When you peruse our newly revamped website, you see overarching tech strategy is the heart of what we do. AI, BI, automation and enterprise software systems designed to disruption-proof your business. But sometimes it’s okay to take a break from all that intensive forward-thinking to make sure you’re getting the most out of what you already have. If you’re using Office 365 like your old desktop Office license, you’re missing out on prime productivity. Microsoft just keeps packing its cloud-powered workhorse software suite with intelligent services to help you work faster, smarter and better.
Here are my 5 picks for Office 365 tools to help you turn out a product twice as good in half the time:
Work Smarter with Office 365
1. Office Dictate to Increase Productivity
Do you process verbally, write like you talk, or just want to go hands-free and give the old carpal tunnel a break? With its microphone and an internet connection, your device can take dictation in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint or OneNote. Initial set-up is easy. Here are step-by-step instructions. When you’re done, you’ll have a microphone icon on the Home tab menu. Click it to start taking dictation (a red dot will appear just like recording on your smartphone); click it again to stop.
2. PowerPoint Designer (a.k.a. Design Ideas tool)
If you spend hours slaving over slide decks, this one is going to give you back your life! Type your content – or even just a few words – into the slide, go to the Design tab and click Design Ideas on the ribbon. (It’s over to the right.) Voila! Several different professional design styles pop up for you to choose from.
Designer can turn a list of dates into a visually appealing timeline. If it recognizes a key term or concept in your text that corresponds with an illustration from the Office 365 icons library, it will drop it in for you. All the basics for using Design Ideas are here, but if you really want to geek out on this tool, here’s some recommended reading.
3. Excel Data Types (a.k.a. Rich Data Types)
Okay, spreadsheet fans, what if one cell could hold everything the internet knows on a topic? That’s where we’re headed. Right now, Microsoft has made it a reality for two types of data: stocks and geographic locations. In Excel, create a table of companies or countries, highlight the cells, go to the Data tab and select either Stocks or Geography. The instant addition of icons tells you they are now linked, rich data cells. From there, you can use the Insert Data button to add columns with live data on everything from stock performance to market cap, population to GDP.
Here’s how it works. Frankly, I can’t wait to see which rich data types Microsoft adds next.
Understand More with Office 365
4. Excel Ideas
Instant access to data is important and exciting, but the real value lies in transforming that data into intelligence – spotting trends, gaining insights. Located in the Home tab, the Ideas button on the right side of the ribbon is a formula-free way to start playing with your data. It can help you identify and visualize trends and outliers. The tool is still in its infancy, so Microsoft provides some helpful tips for how to format your data to get the best results. (Excel tables with single header rows work best. Ideas won’t work with Excel files in compatibility mode.)
Excel Ideas is a great introduction to the world of AI-enabled business intelligence. It has a text box at the top where you can type a question about your data in plain English. Using natural language processing, Ideas will attempt to answer it. Don’t worry; it will show you why it pulled the data it pulled.
This one has been taking workplaces by storm in the last few months. If Excel Ideas helps you understand your data; Office 365’s MyAnalytics helps you understand yourself, your work habits and patterns. And then it offers suggestions for how to improve upon them to increase productivity.
When you access your personal MyAnalytics dashboard, you will see 4 aspects of your work life: Focus (uninterrupted work time), Wellbeing (uninterrupted off time), Network (who you work with) and Collaboration (how you work with them). The new Insights Outlook add-in enables you to drive MyAnalytics functionality within your Outlook. Being driven to distraction by your open office plan, IM channel and social media? Use Insights to book dedicated thought time before your calendar fills up with meetings (and silence notifications when you are focusing).
Seeing all that data on how you work can be a little creepy, especially when you receive your first weekly digest email. That’s why Microsoft highlights MyAnalytics’ privacy controls, assuring users that their data is for their eyes only.
Embrace In-Hand Productivity Tools
You know what they say about “a bird in the hand.” If you have Office 365, be sure your employees know about and are using these 5 productivity-boosting gems. As our MINDs often say, “There’s no ROI on software that goes unused.”
If you aren’t currently a 365 shop, but these AI-fueled features have piqued your interest, give us a call. We can help you determine which enterprise software solutions and licensing make the most sense for your company.
Vice President of Innovation & Strategy, Tim Kulp, took an unconventional path to his tech career, so it makes sense that his tech career is anything but conventional. Tim has always been captivated by what makes us uniquely human: art, religion, storytelling. Now, whether working with startups or global brands he pushes clients to find the technology that makes them more creative, more productive, more human. He’s known throughout the Mid-Atlantic as the guy who makes tech, people-centric.