Optimize Your Microsoft 365 Subscription

April 12, 2021

Reduce costs by eliminating duplicate resources

In today’s business climate, a common refrain amongst IT executives and business leaders is “what am I paying for that I’m not using?” Wasted ones and zeros dot the silicon landscape of 21st century corporate America, all the way from fledgling start-ups to Fortune 500 behemoths. The one common thread sewn between each outcome of financial frustration is a lack of optimization in software consumption. The list of software products being under-consumed is longer than a CVS Pharmacy receipt, but one ecosystem in particular might surprise you with just how much you get that you might not be using.

Microsoft Office 365, or just Microsoft 365 as it’s now branded is the most ubiquitous SaaS product in the world, with an estimated 1.2 Billion users worldwide. Simply put, Microsoft 365 is a universe unto itself. As a business leader of a Microsoft shop, your job is to spend the company money wisely and maximize that investment. However, there are over 30 unique applications contained within the Office 365 environment, and once you get out of the Office suite you’d be forgiven for not knowing what else is there that you might be already paying for.

The CIO of a major American healthcare provider recently reiterated the fact that they were under-consuming their Microsoft subscription during a digital town-hall. An initiative was created to optimize their Microsoft licenses to eliminate waste, which in turn led to cost savings across duplicate workflows and helped eliminate Shadow IT. Technology being deployed by departments other than the central ID department (Shadow IT) is a common issue across organizations and can lead to wasted resources and budget.

The point being presented here is simple; find a platform and maximize it to the fullest. Today we will dive into Microsoft 365 and some of the features that you may be paying for but aren’t using.

Introduction

Almost every company consumes Microsoft products these days. The biggest competitor in the office productivity space is Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) which has recently achieved modest advances in adoption. Simply put, some sort of word processor, presentation, storage, collaboration and communication tool is essential to competing in today’s business landscape. Microsoft just happens to dominate the digital office productivity stack. When you purchase a Microsoft 365 subscription you gain access to a suite of applications that you may or may not use, and in some cases team members may end up wasting money by purchasing competing products. With that in mind, let’s explore ten Microsoft 365 applications that you probably pay for but not be using.

Communication - Teams chat

In the last couple of years Microsoft Teams has matched, and in many cases exceeded the best business messaging products on the market. The biggest competitor to Teams right now is Slack. With Teams you can achieve such ubiquitous things like integrate other productivity apps, create chat rooms, archive files, and much more. Slack may have specifically targeted features, but Teams comes with your basic Microsoft 365 license and stores all communication in one platform. You can even collaborate across companies. Unless you need some specific feature from another platform, maximizing adoption of Teams for chat will make your company more efficient.

Video Conferencing

Using video in Teams is comparable to the competition in the market. On any given day you’re likely get on WebEx, Zoom, GoToMeeting and many others that fill the same purpose.

Features Include:

  • Slide Presentation
  • Present videos with sound
  • Face to face video
  • Virtual backgrounds
  • Whiteboard collaboration
  • Meeting recording
  • Automatic chatroom

All of these features are stored within a single, integrated platform. People tend to have a preference for at least some of these features, but at the end of the day, Teams does everything the competitors do and it’s included in every offered Microsoft 365 license.

Telephony

One undervalued feature that most consumers aren’t familiar with is Teams Business Voice, where the Teams client becomes your office phone. This feature comes standard with an E5 license, or through an add-on feature for Business Standard. Voice can be integrated with other Contact Center products, or serve as your standard office PBX. As with any digital soft-phone solution, the challenge with this option always goes back to business continuity. Whenever Microsoft goes down, so do your phones. For that reason, there are other options that can minimize your risk and still run your phones through Teams. Companies such as Fuze, 8x8, CallTower and RingCentral have integrations and can become your telephony backbone within the Microsoft 365 platform.

Microsoft Publisher

Many small and medium sized businesses create their own marketing content for internal or external use. Included in your Microsoft 365 license is a product called Publisher. Publisher competes with other products such as Adobe’s content creation suite, and is built to do more than just word processing. You can use Publisher to create brochures, posters, cards, with the ability to change the layout, include text and add images.

OneNote

Have you ever been on a meeting where everyone is taking notes on the same topic? Then, following the meeting, one person has to aggregate the notes so you get the complete story. OneNote can simplify this process. OneNote competes with other products like Evernote, where you can save your notes and collaborate in the Cloud. Imagine the efficiency of being on the same sales call and taking notes in the same location and be accessible from any device.

SharePoint

The work-from-home business environment has made virtual collaboration on presentations, spreadsheets and other documents a necessity. In the past we would have struggled with version control as we passed the document between team members. In a traditional work flow, one team member has typically been designated as the version control party holding the official document, creating unnecessary work and leaving room for error. SharePoint allows for online document collaboration in real time. It also functions as a company repository where you can store and share files. A document repository can be especially important when sharing large files via email. SharePoint can also function as your internal business Intranet. Box, the cloud content and file management service is one of the competitors in this space, but beyond basic features comes at an additional cost.

Power BI

For larger businesses that purchase an E5 Microsoft 365 license, you gain access to a powerful analytical and data visualization tool in Power BI. Data visualization apps provide interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities with an interface simple enough for end users to create their own reports and dashboards. This feature allows you to change rows of data into 3D maps and present it back into presentations for investors, employees and executives. Power BI sits in the same space as a comparable product like Tableau.

Microsoft Bookings

It has become very popular to send out a link to contacts in external organizations to book calendar appointments. Sales teams use it to simplify scheduling with prospective clients and others to coordinate group meetings when multiple organizations are involved. Products like Calendly have become popular to simplify this process. Microsoft Bookings offers a simple way to schedule virtual and in-person appointments such as:

  • Sales meetings
  • Healthcare visits
  • Financial consultations
  • Job interviews
  • Customer support
  • Education office hours

Some other interesting features include:

  • Bookings can place appointments directly into your calendar
  • Provide automated appointment reminders
  • Add virtual options directly in the meeting such as Teams
  • Schedulers can manage multiple calendars as well as communication for internal employees
  • Select from people on your team based on calendars or just select anyone available
  • Show billable rates for the time
  • Customizable portal

Microsoft Planner

When you need to collaborate on projects across teams things can get complicated. Microsoft planner can create projects, assign tasks, monitor status/risk and track project to completion. A comparable product on the market would be Trello.

Digital Storage - Microsoft OneDrive

In today’s world of malware and cyber-attacks, most companies have a backup polices for important files. Some may have an onsite storage area network (SAN), while others opt to pay for services from companies like Box or Dropbox for a cloud storage option. Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud storage option to store your files and access them anywhere. Your standard license comes with 1 TB of storage capacity which should cover the needs of most employees. This functions similarly to a traditional hard drive and protects your files if your hard drive ever becomes corrupt. It also allows you to work remotely from any computer giving you flexibility in our new work from home environment. You can even have it automatically synchronize with and back up your hard drive.

In Conclusion

Microsoft has created a singular platform in Teams and SharePoint that makes collaborating easy. Working from a singular platform can simplify your business work flows and save you money. There is no reason to go out and purchase video conferencing, chat, storage, calendar and collaboration tools when you get them all in your Microsoft 365 license. The key is to set it up correctly and maximize adoption. Importantly, this can help minimize shadow IT, make your teamwork more efficient, and save you money in the process. Simply put, this is not your “father’s” Microsoft, Microsoft 365 takes it to the next level.

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