Microsoft-Logo auf einem GebäudeMicrosoft logo on the side of a building.

28 May 2021

Microsoft 365 – what it does and what it offers

Around 85 percent of all office workers in Germany use Microsoft Office, according to a study by the Cologne-based company empower. The office software continues to enjoy great popularity – and has also made the leap into the future with Microsoft 365. But what does the tool actually offer – and how does it work perfectly together with an ECM system?

What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a program package that consists of the well-known Office applications, among others. With the license or subscription model, every user gets access to the entire Office tools.

The basic package includes the following Office online components:

  • Word – word processing
  • Excel – spreadsheet
  • PowerPoint – presentations
  • Outlook – e-mail management

These tools are included in Microsoft 365 subscription plans and make up the core of Office applications. The Publisher and Access modules are not available in all editions and, moreover, are not available for macOS.

Beyond the standard programs, the following Office services are offered:

  • Microsoft Teams – chat tool
  • Microsoft Planner – planning and task management
  • Microsoft OneNote – notebook
  • SharePoint – project management and collaboration
  • OneDrive – cloud storage

These services are available as cloud subscriptions and do not require server installation. Thus, they can be used as software-as-a-service models.

In addition, there are other apps that support team and project work in schools and universities, small and medium-sized enterprises, and especially in large companies and organizations, among others.
Different rate packages are available depending on whether the subscription is used for private or business purposes. For example, private users can choose from the Microsoft 365 Family and Microsoft 365 Single tariffs. Businesses can choose from the Business Standard, Premium and Basic editions. Here, the choice of the appropriate package is based on the respective requirements of the company. Those who want to or can pay more receive licenses for using the desktop version of Office 365 as well as the Office apps for smartphones and tablets.

In short: 38 years after Word 1.0 (then still for MS DOS) and 32 years after the first Office package was made available (for the Apple Macintosh), the tech giant from Redmond is making its tools available completely as web applications or online services – and is thus defending its exceptional position on the market for office solutions.

How does Microsoft 365 support teamwork?

Since the 2000s, collaborative work on documents and availability of data anywhere have been a matter of course – or at least a key requirement. Easy-to-use applications such as Google Docs picked up on this trend and accelerated it, but did without a large range of functions in favor of usability. The question soon arose as to whether the classic on-premises Office could keep up. Today, it can be clearly said that Microsoft has significantly developed the technical framework for productive collaboration with Office 365.

The program package is web-based and thus promotes time- and location-independent work across all devices. Classic Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint can now be accessed via any device and used directly with other users at the same time. Documents can be shared with members inside and outside the organization. The respective project administrator uses a rights and release system to determine which content may be read or edited by which team member.

The Microsoft Teams web conferencing module has also become indispensable as a collaboration application for many users today. Group chats, video conferences or simple phone calls – in times of pandemic, the largest communication tool (by competitive standards) of 2020 has become an elementary companion. And it even reduces costs: according to a 2019 Forrester study, approximately $6.9 million is saved annually because fewer or less long face-to-face meetings take place thanks to Microsoft Teams.

Der Microsoft Store in New York City bietet eine große Auswahl an Microsoft 365-Produkten und -Diensten.
Entrance of a Microsoft store in New York City.

How do Microsoft 365 and an ECM work together?

With an enterprise content management system like enaio®, the function portfolio of Microsoft 365 is expanded to include a modern document management solution. Here, secure archiving is a top priority: A central document repository ensures archiving in accordance with the legal guidelines that apply to documents subject to retention. Thanks to versioning, the traceability of changes is guaranteed, making cumbersome searches in local file directories for interim statuses unnecessary.

Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents can be conveniently created and edited from within the ECM system. enaio® provides an editor for this purpose, which enables direct document previews and conversion to other files. For this purpose, several members can work on the same document at the same time – by the way, even directly via the preview function. The document is saved automatically as soon as the last user leaves the Office work environment and closes the document. In this way, users benefit from transparency and clearly defined processes.

What about data protection?

The question of legal compliance and data processing with Microsoft 365 is at the forefront for many users. The legal bases remain unclear, and the discussions continue. At the same time, every company today must take responsibility for ensuring that data protection standards are complied with. This includes, among other things, the so-called data protection impact assessment (DSFA), which is a component (Section 35) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is one of the basic measures of data protection auditing. As soon as data is processed on a large scale or by particularly vulnerable individuals, such an assessment is mandatory. This provides for the following minimum requirements:

  • Assessments of the necessity and proportionality of the operations
  • Assessments of the risks, freedoms and rights of data subjects
  • Remedial measures to address the risks

In the course of the DSFA, it is examined which data processing procedures exist in the company in connection with Microsoft 365. Furthermore, it is about the legality of the processes. Finally, a detailed risk analysis is carried out: To what extent does data end up on servers in third countries such as the USA? And how can companies ensure that the data remains confidential and does not fall into the hands of the security authorities?

If necessary, companies can take precautions themselves to minimize the risks of unwanted third-party use of the data. Within Microsoft 365, adjustments can be made in the data protection settings. The licensee also has the choice of the desired data center in which the Microsoft data is processed. To this end, it is a good idea to simply deactivate certain – unnecessary – services such as the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) or Connected Experiences, with which a comprehensive analysis of user behavior is carried out. Modifications are also possible via role and rights management as well as privacy settings.

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