The Top 5 Microsoft Collaboration Tools You Should be Familiar With


There are numerous collaboration tools available across the Microsoft Office 365 suite and its on-premises equivalents. From Microsoft Teams (just announced near the end of 2016) to SharePoint (which has been around in various incarnations since 2001), IT and business teams have plenty of options for communicating with each other within the Microsoft ecosystem.

But which tools are most likely to be relevant to the average IT worker's responsibilities? Let's hone in on five widely used utilities that you are likely already familiar with or will soon come to know in your new career in IT:

1. Skype for Business

Skype for Business is an evolved, rebranded form of Lync, Microsoft's previous platform for unified communications. It is available in both cloud-based (Skype for Business Online) and on-prem (Skype for Business Server) deployments, each of which has distinct pros and cons.

"Skype for Business is an evolved, rebranded form of Lync."

On either version, users can take advantage of features for voice calls, video conferencing and chat. Infrastructure is typically easier to manage with the Online variant, since Microsoft oversees the underlying technologies (e.g., servers, operating systems, etc.), but Server provides tighter integration with existing IT assets such as private branch exchange phone systems, as well as persistent chat and access to Video Interop Server.

2. Microsoft Teams

Unveiled just last year, Teams was fashioned as a rival to the enormously popular business chat apps Slack and HipChat. It is a cross-platform application that works on both mobile and desktop clients, plus it is integrated with important tools such as SharePoint, OneNote and Skype for Business.

Teams also supports easy importing of Office documents, which can be worked on from directly within the user interface. This eliminates the need to switch between different applications. Crucially, Teams also matches the support of its key competitors for animated GIFs, stickers and stock memes that can be inserted into the chat.

3. SharePoint

SharePoint is one of the oldest Microsoft-branded collaboration tools, dating back to around the time of Windows XP's release in 2001. Like Skype for Business, it is available in both cloud-based and on-prem implementations.

The capabilities of SharePoint are more specific than either Skype for Business or Teams. It is primarily a platform for developing intranets, or company-specific websites for both content and project management. Recent innovations such as SharePoint Framework have made web application development for SharePoint easier than ever, opening the door for a higher quality experience across desktop and mobile devices.

4. Outlook

Outlook has been around since the 1997, and it isn't often thought of as a collaboration platform but rather a simple email client and calendar. Nevertheless, there are some useful capabilities in Outlook that make it a potentially powerful tool beyond just its ability to sort messages in an inbox.

Public folders are a good example. They can be set up to be shared with an entire domain (like all students on a university network) or only with selected user groups. It can be used as a calendar or message board, and are easy to access from the Outlook interface.

5. Office Online

What if you could use core Office apps such as Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint directly from a web browser, instead of from a desktop application? Office Online answers this question by offering a lightweight counterpart to traditional Office.

Multiple users can easily collaborate on the same document, whether they are using the Office Online or traditional versions of the apps in question. Anyone familiar with the collaboration capabilities of Google Drive and Apple iWork will recognize a similar feature set in Office Online.

At New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, you can develop the skills and knowledge you need to master the many different collaboration options in the Microsoft universe. Look at our webinars page for a general overview, and then be sure to check out our course listings for additional information to get started.

Jul 2017

By: Kayla Tellers