What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

Many businesses in Northland use Microsoft Planner. Planner is a tool within the Office 365 suite. Planner is an easy way to organize teamwork with intuitive, collaborative, and visual task management. Planner is simple, easy to use for new users, and included in the licensing for Office 365 users. 

Advantages of Planner:

Planner improves teamwork by organizing an Office 365 group or team’s tasks, files, and conversations.

Planner helps to organize your tasks by adding one or more Planner tabs to a team channel. You can then work on your plan from within Teams, remove or delete your plan, and get notified in Teams when a task is assigned to you in Planner.

All tasks are easily accessible in one place: Plans comprise content-rich tasks that contain expected details, such as due dates, and extra elements like color-coded labels and files.

Automatic chart report: Planner automatically visualizes task status into pie and bar charts for you with no setup required.

Work where you want: Use Planner wherever you’re working. At your desk? Open Planner from tasks.office.com. On the go? Update tasks from your mobile device. In Microsoft Teams? Select the Tasks app powered by Planner and Microsoft To Do.

Connect across Microsoft 365: Planner is part of Microsoft 365, so it’s highly secure like your other Microsoft 365 apps. Microsoft 365 also connects Planner with Microsoft To Do, SharePoint, Power Automate, and other apps for efficient task management.

Manage all your tasks in Microsoft Teams: Planner and Microsoft Teams work well together. The Tasks app in Microsoft Teams combines all your team tasks from Planner and individual tasks from Microsoft To Do with advanced collaboration tools.

How to add planner:

  • In your team channel, select Add a tab +.
  • In the Add a tab dialog box, choose Tasks by Planner and To Do.
  • Create a new task list to make a new Planner plan and add it as a tab to this channel.
  • Use an existing task list to choose an existing Planner plan to add to a tab in this channel.
  • Choose whether to post to the channel about the tab, and then select Save.
  • The tab will be added alongside your other team channel tabs, and you’ll be able to start adding tasks to your board.

Six Tips to use planner well

Use the buckets:

Microsoft Planner lets you create buckets for various tasks. Within each bucket, you can create specific assignments.

The calendar feature:

The calendar is very important for keeping everyone on task. Items in the calendar can be assigned both due dates and a specific task owner. This helps individuals know who is responsible for what and also whether or not they are on schedule.

Checklist:

You can create a checklist to keep on top of tasks. This checklist can be a list of necessary actions for this project. As the assigned user works their way through the project, they can check off individual items on the list. This creates an effortlessly easy visual to be able to track progress.  

Categorise tasks easily

You can create easy visual categories for tasks by color-coded labels and priority. For example, you might split things up into “low-priority,” “medium-priority,” and “high-priority” based on deadlines. This is visually easy for your team to follow as they can see what is coming up on their calendar and what is a priority.

Easily integrates with 365

With Microsoft Planner, you can integrate easily with 365. This means that you can take advantage of Office 365’s own calendar and reminder features. This helps keep your employees focused and on track every time they open up their e-mail.

Connects to the Cloud

Members of the team can upload various files as attachments to different projects and cards.  Once the file is attached to Office 365 Planner, everyone has access to it via the cloud. You no longer have to worry about vital information being unavailable to the rest of the group.

In Conclusion:

Planner is a wonderfully simple, yet effective way to manage projects across a team and to improve communication and efficiencies.

For further information, please feel free to reach out to us here to discuss how planner can be used by your team.

AVOID DOCUMENT DISASTER: Empowering your Business

The POWER Trifector Solution for Document Automation

The environment in which we operate has significantly changed. Businesses in Northland have been driven to embrace remote working.  

Every good business is constantly on the hunt for new ways to improve their efficiency, keep their costs down, and increase productivity and profit and decrease risk.

What if we told you that you might be sitting on a goldmine of opportunity?

Having Microsoft 365 is bit like owning a spaceship. You know what it’s used for, but how to use it? Let’s unpack it a bit further.

Most Common Problems

The most common problems we hear of through our IT Alliance network around the country are:

  • Putting your documents into the cloud, document management and approvals
  • Empowering your business while working remotely
  • Managing emails and automating them
  • Keeping your company cyber safe

Would it surprise you to know that 50% of IT Alliance clients underutilize their Microsoft 365 Teams account? So why pay for something, and not use it all? You can join in our Empower Series here to hear more, but for now let’s start with document management and approvals.

Making the most of Your Microsoft 365

Sharepoint and Power Automate are both free with your business Subscription. Did you know you could use them in these ways?

