Why Office 365 is the best choice for collaboration

The rise of mobile technology and cloud computing has transformed the way we work, making collaboration not only easier, but also essential for the success of every organization. There are now more mobile devices than people worldwide, according to a report by Cisco, and work increasingly occurs outside of offices—in homes, hotels, airports, coffee shops, and other temporary spaces. As a result, the trend toward greater mobility, and the need for more efficient collaboration across the web and across devices, is accelerating every year.

Why Office 365 is the best choice for collaboration The IBM Global CIO Study, found that 49 percent of an individuals’ work is the result of “network contribution” by fellow employees and partners. Yet 80 percent of employees are ineffective at collaboration, according to a CEB survey. That’s why it is so important for organizations to have the tools they need to collaborate effectively.

Microsoft offers the most complete set of productivity services currently available, which spans messaging, conferencing and telephony, social collaboration, content management and compliance, big data analysis and visualization.

Collaborate seamlessly in real time

Office 365 is built for collaboration. Office 365 offers the ability to get the optimal experience regardless of your location or device by delivering improved productivity with low training costs. Today, more than 1 billion users choose Office, Skype, Yammer and OneDrive every day to communicate, collaborate and get work done. Office 365 helps organizations improve collaboration by transforming the corporate intranet into a social network that cuts through hierarchies to improve executive-employee connections and eliminate barriers created by physical distance, time zones and workers using multiple devices.

When the Carlsberg Group, a family-owned Danish brewing company with a global business was choosing productivity and collaboration tools, it evaluated Google Apps for Work as well as Office 365, but employees wanted to work in the familiar Office user interface and the IT group valued the level of integration built into the Microsoft cloud-based communication, collaboration, and social networking services. The company also felt that a Microsoft offering better met its security and availability requirements.

Etienne Dock, vice president of IT Architecture and Sourcing for Carlsberg Business Solutions
Etienne Dock, vice president of IT Architecture and Sourcing for Carlsberg Business Solutions

“Coming from a position where we had disjointed email services, inconsistent web conferencing tools, and isolated web portals for different countries, integration was important to us,” says Etienne Dock, vice president of IT Architecture and Sourcing for Carlsberg Business Solutions. “The more we grew, the more obvious was the need for a single, consistent, reliable collaboration platform.”

Using Yammer, you can crowdsource answers or draw on the knowledge of the whole team. This improves the speed and accuracy with which you can respond to a customer or complete a sales proposal, and OneDrive for Business lets you easily upload files to the cloud and share them with your colleagues across devices. Office 365 subscriptions come with a full terabyte of OneDrive storage, where users can store and share individual files as large as 10 gigabytes.

As a leading international provider of integrated communication solutions, Telefónica found that the integration of Microsoft Translator with Yammer offered even more opportunities for efficient collaboration.

“With operations in 24 countries spanning eight languages, we are looking forward to the ability to instantly translate conversations among our employees — a massive benefit for Telefónica,” says Adrian Steel, European production hub lead and global director at Telefónica. “By automatically converting conversations to a person’s native language, Yammer will help our people work more efficiently than ever and focus on delivering superior value to our customers.

Real-time co-authoring is another important collaboration feature that lets you and your colleagues edit and contribute to documents simultaneously in all of the Office Online applications:  Word Online, PowerPoint Online and Excel Online. And because Office Online saves as you go, everyone on your team can see changes to text and formatting as they happen, so you can all stay on the same page as your work evolves. Best of all, it doesn’t matter whether you and your teammates are working on the web, a desktop or laptop computer, a Windows tablet or iPad, or another mobile device. Every change will be synced in the document, automatically saved on OneDrive, and made visible to the team.

Using Office Online for real-time co-authoring and collaboration also means you don’t have to worry about losing full file fidelity or document formatting and being forced to reformat. It’s a different story if you try to use Office documents in Google Drive, because Google Drive converts the Office file to a non-standard document format and you often lose the formatting. Fonts, spacing, the whole layout of the document may be different, and much of your previous work is often undone. With Office Online, it doesn’t matter which browsers you and your team members are using. Everyone can make as many changes and suggestions as they want, without worrying about losing the full Office file fidelity or document formatting.

