Align Your Team to Company Targets with Microsoft Viva Goals

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You often hear the words “digital transformation” and “collaboration.” But what do they actually mean? What do they mean for the day-to-day of running your business?

Collaboration can’t happen without shared goals. When departments are siloed and unconnected, priorities can conflict. People are doing their best but may not be moving in the same direction.

Digital transformation is simply the use of technology to better reach business goals. This encompasses moving from analog ways of doing things. Transitioning to tools that are more automated and connected.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of digital transformation and collaboration. Its Viva platform drives an improved employee experience. It does this by use of AI, automation, cloud connectivity, and more.

In this article, you’ll get an overview of Microsoft Viva. Then, we’ll dive into one of the newest Viva offerings, Viva Goals. We’ll explore what it does and how it can help your company meet its targets.

What Is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a line of employee experience applications. These connect to the Microsoft 365 platform, and especially Microsoft Teams. The apps act as add-ons that can build on your organization’s digital capabilities.

There are currently seven apps within the Microsoft Viva line:

  • Viva Topics: Allows organizations to harness knowledge and experience. It serves up relevant topics from the company knowledge base from keywords.
  • Viva Connections: Gives employees a personalized and connected newsfeed. The company newsfeed serves up important news, conversations, and tools.
  • Viva Learning: Consolidates employee training apps. Makes it easy for employees to gain new skills from inside the MS Teams application.
  • Viva Insights: Improves employee well-being and corporate culture. Uses data-driven insights to provide productivity and well-being recommendations.
  • Viva Sales: Reduces the data input needed from salespeople. Serves up helpful lead interaction recommendations.
  • Viva Engage: Cultivates personal networks and community. Fosters engagement and knowledge sharing.
  • Viva Goals: Enables clarity and alignment of corporate goals.

The Viva line expands what businesses may traditionally see as “software.” It creates a connection between Microsoft Office and M365 apps. It also focuses on the people, rather than the tool. Microsoft designed Viva applications to use AI. This makes work easier and gives visibility into actionable data points.

What is Viva Goals?

Viva Goals is one of the newest Viva applications from Microsoft. It connects teams so they’re moving toward a shared set of goals. Employees align, whether someone works in the accounting department or customer support.

Business leaders can look at Viva Goals as a way to solidify company objectives. They can then tie these objectives to meaningful targets for each department.

Viva Goals
Image from Microsoft

For example, say you have a corporate target to provide exceptional customer support. This goal by itself is generic. It doesn’t connect to what teams need to do to make it happen.

In Viva Goals, that target can have directives for various teams. Such as customer support reducing ticket resolution by 8 hours. This brings goals to a meaningful level and allows organizations to track progress.

Here are the key value-adds of using Viva Goals.

Aligns Your Team to the Same Goals

Viva Goals puts company goals and targets in a tangible form. There is a definition of success for teams and individuals. Work outcomes are directly connected to company-wide objectives.

Everyone is on the same page, rather than departments pursuing different targets. With alignment, companies can more easily reach their goals.

Maintains Focus on Goals

Viva connects to other M365 apps, making it easier to gather data insights. These insights help leaders more easily see goal progress.

Employees stay focused on goals. This is because goals connect to their daily work targets. Rather than being something they hear at a company event, goals get infused into the workflow.

Focus on Goals
Image from Microsoft

Integration with Teams & M365

The integration with Teams keeps goals front and center. Employees get recognized for meeting targets and helping the company achieve its goals. This keeps everyone engaged and moving together.

Progress towards goals isn’t kept on a spreadsheet on someone’s cloud drive. Instead, stats on goal achievement live in tools used daily. When goals remain visible, organizations have a better chance to achieve them.

How Do You Get Viva Goals?

If you want to subscribe to Viva Goals as an add-on to your M365 plan, it is currently $6.00/user/month.

For the entire suite of Viva applications, the current price is $9.00/user/month.

Questions About Microsoft 365 or Viva Goals?

Digital transformation with tools like Microsoft Viva is a necessity if you want to keep up. Old ways of doing things are giving way to the cloud, AI, and machine learning. We can help you navigate that territory. Give us a call and schedule a consultation to learn more.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Simple Setup Checklist for Microsoft Teams

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Microsoft Teams is a lot of things. It’s a video conferencing tool, a team messaging channel, and a tool for in-app co-authoring, just to name a few. During the pandemic, the popularity of Teams skyrocketed.

User numbers for MS Teams jumped from 20 million in November 2019 to 75 million in April 2020. As of this year, Microsoft reports a user count of 270 million for the platform. This makes it the most popular business tool for team communications.

But one of the things that makes the app popular is also one that can make the setup complex. Microsoft Teams has many moving parts, but to use them effectively they need to be well organized. Additionally, users need to have a chance to learn the system and train on best practices.

What Can Microsoft Teams Do?

First, let’s look at the different areas of Microsoft Teams and what it can do. Then, we’ll give you a simple setup checklist to help your team get up and running productively.

