We all love the huge product announcements out of Redmond. Hey! Something shiny and new! Fantastic! And while we may brush aside some of the smaller announcements (or the feature iterations that go, for the most part, unannounced), many of these incremental additions are what actually improve productivity in our day-to-day activities.
For example, the latest Office blog post talks about the Skype integration with Office Online. If you're sharing a Word document via OneDrive (consumer), you have the ability to log into Skype and chat in real time with your co-editors, or even connect via video or phone. What's more, you can save your chat history along with the document being edited so that you can come back later and continue making edits based on your discussion.
As a Chrome browser user, I love that Microsoft has been adding things for users of competing platforms. A small yet useful addition made available late last year was the Office Online Chrome extension, which links directly to my account so that I can easily jump to my latest OneDrive documents and presentations.
Most people I talk to have not yet found themselves enamored by Sway. It's still a bit rudimentary, but more and more innovation is being added every month, and it's beginning to do some really cool things. One problem for people who finds themselves now taking hundreds, if not thousands, of digital photos with their phones or, dare I say, cameras (do people still own these?) is how to share this content in a "consumable" way. Sway now integrates with Microsoft Photos, allowing you to very quickly create a Sway from a photo album. That means you can easily share photos in a format that allows you to also drop in stories around your photos, mixing pictures and videos, as well as links, making the boring old slideshow something more engaging—and responsive to whatever device is being used.
I know we've all seen and are using this, but I still have to point to one of the greatest productivity improvements to e-mail in the past 20 years: integrating Skype for Business and OneNote into meeting invites. This is huge! As a remote worker in a company that is spread across Washington, California, Texas and Maryland, as well as Spain and the Netherlands, we rely on SharePoint, Skype and OneNote each and every day. When I create a meeting invite, it almost always includes a Skype link and related OneNote. And for those of us who live and breathe OneNote, you also have the ability to create Outlook appointments and meeting requests from within OneNote (even if Outlook is closed), create Outlook contacts, create and edit Outlook tasks, and insert meeting details into your notes. Talk about a productivity enhancement.
One other cool new capability that will undoubtedly help the task managers among us stay productive is Wunderlist. Acquired by Microsoft last summer, Wunderlist allows you to build lists and assign tasks for yourself as well as others. There's a new Outlook app that allows you to identify tasks while reading through e-mail, and to quickly assign the task to one of your lists. For example, I have task lists for family and for defined projects. When I come across something personal, I'll add a task to the family list as a reminder. But if the task is for a project, I assign it to that list, which others within the project team can also access, where they'll receive alerts and can open the new items in their browser or phone apps. As a list guy, I'm enjoying the flexibility to carry my task list wherever I go.
When Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft, he talked about the shift of focus to "platforms and productivity," promising to view all innovations through the productivity lens and ask, "Is this something that will help our customers be more productive?" Rather than waiting for big news, we should all be paying more attention to the small doses of productivity that seem to come out every few days. Personally, I keep my eyes trained on the Office Blog and, of course, the Office 365 Network (on Yammer) to keep up on everything coming out of Redmond.
You can also take a look at the slides from my SPTechCon Austin session last month, entitled The 10 Best Office 365 Features You’ve Never Used (But Should), which includes some additional productivity-enhancing tips.