Another great collaboration feature is the ability to share and connect with others—discovering the right information at the right time. Office Delve is a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life. Delve displays information that is most relevant for each person based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they are engaging.  With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information.

Go social to improve collaboration

To enhance collaboration even more, the Yammer enterprise social network works seamlessly with Office 365, which offers you the power of social engagement and interaction along with the familiar, rich experience of Office, the world’s most widely used productivity suite. Yammer also provides a way for you to create meaningful interactions beyond the walls of your organization. It only takes a few minutes to set up an external network, which is accessible using a single sign-on, making it easy for you to create partner and customer networks.

David Peterson, Enterprise Collaboration Manager at Trek Bicycles, a global leader in bicycles and related gear realized the need for a tool that would help sales representatives at the company communicate, collaborate, and achieve their goals while using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. He introduced Yammer to enable people to collaborate within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online—replacing email and instant messaging for certain workgroups. Yammer helped improve collaboration within the development team. Steve Novoselac, Trek’s Business Intelligence and .NET Development Manager says, “Things were getting done because everyone had a new kind of awareness of what was going on in the group.”

According to Daniel Roach-Rooke, IT infrastructure manager for sports car manufacturer Aston Martin, by adopting Office 365 the Aston Martin IT department has been able to provide employees with the latest communications and collaboration capabilities, which they use to continue their pursuit of automotive perfection: “Office 365 gives our employees the technology they need to drive the business forward.”

Discover why Office 365 is best for collaboration

While Office 365 offers you tremendous flexibility and a number of different ways to collaborate, Google takes a one-solution-for-all approach to collaboration. Instead of tailoring its productivity tools to fit your needs as Microsoft does, Google forces you to adapt to the tools by providing two fixed product offerings to the users.

The Google productivity apps don’t offer the rich features that enterprise organizations need. Microsoft, on the other hand, extends the familiar Office experience from the desktop to the cloud and on multiple devices, so you never have to compromise or lower your expectations.

We think you don’t just need a “good enough” solution but deserve the best:  Office 365.

To learn more about Office 365 and start collaborating better today, visit the Office365 homepage.

Which email application is right for you: Outlook or Gmail?

In the modern cloud-connected world ubiquitous access to email, files and contacts is key to your productivity and effectiveness—at work and in your personal life. The Microsoft email solution comprised of Outlook and Outlook Web App (OWA) can not only increase your productivity, but also ensure you can collaborate with others, right within your email, in a highly secure environment.

However, only you can decide which email solution is right for you. To help with that decision, we have created an interactive infographic that shows a side-by-side comparison of OWA, Outlook and Gmail. This infographic will answer most of your questions at a glance, while also providing links to more detailed information.

Overview of feature areas to compare Outlook to Gmail.

Nothing is more fundamental to your satisfaction with an email program than your ability to manage your inbox efficiently. Both Outlook and Gmail allow you to ignore unwanted email and change the layout of the reading pane, but Gmail won’t let you create rules, insert Microsoft Word editing and formatting tools or cells from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets into email, or send email with high, medium or low importance. In addition, Gmail gives you only limited ability to flag, categorize and sort email, and to drag and drop attachments into email messages. The Microsoft email solution offers all of those features and more.

Performing intelligent triage
One of the exciting new features coming soon to OWA is code-named “Clutter,” a program that removes unimportant messages from your inbox and declutters it, allowing you to focus on important messages. It does so by learning from your treatment of similar emails in the past. If you always respond quickly to email from your boss, Clutter makes such emails display more prominently. If you tend to ignore your cousin’s emailed vacation photos, Clutter puts those messages aside for you to deal with later. And the more you use Clutter, the smarter it gets. Gmail offers only a very limited version of clutter control by redirecting bulk email to a few pre-set tabs. This is very static when compared to Clutter in OWA, which provides individual decluttering based on each user’s activity.

