Microsoft 365: New, Improved, and More Powerful Than You Remember

Take a look at three key Microsoft 365 solutions with the potential to seriously transform the pro serv stack: Outlook, Excel, and Teams.

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    The Microsoft 365 suite includes some of the most famous productivity apps on the planet: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more recently, Teams.

    It’s easy to write these guys off – because, hey, we all know what Outlook and Excel are supposed to do. But it’s important to let go of what you think you know.

    On their own, Microsoft 365 apps serve as basic utilities – useful, sure, but hardly transformative. However, when combined with Dynamics 365, Azure, and the Power Platform, these familiar apps suddenly become exponentially more powerful.

    Below, we’ll take a look at three key MS 365 solutions with the potential to seriously transform the pro serv stack: Outlook, Excel, and Teams. Here’s what you need to know.

    Microsoft Outlook

    On its own, Outlook has a lot to offer — built-in email management and productivity tools, quick actions, shared calendars, and tight security protections. But, ultimately, it’s just a good email client. A basic utility every firm needs – but one that isn’t exactly known for helping them create a competitive advantage.

    That said, taking the simple step of integrating Outlook with your ERP goes a long way.
    The Outlook add-in for Business Central allows users to initiate BC functions and
    access data, documents, and reports without leaving the inbox.

    For example, users can approve workflows, create invoices and estimates, and review project and financial insights enabling quick decision-making and faster turnarounds on client requests.

    Power Platform creations and ISV solutions can build on those capabilities – bringing tailored insights and very-specific automated workflows into the Outlook interface. For example, Velosio’s Advanced Projects for BC syncs directly to the Outlook calendar. You can set it up to send project notification emails ahead of key milestones. Or – you might create automated sequences that send invoices via Outlook anytime a sales order is posted or a client pays their monthly retainer.

    Microsoft Excel

    Business Central includes an add-in for Excel that adds an “Edit in Excel” action to specific pages – which allows users to make changes to BC records in Excel, then automatically syncs those changes across the entire network. It’s especially effective for making edits that span multiple records – saving them from hours spent revising them one-by-one (and from the inevitable errors inherent in any large-scale data-entry project) .

    The integration also extends to Teams, allowing users to modify Excel records from the Teams interface.

    What’s great about the Excel add-in is, it strikes a balance between current best practices (which take place in an integrated, cloud-based system) and the familiar spreadsheet format that, in many respects, remains one of the most useful tools in the game. In other words, your employees can stick with the methods and formulas that work for them without the risk that comes from using disconnected, analog spreadsheets.

    Excel also integrates with Power BI – making it easy for users to manipulate and analyze data from disparate sources in that familiar spreadsheet format. The big benefit here is that all data is properly formatted — so you won’t waste time fixing formatting errors or botched formulas.

    Microsoft Teams

    Teams is the real game-changer of the bunch – in large part because Microsoft has invested heavily in transforming the chat/voice app into a collaboration hub boasting impressive presentation tools, embedded intelligence, and tons of flexibility.

    Inside, you’ll find collaboration tools like Whiteboard, which includes 40+ templates, plus reactions, sticky notes, and new ink and shapes tools that make it easier to communicate ideas visually.

    There’s also cameo, a new feature that integrates Teams camera feeds into PowerPoint presentations. And Viva, an employee experience solution delivered through the Teams UI. And — the newly-launched Mesh for Teams — which, per Microsoft, is a mixed reality solution that makes collaborating in the metaverse both “personal and fun.”

    Additionally, you can build “collaborative apps” either directly from the Teams interface or from inside the Power Apps platform to create an even more connected experience across Teams, Dynamics, Outlook, etc.

    We’re barely scratching the surface here, but the key takeaway is, Microsoft Teams relies on tight integration with your entire system. Think — Dynamics 365, the Power Platform, Azure, and any 3rd-party apps connected to the core ERP. Takeaway the “unity factor” and Teams becomes another basic communication platform.

    Final Thoughts

    The bottom line? Underestimate Microsoft 365 at your own peril.

    Look, many classic Office 365 tools look and feel much like they have for decades – but this is a perfect example of how factors like infrastructure limitations and data silos block technologies from realizing their full potential.

    As with D365, MS 365 apps work best when layered on top of a unified ERP and a robust data ecosystem. Spreadsheets and email are always useful but the real value comes from unity, planning, and proper training.

    Velosio helps professional services clients build a modern, connected Microsoft platform that drives efficiency and profitability across the entire project lifecycle, business, and portfolio. Contact us today to learn more about your options.