Microsoft SharePoint – SharePoint (their free document management system) can seem overly complicated because it can offer so much. But it doesn’t need to be so scary.

You can start small and use more functionality as needed or as you grow.

Basically, it’s a platform that offers content management and collaboration.

It helps with reducing duplicate files, gives you remote access (needed more than ever!) and allows you to work on the same document at the same time.

Find out more about SharePoint here: https://ita.co.nz/sharepoint-shakedown

Microsoft Power Automate is another free app that allows you to automate workflows across applications. You can use it to connect email and instant message alerts, synchronize files between applications, copy files from one service to another, collect data from one app and store it in another, and much more.

Templates are available to get you started. Efficiency is key for sustained success across businesses and Power Automate assists this by simplifying workflows with the automation of repetitive tasks.

Power Apps – is a low-code application development platform that integrates with Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure and more.

With Power Apps, web and mobile applications can be built without writing code. Instead, you can use pre-built templates and components with drag-and-drop simplicity.

Power Apps has been described as a bit like a meal delivery kit. The ingredients are pre-measured and chopped. The instructions are ready to go. All you have to do is prep and cook.

Because Power Apps has advanced logic and rules built-in, development time is cut by 70%. In some cases, it takes just a few hours to build an app. Or you can customize one of the pre-built templates in just minutes. Plus, Power apps connects to hundreds of business systems and databases. Here are some impressive statistics to show how Power apps is super useful.

  • 188% ROI over three years3
  • 74% reduction in app development costs4
  • 2 hours of line-of-business employee productivity improvement per week5

Real Business, Real Change

Quality Food Services is the largest exporter of butter pastry in NZ.  Up until a few years ago they were struggling with their documents and approvals as they were complicated and manual.

They used SharePoint to create an online document management system that had version control, search features and navigation that made finding documents and using them easier. 

You could track your changes so that everyone was always up to speed on any project.

Power Automate helped QFS to automate their business processes and approvals using tailored notifications and automated data entry, saving plenty of time and increasing the accuracy of the approval process.

Power apps helped to collect information and display where everything was in the process so that the project could be managed much more easily.

All of this saved them time, money and decreased their risk significantly.

Where to from here?

If you have a process that you are helps make your document management process a little less of a headache, speak to us here. You are welcome to register to attend our next Empower Session here.

Upgrading to improve productivity & Security:

It’s hard to know where to start when prioritising the upgrade of hardware. Here are the top things we see that businesses could upgrade to improve productivity and add security.

Upgrading those ‘old school’ phones

First, let’s start with those traditional landline phones. Sure, they’ve done their job well for decades, but switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has many advantages. Don’t overlook the benefits of:

  • streamlining voice and data services to save on bills and long distance;
  • employees using VoIP communications wherever they have access to an internet connection;
  • accessing features such as call waiting, screening, recording, auto attendant, and voicemail transcription;
  • gaining greater flexibility to scale up and down as needed so you don’t need to pay for phone lines you don’t need;
  • integrating calls with customer relationship management software for better data insights.

Saving, Sharing, and Revising Documents

Next up, those filing cabinets. For one, they may be an eyesore, plus, they’re taking up valuable real estate in your space. Today, many printers allow you to scan many pages at once and easily scan documents into content management software.

Moving to online document management also opens you up to many productivity gains. The software often supports optical character recognition (OCR), which makes scanned content searchable. Plus, the documents are available online, where and when employees need them. This is helpful in remote or hybrid work setups, but it also helps ensure you have a backup of critical documents if disaster strikes.

If you’re still filing documents in cabinets, you may have paper-based processes, too. Forms and folders get passed around for different people to sign off at various stages. This makes it easy for workflow to bottleneck or, worse, for documentation to get lost in the physical shuffle from place to place.

In a step up from this, a business might at least move documents around via email attachments. Everyone gets a chance to see the document and make comments. Then, some poor soul takes all responses and correlates them for the next round of revisions.

Replace these old-school approaches with online business tools built to enable collaboration. Microsoft 365, for example, allows people to work on documents at the same time. There are no more worries about version control, and everyone can track the file’s progress.

Enabling Remote/Hybrid Work

Cloud-based collaboration software not only helps with document exchange. Microsoft 365 also allows users to communicate efficiently via the Teams channels. They can also start video meetings, share screens, and co-work on files and PowerPoints. Plus, integrating Outlook contacts and calendars helps efficiency and scheduling.

All this helps support employees working remotely or coming into the office only some of the time. With online documents and databases, everyone can get work done without coming on-site. Plus, VoIP business calls forward directly to phones or laptops for seamless communication.

