It’s been months since I blogged. Things have been busy in my current role! My team has been heads down on the most recent significant update to Office 365. It’s a super exciting space to be in and everyone here is committed to delivering innovation on a frequent basis and making sure that our Office 365 customers have tools to manage change.
Here’s a list of my personal favorite Office 365 features that I use on almost a daily basis. Of course, this is a snapshot in time since the service is always changing and is by no mean comprehensive of what Office 365 has to offer. In no particular order:
1. Office 365 ProPlus.
My last post was focused on this area of innovation. Office 365 ProPlus delivers the power and familiarity of Office on your PC and Mac (along with being very touch friendly) with all the deployment benefits of SaaS software. It supports side-by-side installation with older versions of Office, deploys to your PC and Mac very, very quickly and gives IT deployment flexibility. If you’re an IT professional, you can learn more about the value of Office 365 ProPlus through the Garage series @ http://www.microsoft.com/garage which is hosted by Jeremy Chapman on my team.
2. SkyDrive Pro.
I absolutely love SkyDrive Pro. It’s SkyDrive for the enterprise built on the SharePoint platform. You can access all your documents (personal, team, org) from the browser, desktop or mobile devices. In the screenshot below, at the top right, you can see a Sync action that brings your documents down to your device giving you offline access. I also have access to my SkyDrive Pro content on my Windows Phone device through the Office hub – very cool.
3. Office Web Apps.
Excel Web App, Word Web App, PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App are beautiful and powerful apps (Outlook Web App gets it’s own call-out). When I’m on the go (for example, using the machine at the Executive Briefing Center), I use the Web Apps to view, present and edit my documents. I never have to worry about file fidelity and I can access the same documents from Office 365 ProPlus when I’m using my PC or Surface Pro. I can also collaborate with my peers irrespective of how they are accessing the documents – Web Apps, Office 365 ProPlus, mobile, etc. Below, you’ll see screenshots of the Excel Web App and Word Web App which look great. You can use the browser of your choice and Web Apps also work great on mobile platforms. One question I frequently get is whether iPad is supported and the answer is yes.
4. Outlook Web App
The new Outlook Web App, or more affectionately referred to as OWA, delivers a beautiful experience. I personally use OWA on my Surface RT device and it works great. User experience enhancements include a touch-friend interface, intuitive threading, in-place reply functionality (no pop-ups when replying), Outlook apps (more on that in point #5) and more.
5. Office Apps
In the latest Office 365 update, we introduced a new developer cloud model that fully embraces web standards. This new model is a win-win-win for IT, developers and end users. Developers can develop apps that work for on-prem & Office 365 and easily publish them to the Office store, IT can have confidence that these apps will run safely and end-users can easily add apps from the Office store. This new app model spans across SharePoint, Exchange and the Office client. More information can be found @ http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/office/apps/fp160950.aspx
One example is the Bing Maps Outlook app (see below) that shows you an inline map for an address in an email address. Another example is the “Suggested Meetings” app that gets displayed if there’s date/time information in the email body. This app will help you schedule a meeting by directly populating the date/time information in a calendar appointment request. Really great stuff and both these apps ship out-of-the-box. You can also check out other apps that developers have written at the Office store @ http://officepreview.microsoft.com/en-us/store/
6. People Everywhere
People is a core focus in Office 365. Whether you are using a browser or the Office clients, you get a consistent People Card that aggregates information from different sources and allows you to quickly interact with the person. The screenshots below show just a few examples of where the People card shows up. The first screenshot is the People Card in OWA, the second one in Outlook client and the third is in SharePoint.
Besides giving a consistent, great end user experience, we also make it easy for IT to manage the user directory. We offer different options depending on your business requirements – for example, 1) you can host your entire, sole directory in the cloud, 2) synchronize users/passwords with your on-premise Active Directory (AD) or 3) implement ADFS for a single-sign on experience. We also support a number of 3rd party Identity partners to help you integrate with your existing Identity infrastructure.
7. Yammer and Social
Yammer and SharePoint deliver powerful enterprise social capabilities. There’s been a lot of communication on this topic so I won’t write much on this topic. We recently provided an update to the roadmap which you can find @ http://blogs.office.com/b/sharepoint/archive/2013/03/19/yammer-and-sharepoint-enterprise-social-roadmap-update.aspx
8. Security and Rights Management
We continuously invest in security. We take every measure to secure your data through 1) built-in Data Center security (eg. 24-hour monitoring, isolated customer data, secure network, encryption, automated operations) and 2) Office 365 customer controls (eg. antivirus/antispam, user access control, compliance, advanced encryption). I encourage you to explore the Office 365 Trust Center @ http://www.trustoffice365.com and read the Office 365 Security whitepaper @ Office 365 Security.
One of the hidden gems of Office 365 is Information Rights Management (IRM). IRM allows you to apply policies to data (eg. email, Office documents) so that content is protected even when it leaves Office 365. The first two screenshots show how easy it is for an end user to set permissions on an email through OWA or the Outlook client. The third screenshot demonstrates how a policy can be set at a document library level. So when a user downloads a document, the policy is included as part of the document. So for example, if you apply a “Do not print” policy on the document library, when a user downloads a Word document, they won’t be able to print the document from their desktop – very, very cool! The IRM value doesn’t stop at the end user level — IT can also set up rules, for example by setting a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy, that defines when an email should be rights protected based on certain defined criteria. I always make it a point to mention that IRM is more than just encryption.
9. Compliance Features
Compliance features are features I personally don’t use on a daily basis as an end user, but I do know that Microsoft and other organizations do. New compliance features in Office 365 give you confidence that your organization is complying with corporate and legal policies. Features span areas of data loss prevention (DLP), eDiscovery, auditing and reporting. In the example below, there’s a DLP policy that checks outgoing email for credit card information.
10. Regular Updates
We’re delivering new features and enhancements on a monthly basis. This can range from minor fixes to enabling new scenarios. With Office 365, we’re able to react to customer feedback much more quickly. My team publishes some of the new features we release on a monthly basis @ http://community.office365.com/en-us/wikis/office_365_service_updates/default.aspx. One recent new feature that we announced is GeoFlow for Excel (currently in Preview), that I recommend checking out if you haven’t done so already @ http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-excel/archive/2013/04/11/public-preview-of-geoflow-for-excel-delivers-3d-data-visualization-and-storytelling.aspx
I’ve limited myself to only 10 feature areas – there are a lot more. I encourage you to try out Office 365 for yourself if you haven’t done so already. You can sign-up for a trial @ http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx.
On a more personal note, I’m going to make it a point to blog more often!