Accessing your email offline
Having the ability to access email offline, and to continue working when no Internet connection is available, is important to people on the go. Outlook desktop client provides complete offline access, and OWA allows you to access your email offline using a wide range of browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 10 (with HTML 5 support). Gmail users are limited to using only the Google Chrome browser to access their email offline.

Collecting and coordinating your contacts
With each of these three email applications you can create contact cards and import contacts when you switch from another email program or adopt a new email address. OWA and Outlook go several steps further, however, enabling you to view team and hierarchical organization information through your company address book via Active Directory integration, and to import your contacts from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Gmail doesn’t.

Managing your calendar
A truly functional calendar does more than show you the day, week and month, find an available meeting room, and determine whether your contacts are free or busy at a certain time. Gmail does all that, and so do the two Microsoft applications. But OWA and Outlook also let you see who forwarded your meeting notice and to whom, while providing other useful features that Gmail lacks, and Outlook allows you to propose a new time if you have a conflict with a suggested meeting.

Granting a delegate access to your calendar
Busy people sometimes need help managing their lives. For executives, managers or other people who must constantly juggle competing priorities and demands, the ability to choose a delegate and give that person access to your calendar can be a godsend. OWA and Outlook not only enable you to share your calendar like Google does, they also let you hide private events from your delegate, downgrade permission rights when it suits you, and choose to have notifications sent only to your delegate or to both you and your delegate simultaneously. Both Microsoft applications also let you give your delegate access to individual folders as needed. Gmail offers none of those delegation features.

Getting real with real-time communications
All three applications offer instant messaging and presence, which lets you know the status and availability of your contacts and how they can be reached. But Gmail offers no unified messaging integration with voicemail and the ability to skip to any part of the voicemail, or even one-click “Reply All” on instant messaging. Both OWA and Outlook do allow that via Lync.

Taking advantage of enterprise social technologies
Enterprise social is still pretty new, but it’s a rapidly growing trend in technology solutions designed to improve communication and collaboration both inside and outside organizations. Microsoft has either already added or has announced new email features that support enterprise social and position both OWA and Outlook for rich integration. The jury is still out on Gmail.

Security and compliance
In today’s complex world, few things are as important in business or personal communications as security and compliance. Although each of the three applications lets you add email senders to your safe or blocked lists, block external content, and access your archiving folder, that’s where the similarities between the Google and Microsoft products end. Unlike OWA and Outlook, Gmail does not offer Information Rights Management, document fingerprinting, or native Data Loss Prevention measures. Gmail also fails to provide protected voicemail and retention policies that can be set at the user level.

Google claims that Gmail is “good enough” in comparison to the Microsoft email platform, which is a combination of the web version of Outlook and Outlook desktop client. Both OWA and Outlook (as part of the Office 365 suite) offer many valuable features that Gmail (as part of Google Apps for Business) does not. Why settle for email that is merely “good enough” when Microsoft offers an excellent email solution that doesn’t force you to compromise?

To learn more about the different features and capabilities that Outlook Web App, Outlook, and Gmail have to offer, download the infographic.

You can also view a slideshow illustrating the great features of Outlook Web App and Outlook.

Microsoft drives the Universal Communications revolution

Universal Communications tools are essential for any enterprise and in even the largest organizations their effectiveness is often measured by how well they meet the needs of individual users as much as by how they serve the business overall. The arrival of Universal Communications signals the beginning of the convergence of VoIP telephony (which provides the ability to route telephone calls through the Internet), email, instant messaging, mobile communications, and audio and video Web conferencing into a single platform that shares a common directory and common developer tools. Microsoft is delivering a powerful set of universal communications capabilities that provide the framework for person-centric communications across locations and devices. Microsoft Lync is an end-to-end solution that provides seamless communication through instant messaging, video conferencing, online messaging and voice calls across multiple platforms and devices, allowing organizations to unify all communications with their business applications and processes, and to streamline how people connect and communicate by leveraging the investments made by enterprises in a single identity and directory service.