You can think of Teams as a virtual office in the cloud. It’s a centralized hub where teams can communicate, collaborate, and manage tasks. There is also an external communication component to Teams. You can use the app to video conference with anyone. You can also invite guests to a chat channel.

Here are some of the features of MS Teams:

  • Siloed chat channels
  • Security for team communications
  • Integration with Office apps
  • Integration with 3rd party apps
  • File sharing
  • Video and audio conferencing
  • VoIP phone system (with an extra add-on)
  • Keep all team resources in a single place
Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Versions

Some good news for small businesses is that there is a free version of Microsoft Teams. If you sign up for a Microsoft 365 business plan, you get the app included, but with a few more features.

Microsoft has also been pushing MS Teams for personal use. So, you can use it to keep your departments better coordinated at work. Or to manage family video calls or PTA meeting collaboration. It’s a versatile and scalable virtual office platform.

Easy Checklist for Setting Up Microsoft Teams

1. Set Up Your Teams/Departments

One of the advantages of Teams is that it allows you to set up specific areas for your groups to collaborate. You do not want everyone to set these teams up on their own, or you could end up with an unorganized mess.

Some ideas for setting these up:

  • Set up teams by department (accounting, marketing, etc.)
  • Add a company-wide team (where everyone can collaborate)
  • Set up teams by role (office managers, executives, etc.)

Typically, if you mirror the hierarchy of your organization, that’s a good place to start. Team areas are secured so only those users invited can see or access any of the content in that team.

Set up Your Teams - Departments

2. Add Team Members

For each team, add the members allowed to take part in that team. These would be people that can see the resources posted in that team area. It would normally be the members of the department or group that the team is designed for.

3. Set Up Team Channels

The next level beneath the Team is the Channels. These team channels help organize conversations. For example, within a team set up for your marketing department, you may decide to add three channels. This keeps conversations more focused and makes it easier to find things.

For instance, you could have channels for:

  • Website Management
  • Social Media
  • Offline Advertising

Team channels are another area that you want to control. Don’t let everyone set up channels without a plan, otherwise, things get messy fast.

4. Set Up Team Tabs

Tabs are a great way to foster productivity. Say that employees on your accounting team need to access a tax reporting website. Inevitably, there can be time wasted asking for that link or a login. This is especially true if someone is filling in for a co-worker.

Team Tabs

You can add that website link and info to the Tabs area at the top of the team channels. Just click the plus sign to add a new resource and consolidate things for your team members.

5. Schedule MS Teams Training

One of the reasons that company initiatives fail is that users weren’t properly enabled. If users aren’t trained on using MS Teams, then they’ll revert to using whatever they used before. This negates the benefits of moving to Teams when not everyone is onboard.

Work with a Microsoft professional to train your teams. We can provide tips on the most productive features. As well as short-cut their learning curve quite a bit! Make sure to have a realistic timeframe. You should also survey users on whether they feel they need more training.

Need Some Help Implementing Teams in Your Organization?

We can help you over many of the roadblocks that organizations face when starting with Teams. Contact us today for a free consultation to enhance your collaboration and productivity.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft Viva Sales

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Data entry can be a real drag for salespeople. The time they spend on administrative tasks is time away from customer interactions. But that data is vital.

It’s important to capture customer orders, quotes, needs, and more. Lead and sales reporting help sales managers know where to direct their attention. Analytics also help drive more efficient ways of closing the deal.

Microsoft has taken up the mantle of this challenge. It is about to launch a new digital experience for sales teams. Microsoft Viva Sales is part of the “Viva” line of applications. These include things like Viva Insights for improved staff wellbeing. As well as Viva Learning for staff development.

The Viva apps natively integrate with MS Teams and the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. They include automation designed to eliminate boring tasks and enable more work engagement.

Viva Sales is a “CRM helper” application. We’ll go through some of the most asked questions about the app, its features, and when you can get it.

What Is Microsoft Viva Sales?

Viva Sales is an application that will provide sales and lead insights. These insights populate throughout Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. The focus of the app is to cut unnecessary manual entry to give sellers more time to sell.

How Does Viva Sales Work? Is It a CRM?

Viva Sales is NOT going to replace your normal CRM platform. Instead, it connects to your CRM and other sales-related apps. It leverages the data from these connections. This makes it easier for salespeople to get the prospect data they need to enable their work.

Salespeople spend approximately 34% of their time on administrative tasks.

Viva Sales Basics

Some of the core advantages of Viva Sales are:

  • Eliminate Forms: Data entry for sales professionals is greatly reduced. This frees them up for more customer relationship building.
  • Powerful Data Leveraging: Viva Sales connects to several platforms. This includes non-Microsoft programs and CRMs. The integration allows salespeople to cross-reference data points and gain valuable insights.
  • AI-Driven Help: Salespeople will get prompts that are AI-driven. These suggestions and reminders help them along in the sales process with a lead.

Interconnected Interface

Microsoft Viva Sales provides sales-specific insights throughout the various M365 applications. Salespeople natively see important customer details, wherever they are. Including in their Outlook Calendar or when in their Microsoft or non-Microsoft CRM.

