Software

Microsoft adds intelligent cloud collaboration features to Office 365

At the 2016 Ignite Conference, Microsoft announced several new features made possible by intelligent cloud technology. Should you be excited?

hero

Feature: Microsoft News/Brian Smale

When information technology companies like Microsoft talk on and on about the merits of artificial intelligence and the power of an intelligent cloud, what are they really talking about? Certainly, there must be more to the intelligent cloud than merely another place to store data. Well, after several news stories released at the 2016 Microsoft Ignite Conference, it turns out there actually is more to it for Office 365 subscribers after all.

The Microsoft Office 365 Team announced several new features for its flagship productivity suite that rely on the company's intelligent cloud technology. The new tools are included in the latest update and are designed to help IT professionals drive digital transformation within their organizations. Digital transformation is a major tenet of Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first vision for enterprise businesses.

SEE: Microsoft's Satya Nadella on how the cloud will bring machine learning to the masses

Tap for Word and Outlook

Finding pertinent published information within an enterprise can often be a bit of a time sink. You know that table of important statistics—the very thing you need for your report—was in a presentation. But which presentation was it? Searching for the information you need to complete your project can waste precious time and sap your productivity, neither of which is conducive to a well-run enterprise.

Microsoft's latest update to Word and Outlook may help solve this problem for you. It is called Tap and it uses the intelligent cloud backed by Microsoft Graph technology to help you find the previously published internal information you are looking for. Tap reveals documents, presentations, and spreadsheets frequently used by you or made available by your coworkers, enabling you to incorporate that information into your current document without ever leaving it.

Maps for Excel

In another example of intelligence being inserted into a common tool to enhance productivity, Microsoft has updated Maps in Excel to make it easier to transform geographical data into a sophisticated visualization.

Imagine you have a set of data points showing global sales for your enterprise. Now, imagine how helpful it would be if you could transform those boring data points into a color-coordinated map of the world. With the updated version of Maps in Excel you can accomplish that task with just a few clicks.

Image A

Bottom line

Microsoft continues to listen to its customers and continues to make useful improvements to its flagship productivity suite Office 365. By incorporating tools that can tap into the power of its intelligent cloud technology, Microsoft can help enterprises create a collaborative working environment that increases communication and productivity.

Along with the additions of Tap and Maps, Microsoft announced updates and new tools for PowerPoint, Advanced Threat Protection, Advanced Data Governance, and SharePoint. It also added a new application, StaffHub, to the mix. StaffHub makes it easy for managers to create teams, manage shift schedules, and provide other relevant information to their workers.

SEE: Facebook launches Workplace, targets business users with new look

It is difficult to ignore the success of Microsoft's strategy of providing a collaborative work environment for a mobile enterprise workforce. Despite serious competition from the likes of Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft continues to grow the Office 365 business and continues to make noticeable and appreciated updates to its productivity suite.

The latest updates announced at the 2016 Microsoft Ignite Conference continue this trend. The only caveat is one we have touched on before: When will all these new features be considered too many features? At some point, and perhaps it has already occurred, user fatigue will set it. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft has in store for us next and whether it will be a feature that continues to raise the bar or just weighs us down.

Also read...

Your thoughts

Can there ever be too many features in Office 365? Share your opinion with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox