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The three Office 365 must-have external collaboration tools

Written by Pieter Daems on 17/08/17

In our last business transformation session at AMPLEXOR in Belgium, I gave a presentation on how external collaboration is supported within Office 365. This presentation triggered a lot of questions with all the participants showing high interest in our demos.

This blog will recap the key ideas presented and highlight how the platform responds to different business collaboration needs.

Today’s collaboration platforms are the safest way of managing business information, and Office 365 empowers this very concept the single version of the truth through its tools. If your work involves sharing documents or collaborating directly with clients, partners or vendors, then you might want to consider the three essential B2B collaboration tools Office 365 has to offer:

1. OneDrive for Business

2. SharePoint Online

3. Office 365 Groups


 

OneDrive For Business: Real-time co-authoring

If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s public offering called OneDrive, ignore what you know. While OneDrive is intended as a personal online storage service, OneDrive for Business is online storage intended for business purposes. It lets you securely share and collaborate on work documents with co-workers and partners, and provides more administration options, such as allow/disallow editing.

Real time co-authoring OneDrive

What does it do?
  • Real-time co-authoring in familiar desktop apps like Word and PowerPoint

  • Automatic cross-platform synchronization of cloud and offline files

  • Built-in settings and tools for document search, versioning, content approval, workflows and document templates

  • External sharing IT governance

How is it used?
  • You plan to share files individually and with a limited scope or lifecycle - for example, for reviewing blog articles with team members and freelance writers

  • You need flexibility in link-sharing, such as setting expiry dates or adding permissions to who that link can be shared to

  • You can’t identify an existing team site where your document belongs, and you don’t think the purpose of the document warrants creating a new one

  • You don’t plan to share your documents immediately -  files you place in OneDrive for Business are private until you share them

External sharing capabilities:

☑  Anonymous file/folder sharing (Read and/or Edit)
☑  File/folder sharing with authenticated users. (Read and/or Edit)

 

SharePoint Online: Beyond document collaboration

A SharePoint site provides an in-depth file management experience than the simple list and download/edit capabilities available in Outlook Conversations and Microsoft Teams. SharePoint supports multiple document libraries, metadata, content categorization and centralized workflows. It offers easy page authoring, web link creation, and the ability to post team news updates.

SharePoint OnlineImage source: Microsoft

What does it do?
  • Ability to share sites, libraries, folders or files with external users, with different restriction levels to protect company-private information, for example, sharing the document library “Product Manuals” with all your external suppliers while the rest of the site remains restricted

Sharing on SharePoint

 

  • Alternative ways to organize information: In libraries or lists with metadata, records management and retention policies

  • Automation of business processes with out-of-the-box alerts and workflows for initiating, tracking and reporting common business activities, such as document review and approval, issue tracking and signature collection

  • Built-in intelligence to deliver advanced search results for files, sites and users

  • Compliance with regulations through security settings, storage and auditing policies and expiration actions for business records

How is it used?
  • Collaboration on all your case management processe

  • Creation and submission of content for approval and scheduling deployment to intranet or Internet sites

  • A document management platform for teams which need to work together

  • You need complex permissions and control or different levels of security

External sharing capabilities:

☑  Anonymous file/folder sharing through links
☑  File/folder/library/site collection sharing with other authenticated users

 

Office 365 Groups: Instant collaboration

Office 365 Groups connects members with a preconfigured mailbox with an associated SharePoint site for document storage and collaboration. On the preconfigured mailbox, a calendar is present which can be used to plan meetings and events relevant to the group.

Office365 Groups Collaboration

While both internal and external users can be members in a Group with the same level of permissions to create, edit, delete new and existing documents or list items within the Group’s SharePoint site, external users can’t access the Group mailbox (shown in the screenshot above).

What does it do?

Several Office 365 tools can be connected and shared within a Group: A SharePoint site for file management, Outlook conversations shared mailbox, real-time chat in Teams, centralized calendar, and OneNote, Planner, StaffHub and Power BI to share notes, plan and track tasks, connect remote workers and create KPIs dashboards.

Because an Office 365 Group can be created in a matter of several clicks, it provides an easy way to collaborate quickly with a set of internal/external members.

How is it used?
  • When you have a team with internal and external members working on a project and you want to provide access to the same tools and KPIs

  • When you want to invite external partners to meetings or events shared by the Group

External sharing capabilities

☑ Guest access on underlying Office 365 Group SharePoint site

 

Conclusion

External sharing can look like it’s only making content available to someone outside your organization, but depending on the tools you use, and whether you choose to share it anonymously or with authenticated users, it can mean very different things. From real-time co-authoring to jointly plan client meetings with your partners, Office 365 collaboration tools offer a great opportunity to engage employees, partners and suppliers to optimize operations and productivity.

Although Microsoft does not support external guest access in their chat-based workplace, ‘Microsoft Teams’, this feature is currently under development and should be available this summer.


For more information about the Digital Workplace revolution, read our recap of AMPLEXOR Business Transformation Sessions and get your free copy of the events’ presentations.



Topics:
Office365, Collaboration, Sharepoint, Office365 Groups






Pieter Daems

Written by Pieter Daems

Pieter Daems is a Junior Functional Analyst at AMPLEXOR based in Belgium. With a strong background of SharePoint and Office 365, Pieter translates the business requirements, shortcomings and processes into fully operational user-friendly solutions.

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