Microsoft Viva Sales
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Viva Sales Features

Tag to Capture Sales Interactions

Tagging is also known as using someone’s “@name” to get their attention. Tagging is a popular software integration used throughout many cloud-based apps. It’s also used within Microsoft 365.

Salespeople can use the familiar tagging function. They can use it to capture data from another M365 application for a prospect or customer. This includes adding someone to a list of customers by using a tag for their Viva Sales name. The system will capture the contextual information on the lead or customer.

Collaborate

Viva Sales makes it easier than ever to collaborate with your team on a sales prospect or customer. You don’t have to chase down information to copy/paste into a message. Use that tagging function to populate lead information from Viva Sales in seconds.

Viva Sales Feature - Collaborate
Image courtesy of Microsoft

You can also easily edit or open a lead/customer record. No need to look for and open another app. The process gets you where you need to go in as few clicks as possible.

Call Summaries & Integrated Data

One thing that customers and salespeople hate is a lack of understanding. For example, when a salesperson doesn’t know about a recent customer interaction.

This can happen when company communication systems store data from different sources separately. Such as phone call messages being in one place and a customer’s website chat session being in another.

Viva Sales brings all that customer engagement data together into a single view. This allows the salesperson to see call summaries and capture call action items.

Download & Customize

Salespeople that prefer an Excel view of their contact list can get this from Viva Sales. Download lead and customer lists. Customize the application per the organization’s needs.

When Will Viva Sales Be Available?

Microsoft has announced that Viva Sales will be “coming in Q4 2022.” There is no exact date for the launch yet, but you can be sure that we will keep an eye on this!

In the meantime, you can watch a video explaining the application on Microsoft’s site here.

Take Advantage of Microsoft Viva Automation

Microsoft built the Viva suite of digital experience apps for productivity. These apps help employees find information faster, feel more connected, and work more productively.

Now is the perfect time to explore those that have already launched and get ready for Viva Sales.

Contact us today for a free consultation to improve your team’s digital experience.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

7 Pro Tips for Microsoft 365

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Microsoft 365 is the most popular of all major office productivity software. It has 48.8% of the global market share, just edging out Google’s apps, by a couple of percentage points.

It’s used by individuals, small & mid-sized businesses, and larger enterprise organizations. It does everything a modern office needs. Including from word processing and spreadsheet work to cloud storage and video conferencing.

Because Microsoft 365 is such a vast platform, with over 20 apps in total, it can be easy to miss helpful features. People tend to stick with what’s familiar. But this often causes them to miss out on time and money-saving bonuses in M365, beyond the core apps.

Some of the many apps you get, depending on your subscription plan, include:

  • Excel
  • Word
  • Powerpoint
  • Outlook
  • To Do
  • OneDrive
  • Teams
  • Forms
  • Defender
  • SharePoint
  • Yammer
  • Lists
  • Access
  • Bookings
  • Intune
  • Planner
  • Visio
  • And more

Want to get more value from your subscription? We’ll go through some of the most helpful apps and features in Microsoft 365 that you may now know about.

Get More Out of M365 With These Tips

1. Skip the Menu Bar by Using Search to Find Functions

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You know there is a way to do something in an app, but you can’t find it in the menu. For example, trying to change your margins in Microsoft Word to give you more space on the page.

You can stop wasting time clicking through one tab after another, and instead, use the search box at the top. It’s not just for searching for help topics. You can use a search to quickly jump to settings like margins, page orientation, and many more.

Search

2. Leverage the Free Stock Images, Icons & Videos

Most businesses need to have nice-looking images from time to time. They’re used on websites, brochures, and presentations. But finding good business images can be expensive.

You can’t just do a Google search to find them because they may be copyrighted. You need to have images that you can use commercially without any problems.

Inside Word, Excel, and PowerPoint you have a treasure trove of images. These are free to use in your marketing. You also have videos, icons, and even 3D models, all there for the picking.

Find them by going to Insert > Pictures > Stock Images

Use the tab at the top to tab between the different media. Then, click to insert it directly into your document, spreadsheet, or presentation.

Stock Images

3. Save Time by Using Data Types in Excel

Researching things like the population of a city or the nutrition value of a new menu can take days. Did you know that inside Excel you have access to several databases?

You can leverage facts and figures stored inside Excel’s “data types.” They include topics on everything from chemistry to yoga poses. Use data types to populate tons of data in seconds for various topics.

  • Start by adding your list (e.g., a list of menu items)
  • Highlight your list.
  • Then, click the Data tab.
  • In the Data Types window, choose the type of data it is (e.g., Food, Plant, etc.).
Excel Data Type
  • Next, click the small database icon that appears at the top of the list.
  • Choose the type of data you want.
  • The details will populate into the next open column on the right for each list item.
Excel Data

4. Save Time on Customer Surveys with Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms is one of the best-kept secrets of M365. This cloud-based survey and form builder makes it simple to send out surveys to people. You get the results back as soon as they click “submit” on the cloud-based form.

