remote work

Incorporating the core Office apps we’re all familiar with, 30+ additional Microsoft applications as well compatibility with hundreds of third-party productivity applications, Microsoft 365 can serve up a solution to almost any business challenge you might face.

While 365 customers are often familiar with the core productivity platforms such as Teams, SharePoint, Planner and Outlook some of the most useful helpful features of each often goes unnoticed. In no particular order, let’s dive in and explore a few simple ‘productivity hacks’ you and your Team may not be familiar with.


#1 Drag and Drop Files to your OneDrive or SharePoint

At the top of your personal OneDrive or a SharePoint site you’ll see the option to ‘upload.’ While you can use this to migrate locally-stored files to a new cloud location you can also simply ‘drag and drop’ any files and folders you want to relocate, This often proves faster and more convenient.


#2 Sync your cloud storage to your device for easy offline access

Syncing your OneDrive and SharePoint libraries to your device enables access when you have no internet connection and allows you to use the more familiar ‘file explorer’ interface as opposed to the OneDrive and SharePoint web portals.

Initiating the process is easy; simply click ‘sync’ at the top your OneDrive account or any SharePoint site you want to sync to your device. The Taskbar can now be used as an access point for your online file libraries, avoiding the hassle of having to navigate SharePoint and Onedrive through your browser.


#3 Send links to Cloud-hosted files instead of attachments.

It’s always better to distribute files via cloud storage rather than by sending lots of large email attachments. Large files can sometimes take a while for the recipient to download an excessive use of email attachments can increase the chances of malware transmission.

A safe and convenient alternative is to send a link to a OneDrive or SharePoint hosted file. When attaching a file simply click ‘Browse web locations’ then choose your file and select ‘Share link.’

Once the link is attached you can then alter file permissions and control the recipient’s ability to edit the document.


#4 Sync SharePoint Calendars to Outlook

You can sync a SharePoint calendar to Outlook. Simply click on the Calendar tab in SharePoint and then click ‘connect to Outlook.’ You will then be able to access this Calendar from your Outlook under ‘other calendars’ besides where you access your own personal calendar. This saves you the hassle of having to navigate to a specific SharePoint site in order to view the calendar.


#5 Use ‘Groups’ to share resources among a team with a common goal

You’ll hear the word ‘Group’ used a lot in articles that discuss Microsoft 365. A ‘group’ is basically a group of people who require access to a common pool of resources; this could mean a shared calendar, email inbox or a shared file library for collaboration on group work. You can create groups through various platforms and the route you take should depend on why you want to set the group up. For example, if access to a communal calendar is crucial you may want to set the group up through Outlook, or if file access is the main priority then setting up a group around a SharePoint Team site would be your best option. You can also set up groups through Planner for when project task coordination is critical, or through Teams in cases where chat-based collaboration is important. Fundamentally, ‘Groups’ are an essential part of the Microsoft 365 experience and they make collaboration so much easier.


#6 Use ‘Smart Lookup’ to research words or phrases without breaking your stride

‘Smart Lookup’ lets you perform an internet search within an office app by highlighting a piece of text, right-clicking and then selecting ‘smart lookup’.

This feature will then perform a web search within the application you’re working in, so there is no need to copy and paste the item to a separate web browser. This simple feature turns what could be a slightly clunky process into a 2 click action that can be performed in seconds.


#7 Enable ‘Reading Pane’ view in Outlook and respond to emails faster

‘Reading Pane’ view lets you view the contents of an email without having to open each one individually; a great efficiency booster. Enabling this view is easy; simply navigate to ‘view’ from the top of the Outlook window and activate ‘Reading Pane’ from the ‘layout’ menu.


#8 Stay productive from any device using the Office Mobile Apps

Most of the Microsoft apps are available for download as mobile apps for IOS and Android. Sync files across multiple devices and stay productive. Use Microsoft Launcher on Android, or Microsoft Edge on IOS to access your Microsoft applications under one interface that lets you switch between screens in a single tap.


