Ask any productive team how they do it and, chances are, they will tell you that software plays a major role in getting things done efficiently.
But not all software is created equal. For decades, companies have relied on licensing separate applications for every need, investing in on-premise servers, and having large IT departments that could maintain everything.
Today, a single subscription service like Microsoft 365 can empower users at any company to do more, faster, and better, while decreasing IT involvement as well as overhead costs.
In this article, we’ll break down what user empowerment is and go over five practical examples of how tools in Microsoft 365 are able to give users more autonomy and increase their productivity.
What is user empowerment?
User empowerment is about being able to accomplish more as an individual when you can have greater control over your environment, easily remove bottlenecks from critical processes, delegate the right tasks to the right people, and leverage software automation.
To feel empowered, your team needs to have powerful tools, know how to use those tools effectively, and be willing to explore and experiment with what works best for them.
Traditionally, users in corporate environments have been restricted in what they could do on their own. Starting a new program, a manager would need to request all the infrastructure to be set up by the IT department, from server configurations to shared storage to group emails. External collaborators would also need custom user accounts with limited access and permissions.
With a suite of tools like Microsoft 365 that’s geared toward user empowerment, anyone with just a little bit of training can create their own group spaces, along with file sharing, chat, guest users, and much more — in minutes!
5 tools in Microsoft 365 to empower your team
When you use Microsoft 365, you have instant access to software in nearly every business category you can think of. The feature set is always expanding, and you can also use hundreds of external platform integrations. The best part — it’s available to every member of your team on the same license.
To illustrate the power that Microsoft 365 is able to unlock, let’s look at five productive tools and workflows that your team can implement at any time.
1. Manage your workflow in Teams
Microsoft Teams is a powerful tool not only for team communication but also for centralizing your workflow in a single place.
After your IT provider has set up a Microsoft 365 environment, any manager can easily create new teams, assign permissions, add a shared drive to collaborate on files, invite external guests, and much more — all on their own.
2. Track all projects in Microsoft Planner
When you have Microsoft 365, you don’t need to use an external project management app — such as Monday or Asana — Microsoft Planner can do it all.
With Microsoft Planner, you can organize any team project using an intuitive kanban-like categorization of tasks. Planner also integrates natively with Teams, so you can manage every project right from your space in Teams. Just like Microsoft Teams, Planner can be managed by individual users after all the proper permissions are configured.
To give a concrete example, at Smart Dolphins, we use Microsoft Planner to manage all projects. Since our team already uses Microsoft To-Do to keep track of personal tasks, we can easily integrate these tools, reducing the need to jump back and forth. As a result, tasks assigned to individuals in Planner show up in their personal To-Do, syncing details like task completion and tracking.
3. Upgrade from spreadsheets to SharePoint lists
Microsoft Excel users will appreciate the power of SharePoint lists. With support for different types of data fields, SharePoint lists can pull data from a variety of sources, including Microsoft Forms.
In addition, changes in SharePoint lists can trigger automation workflows using Power Automate. For example, updating a status field in lists can send an email to anyone who needs to be notified of the change.
Teams that require in-depth analytics can also integrate SharePoint lists directly with PowerBI.
4. Create SharePoint team sites
With Microsoft 365, teams not only have the opportunity to organize but also create and manage their own intranets, with landing pages, blogs, file-sharing, and other collaborative features. SharePoint sites can be connected to Teams channels or external data, such as Twitter or RSS feeds.
Creating SharePoint sites doesn’t require designers or developers to be involved — minimal prior knowledge is needed, and everything can be done from a single user-friendly drag-and-drop interface.
5. Accelerate your work with Power Automate
Using Power Automate as part of Microsoft 365, you can create automation workflows of any complexity without any coding.
Power Automate makes it easy to manage files, define event-based triggers, generate repeating tasks, configure approval processes, send emails, save attachments, etc.
In just a few clicks, you can, for example, set up an automation for downloading attachments and storing them in a specific location based on certain keywords or sender details. The possibilities are truly endless.
How to empower your team with Microsoft 365
Introducing Microsoft 365 into your company requires certain high-level planning, basic training, and lots of configurations for settings, rules, and permissions.
Is it possible to integrate Microsoft 365 on your own? Sure. But you should be careful to avoid creating duplication and messy file structures that would only introduce more confusion rather than enable streamlined growth. Not to mention adding any security risks in the process (e.g., skipping multi-factor authentication).
What you need is a trusted technical partner that will help you set up the environment and the platform specifically for your needs, as well as customize rules and permission according to your company policy.
However, the end goal should be enabling your own team to become autonomous and learn to create new spaces and manage projects in the way that is most productive for them, while reducing pressure on your IT staff.
At Smart Dolphins, we do just that. We’ve been in business for over 20 years, helping small- and medium-sized companies efficiently solve their IT-related issues, from hosting to training to Microsoft 365 integration. Get in touch, and our specialists will advise you on the best way to enhance your team’s productivity.