Google+ Hangouts is Google’s attempt at a Universal Communications solution, but is designed primarily for consumers rather than information workers. It relies on third-party applications for many key voice capabilities, and has other significant limitations that make it a poor choice for business. Lync, which is easy to use and easy to manage, offers the flexible yet comprehensive UC solution that both enterprises and end users need—a solution that Google can’t match.

Key areas in which Lync excels in comparison to Google+ Hangouts include:

Key areas in which Lync excels in comparison to Google+

Consumer and Enterprise Grade services

At Microsoft, we offer our customers enterprise-class services. Skype, for instance, has one of the largest communities on the planet with more than 300 million connected users. Lync Online, as part of Office 365, is a communication service that responds to the security, compliance, and communication needs of large organizations worldwide. Microsoft introduced Lync-Skype connectivity in May 2013 to give Lync users the ability to communicate with hundreds of millions of Skype users around the globe, including customers, partners and suppliers, while still relying on the enterprise capabilities and richness of Lync. Customers have now registered over 10,000 Lync Server domains for this service. Moreover, users can communicate using Microsoft solutions from the device of their choice. To demonstrate its commitment to enable users to be productive on the go, Microsoft is continuing to innovate and add new capabilities to Lync mobile.

Google offers a single consumer-grade communication service, Google+ Hangouts, which lacks the enterprise features most businesses require. The Hangouts features most frequently mentioned are easy photo sharing and the emoticons (“emoji”) that “make conversations more fun.” Hangouts currently is not covered by either the Google Apps support guidelines or the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for core services, and, in an effort to try and appeal to Enterprise customers, Google has started to offer Google Apps administrators 24/7 phone support for Hangouts.

Recently, Google has looked for ways to close their product gap by adding capabilities intended to address business meetings, including the UberConference- app that allows 10 users to dial in to Hangouts for free. They have also partnered with Vidyo to launch Vidyo H2O for Google+ Hangouts  that connects existing business voice and video solutions to Hangouts sessions. Clearly, Hangouts continues to rely heavily on third-party solutions for many of its key capabilities, and enterprise customers will need to figure out and procure those additional solutions as a separate process — increasing the real cost of the service and creating a complex support model.

User Experience from IM to voice calls to meetings

With Lync, user presence is integrated throughout the experience including within office files and apps, SharePoint, and the intranet. Anywhere a name appears, you can instantly see someone’s availability, initiate an IM conversation and add voice, video or content to the sharing experience.

Lync enables you to view the online presence of other users to see whether they are free, busy or in a meeting, based their calendar. This can help you decide whether to reach out with instant messaging or not at all. You can also view the “out of office” message, custom note and location in the contact card. Lync also lets you search for people across your address book and to search for them according to their skills. You can modify your contact list by adding individuals to various groups, and then sort your contacts based on groups, relationships and status.

These capabilities are not available in Hangouts because there is no integration with the address book. You cannot search for people based on their skills and capabilities, there is no ability to sort contacts, and you cannot create any groups within the list.

Enterprise Voice Services

Lync Server provides telephony services, Enterprise Voice and Online Services, which can be a replacement for traditional PBX systems and desk phones saving companies the cost of upgrading and maintaining that infrastructure.

Although Hangouts allows you to make phone calls from your computer and from the Hangouts app for iPad and Android 4.4, it does not provide enterprise telephony and cannot replace traditional PBX system or desk phones.

Enhanced video conferencing

Lync provides enhanced conferencing support. As the conference organizer, you can include up to 250 participants and share a link to the conference directly in the calendar invite. Users can dial in from anywhere. Further, Microsoft partners offer dial-in conferencing for Lync Online, provide local numbers in multiple countries, and typically set prices based on total usage rather than per user. With Lync, customers can bring all conferencing in-house to greatly lessen per-minute and per-user charges. Microsoft IT estimates that it saved the company nearly $8 million in audio conferencing costs alone by using Lync Server.

