We all know that collaborative working is the best way to get things done. It’s faster, easier, and by pooling ideas and resources it produces higher quality work.
Actually collaborating however can be a bit of a challenge: How do you know your Sam has seen your email? Has Ed made those changes to the proposal yet? Have I got the latest version? Is Jhoti in the office today? – Sound familiar?
Below are 5 of my favourite features from Microsoft Office 365 that solve all these frustrations in just a few clicks.
1) REAL TIME, SIMULTANEOUS COLLABORATIVE WORKING
In most organisations, more than one person will contribute to the same document, e.g. proposals, project initiation documents, budget spreadsheets, social media content etc. In Office 365, you have the ability for up to 99 people to work in the same document at the same time, and it’s my absolute favourite feature!
You can invite someone to edit the same document as you, and once they enter edit mode, you will receive a notification to tell you who else is currently editing that document with you:
A flag then appears to show you where in the document your colleague is:
This function is available across the Office suite, in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
When collaborating in Excel, rather than show a flag, the cell in which your colleague is working is highlighted in a separate colour:
You can also use the “xx is also editing” drop down to find out exactly where they are, which is particularly useful when working in very large documents:
This feature means that there is only ever 1 version of the document – the latest one – and that you and your team save hours of time: No more emailing around different versions, taking turns, merging changes, and waiting for replies.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend getting 99 people in a single document at once (after all, too many cooks…) but this is a brilliant feature for collaborating easily, dynamically, and far more productively.
2) LIVE CHAT WITHIN DOCUMENTS
When you are working on large or complex documents together, the experience is enhanced with live chat inline to the document. Rather than email/call your colleague and wait for a response, you can send them a message in real time and get your work done faster.
For example, I asked Bobby to co-edit a project document with me. Rather than email him a list of edits for him to keep switching screens and referring to, I can chat with him live, inline to the document. When someone sends you an inline chat message, you receive a notification:
(Please note the “Ignore” option in case you do not wish to be disturbed)
Then you can begin your chat alongside the document:
This means that changes can be made instantly, and is ideal when someone’s contribution to the document will only take a few minutes, e.g. a sales team member inserting pricing figures, or marketing inserting an image. Rather than send copies around and delay the rest of the team while you wait for that person to make their changes, they can nip in and out of the document in minutes, and you can carry on working on it at the same time, and undisturbed.
Collaborating efficiently saves precious time for everyone.
3) EASY DOCUMENT SHARING
One of the biggest bugbears for people who work collaboratively is the issue of which is the latest version. We’ve all seen documents like this: “Project.doc_v1.3_JW.edit_v.2”, and we’ve all had the worry over whether the document and information we are working with is in fact the most up to date version.
The collaboration features in Office 365 completely remove this hassle. Each document has only one version, and that version is the single source of the truth. Because your document is saved in the Cloud, it can be accessed anytime, anywhere, by anyone (who has permission), and so everybody is always working on the same document. This feature is a real time and life saver, especially for anyone who works with large or complex documents.
To share a file in Office 365, the process is simple. Simply click the share button:
This will then open a window that shows you who the document is already shared with, and allow you to email an invite to the document, or get a link to the document that you can share. You can also control whether you want the recipient to be able edit or just view the document.
Once you have chosen your recipients, an email will automatically be sent inviting them to the document. If they have the correct permission to access that document, then they will be able to click the link and view or edit that document.
This ensures that you are all working on the same document, and stops people from downloading, editing, then emailing multiple versions and causing confusion. Plus this is a much faster sharing process!
4) INSTANT AVAILABILITY
Unless you have an open team calendar, it can be difficult to know when your colleagues are available. This is particularly true in companies who employ remote workers.
With Skype for Business integration into Office 365, you can see your colleagues’ availability instantly from within document libraries. For example, if you were looking at a document and wanted to ask a question to the last person who edited it, their status is clearly visible next to the document. You can click to find out more information, and if the person is available, then you can launch a Skype for Business instant message, phone call or video call, or send an email, directly from the document library:
This means that you can start collaborating from right where you are working, and the information is presented clearly in front of you, rather than you spending precious time finding out who you need to speak to.
Being able to find your team’s availability easily and instantly also means that you won’t waste time trying to contact people who are out of the office, and you can resolve issues or complete tasks more efficiently.
5) FAST COMMUNICATION WITH SKYPE FOR BUSINESS
Often when you are working as a team, there will be quick but important requests or tasks that need doing, but that can be easily overlooked, either by getting lost in a swamp of emails, or because a phone call to discuss just isn’t convenient.
Since Skype for Business shows your colleagues’ availability instantly, and because instant messages can be responded to quickly and on the go with the Skype for Business App, you can quickly sort out those pesky quick but important tasks. For example:
You can share links to documents, attach files, start voice or video calls, and invite others to the conversation, so that you can collaborate seamlessly and fluently.
Your Skype for Business message history is also stored in your Outlook, so you can easily keep track of your conversations, and go back to them if you need to review what was discussed.
These tools are just my 5 favourites for working more efficiently, being more productive, and communicating better with my teams. What are your favourite collaboration tools? Let me know in the comments below!
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