Microsoft Stream – an Office 365 Video Replacement

Microsoft recently announced Microsoft Stream – a video sharing service for Microsoft users.  As some of you may know, Microsoft already has a video application called Office 365 Video.  Stream builds on what Microsoft learned from Office 365 Video, creating a more engaging, secure, and efficient place to store and collaborate with videos.  Stream will eventually be replacing Office 365 Video, but for now Office 365 Video is here to stay, according to Microsoft.

Video is the most consumed content type on the internet today.  Consumers and employees need to be able to share content in an efficient way that can help make people more productive.  This is exactly what Stream does.  Stream has been designed to provide more of a “consumer-like” experience with a simple sign-up and plenty of sharing capabilities.  This article will review some of the features/capabilities of Stream and will include some of Microsoft’s plans for Stream in the near future.

Stream is currently in a preview phase, but it is possible to start learning about it today.  To use Stream today, go to https://stream.microsoft.com/en-us/ and sign-up!  You just need a business email address, no credit card is required.  Once you sign-up, you will be in the Microsoft Stream portal where you can view and add content by dragging and dropping or selecting a file.  The screenshot below displays what it looks like to upload a video:

upload-video-microsoft-stream-xgility-blog

Stream offers some similar features to YouTube, such as using machine learning to find content that is most relevant to you and what you view/search for.  Stream will also work on all of your devices from anywhere, at any time.  When uploading content, you can manage who has permission to view your video by selecting private, public, or you can share to certain channels, etc.  Once you have uploaded a video, you will also have the ability to like, comment, and share them.  Below is what a homepage on Microsoft Stream looks like:

microsoft-stream-videos-xgility-blog

What makes Stream unique is that it’s tightly integrated with Microsoft, so it treats videos just like any other enterprise document.  You can set specific access, enable/disable external sharing, etc.  IT Managers can also control what their users have access to and what they don’t.  Many more features will come as Stream becomes more developed over-time.

In addition, Microsoft announced some features that will be coming to Microsoft Stream in the future.  First, Stream will eventually offer Live videos for corporate broadcasting purposes.  For example, if the executives at a large firm want to make a company-wide presentation on some new services that they plan to offer, they can create a Live video stream for their employees to view on Microsoft Stream.

Second, Microsoft mentioned that they may be adding the ability to search within videos using capabilities such as audio transcriptions and face detection.  This could potentially change the way we use videos.  For example, if your company creates videos to help your newer employees learn more about the services you offer, they will be able to search not only videos, but the words or people used inside of the videos themselves.  This would make employees/consumers much more productive.

Third, Microsoft will eventually integrate Stream with their other business applications such as PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, SharePoint, and more.  This will allow users to create powerful apps and workflows around their videos in Stream.  Lastly, developers will eventually be given access to the Stream API so they can build new apps on top of it.  This will most likely be used for embedding videos.

 

We are all excited to see how Microsoft Stream will help make our organization more productive when watching and sharing video content.  Check out Microsoft Stream and let us know what you think.

You can learn more about Stream or watch an intro video here.  If you have any questions or would like a demo, contact us.

 

 

Author:  Alex Finkel

Editor:  Kurt Greening

Slack vs Office 365 Groups

Communication through email is vital in every organization.  However, sometimes email can be quite distracting to what is most urgent and important.  This is why services such as Slack and Office 365 Groups were created.  Slack launched back in August of 2013 and has had exponential growth since.  In just 6 months, Slack reached over 15,000 users and now they have over 3 million users!

Slack Exponential Growth

Source: Tech Crunch

After seeing how successful Slack is, Microsoft knew they needed to create something to compete with them, so they created Office 365 Groups.  Office 365 Groups are tightly integrated with their existing Office 365 services.  You can send group-wide emails, tag groups, and much more.  Below we are going to highlight a few of the key differences between Slack and Office 365 Groups.

Slack is available in both a mobile and desktop application.  There are various tiers of service listed here.  From a free plan with access to a few features, to an Enterprise plan (available soon) that has tons of exciting features.  The key differences between the plans are the amount of file storage you get for your team(s), the percent of up-time SLA, and the tech support services you get.  You can also connect various external apps to your groups in Slack such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Sway, Twitter, and much more.  One of the best features of Slack is the ability and quality of search.  You can search through conversations and even within documents inside of individual conversations.  This makes it significantly easier to find what you need, when you need it.

Office 365 Groups is quite different from Slack, it is not available as a stand-alone product.  You must have an Office 365 subscription to take advantage of Office 365 Groups.  You can learn about the different Office 365 personal subscriptions tiers here and the Enterprise and Government Office 365 tiers here.   For right now, unfortunately, Office 365 Groups is not available for personal subscriptions.  When you create an Office 365 Group, you get a mailbox, calendar, document library, OneNote notebook, and a planning tool for each group.  This makes it extremely easy to collaborate and communicate with your group/team throughout your Office 365 subscription.  In the coming weeks, Microsoft will be enabling a guest access feature for Office 365 Groups.   This means that you will be able to share your information with external users in Office 365.  Microsoft will also add Office 365 group capabilities into Yammer.  This will give users the ability to share information through Office 365 groups via Outlook or Yammer.