Hangouts provides limited conferencing capabilities and, once again, users have to partner with other service providers to enable it. Google recently has partnered with UberConference to build a third-party app that, once installed in Hangouts, will allow users to dial in, but it is a paid service for more than 10 participants and gives only limited control to the organizer and attendees, who can only hear through the call and not view any content shared in the meeting, in stark contrast to the Lync 2013 app for smartphones

Native sharing tools

From meetings and gatherings to conversations, and sharing rich content in real-time, only Microsoft has created the assets to fuel the next major step-change in productivity along this path to universal communications. Lync has great built-in sharing tools such as desktop and PowerPoint sharing. Hangouts requires you to install separate applications in order to use various meeting tools.

Works seamlessly with Office

Microsoft Office is the most preferred productivity suite in the corporate world and is the market leader in commercial productivity. Microsoft is committed to bring Office to every platform including the cloud, and recently launched Office on iPad that hit the number one spot on Apple’s app store after just 12 hours.

For a UC solution to be effective it is important for it to meet the needs of both individual users and the business overall. A communication solution must work seamlessly with Office, the best productivity solution in the industry, to allow users to work on important documents in parallel. Lync provides tight integration with Office and enables note taking, viewing contact information including people skills, and it integrates well with the Outlook calendar to enable scheduling and join meetings using Lync.

Hangouts does not integrate with Office and does not enable document editing by way of Office editing capabilities. There is no easy way to enable document sharing in Hangouts. In Hangouts, if the user wants to share a file they must use Hangouts extras and the file has to actually be uploaded to Google Docs, which converts it to a Google Docs format by default.

On-premises, cloud or hybrid deployment

IDC predicts that 70% of CIOs will embrace a cloud-first strategy in 2016. To get there, organizations will move at their own pace over a number of years, with many living in a hybrid environment for quite some time. That flexibility – to operate both on-premise and with cloud-based capabilities (even within a cloud- first strategy) — is non-negotiable. With Lync, organizations can choose if they want their UC solution on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid deployment. Hangouts is cloud-based only and cannot be used by companies that are on-premise or seeking hybrid deployment.

Single identity and presence across workloads

Lync capitalizes on the single identity provided by directory services such as Microsoft Active Directory by letting users see presence and initiate ad-hoc collaboration from an Office document, a site, an email or a social post. This is for all Office 365 services and the on-premise Office suite.

Hangouts has its separate identity that requires a Google account and is not pervasive across the Enterprise. Enterprises will need to first create the user identity in Google+ and use additional tools to synchronize user information to the directory services customers are using, requiring further investments and administration to make the presence available.

The Universal Communications revolution is well underway, and Microsoft is leading both end-users and their organizations to new and improved, seamless, flexible technology solutions.  Stay tuned for more developments on this front, we’re working hard to advance further and faster!

Arushi Agrawal @arushiMSFT

Outlook Web App provides more efficient calendar delegation and management than Gmail

Microsoft’s focus on business productivity in the cloud is unrivaled, and this is also true for the calendaring experience in Office 365.

To show how Office 365 can increase productivity for everyone, including top-level executives, I collected feedback from executive admins at companies that had considered Google Apps for business, but chose Office 365 for their cloud-based productivity solution. These executive admins feel quite adept at using calendar delegation in Outlook Web App (OWA), appreciate how convenient it is for them to manage executive calendars, and enjoy having the same calendar experience in OWA as they do in the desktop version of Outlook. Equally satisfying, for them and for me, is how the productivity gains they experience with Office 365 enable them to enhance the productivity of the executives they support.

OWA provides a clearer, more thorough and richer calendar delegation than Gmail. Key attributes that enhance the calendar delegation experience in OWA include:

1. Simplicity and ease of access: enabling the calendar sharing and delegation option in OWA is convenient and intuitive (which is by no means the case in Gmail!)