You can even download the results directly to Excel. Using them for graphing or uploading them into a software template.

Microsoft Forms

5. Use PPT’s Presenter Coach to Improve Your Skills

Do you worry when it comes time to give a presentation to clients or your own team? Not everyone feels comfortable about public speaking, even if it’s virtual.

PowerPoint can help with a handy AI-powered feature called Presenter Coach. Turn this coach on when practicing your presentation. It will give you tips on your pacing, use of filler words (e.g., umm), repetitive language, and much more!

Look for the “Rehearse with Coach” option on the Slide Show menu.

6. Save Recurring Email Text in Outlook’s Quick Parts

Do you have certain emails you send to customers that have the same paragraphs of text in them? For example, it might be directions to your building or how to contact support.

Stop retyping the same info every time. Outlook has a feature called Quick Parts that saves and then inserts blocks of text into emails.

  • Create a Quick Part by highlighting the text to save in an email.
  • On the Insert Menu, click Quick Parts.
  • Save Quick Part.

When ready to insert that text into another email, just use the same menu. Then click to insert the Quick Part.

Outlook Quick Parts

7. Create a Keyboard Shortcut to Paste as Unformatted Text

Keyboard shortcuts are great for saving time. But there’s not always one there when you need it. One handy keyboard shortcut to add for MS Word is to paste as text only. This method removes any formatting that copied text might have had so your document isn’t messed up.

Here’s how to make a keyboard shortcut for this:

  • In Word, click File> Options.
  • Click Customize Ribbon.
  • At the bottom of the panel, next to Keyboard shortcuts, click Customize.
  • Scroll in the left pane to All Commands.
  • Look for “PasteTextOnly”
  • Type your keyboard command, then click Assign.
Keyboard Shortcut
PasteTextOnly

Need Help Optimizing Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 has many security-enhancing, time-saving, and dollar-saving features. Learn how else we can help by scheduling a consultation today.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Is Microsoft Defender for Individuals & What Does It Do?

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When you hear about Microsoft adding security apps to M365, it’s often the business versions. But the pandemic has changed the way that we see the workplace. It’s now a hybrid world. One made up of several connected “mini-offices” located in employee homes.

The outsourcing market has also contributed to the change in company networks. Freelancers are often contracted to work the same hours as employees. This means less overhead and taxes to pay. Approximately 68% of large consumer products companies outsource a part of their workforce.

What we’re getting at is that the need for home devices and network security has never been greater. Company data is now at the mercy of employee devices, situated in homes across the globe.

55% of employees use their own devices and software to work from home.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of this huge shift in the work environment. Its latest release is another example of how it has positioned its products to address new needs.

The latest security offering by Microsoft is not for business plans. It’s for Personal and Family users of Microsoft 365. The company announced Microsoft Defender for Individuals on June 16, 2022. This is a brand-new digital home security tool.

The Basics of Microsoft Defender for Individuals

Microsoft Defender is a new app that Microsoft 365 subscribers can download. Anyone with a Personal or Family plan can access it for no extra cost.

According to Microsoft, there was a main driver for offering Microsoft Defender. It was to protect the digital life of small businesses and families. Small companies will often use consumer Microsoft 365 plans. This is because they are less expensive than the business plans.

This app brings many digital protections together into one dashboard. These include the following.

Online Security Visibility

Most families have several devices connected to their network. This includes computers, tablets, and smartphones. It can be hard to know which are vulnerable before a hacked device infects the others.

Microsoft Defender gives you visibility into the security status of your devices. It does this in a single place. So, you could see if that new phone of Sally’s has antivirus enabled. You can also easily add or remove devices.

Device Safeguards

The app includes extra protections from online threats. These are in the form of help from antivirus and anti-phishing protection.

You can use it to continually scan devices for threats, both new and existing. You also gain control of scanning customization. For example, you can note certain apps as safe and tell Microsoft Defender what to scan.

Real-Time Alerts & Recommendations

Hackers use automation and AI to unleash their attacks and help them spread. This means that it’s often a race against the clock to stop a breach from getting worse.

To react fast, you need to know something is wrong. Microsoft Defender helps you by giving you real-time alerts. These also come with recommended actions. So, you not only know something is wrong, but you also know what to do about it.

What Else Should You Know?

Here are a few other important things you should know about using Microsoft Defender for Individuals.

Where Can You Download It?

You can download Microsoft Defender for Individuals from Microsoft here. You need to have a Microsoft 365 subscription to either the Personal or Family plan.

What Devices Can Use It?

You can use Defender to secure and monitor the following devices:

  • Windows: Windows 10 version 19041.0 and higher
  • Mac: Intel Macs from Catalina 10.15 and higher, and Apple silicon-based devices from 11.2.3 and up
  • iPhone: iOS 13.0 or later
  • Android: Android OS 6.0 or later

How Many Devices Can You Add?

Microsoft Defender allows you to watch the security of many of your home or work devices. The M365 plan you have will dictate how many.