We’re Blazon

At Blazon Technologies, we specialized in protecting our clients’ network and data, ensuring they can keep running their business even if disaster strikes them. To find out how we can help you with your security and protection, contact us for more information.

remote work

We are now entering the fourth industrial revolution, a period of rapid technological advancement that has the potential to dramatically alter the way we live, work, and interact with one another. The increased use of automation across all sectors, the adoption of cyber-physical systems that use IoT technologies and the proliferation of Artificial intelligence promises to revolutionise the business world in ways never seen.

Businesses that fail to innovate over the coming years may fall behind and find themselves struggling to compete with leaner, more efficient companies that embrace innovative technologies. For small and medium-sized businesses the magnitude of the change required may seem daunting, however, automation is now a fundamental part of the business IT landscape and features heavily in many of the most up to date software platforms so adopting smart technologies is much easier than you may think.

For more proactive businesses there’s Microsoft’s Power Platform, a powerful group of products from Microsoft with automation at their core, that let businesses automate processes, extract insights from data, build tailored apps for specific purposes and harness the power of AI for automated communication.  Microsoft Power Platform is comprised of 4 products, let’s explore each of these in more detail.


Power BI

Power BI is a data visualisation platform that can be used to bring together and make sense of data held in a wide variety of locations. Available as a desktop application or as a cloud-hosted service, Power BI features a range of tools that can help you draw insight from your data and produce immersive, visually stunning reports and dashboards. Being able to draw insight from vast quantities of data will give your business an edge when it comes to forecasting, planning for ‘what if’ scenarios and driving relentless improvements by paying close attention to the most insightful KPIs (key performance indicators).

Power BI can empower decision-makers at any level of your business to make informed decisions data-derived intelligence. Power BI also takes away much of the legwork when it comes to reporting by automating the reporting process. Rest APIs allow administrative tasks such as refreshing a data set to be automated, saving time and staff resources. Also, data classification features let you maintain tight control of your most sensitive data to ensure compliance and prevent data loss.


Power Apps

Power Apps is a ‘platform-as-a-service’ offering from Microsoft that gives the user the ability to create business applications without the need for software development expertise. Apps can be created to modernise and automate outdated manual processes that eat into your time.

You can create ‘canvas driven’ applications uniquely designed for specific processes and job roles; you might want to create an app where employees can file expense reports or provide a linear form for customer feedback for example.

Alternatively, create ‘model-driven’ applications that start with your existing data and business processes. More complex and less customisable than canvas apps, model-driven apps are better for situations that require an end-to-end solution and the application of ‘business logic.’ For example, a customer support ticket could be created via a canvas app, but then a Model app would be needed to route this data to the relevant people, update the status of the ticket as the support request is handled and so on.

Apps created through Power Apps are mostly intended for internal use, but you can also embed apps within your website and give external users access to your data. Enhance your web visitor experience with the addition of data-driven model apps in the form of attractive dashboards and charts which will be sure to impress visitors to your site.


Power Automate

Power Automate is a code-free platform that empowers users to implement business process automation to take the strain out of workflow management. Previously known as ‘Microsoft flow,’ Power Automate provides pre-assembled templates and connectors which can be used to link various sources of data and initiate actions when certain inputs occur.

One of the most helpful applications of Power Automate is the transfer of data from one application to another in situations which would otherwise require you to move data manually or migrate between multiple applications in order to access the data you need. For example, you could set up a workflow that automatically sends all email attachments to a SharePoint folder.

Power automate is also useful for automating the notifications or information-sharing process. For example, you could set up a flow that sends an update via Outlook to all members of a SharePoint site whenever a document library is added to, or a specific SharePoint list is updated. A great way to keep project teams up to date with any developments.

Power Automate can also connect to over 200 external services. Establish automatic push notifications when someone tweets about your company for example, with flows that connect with your social media accounts.


Power Virtual Agents

A relatively new addition to Microsoft’s power platform, Power Virtual Agents lets users create AI-driven Chatbots in an intuitive, no-code environment. Chatbots can be used as a virtual point-of-contact for customers and employees alike. For example, they can be integrated into your website to help existing customers with simple service issues and allow your customer service team to focus on more challenging requests. Alternatively, you could use it within your organisation to guide new employees through the initiation process.