Put Away the Post-its, Too

One last thing we’d love to see people replace in their offices? Those Post-its with handwritten passwords stuck to the bottom of computer monitors or oh-so-stealthily under the paperclip organizer in their top desk drawers.

We all have many passwords, and we understand the impulse to write them down, but a safer strategy is to use a password manager. A password manager stores, generates, and manages passwords in an encrypted database. A password management solution – such as Keeper, LastPass, or LogMeOnce – is more cyber secure than that sticky notes.

Feel free to reach out here to discuss any questions you may have about your individual business needs.

Written by Gill Brown

ClipTraining – the new efficient way to train!

Imagine having a way that you provide training for your team remotely, upskill your team effortlessly, and increase productivity. 

These days many employees work remotely. Modernised self-service e-learning solutions have become the new gold standard for IT here in Northland.

ClipTraining is a new self-service eLearning solution for Microsoft 365. With it, you can upskill your team with top notch, bite sized training, track their progress, decrease help desk enquiries, provide training remotely… and all for a very, very low cost! 

What is ClipTraining? 

ClipTraining is the new way for companies to provide training to their staff without overwhelming them. Clip Training is an e-learning solution provider, offering task-based training focused on Microsoft Technology.  

It has over 5,000 short 2-3 minute videos covering Microsoft 365, Windows and other productivity apps. It is the ultimate, searchable library of knowledge we have all been waiting for!  

How can ClipTraining benefit your business? 

#1. Increase productivity by upskilling your team effortlessly. 

One of the best ways to boost productivity is to ensure that your team is kept up to date with their skills. ClipTraining means that your team can improve their skills with the software they use every day, without being overwhelmed. 

#2. Teams Teams Teams 

Now you don’t have to go anywhere for training! All of the training videos are available inside a native Teams application. You don’t even need to open a new window. 

#3. No more annoying calls to the Helpdesk!  

Imagine being able to quickly find the exact training video that you needed. Adoptees of ClipTraining have found that client calls to the helpdesk are massively reduced. Not only that, but users also feel more empowered, can get on with their work, making workflow better.   

#4. Bite Sized learning 

Short lessons mean that you and your team can learn in bite sized chunks, rather than being overwhelmed with information. Not only that – but they can explore what they are most passionate about or interested in. 

#5. Training on any device – anywhere, anytime! 

One of the big advantages is that you can upskill on the go! Maybe you or your team need training while out in the field. With a cloud-based Learning Platform and mobile friendly design, users can improve their skills from anywhere using any device – laptops, smartphones and tablets.  

#6. Learn from the BEST. 

The training videos are created by industry experts, meaning that the information you receive is highly reputable and from trusted sources. No need to travel to a big city to get the best training. 

#7. Regular Updates 

Technology is always changing, and ClipTraining keeps up with these changes, with videos being added regularly. That way your team will never be left behind. 

#8. Easily monitor your teams Professional Development 

With ClipTraining you can easily keep track of what your team is learning, their professional development and who has completed any required training videos. This means less time and money tied up in long-winded training programs, less time away from the office and reduced cost. Understanding their interests and needs will also give you great insight into how to develop them too! 

#9. Easy Search Function 

Fully text-indexed search capabilities means your team can find videos quickly. Nothing worse than searching forever, only to find they do not have what you need. 

#10. Easily train new employees… 

Onboarding is always a pretty resource heavy procedure. The best way to get a new employee up to speed is to give them a bit of a plan. With ClipTraining you can set up a specific training curriculum for new-hire onboarding, matched to job roles or departments. Magic! 

#11. Clip-Training provides value for money. 

Clip Training provides GREAT value for money in comparison with other training.  

Want to get started? 

Easy, all you need to do is get in touch with us to find out how this might work for you. You can email us  to have a complimentary chat. We can easily answer your questions, show you a demo of ClipTraining and help you to understand how ClipTraining can work specifically for your organisation. 

By: Derek Morgan – ClipTraining – APAC Representative 

Seven Bonuses for Small Business in Office 365

You’ve probably seen all the ads for Office 365. They’re popping up on your desktop, your employees are sending you meaningful looks, and clearly, it’s not going away. You’ve probably even jumped online to see what all the fuss is about. But is Office 365 a necessary upgrade for your small to medium Northland business? The answer is YES. Office 365 is more than a refreshed set of tools, it’s an efficiency and productivity powerhouse. Here are 7 spot-on reasons why small business owners should upgrade now.

#1. Data security is built in

Office 365 was created with data security at its core. The built-in compliance and security protocols mean your cloud storage is safe, and you can control access so your valuable data remains exactly where you want it. Storing your data in the 365 cloud keeps it safe in case of emergency, with 1TB of storage per user included at no extra cost.

#2. Ditch the licensing drama

Software version differences can be a real nightmare in a small office. Not every system can do the same things, and half the time, they can’t even open the same files. It quickly becomes a hodge-podge of workarounds and lost time. Office 365 includes site-wide licenses with upgrades at the same time.

#3. Mail storage for real people

Not everyone lives in the land of inbox zero. In fact, most people tend to leave messages in their inbox forever. Occasionally we’ll do a quick clean up, but only when the alert comes in that the mailbox is full. Meanwhile, new emails from customers may be bouncing away with the old ‘mailbox full’ message. Eek! In Office 365, your employees can communicate without worrying about storage space.

#4. Better time management

Every person in your business is juggling meetings, emails and contacts – usually across multiple platforms. Office 365 brings all those elements together, integrating seamlessly for more efficient time management. Contacts updated via mobile while offsite are automatically updated across all connected devices. Meetings scheduled in an email are added instantly to the calendar. You can even access files from any device, edit on the run and then back in the office, simply pick up where you left off.

#5. Predictable costs

Forget about planning (and delaying) those costly upgrades. Office 365 has small business covered. You can choose a plan based on your unique needs and change at any time. You can even add or decrease the number of users as you scale and streamline. It’s so easy to fit Office 365 into your monthly budget while knowing you’ve got the very best and latest in small business software.

#6. Work on the go

The days of fiddling with private network and security settings are over, thanks to Office 365. You don’t even need any special IT skills or extra software. Users can now securely access their files from home, during their commute, or in meetings for on-the-fly impressive presentations. Got an internet connection? That’s all they’ll need to squeeze productivity out of every day

#7. Stay up and running with no downtime

A whopping 25% of small businesses shut down permanently after flood, fire, crash or cyber-attack. With Office 365, all your data is stored in the cloud with built-in backups for redundancy. No matter what happens, your data will be there, letting you stay up and running – and always ahead of the pack.

We can help you to find out more about Office 365 and how it can best suit your business needs. To find out more about this and other IT issues please call us or email us here to book a 1:1 free, no obligation appointment.

Microsoft 365 Streamlines Business and Reduces Spend

For our Northland customers, when doing business online, you have many options for available software and systems.

You might turn to one solution to handle online meetings, another to drive collaboration, and yet another to manage your content and workflow. It can get confusing. Plus, when you are duplicating tools, IT spend can mushroom unnecessarily.

Microsoft 365 aims to offer a single, all-in-one solution. This article highlights the benefits of streamlining your software needs.

Formerly Office 365, Microsoft 365 is for home, business, enterprise, and education users. Microsoft touts that the software helps businesses reimagine the way they work.

Consolidating many business apps can encourage productivity, support collaboration, and cut costs. Doing away with the fragmentation of many different vendor apps your business can:

Benefits of Microsoft 365

  1. save time;
  2. manage projects, communications, calendars, and more in a unified platform;
  3. simplify deployment;
  4. cut tech support and IT management challenges;
  5. budget better with one invoice for the one solution.

Let’s talk in more detail about all you might handle within the Microsoft platform

Microsoft 365 Replaces Your Many Apps

There are many online business tools you can replace with Microsoft 365:

# 1 Communication

First, there’s Business Voice to replace your traditional phone systems. This secure and cost-effective VoIP service enables users to make and receive calls from any device. You can use a laptop, mobile, or desktop, while continuing to use the same number as the desk phone. You can dial in numbers for call conferencing, AI voicemail, transcription, and real-time captioning help, too.

Microsoft 365 also lets users pop into meetings immediately within their Teams channels. They can easily start a phone or video meeting, and during the meeting, they can also share files and PowerPoints. Plus, integrating Outlook contacts and calendars helps efficiency and scheduling.

# 2 Collaboration

Microsoft users are already relying on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. With Microsoft 365, these files are easy to use and share online. Collaborate in a shared document, in real-time, with version control.

Within Microsoft Teams, users have a whiteboard and screen, too. Custom backgrounds and the Together mode are particularly useful during the pandemic. Blur the background on a video call or choose a custom setting. Or sit in a shared digital background to feel as if you’re all actually in the same space together again.

This can replace GoToMeeting, Zoom, and WebEx, as well as document management software, Box, or an on-premises file server.

# 3 Apps and Services

Integrate bots, automate workflows, or manage data with more than 700 productivity, project management, industry-specific, or business department apps.

Businesses can connect data to improve agility with Power automate doing repetitive tasks. Power BI makes it easier to discuss and visualize data.

# 4 Emails and Planning

Microsoft Exchange does away with on-premises email, Web hosting provider email, or Gmail. Plus, people can stay better organized with integrated notes, documents, and calendars.

Instead of tracking things in Trello, Basecamp, or another project platform, use Planner to stay on top of progress.

# 5 Backup storage

Your Microsoft 365 subscription includes 1 terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage. That’s equivalent to 6.5 million document pages (such as Office files, PDFs, and presentations). Plus, your workers can share, locate, and collaborate in SharePoint.

# 6 Cybersecurity

Microsoft 365 also offers secure messaging and multi-factor authentication. The “1,000+ security and privacy controls” help meet industry and regulatory standards. That’s without needing Proofpoint, Mimecast, or Barracuda, or other advanced threat protections.

Simplify your IT infrastructure with Microsoft 365. Reduce software duplication, cut back on software licensing costs, and regain storage capacity.

Every business is different. It’s always best to chat to a IT Professional about your business needs first. To find out more about Microsoft 365, and how it can help your customers, please call us or email us here to book a 1:1 free, no obligation appointment.

The Dynamics of Microsoft Dynamics 365

What’s so great about Microsoft Dynamics 365?

We all know the person in your Northland organization who has been there for eons. They know everything about their customers, from their names to their life stories. If they weren’t there – you would be ringing IT Support to troll through some emails!

Or the vibrant young team member who talks to her customers on a daily basis, and could tell you anything about their buying habits. Loves people, hates paperwork.

These team members are great when they are in your company. The only trouble is, when they leave, so too does all the knowledge they carry around in their head.

Then in walks this fantastic, well-rounded, new member of staff. This staff member has the ability to remember anything – almost like they have a 360 view of the customer! But the best thing is they also share it with everyone. Suddenly customer retention is up, sales have increased and efficiency is through the roof.

Who is this new member of staff and where can you find them?

Meet Dynamics 365

The new and easy to implement Microsoft cloud based system that ensures that your organization is:

  1. More efficient
  2. More customer focused
  3. Increases sales.

1. Get to know your customers:

Did you know that only 30% of businesses actually know their customers well? Wait what????

What does this mean? In studies that Microsoft carried out, it showed that only 30% of businesses actually understand their customers buying patterns, and know them really well.

This is largely because the systems they are currently using don’t easily talk to each other, are time consuming to pull reports from, to navigate, and hence only give one side of the story.

Imagine being able to see your customers buying patterns, the marketing that excites them (and that they open), the way they interact with your website, and your social channels all in one place.

Imagine then being able to create automated and clearly defined marketing campaigns that are specific to your customer’s habits.

This all leads to more specific, customer focused, automated marketing campaigns, and hence increased sales.

2. Improve efficiency and reduce your costs

What organizations love is that once they get in to using Dynamics 365, they find that they have a lower cost to serve their customers.

This stems from having more efficient systems, a greater knowledge base, as well as an increased ability to offer self service to customers with customer portals.

How does it improve efficiency? By introducing the Power Platform, PowerApps and Power Automate, Dynamics 365 is easily able to automate the paper and manual processes, and hence significantly increase productivity.

Making the customer experience easy and effortless, also ensures customer retention, and let’s face it, retaining customers is much easier than gaining new customers.

3. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is simple!

People don’t have time or the energy to learn even more software, and with Dynamics 365 they don’t have to.

The beauty of Microsoft Dynamics 365 is that it works hand in hand with the Office suite and is such a familiar experience that the uptake within businesses is consistently high.

Plus, internal stakeholders find that they have increased productivity, as they are not jumping from one application to another.

With the new way of working remotely, you can access everything anywhere you need to and on any device, as it is all cloud based.

Dynamics 365 is an easy add on to your existing Microsoft cloud platform

4. But isn’t it a hassle to change?

Other CRM systems have made people think that it takes lots of time to change and to see the benefits.

With Dynamics 365 you can roll this out in small baby steps, focus on what’s most important now, and start with what your organization most needs. The benefits are immediate, not months away.

Any CRM system will require a shift in culture towards your people actually sharing knowledge, however Dynamics 365 has been found to be so simple, effective and easy, that the uptake leads quickly to increased sales and that is ultimately a benefit for everyone in the company!  

What next?

Every business is different. It’s always best to chat to a IT Professional about your business needs first. To find out more about Dynamics 365, and how it can help your customers, please call us or email us here to book a 1:1 free, no obligation appointment.