  • If you have Microsoft 365 Personal plan, you can receive protection on up to 5 devices at the same time.
  • If you have Microsoft 365 Family plan, you can receive protection on up to 30 devices at the same time. (5 devices per person, 6 people total)

What Are the Key Differences Between the Personal & Family Plans?

Both plans can access the many different Office and other Microsoft applications. The main difference is how many people and devices can use the Microsoft 365 services.

  • Microsoft 365 Personal: $69.99 US/year, 1 person, 5 devices
  • Microsoft 365 Family: $99.99 US/year, 6 people, 5 devices per person

So, if you want to sign up even 2 people, you’re saving quite a bit with the Family plan. Even more, if you have six people total using the service.

What’s the Difference Between Microsoft Security on Windows & Microsoft Defender?

Most Windows users are already familiar with the Microsoft Security app. It comes pre-installed on Windows. Microsoft Defender differs from this app in several ways.

Microsoft Defender:

  • Is not pre-installed on Windows. You must download it.
  • It’s a cross-device application used on many different devices
  • It includes features for online security
  • It includes alerts and security tips

Learn More About Defender & Microsoft 365 Today

Are you looking to get more from your Microsoft 365 subscription? We can help! Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation with our M365 experts.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Internet Explorer Has Lost All Support (What You Need to Know)

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After being the main entry to the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Internet Explorer (IE) is gone. As of June 15, 2022, Microsoft dropped the web browser from support.

IE ushered in the age of connection to the world in 1995 and held a majority of the browser market share for many years. But the release of newer technologies like Google Chrome made it less relevant.

In 2014, Internet Explorer still held about 59% of the global market share, with Chrome at 21%. But just two years later, IE lost its top spot to Chrome and trailed behind another newcomer, Safari.

In 2015, the writing was already on the wall when Microsoft released a new browser, Edge. With Edge destined to take IE’s place as the official browser installed on Windows systems.

It’s inevitable, the longer technology is driving work and home life, that we’re going to lose some of our favorites. Adobe Flash Player is another technology that used to be widely used and is now gone.

So, now that IE has reached its end of life (EOL), what happens next?

Microsoft Will Redirect Users to IE Mode in Edge

According to Microsoft, now that IE is officially out of support it will redirect users. Over the next few months, a new experience will happen. Those opening this outdated browser will instead land in Microsoft Edge with IE mode.

To ease the transition away from Internet Explorer, Microsoft added IE Mode to Edge. This mode makes it possible for organizations to still use legacy sites that may have worked best in IE. It uses the Trident MSHTML engine from IE11 to do this.

When in IE mode, you’ll still see the Internet Explorer icon on your device. But if you open it, you’ll actually be in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Will Be Removing Internet Explorer Icons in the Future

Microsoft isn’t yet getting rid of the IE icons that appear in places like the taskbar and Start menu on Windows. But it will in a future update. Users can expect to see those removed at some point.

Edge Will Import Browser Data from IE

What about your favorites, saved passwords, and other settings that you have in IE? Microsoft Edge will import these from Internet Explorer for you, so they’re not lost. This will include things like your browsing history and other data stored in the browser. You’ll then be able to access these in the Microsoft Edge’s settings area.

With IE Retired, What Do You Need to Do Now?

Uninstall the Browser

It’s risky to keep older technology that is no longer supported on your system. Cybercriminals love to exploit older tools that are not receiving any security updates. This leaves an open invitation to breach your network. Manufacturers are never going to address these because they retired the software.

Outdated technology costs enterprises approximately 47% more when they suffer a data breach. As compared to those with updated tools.

You should transition your stored information to Microsoft Edge (or another trusted browser). Then uninstall IE from your device or devices.

Ensure Employees Know How to Use IE Mode in Edge

A scenario that businesses want to avoid is what happened to many organizations in Japan. Several government and corporate users weren’t prepared for the retirement of IE.

It was reported that IT and engineering departments received many calls for help. This was due to unpreparedness for the browser’s demise. Although it came with warnings, it was a shock to many that used legacy sites that need IE to work. This included the customers of government agencies, financial institutions, and other organizations.

This left them scrambling to try to figure out what to do at the last minute. They still needed access to employee attendance management, and other online tools.

Of course, with IE mode in Edge, this transition didn’t need to be so chaotic. But without communication or training, more than 20% of affected users hadn’t figured out what to do.

Make sure you communicate with your team what to do. Companies can automate IE mode for their users so that it launches automatically.

Train Employees on Microsoft Edge Features

Microsoft Edge has a lot of benefits over IE and other browsers. It’s faster and more responsive than Internet Explorer. It also has comprehensive security controls (including password breach monitoring). And has unique features such as “collections.”

But with all new tools, if you want employees to use them proficiently, they need to have a chance to learn them. Take the time to transition right, and have your employees trained on Edge.

Need Help Upgrading Your Digital Tools?

You don’t have to panic when a technology you use retires. We can help you upgrade well ahead of any deadlines. Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Microsoft Productivity Score Overview

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Productivity can be challenging to track, no matter where employees are working. How do you know they’re using their tools as effectively as possible? How can you enable them to adopt best practices?

These are questions that managers often ask themselves. If they’re looking at the wrong things, it can get in the way of empowering their team. For example, you can’t grade productivity simply by “clock in/clock out” times.

In today’s hybrid and mobile offices, the value and work product an employee brings is a better gauge. But you also must look at what may be getting in the way of great employees doing great work.

Technology tools can slow down dedicated workers if they’re not familiar with them. Employees may be doing things the way they always have been, and not realize there is a better way. A faster way.

But productivity can be a tricky area to address. You don’t want to invade a remote employee’s privacy by tracking their every keystroke. Nor would that likely help with positive forward motion.

What’s the answer?

If your company uses Microsoft 365 then you have a tool you can use to find nuggets of productivity gold. This tool is Microsoft Productivity Score.

What Does Microsoft Productivity Score Do?

Microsoft Productivity Score looks at some core areas of your employees’ workflow. It also looks at them in aggregate. Because it’s looking at your team as a whole, you avoid issues with employees feeling personally spied on.

The tool gives you helpful insights that you can share with your staff. These insights help to boost their performance. It also includes hardware-related information. You can use this to see if your company tools are holding people back.

MS Productivity Score looks at the following areas.

People Experiences

This category looks at how people work. Are they using best practices for collaboration or are they doing things the hard way? Do meetings go on forever? Are employees still emailing attachments instead of using shared cloud storage links?

One example of an insight from this category is as follows. Each employee can save an average of 100 minutes per week by collaborating with online files. Productivity Score can show you where your team stands in this metric, and many others.

Saving 100 minutes per week is equal to approximately 86.6 hours per year. That’s over 2 full workweeks!

People experiences
All Productivity Score images are from Microsoft.

The subcategories within people experiences are:

  • Communication
  • Content collaboration
  • Mobility
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork

Technology Experiences

Technology experiences look at the health and performance of your devices. Do you have hardware and software on endpoints that are causing issues? Is it slowing your team down? Are there network connectivity problems? Are apps updated as they should be?

This category will look at the technology that your team works with and let you know of any risk areas. When technology is not functioning well or isn’t secure, it can slow your business down.

You’ll find these three subcategories in the technology experiences area:

  • Endpoint analytics (You need Intune for these)
  • Network connectivity
  • Microsoft 365 apps health

Special Reports

Besides the people and technology experiences, there is more. Microsoft Productivity Score has a special reports area. It provides details on business continuity.

This report can show you how employee collaboration and other activities are changing. It looks at these as your company goes through transitions. Such as when you transition to remote working or back to in-office work. This report tells you how these changes impact your team’s productivity.

Special-reports

How Productivity Score Helps Your Company

Automatic Metrics Tracking

Microsoft Productivity Score tracks your team’s use of Microsoft 365 applications automatically. It then will provide you with helpful information on how staff use their digital tools.

These metrics give you a good picture of whether employees are using best practices. Often, they simply need guidance to learn a more efficient way of doing something.

Insights to Understand the Data

The tool provides you with helpful insights to understand the data. You won’t only get the metrics; you’ll get the context. This allows you to educate yourself. Then you can educate your employees on things that improve workflow and save time.

For example, getting a response quickly to a question saves time. But you may not realize that using @mentions can help achieve that. Productivity Score will tell you how many people use @mentions in team communications. And also, how much this increases the response rate.

Insights to understand the Data

Recommended Actions to Take

The third piece of guidance you gain is what to do about the information. Productivity Score will give you actionable recommendations to improve a metric. This helps you to improve productivity.

The combination of the metric, insight, and recommendation make this a comprehensive tool.

Would You Like to Get Started with Microsoft Productivity Score?

We can help you get your organization started with this great tool. And provide solutions to increase company productivity. Give us a call and let’s chat!


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

5 Exciting Ways Microsoft 365 Can Enable the Hybrid Office

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“Hybrid office” is the new buzzword you’ll hear used in business discussions. It’s the mix of having employees both working at the office and working from home. This has become more than a buzzword and is now the reality for many companies.

There was a survey of employees with remote-capable jobs. The survey found that as of February of 2022, 42% of them were working a hybrid schedule. And 39% were working from home full time.

The global pandemic brought on this hybrid office transition. It forced companies to operate with teams that could no longer safely come to the office. During this time, employers and employees experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand.

These benefits of remote teams included cost savings for both workers and employers. It also allowed the company to operate with more flexibility. Improved worker morale was another advantage.

One fact surprised many employers that feared remote work would tank productivity. It actually increased in many circumstances.

63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work approach.

In order for hybrid teams to be productive, they need to stay connected. No matter where they work, the right technology tools should enable them.

One of the leaders in this space has been Microsoft. The company plans to add several exciting updates this year. These will provide more tools for companies to enable their hybrid teams.

Here are some of the ways you can use Microsoft 365 to optimize a productive hybrid office. Note, that some of these features are already out, and others should release later this year.

