The newest productivity features in Microsoft 365

Office 365 is now Microsoft 365: What does this mean for Australian businesses?

Increasing productivity is a common goal among Australian businesses, and it has certainly become a challenge because of unprecedented circumstances. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, businesses had to move everything online to cope with the sudden shift to remote work. They needed to quickly deploy powerful cloud collaboration platforms to maintain and boost productivity levels. 

Microsoft 365 empowers businesses to do just that. In fact, the tech giant releases new features and updates every month that are designed to increase your employees’ output. Below are just some of the best productivity-boosting features in Microsoft 365 you can use today.  

1. Microsoft Teams upgrades

As long-term remote work setups become the norm, more businesses need advanced communication features to stay connected and productive. In response to this trend, many of Microsoft’s recent improvements revolve around its business messaging platform Microsoft Teams. Here are the most notable upgrades in Teams: 

  • Templates When creating a team, leaders can choose from a wide array of customisable templates. For example, you can select an event management team template, which comes with pre-built channels, tabs, and applications. You then have free rein to add more channels, rename the team, and configure security settings as you see fit.       
  • Chatbots Microsoft Teams offers an intuitive way to build chatbots and add them into one-on-one conversations or team channels. These chatbots can be programmed to answer FAQs related to HR, sales, and general business processes.    
  • Power Automate This allows you to create automated workflows in Teams to eliminate repetitive tasks. For instance, you can have Power Automate post messages to a specific channel when a new task is added to the team’s project management software. 
  • Bookings – This new app integration lets users set up virtual appointments with people outside the company. This feature is great for conducting job interviews, professional consultations, and virtual health checkups. 
  • Shifts Teams’ schedule management tool allows you to sync up with employees and oversee their schedules. It features a central dashboard where you can assign shifts to employees with drag-and-drop ease and add reminders on specific days. You can also process requests for shift swaps, time off, and overtime. 

PowerPoint Live allows you to deliver presentations online to business partners and colleagues who may be working remotely. People can connect to the presentation from their device by scanning a QR code or clicking on a direct link to the presentation. From there, they can watch the presentation or navigate through the slides at their own pace without affecting the presenter. Throughout the live session, the audience can provide instant feedback using live emoji reactions and comments. 

2. PowerPoint Live 

Beyond these features, PowerPoint Live uses artificial intelligence to provide live subtitles in over 60 different languages. This is especially helpful for overseas audiences who prefer following along a presentation with their preferred language. Additionally, captions and transcripts are recorded along previous slides, saving audiences from tedious note-taking. 

After the live presentation, PowerPoint prompts the audience to review the content, slide design, and presentation skills. Their feedback will prove invaluable for shaping your next presentation and helping you develop techniques to better engage with a remote audience. 

3. Cortana enhancements 

Cortana is the virtual assistant in Microsoft 365, and its recent updates help you stay on top of your tasks. For starters, Cortana now has a chat-based user interface with improved natural language processing capabilities, enabling it to interact with your typed or spoken queries. You can ask Cortana to set reminders, check your schedule, and create a to-do list as if you’re talking to a real assistant. All you have to do is click the microphone button and give simple commands like ‘Set an appointment with managers for 11:00 AM every Friday’. 

Another useful Cortana feature is automated Briefing emails, which appear in your Outlook inbox at the start of the workday. These personalised briefings provide a summary of upcoming meetings, urgent documents to review, and important emails expecting a response. These emails even let you set a ‘focus time’ in which notifications from Microsoft Teams and other applications are silenced. During focus time, team members will be notified that you’re currently busy with other tasks, so you can keep distractions to a minimum. 

What’s more, Microsoft is currently in the process of expanding Cortana’s usefulness. Soon, the virtual assistant will be able to instantly interpret your commands when you say ‘Cortana’. It will also be able to perform more complex tasks like notifying you of high-priority emails and preparing relevant documents for an upcoming meeting. 

4. Fluid Framework

Microsoft’s Fluid Framework removes application silos to make work more flexible and collaborative. More precisely, components produced in Office apps like tables, charts, and task lists can be embedded across different programs in your Microsoft 365 environment. These components stay consistent no matter where they are hosted, ensuring data is relevant at all times. 

To illustrate, imagine you have the same revenue chart on both Excel and PowerPoint. If you add or modify any data points in the Excel chart, the chart displayed on PowerPoint is instantaneously updated with the same information. Everything is fully rendered in real time and you don’t have to open multiple apps to keep information consistent across the board. Clicking on a Fluid component even shows you all the contextual data related to the table or chart, so you can make edits in one place. 

The Fluid Framework also keeps access permissions consistent across applications. This means you can restrict editing privileges to an Excel chart and wherever that same chart is used, whether it be in PowerPoint or Word. Currently, Fluid Framework integrations are available for all Office productivity applications and Outlook, and soon coming to Microsoft Teams and Yammer.

Businesses will continue to face new challenges in the future, but with the right IT solutions, you can quickly adapt with the times. Empower IT is a leading Australian managed IT services provider that offers innovative solutions. From Microsoft 365 to multilayered cybersecurity tools, we have everything you need to future-proof your business. Call us today to learn more about our robust solutions and services.