Most organisations are using Microsoft 365 (previously Office 365, although some services are still branded as this) in some capacity.
Whilst this provides access to the core applications that many of us use every day – Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel - enterprise licenses also include a bewildering number of tools and applications (“apps”) which are already likely being used within your organisation. It’s worth noting that there are different levels of licensing, and whilst some apps may not be part of an agreement, their ability to integrate with other 365 apps means that they should also be considered part of the 365 Microsoft ‘ecosystem’.
Note that we use the word “apps” with a caveat here. The Microsoft 365 ecosystem comes with a vast array of branded capabilities, but what is an “app”, a “service”, a “plug-in” or something else entirely is open to debate, and the use of these terms has particular connotations from a technical perspective. In this article, we use “apps” as a convenient term to describe those different capabilities that Microsoft has chosen to give its brand name, such as ‘Word’.
Keeping up to speed with Microsoft 365
If you regularly have conversations with your IT function considering risks relating to the use of different application and solutions, or if you are using technology across your in-house team to deliver services and improve efficiencies, then it really helps to have a broad understanding of the different elements of the Microsoft 365 universe and what they do.
Keeping up to speed can be challenging. Microsoft continues to evolve the 365 platform as a whole, investing in individual solutions like Microsoft Teams as well as new apps which regularly appear. Similarly, some capabilities are rebranded as apps in their own right. This means that this article might be out-of-date by the time you are reading it!
At the time of writing, here is a list of the noteworthy apps that are considered to be in the Microsoft 365 “universe”, not including the Office suite (Word etc.), Outlook and more obvious functions like Calendar. Some of these “apps” are used within Outlook (such as “Bookings”) and others are rebranded capabilities (“Lists” used to be SharePoint lists, for example).
Microsoft Authenticator is not usually considered part of the Microsoft 365 suite, but it can be an important tool to use within it. Authenticator is a mobile app which provides a convenient way to execute two-factor authentication when logging into Microsoft 365. Essentially, the app either requires you to confirm you are logging in on your mobile device, or will display a code you need to enter as you log in.
Microsoft Bookings is a scheduling app that can be used externally to your organisation, for example, to allow customers, suppliers and other third parties to book appointments, time slots and meetings.
Microsoft Delve offers individuals a place to manage their profiles and discover information and content that is relevant based on their profile information and interests. Delve surfaces content and other people’s Delve profiles, and can also create boards of information displaying what users are interested in.
Microsoft’s suite of enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management tools that are centred around Microsoft Dynamics and elements of Microsoft 365.
Microsoft Forms allows users to create online forms, surveys, polls and quizzes.
Kaizala is Microsoft’s messaging and workforce management app. A little like WhatsApp with additional task functionality, Kaizala is designed to be used by mainly frontline, mobile and deskless employees, and can span across more than one organisation to incorporate your supply chain, external providers and even customers.
Lists has long been a key part of SharePoint, but is now a separate Microsoft 365 app. It provides a flexible way of storing information that changes quite often but needs to feed into other apps or sites. The lists themselves are essentially tables of information (a little like spreadsheets) which integrate with a number of Microsoft 365 apps; they can involve workflow, link up easily with Microsoft Forms and more.
MyAnalytics is an app which provides personal workplace analytics to support productivity. The analytics relate to Microsoft 365 usage across four different areas – focus, networking, wellbeing and collaboration.
OneDrive is a document and filing storage service where users can synchronise Cloud libraries with their library of files across different devices.
OneNote is a popular note-taking application that acts somewhere between an online notepad, scrapbook and pinboard. You can gather all kinds of notes, links and more in one place, contributed to by multiple people if desired.
Microsoft People is the brand name for your address book used within Outlook and across Windows.
Planner is a task management app that helps to plan, assign and co-ordinate tasks across a group or team. It can be used from within Microsoft Teams.
One of the four apps with the Power Platform, Power Apps allows for the rapid creation of custom “apps” that are available via a browser or mobile device. Power Apps is a low-code environment, meaning that apps can be created with minimal involvement from IT functions.
Another app from the Power Platform, Power Automate is a workflow and automation solution that allows for the creation of custom workflows across multiple applications, leveraging a library of pre-existing data connectors.
Power BI is an online business analytics and data visualisation tool that allows for the creation of custom dashboards and real-time dynamic views of data from multiple sources, including non-Microsoft applications.
The Microsoft Power Platform is the brand name for four related capabilities – Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Power Virtual Agents – that are often combined to create custom solutions.
Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents is another “low-code” environment that allows businesses to create custom chatbot solutions where users can have a conversation with bots using natural language to drive automation and surface information.
Microsoft Project is Microsoft’s standard project management software with a variety of different tools such as task management, Gantt chart production, budget management and more.
SharePoint is a highly flexible collaboration, document management and content management platform that is used to create online communication and collaboration solutions, often within organisations. SharePoint is also frequently used in conjunction with other Microsoft tools to create sophisticated solutions. It is one of the most important elements within the Microsoft “universe”.
Shifts is a team scheduling app that is accessible via Microsoft Teams through which employees can view and manage team rosters. It is generally intended for frontline employees working in areas like retail, hospitality, healthcare, travel or customer service in which shift patterns are more common.
Stream is Microsoft’s video platform and player that has multiple capabilities including the ability to share videos, be an internal ‘YouTube’ channel, livestream events through Microsoft Teams and even provide basic video editing tools. If you are working with video in Microsoft 365, it’s likely to involve Stream.
Sway is a tool where you can create online presentations, reports and newsletters that are highly visual and can be easily shared via a simple URL.
Microsoft Teams is a real-time messaging, communication and collaboration environment that has enjoyed enormous levels of adoption in recent months. Microsoft has invested heavily in Teams, giving it the ability to integrate other Microsoft 365 tools and apps as well as view information from other enterprise applications within the Teams experience. We can see this pattern of investment continuing as Teams becomes central to the Microsoft 365 universe experience.
Microsoft To Do is a personal task management app that integrates with Outlook and allows users to manage “to-do” lists and get things done.
Visio is an application that allows users to draw and visualise complex diagrams, flow charts, business process charts and other similar graphics. Again, it can integrate with other Office applications and Microsoft Teams.
An online whiteboard app that can be used to support brainstorming and collaboration in virtual meetings. Microsoft Whiteboard can be used in conjunction with Microsoft Teams.
Yammer is an enterprise social collaboration and communication tool where groups and communities can have discussions on different topics and share updates. It is essentially an enterprise social network that is increasingly being used as an internal communication tool, but also can support effective professional and non-working communities. There is some overlap with Microsoft Teams, although generally this is used for smaller working groups and Yammer for much more open, distributed and wider communities.
Did we miss something out?
Did we miss something out in our 365 list? If so, please let us know and we’ll update this article.