Power Virtual agents use artificial intelligence to generate questions based on perceived intentions, and integration within the ‘Power Family’(specifically with Power Automate) allows actions to be initiated on other platforms based on data gathered by the chatbot.

Power Virtual agents are not a replacement for human-to-human interaction, instead, they can be used to supplement your team and handle the easier stuff while your employees focus on the more valuable interactions.

Each of the products contained within the ‘Power Platform’ umbrella term can be acquired on its own but the real potential lies in embracing all four of these products in order to truly drive end-to-end business process automation.


We’re Blazon

At Blazon Technologies, we specialized in protecting our clients’ network and data, ensuring they can keep running their business even if disaster strikes them. To find out how we can help you with your security and protection, contact us for more information.

remote work

Communication within Microsoft 365 centres around Microsoft Teams. ‘Teams’ has fast become synonymous with remote-working due to its extensive features list and deep integration within the Microsoft product line, and as a result, it has become the go-to communication platform for over half a million companies worldwide.

While its intuitive interface is easy to get to grips with, its simplicity hides several useful and powerful features that users often overlook. Let’s look at a few of these hidden gems and see if they could help to enhance your business’ communications.


Inline Message Translation

Introduced in 2019, this useful feature lets users translate received messages into their native language in just two clicks. This feature won’t work unless enabled from within the Microsoft Teams Admin centre. To translate a message simply select ‘more options’ and then ‘translate.’


Quick Forms

The integration of Microsoft Forms into the Teams experience lets you publish simple surveys and quizzes within the chat interface. To activate this feature, navigate to ‘messaging extensions’ located below the chat text window and search for ‘Forms.’ The app then lets you publish simple multi-choice questions in the channel for all group members to answer.


Email Channels

This is an extremely useful yet often overlooked feature that turns a team’s channel into a destination for emails. By using a channel email address, you can funnel email communication through a channel’s chat feed and ensure that everyone is kept up to date with developments. Also, any email content plus attachments sent to the channel will automatically be saved in an auto-generated folder titled ‘Email messages’ in the channel’s SharePoint.


Content ‘bookmarks’

An extremely simple feature that makes retrieving and following up on vital correspondence a breeze. Hover your cursor over a message and select ‘save this message’ from the ‘more options’ menu. This message and any others you choose to save can be returned to via the ‘saved’ section located under your user account icon in the top right.


Filter activity using @mentions

If you use teams heavily on a daily basis, you’ll likely end up with a lot of notifications in your activity tab.  Sifting through notifications individually can be time-consuming, but luckily there is a filter feature to let you focus on the content most relevant to you.

The ‘@mentions’ filter is particularly useful for filtering out notifications which aren’t targeted at you specifically, allowing you to filter out the ‘noise’ and focus on what’s most important.


Immersive Reader

Often disregarded as a ‘learning tool’ rather than a useful feature for business users, the immersive reader can prove surprisingly useful in various scenarios. If you’re focussed on a task and you receive a lengthy message from your boss, you can have immersive reader play the message aloud while your eyes are focussed elsewhere. To use, simply select ‘immersive reader’ from the ‘more options’ drop-down menu and then press the play button.


Work faster with ‘Slash Commands’

Slash commands are simply a range of shortcuts you can use by typing a forward slash into the search bar at the top of the Teams window. Set a status, navigate to a channel, make a call and more with this useful feature that speeds up many of the most common commands.


Enjoy some headspace by using the ‘hide’ feature

Avoid a cluttered interface and remove those noisy channels that are distracting you from your work by using the ‘hide’ feature. Simply select ‘hide’ from the ‘more options’ menu located beside a channel and the channel will be removed from your chat feed. Messages in which you are @mentioned will still show up as a notification and you can ‘unhide’ the channel at any time and it will return to your feed.

By diving a little deeper into Microsoft Teams you can uncover these and many more productivity-boosting, time-saving useful features that will empower your team to work more effectively.


We’re Blazon

At Blazon Technologies, we specialized in protecting our clients’ network and data, ensuring they can keep running their business even if disaster strikes them. To find out how we can help you with your security and protection, contact us for more information.