Office 365, Program Framework

The Office 365 Roadmap: A summer update

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Let’s start with a quick pop quiz. Who reading this can remember ‘BPOS’? Maybe the long form name will refresh the memory – ‘Business Productivity Online Suite’…  still no? Well, for those who are in the dark, BPOS was the previous incarnation of what we now call Office 365. It’s hard to believe that 5 years ago Office 365 hadn’t even been released. It wasn’t even ready for beta – that started in October 2010.

Fast forward a couple of years and Office 365 is quickly becoming the poster child for the new forward thinking Microsoft. Once billed as the ‘future of enterprise IT’, Office 365 is now very much a staple for many enterprises and as Microsoft said themselves, is the “fastest growing business” in the company’s history. With an increase of 150% in the number of SMBs adopting the productivity suite it’s hard to disagree.

Among the many benefits a real plus for consumers and enterprises alike is the transparency and openness in which Microsoft now communicate their roadmap and vision. Long gone are the days when we had to wait long periods before news of an update or new development was announced. Now we can simply visit the Office 365 site and find a comprehensive list of new features and upgrades that are in development (or have been canned!).

With this in mind we wanted to take a look at four of those offerings either in development or in the process of being rolled out.

1. De-Cluttering your Inbox

Imagine being able to save up to 82 minutes per month at work? You could spend more time managing an upcoming project, devising a new marketing strategy or finally getting to those much neglected ‘to-do’ tasks. Well, with the introduction of Clutter Microsoft believe you can. Clutter will help you reduce the number of emails that reach your inbox by automatically categorising the relevancy of your emails based on frequency, interactions and content. Using a special algorithm, Clutter will learn a user’s habits. For example, if those pesky sales emails are continually filling up your inbox, Clutter will notice they’ve been ignored or deleted and move those emails directly into your Clutter folder.

This latest feature will also notify you of its activity by providing one weekly summary notification of is activity. It’ll show you a list (for that week) of the emails it’s automatically moved and give you the chance to confirm whether it’s working correctly or needs changing. As your habits change, so does Clutter.

2. Analyse Office 365 data with Equivio Zoom

Let’s start with Q1, who are Equivio Zoom? In their own words, they provide ‘text analytics solutions for legal and compliance’. Offering ‘a court-approved machine learning platform for the legal arena’. Q2 is, how after being acquired by Microsoft in Jan 2015, does it work with Office 365? Simply, it will help you ‘understand unstructured data, perform more efficient document review, and make decisions to reduce data for eDiscovery’.

Currently in development, Equivio Zoom can work with SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Skype and OneDrive for Business and will let users select the data they wish to review and analyse. As the years have passed, understanding data has become more and more prevalent for many companies. Equivio Zoom will intelligently sift through the data and help you explore large sets of data directly related to your legal and compliance needs. Certainly an update to look forward to!

3. Improved image attachment viewing in Outlook Web App

Working within the Project and Portfolio Management sector, we very often find ourselves looking at images. It could be a screenshot of a project plan from Tempus R, a picture to show the progress of a project on-site or an image of a fault that requires immediate attention. They give clarity to a situation. An update in development for Office 365 will improve how images are viewed and sent from the Outlook Web App. Large thumbnail previews will be noticeable in attachments, when both sending and receiving an email. In addition, Microsoft are improving the loading time of images and their side by side view.

At present there’s no official announcement as to when this feature will be introduced, however any improvements to how images are sent and viewed can only be a good thing.

4. Office 365 Groups: mobile app

In September 2014, Groups in Office 365 were officially announced. Now if you haven’t come into contact with them as of yet, their aim is to build on the growing nature of enterprise collaboration by sharing information more easily. They aim to eliminate the confusion faced by a user. Should I use Skype or Yammer to share a message? Should I create a file in OneDrive for Business or Outlook? Groups create a more unified approach and bring these different avenues together. Great for those working on a project, a new user can simply create a Group and invite those they wish to be included. From here all colleagues within a Group can collaborate and communicate more easily across the Office 365 space.

The development of a mobile app for Groups is the next logical step and will help to surface ‘Outlook Group conversations and files across iOS, Android and Windows Phones’. You can expect a release towards the end of 2015.

Continued improvement

The amount of enterprise tools at our disposal which can help us work more productively and efficiently are huge. In essence though we all want the same thing; software, hardware, applications, tools etc that get the job done. With Office 365 we have a suite available which can help us achieve exactly that plus much more.

Statistics say the same, with 80% of Fortune 500 companies using Office 365, its reach is vast. With Microsoft continually updating its poster child and embracing their new transparent approach, companies can be sure they are investing in a product that has long term benefits and support. We look forward to this continued approach and to the updates and developments that lie ahead.