used with permission from Microsoft US Small and Midsize Business Blog
Most of us know about Windows 10 and Office 365, and rely on them daily.
But I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more going on at Microsoft.
Packed inside of Windows 10, packaged up with other offerings or simply available as standalone products, there’s a ton of business productivity just waiting to be unleashed on your business.
Recently I visited the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond for a tour with its crew of Small Business Ambassadors (I’m one of them). I discovered that Microsoft is innovating all over the place. Here are 10 highly useful Microsoft products and features that if you are not aware of, I suggest you explore:
Teams in Office 365
Office 365 has been developed into a powerhouse platform to run your business off of. The business version is better than ever and enables you to:
- Access files anywhere — online or offline;
- Get monthly security updates; and
- Use the cloud version of Office apps — with rich features.
One of the newest add-on features to Office 365 is Teams, a chat-based workspace for team collaboration. But it’s more than just chat — it can become the hub of your team workspace. It’s currently in preview mode and full availability is expected this year.
Did you know there are roughly 10,000 hardware devices that work with Windows 10? Microsoft offers its own Windows phones and Surface tablets, but the company also partners with other manufacturers.
With all those choices how do you choose?
During our Ambassador tour I learned about the Device Finder. This is an online tool that helps you choose hardware devices based on the problem you are trying to solve or your specific needs, instead of features.
Anyone who uses a personal vehicle for business knows the importance of keeping track of mileage. Yet too often trips and expenses are missed for tax deduction purposes due to poor recordkeeping.
There’s an answer for that: MileIQ. This mobile phone tracking app in Office 365 builds a log of the miles you drive via your phone. It does it automatically – no more forgetting!
“MileIQ takes advantage of sensors in modern mobile devices to automatically and contextually capture, log and calculate business miles,” says Rajesh Jha, the Corporate Vice President for Outlook and Office 365.
If your business runs on client appointments, I bet you will love the self-service scheduler, Microsoft Bookings.
Bookings enables your customers to set up, change, and cancel appointments with your business, without having to call you, 24/7 on any device, both online and mobile, and now on Facebook as well.
How’s that for customer service AND operational efficiency?
David Smith, Vice President of Worldwide SMB, told us that bots, “are helping small businesses leverage technology solutions that give them real outcomes.”
Think of bots as little automated agents providing help or customer service online or on mobile devices in a personalized way. Microsoft has a bot framework to enable small businesses and their developers to implement bots on websites or communication platforms like Skype. There’s even a directory of prebuilt bots to try out.
Microsoft Dynamics Business Edition
Here’s what I like about the Dynamics 365 offering called the Business Edition: it’s priced for small businesses.
Currently, the financial module is available, but we’ve been told to watch for more enhancements in 2017 and beyond. As the enterprise version offers an integrated toolset for running a business (see the image below), it will be exciting to see what new features the Business Edition will offer in the year to come.
The latest Surface tablet device, the Surface Pro 4, is described as, “The tablet that can replace your laptop.” And I can attest to that.
I currently have a Surface Pro 3. The Surface has become my go-to travel device because it is light to carry and goes through airport security without needing to be taken out of my briefcase, yet has a keyboard so I can do substantial work on the road.
I was impressed by the demonstration of the Surface Studio we received during our tour. The Studio is a PC in the extended Surface line designed for creators. It has a large screen and what’s neat is that you can slide the screen down to horizontal and “ink” (write/draw) on it.
I liken it to a computerized drafting table, almost. You may not be an architect or an artist, but the Surface Studio will allow you to let your creative spirit go.
Windows PIN Sign In
Included with Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile, the PIN Sign In is more secure than a password. That’s because even if someone knows your PIN, they still need the device to get access and if they do get it and your PIN, will only have access to that one device, not your entire Microsoft account.
Microsoft has devoted a lot of resources in recent years towards cybersecurity, which should help small business owners breathe more easily.
Windows Hello introduces biometric security to log into your Windows 10 devices using your face, fingerprint or iris to unlock your device. Now that’s handy! And secure.
All in all, 2017 looks to be an exciting year if you partner with Microsoft for products and services. From security to customer self-service and robust business applications, there’s a lot for small businesses to look forward to.