OWA displays the calendar share button at the top right corner of the calendar, making it easily visible and accessible. This design approach is duplicated by Gmail, and yet in Gmail the Share button is not used to share the calendar, but instead to post on Google+, which prioritizes public sharing over business productivity. This can confuse users who want to manage and share their calendars. To access the calendar sharing feature in Gmail, one has to navigate to Settings and then click on Calendar Sharing.

OWA calendar share

Users can click SHARE in the top right corner of the calendar module. Users can also do this by right-clicking Calendar to open a context menu, and can then click Share Calendar.

Outlook - Calendar sharing

Gmail calendar share

Gmail has a SHARE button on the top right corner, but it is NOT used to share the calendar. Instead, it is for sharing on Google+. Users must click on the Settings icon to navigate to the calendar sharing feature.

Google - calendar sharing

Once users click on Settings, they must navigate to the Calendar section to be able to access calendar sharing capabilities.

2. Advanced delegate feature: OWA has a specific feature called “delegate” whereas Gmail only has sharing options. Users have to work around the sharing capability in Gmail to enable delegation. In OWA, by contrast, multiple levels of delegation can be enabled which include:

  • Delegate only
  • Both delegate and me (both the user and the delegate can respond to meeting requests)
  • Delegate only. Send me notifications (if a user wants to know they have a meeting request but doesn’t want to take action on it, they can select “Delegate only. Send me notifications”)

Gmail has only one option, called “make changes and manage sharing.” Using this option, users can permit other people to make changes to their calendar, but they can’t customize it any further.

Accessing the calendar delegate feature in OWA

Outlook - Accessing the calendar delegate feature

Accessing the calendar delegate feature in Gmail

Upon navigating to calendar sharing in Settings, users can choose the option, “Make Changes & Manage Sharing,” to allow someone else to make changes to their calendar. This is the closest option to delegation.

Google - Accessing the calendar delegate feature

3. Ability to hide private events from delegates: In OWA, userscan choose to hide the visibility of private events from their delegates. This can be done by simply marking the relevant events as private and unchecking the box, “Allow viewing of private appointments.” This cannot be done in Google Calendar.

Outlook - hide private events

4. Keeping users informed: Users like to know what is going to happen when they select a particular option, and they want to know they have made the right decision. In OWA, an Informational message is displayed before users confirm delegate access to their calendar. No such informational message is displayed in Google Calendar.

5. Revoking delegate access: To remove delegate access, OWA users can edit the calendar permissions to either downgrade a delegate to “view only” access (either full details or limited details or availability only) or completely revoke a delegate’s access at any time by clicking the X on his card.

Outlook - remove delegate access

Also, a user may choose to continue giving a delegate access to the person, but redefine the delegate permission as either 1) Delegate only, or 2) Both delegate and me, or 3) Delegate only. Send me notifications.

Outlook - options to delegate access

In Google Calendar, users cannot downgrade delegate access. They have only four options to choose from when sharing the calendar.

Google calendar - delegate access options

Features in addition to delegation that provide a great calendaring experience in OWA include:

  1. Calendar search: With the introduction of calendar search in OWA, users can search their own calendars or group calendars for events in the past, present, and future. They can also search for other people’s calendars and overlay their calendars on top for quick comparison.
  2. Group calendar: Users can create calendars for specific groups and color-code them to differentiate. Every member of the group can add, delete, or edit any of the events in the group’s calendar. For more details about group calendars, refer to the Groups section in the blog on the evolution of email.

In addition, for desktop Outlook users it is highly recommended that they use Microsoft Exchange so that they can use all of the advanced delegate features and have a great calendaring experience overall. To be able to use Google Calendar in a desktop client, one has to use Google Apps to sync with Microsoft Outlook to access Google Calendar in Outlook. Even then, this enables only limited features of Google Calendar in the desktop version of Outlook.

Read more on why Office 365 is better than Google Apps.