Being a registered Microsoft Partner comes with some great privileges. Of course, we have to pay for the partner membership, but none the less the benefits of the partnership far outweigh the costs.
One of those benefits includes access to an Office 365 subscription. In Citizen39’s case, an Enterprise E3 subscription to Office 365. This E3 subscription is way more than what my small business needs, however it is important that Citizen39 walk the talk when it comes to marketing the services that Citizen39 offers. So, with our own Office 365 subscription, we can clearly demonstrate to clients that, in fact, we use Office 365 ourselves.
Citizen39 gains an important trusting relationship with our customers when we demonstrate that Citizen39 runs it’s business in the cloud. It is often the demonstration of our own Office 365 implementation that gives customers that real-world understanding of how to solve their own problems. Quite often our customers will relate to the same business problems that Citizen39 has had, and we can then show them how easy those problems were solved by using our own Office 365 subscription.
These next few sections provide an real-world look into how we use Office 365, and how we are using Office 365 to overcome past business challenges.
Our Top 5 Office 365 Features
With so many great features in Office 365 it would be ridiculous to expect that we would use every single one of them. Here is what we use today, and what we expect most other customers will get the quickest return on.
We used to manage our email, including calendars, using Google Apps. As a small business, Gmail was a great tool. It is free and is simple to use. If there was one challenge with Google Apps is that it was expensive to maintain. By expensive, I mean it time to administer a Google Apps based email account. If your a person who does not have that experience nor comfort for administering things in Google Apps, then you’ll quickly find that the time quickly adds up – and time is money.
We now use the enterprise class email services that come with Office 365 subscriptions, including the use of both the downloadable Outlook email client, and the online email tools. What’s more is that we have found that setting up and managing email accounts in Office 365 is much easier that Google Apps – and our customers are telling us the same.
With the ability to use the email tools on all of our desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, we are always connected whether we are at our desk, or out at customers sites, online or offline. This includes the calendaring features too, which has been huge for us.
2. Calendar and People
Albeit the Office 365 Calendar and People are generally grouped in with email features, we feel these two features should be in there own grouping. The Calendar and People features provide us a huge boost in productivity when we are dealing with our stakeholder relationships. Again, these can all be integrated, and synchronized, with other features – such as automatically synchronizing with your contacts in Outlook.
3. Word, Excel, PowerPoint
We’ve always used Microsoft Office products. Yeah, there are other free tools too, like the similar functioning Google Apps that are out there, however with the tight integration, or “interoperability”, that each Office product has with each other has provided us a great deal of value with our own business processes.
A great example of how this Office interoperability has helped is how we process monthly billings. We manage employee timesheets using SharePoint (the “Team Site(s)” in Office 365), which is integrated with Excel and Word. Most of our month-end invoicing processes are now automated, which proves to be a huge value for us.
We can’t say enough good things about SharePoint. Gone are the days of shared drives, disconnected and unsynchronized Drop Box and Google Drive accounts. SharePoint has allowed use to have a single source of truth for all of our information, for all of our stakeholders.
From documents to customized lists of data. We leverage SharePoint to collaborate both internally, as well as externally with our stakeholders. For example, we create SharePoint sites for our customers so that they can easily collaborate with us on their project information. Combine the great integration with the other Office tools, we often collaborate in real-time; dynamically updating documents (like the way Google Docs does) and holding online screen sharing meetings.
And because Citizen39 has SharePoint development expertise, we are always finding new and intuitive ways to solve problems with SharePoint.
Yammer brings more social aspects to what we do when we collaborate, especially with customers. Yammer is one of those features that will really drives engagement with our customers. Where SharePoint is what we use to manage and collaborate on information, Yammer is what we use to engage our stakeholders with that same information.
So there you have it. Still on the fence? Let me know what your thoughts are about Office 365.