What’s new in Office 365? June/July 2017

Those of you on Office 365 will know that Microsoft doesn’t rest on its laurels when it comes to improving the innovative productivity suite. The applications included in Office 365 have continued to grow and improve, with monthly updates dedicated to improving the user experience. Here are some of Office 365’s latest updates:

Teams ‘classroom experiences’

Microsoft Teams launched in March to much fanfare – read our Applications Partner Manager Steven Osprey’s first thoughts on the collaboration tool – and Microsoft is continually adding to and improving the programme. With the ability to use Teams outside your organisation in the pipeline, Microsoft has for now added classroom experiences to Teams as part of Office 365 for Education. The aim of this is to “create safe and engaging classroom environments with rich conversations”.

With FELTAG recommending that learning must shift to online spaces, Microsoft is empowering both educators and students with a digital space designed for delivery, assessment and collaboration. Classes automatically populate from the school’s information system, and Teams and channels can be used to segment by lesson and topic. Students and teachers can communicate using text, video or by uploading files, using custom stickers and themes to make content more engaging.

It’s easier than ever to create content and plan lessons thanks to Teams’ intuitive interface. What’s more, OneNote class notebooks are integrated into every class, meaning educators can deliver personalised and interactive learning. Teams also allows for ‘end-to-end assignment management’, allowing teachers to grade and distribute papers quickly and easily, reducing the administrative burden significantly. In keeping with Microsoft’s dedication to an integrated, consistent experience across its entire suite of products, applications like Word, Excel and Planner are easily accessible from the single hub of Teams.

Microsoft Forms available for public preview

Microsoft Forms, previously only available as part of Office 365 for Education, is now available in preview to commercial users. Labelled as a “lightweight web tool”, Microsoft Forms allows users to quickly create a wide array of surveys, including post-project customer feedback surveys and employee engagement evaluations. The easy-to-use interface means users require no training and the upcoming inclusion in Office 365 subscriptions means you no longer need to source a costly external tool.

Question branching means you can create intuitive surveys that adapt to the user’s responses; no more ‘if yes, please explain why’; if users respond a certain way to a question you can hide irrelevant questions or show more. Responsive designs mean it adapts to any and all screens so your customers, colleagues or other users can complete surveys on the go anytime, anywhere.

Microsoft makes analysing and viewing the results of your surveys a breeze, with automatically generated charts to quickly visualise results, and the ability to export to Excel. The tool also works with SharePoint and PowerApps lists for custom forms. 

Enhanced security and compliance

In the current climate of cyber-attacks, Microsoft is prioritising the security of its users’ data by continuing to bolster protection across its product range.

Windows Information Protection (WIP) forms the “fundamentals of information protection” for Windows operating systems and was added to the Office mobile apps support functions for Windows devices in August last year. The functionalities of WIP are expanding beyond mobile apps to cover Office on Windows desktops too. At its core, WIP prevents accidental data leaks – Verizon’s Data Breaches Incident Report shows that around 30% of data breaches are due to staff accidentally divulging confidential information or sending or saving documents externally.

WIP minimises the risk of accidental data breaches by recognising confidential or sensitive business data, applying rules that can be configured by IT administrators to ensure sensitive data isn’t distributed outside of the business.

It’s clear that Microsoft is dedicated to keeping Office 365 fresh, functional and secure, with these monthly updates designed to make workers’ lives easier and business data safer. If you’re already on Office 365, are you taking advantage of these latest features? And if you’ve not already migrated to Office 365, what’s stopping you?