1. Microsoft Teams & Expanded Features

Microsoft Teams is much more than a team messaging app. The application combines the best features of virtual video meetings and messaging channels. It brings them together into a platform designed to be a secure online work hub.

MS Teams has come a long way in the last five years. And the company continues to add more features to enable hybrid offices. Some of the recent feature updates include:

  • The ability to do webinar registration
  • Presenter modes that provide a more professional virtual presence
  • Increased security through features like smart links and smart attachments
  • A full business VoIP phone system add-on
  • The addition of a “metaverse” component called Mesh for Teams

2. New Meeting Options for RSVP in Outlook

One of the challenges, when everyone isn’t working in the same place, is how to know when to “clock in” and “clock out.” As well as how to let colleagues know whether you are working at home next week or the office.

To help hybrid teams better coordinate, Outlook is getting an update. It will allow users to RSVP to meetings. This can let team members know whether they are attending virtually or in person.

3. Better Framing for More Engaging Meetings

One thing that can distract from the purpose of a meeting is someone’s background at home. Positioning of the camera can also be problematic. One person might have their face taking up 80% of the video screen. Another may only take up 20% because they’re sitting farther away from their PC’s camera.

A new Surface Hub 2S Smart Camera will allow for better face framing. This will affect when people are meeting virtually in Microsoft Teams. Features include adjusting the room view so people’s faces will be clearer. As well as having more consistent sizing.

The video display will also automatically adjust as people join or leave a physical room.

4. Get Better Control of Your Video Using PowerPoint to Present

People often share a screen in a video call and present a PowerPoint presentation. It can be difficult to keep everyone as engaged as when you’re presenting in person.

For example, in person, you can maintain eye contact. People can clearly see your facial expressions as you emphasize various things. That’s not always the case when presenting virtually. The app may push your video feed into a tiny box.

There’s a new upcoming feature for Teams called Cameo. It will allow you to seamlessly integrate PowerPoint with MS teams. You can decide exactly how you want your video feed to appear in relation to your presentation.

Another addition is Recording Studio. This new feature for PowerPoint allows you to record professional-looking on-demand videos. You can do it right inside the app.

Cameo
Cameo in PowerPoint & MS Teams

5. Get Help With Your Presentation Skills

Microsoft has poured a lot of AI capabilities into Microsoft 365 over the last several years. One that will soon help you deliver better virtual presentations is Speaker Coach.

This is a private and personalized coach. It can help you hone your presentation skills. This improves your switch to the differences between presenting online versus in person.

Some of the feedback it can provide include:

  • Use of repetitive language
  • Use of filler words (Ummm)
  • Speaking pace
  • Pausing for input
  • Intonation
  • Speaker overlaps
  • And more

Ask Us About Improving Your Hybrid Office Capabilities with Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 has a ton of helpful features. But it does help to have an expert guide to help you navigate these capabilities. Contact us today to set up a chat about how Microsoft 365 can help your business grow.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Should I Consider Switching to Microsoft’s Edge Browser? (Top Features)

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One of the most important applications we choose is our internet browser. When on a computer or a mobile device, we work in that most of the time because many applications are now cloud-based, so accessing them means going through your browser.

Over the years browsers have come and gone. A little over a decade ago, Internet Explorer was the head of the pack, and now that browser is retired, Google’s Chrome has been in the top spot for several years.

But just because a browser is number one today, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. One browser that has steadily been making its way up in popularity since its release in 2015 is Microsoft Edge.

Edge is the replacement for Internet Explorer, but it’s taken a while for it to become mainstream. It seems that now is its time.

Microsoft Edge recently surpassed Firefox in worldwide desktop browser market share and is now the #3 Desktop browser in the world behind Chrome and Safari. And it’s less than one percentage point behind Safari, so it is poised to jump into second place soon.

Current desktop browser market share:

  • Chrome 64.8%
  • Safari 9.77%
  • Edge 9.6%
  • Firefox 9.46%
  • Opera 2.88%
  • Internet Explorer 1.14%

Why has Edge become so popular in the last few years when it seemed to be slow out of the gate? One big reason is that it adopted the Chromium framework in 2020. This is the same background framework that Chrome uses.

This sped up the browser considerably, plus multiplied the number of extensions and add-ons that could be used with it.

Should you switch to Edge? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but here are several great features that might make you want to give it a try.

Collections for Storing Sets of Pages

All browsers have some form of “favorites” or bookmarks to save webpage links. And these lists quickly become long and unorganized, making it hard to find what you’re looking for after a while.

Edge has a very nice feature called Collections. This allows you to save web pages in a sidebar and group them by topic. For example, you could create a topic called Vacation Planning and then save all the web pages from your trip research inside.

If there is an image on the page, that will show up to help you recognize the site. And collections are easy to access by using the “+” icon at the top of the browser.

Collections are also easy to delete once you’ve finished with them, so you won’t end up with endless webpage links, as tends to happen with bookmarks.

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Coupons

You don’t have to add a coupon app to your browser to get site coupons anymore. Edge will do this for you automatically.