Just like Slack, there is a mobile app, but there is not desktop specific application for Office 365 Groups, instead it is integrated within the existing Office 365 apps.  But the key feature of Office 365 Groups is that it is integrated within Outlook 2016 as shown below:

Office 365 Groups in Outlook

In simple terms, Slack is just a chat room for your business, while Office 365 Groups lets users share common calendars, files, and OneNote notebooks.  Since Office 365 Groups is tightly integrated within Outlook, it feels very “right.”  Groups sit below your inbox, drafts, and other email folders, right where they should be.  Putting groups directly below your inbox and other mail folders makes users more likely to take advantage of it.  Using a separate app like Slack, may not have as high of an adoption rate among some users.  Soon, Groups will integrate with SharePoint team sites, enabling you to take advantage of these key features inside of your SharePoint sites.  Planner, a new Office 365 agile project management tool, is integrated with Office 365 Groups in the current preview version.

Slack and Office 365 Groups are similar in several ways.  They both are designed to decrease the amount of emails in your inbox.  Often, users have many things going on at once.  Email can actually be quite distracting when you are trying to stay focused on a particular topic or task.  With Slack and Office 365 Groups, you have one place for each topic or task so it is much easier to stay productive.  This is ideal of small teams, projects, or even larger departments.  The ability to connect to external apps is also available on both Slack and Office 365 Groups.

In conclusion, both Slack and Office 365 Groups are revolutionary ways to collaborate more effectively with your team.  However, they both offer some advantages and disadvantages, just as any other technology.  Slack is great for simple collaborative group chats, while Office 365 Groups includes much more features and capabilities due to its integration with the existing Office 365 apps and services such as SharePoint, Skype, and the Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc).

If your organization already has Office 365 or is considering moving to Office 365, we recommend testing out the capabilities of Office 365 Groups.  If your organization does not currently have Office 365 and will not likely move to it anytime soon, we recommend trying Slack.

If you have any questions or would like a free 30 minute consultation to see if Office 365 is right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Update:  Microsoft recently announced Microsoft Teams to compete with Slack.  Teams is a chat-based workplace located inside of Office 365.  Your administrator can enable Teams in the Office 365 Admin center.

Microsoft Teams builds further on active directory groups.  If you like the functionality in Groups, you will likely benefit from the features in Teams.  Microsoft Teams has been in preview for months, but was released worldwide in March 2017.  Jeremy, from our friends at Hyperfish, released this article highlighting the features and the future of Teams: https://blog.hyperfish.com/the-future-of-collaboration-is-microsoft-teams-2e1b4ecf1635#.n5fc5wbbq

 

 

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Document Management System

Microsoft’s SharePoint is a leading vendor in the enterprise content management market.  There are also other document management solutions that have been successfully used in the past including those from Oracle (WebCenter), IBM (FileNet/Lotus Domino), and OpenText.  Some of our customers have chosen to configure SharePoint as an enterprise document management solution and others have purchased a popular add-on called Knowledge Lake.  No matter which technology you have chosen,  we believe you will benefit from this article.  Below are 5 ways to get the most out of your document management system…

 

  1. Create a plan for an efficient and effective way to organize your information

In developing a plan to organize an organization’s information, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.  The plan needs to support the goals and culture of the company, taking into consideration how people collaborate, make decisions, and conduct business.  A solid plan not only reflects and supports these processes as it is, but finds ways to make the information more meaningful and impactful.  In practice, this means taking into consideration:

a) The people beyond the documents and other information: what roles they play in the information management process as well as what feedback they have on the current system
b) The different types of documents and other information, and how best to organize and classify them for maximum impact
c) The lifecycle of information and how to manage workflows effectively
d) The policies and governance necessary for appropriate information security, retention, and editorial control

 

  1. Make sure your employees are properly trained on your software and strategies

Employee training is critical to any successful document management system. It’s important to ensure users understand not just the “how” (i.e. entering metadata), but also the “why” (i.e. metadata drives efficient workflows and improves search results).  Making sure users understand the value of each task will drive adoption and help make sure tasks get done.

 

  1. Utilize all of the features of your software

It may be tempting to limit the use of features in a document management system, especially with a robust tool such as SharePoint, in an effort to “keep it simple.”  But it’s important to fully understand all features and how they can actually make life simpler and more efficient for your organization.  For instance, implementing Content Types in SharePoint requires some up-front planning, but can pay many dividends once in place.  Among the many benefits, some include integrated document templates and uniform metadata options across the organization.  For a user looking to use the right template and assign metadata properly, more features translates to less stress.

 

  1. Make sure your employees are on the same page as to how your departments collaborate and share documents

While implementing change and getting a large group of people on the same page are always a challenge, a strong document management plan can help you succeed.  Increase the odds of success by:

a) Understanding the culture and goals of the organization and allowing local control and flexibility when appropriate
b) Making compliance easier through the use of tools such as content types
c) Communicating policies clearly in person and online

 

  1. Make sure content owners have specific responsibilities for managing their own content

As discussed above, understanding the people creating and working with information, and determining their roles in document lifecycles, is key in developing a strong document management plan.  In addition to establishing and communicating clear responsibilities, you can also reinforce roles and increase buy-in by building support into your document management system.  For instance, SharePoint workflows can automate the document approval process.

 

If you are considering a document management project and evaluating whether or not SharePoint and/or Office 365 is a good solution for your needs, contact us and we will offer our advice in a free 30 minute consultation.  If you are new to SharePoint and don’t know what it can do, check out these two contract management videos to see some of its capabilities:

 

 

 

 

Collaborate, Don’t Compromise