating on the same document typically involves endless emails with attached documents or multiple screen-sharing attempts. Microsoft 365 makes it easy for teams to work on a document together in real-time, and you can simplify it even further by working on documents directly within Microsoft Teams. 

You can select a Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and/or Excel file from anywhere in Microsoft 365 and select “Edit in Teams” to start working on it with everyone in the channel. You can see each change happening in real-time and who made it. If you need an extra layer of communication, you can start a chat or even a Skype call with everyone involved without ever leaving the document.

Screenshot of a PowerPoint presentation being edited in real-time within Teams. (Source)

For those in the team channel who aren’t actively working on the document, they’ll see the notification in the channel with a link to the document so they can easily catch up on what changed.

Pin content from Microsoft SharePoint in Teams

Searching for the right document, presentation or file is one of the most time-consuming activities in the workplace. SharePoint is Microsoft’s content management platform that safely stores your documents and surfaces them with a quick search from anywhere in Microsoft 365.

Fortunately, you can extend SharePoint’s functionality in Teams. Every file you upload in Teams is automatically stored in SharePoint’s document library and will appear in the Files tab of the relevant Teams channel. This gives everyone in the channel one-click access to the information they need, when they need it.

In addition, you can pin SharePoint documents and web pages as tabs in Teams. This is useful, for example, when you want to highlight a key presentation that every new member should review before getting started.

PowerPoint document in a Team channel. (Source)

As with our previous tip, Teams lets you open any document stored in SharePoint directly in Teams so you can work on it while chatting with your colleagues. Again, the conversation will appear in the team channel along with a link to the document so no-one ever misses out.

Simplify file-sharing and collaboration with external partners

A good amount of workplace collaboration involves people from outside the organization, which can be a hassle when you need to share internal documents or chat somewhere that everyone has access to. Companies typically handle this through email or by adding even more software, like Slack, to their already bloated stack. More often than not, you end up spending more time fiddling with workarounds than actually working.

Microsoft Teams offers a secure guest access to centralize all workplace conversations and help you get things done faster. With guest access, you can easily connect with vendors, clients, contractors and stakeholders by inviting them to files, chats, meetings and the wiki in a Team channel. All you need is their email address and they’ll be instantly invited to Teams, whether they’re a Microsoft subscriber or not.

Note that you have to be a Team Owner to add guests to Teams. As an Owner, you can also set guest permissions to maintain complete control over your company information.

Manage user permissions easier with Microsoft 365 Groups

Managing permissions in Microsoft 365 typically falls into the hands of your IT department, and can become tedious when you constantly need to add or remove collaborators. Microsoft 365 Groups simplifies user management and security by ensuring the right people are automatically given the right permissions across all M365 apps.

Creating a group automatically creates a collection of shared resources, such as an Outlook inbox, Calendar, OneNote, Planner and Document Library. You don’t need to manually configure permissions for every person or resource because simply adding members to the group instantly grants them the permissions they need. This means fewer delays for them, and less effort for you (and your IT department).

Microsoft 365 Groups also makes it easy to stay compliant and protect your information. As the group owner, you can make it public or private, add or remove members, curate essential content and either allow or block guest access from specific organizations for added security and peace of mind. Furthermore, you can effortlessly manage the lifecycle of your Microsoft 365 Groups with automated expiration policies that will delete a group after a specified time.

By default, any Microsoft 365 user within the organization can create and manage groups, but admins always have the final say.

Discover many more features in Microsoft 365 and Teams

As the driving force behind efficient teamwork across countless organizations, Microsoft’s technology stack continues to push businesses forward with ingenious features and convenient integrations.

To learn more about the game-changing ways you can leverage Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, join us for our upcoming webinar “Build an End to End Solution using Power Automate, Power Apps and Microsoft Teams”. It is the second episode of a three-part webinar series we are hosting this month in partnership with our friends at Creospark.

Sign up for Episode 2 of the Digital Transformation Journey Webinar Series here.