If it detects that there are coupons for a site you’re shopping on, you’ll get a popup and can click to automatically try any coupons available for that site.

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This saves you from having to take the time to search for coupons on your own and ensures you don’t miss any potential savings out there.

Price Comparison

Another way that Edge helps you get the best deal when shopping online is through its pricing history and price comparison information. If you’re shopping on a website and the product that you’re viewing is cheaper on another site, Edge will let you know.

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It’s also going to provide you with a price history so you can see if this product is at its highest or lowest price related to the site you’re viewing.

This is very handy for saving money and ensuring you’re not missing out on savings by ordering the same item from a different retailer.

Security Features

There are several built-in security features to help you avoid phishing sites with malware as well as intrusive 3rd party advertising trackers.

There is a password monitoring feature that will let you know if any passwords you have stored have been involved in a breach.

You’ll also get Microsoft Defender SmartScreen protection for keeping you away from sites known to have malware or to have been used in phishing scams.

Google is sometimes criticized for lack of privacy, and Microsoft is trying to go in another direction on this. In Edge, you can choose from three tracking prevention settings to prevent as much of your personal information from being captured by advertisers as possible.

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Web Capture for Quick Screenshots

It’s easy to do screenshots and mark them up in Edge. In the browser menu, you just choose Web Capture, which will allow you to drag a rectangle across any region you like or to take a full shot of the screen, then bring that into a window if you’d like to add additional notes.

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Is Your Internet Security Where You Need It To Be?

Online security is important both at home and at work. Need some help ensuring you have the right safeguards in place? Give us a call!


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Pros & Cons of Using the Windows 365 Cloud PC

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While many companies have moved most of their workflows to the cloud, there is still a key component of office operations that is location-based. This would be employee computers.

Most companies still rely on desktops and laptops to allow employees to access critical software and as their main workstation.

This can become inconvenient if you’re doing work from one location. For example, if you work both at the office and home, in one of those places, you’ll be without your “main computer.” This can be a real problem when it comes to needing to access certain files or possibly working from a slower device than you’re used to.

Many technology companies, such as Microsoft, have an answer for this – put your computer workstation in the cloud. This is exactly what is being touted as the next big thing when it comes to Windows 365 Cloud PC.

What is Windows 365?

Windows 365 is a cloud-based PC. Your entire operating system and everything that sits on it (settings, files, software, etc.) is loaded on a cloud server instead of your own device’s hard drive. You can then access this through an online portal, and the interface will load onto your device (desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.).

Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud-based PC

Like other cloud-based services, Windows 365 works from a subscription plan and has different levels. Here are the current options for the business plans:

  • $31/user/month: 2vCPU, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage
  • $41/user/month: 2vCPU, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage
  • $66/user/month: 4vCPU, 16 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage

Windows 365 can be accessed through any type of device, from anywhere, just like other cloud services. You can install applications, personalize your desktop, and do all the things you normally do on a computer. The main difference is that the computer operating system is now in the cloud.

Windows 365 Pros

Access Your Computer Anywhere

The biggest advantage is being able to use your “main computer” no matter where you are, without having to drag it around.

This can be a big advantage when traveling because you don’t have to worry about a laptop being damaged, lost, or stolen and losing vital data. You still have your PC and files safely stored in the cloud and can easily get to it from another device.

Perfect for the Hybrid Work World

Hybrid work is the new normal. Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift with more employees than ever working from home. Now many companies are planning to keep a mix of office and remote working.

74% of U.S. companies are using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model.

The Windows 365 cloud-based PC makes it easy to enable employees to work from home, work, or both.

Better Access to Device Security & Administration

When employees are working remotely, ensuring all their devices are properly updated can be a problem. And what happens if an employee quits suddenly and has a lot of sensitive work data on a device located in their home?

Using cloud PCs gives a company complete control of its PC assets and data. Employees log in from anywhere, but the “computer” itself is located in a cloud environment, making it easy to do things like push security updates and restrict access.

Windows 365 Cons

You Can Only Use It Online

The obvious drawback of a Windows cloud PC is that you can only use it online. You won’t have access to any data, files, or programs if you don’t have an internet connection.

This may not be as big of an issue for many people since most work is now reliant on cloud applications anyhow.

A Slow Connection Ruins the Experience

If you have a slow internet connection, then the frustration can be multiplied. Not only would this slow down a cloud app you’re trying to access but also the cloud computer you’re trying to access it from.

There is a risk when using a computer in the cloud of experiencing lag time, making it difficult to work.

There is a Danger of Service Outage

You’re reliant on the cloud provider – in this case, Microsoft – to always have the service available. Even large companies can have outages from time to time, in which case you will not be able to access your computer or any of your data stored on it.

Being too reliant on one cloud vendor is also a risk to business continuity. One way to mitigate that risk would be to ensure all data stored in Windows 365 is being backed up separately in a 3rd party backup solution.

Is a Cloud PC Right for Your Business?

There are several instances when Windows 365 offers big benefits to a company. If you’re trying to figure things out, call us for a chat. We can help you consider all angles.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.