As many organizations progress down their digital transformation journey, they traditionally start with low-hanging fruit, and then move to increasingly complex functionality.
Naturally, this then tends to lead to automation of tasks that require both minimal human interaction (e.g. a transition from analog calendars to digital calendars, and then to AI-based tools such as Scheduler) and as little as possible changes to cultural environments. For this reason, you see a proliferation of tools that are built around the concept of communicating to a digital assistant, because it mirrors an existing model (the use of human executive assistants) that have been around for millennia.
Alternatively, there may be solutions that do not require a human to communicate at all and instead provide useful information, in real-time, that previously would remain hidden. Outlook, for instance, can grab any email containing package delivery or hotel reservations, and build calendar appointments based around those items. These sorts of improvements are perceived by most users as simply the best possible outcome because they don’t require any additional effort on behalf of the recipient.
And now, of course, Microsoft is taking things one step further across mobile devices, Outlook on the web & desktop and all the other apps (Planner, To-Do, etc.) that hook together into the Microsoft 365 platform. The goal is simple: to save time.
You need ways to manage your time that evolve as the world changes. We recognize that and are working to do so across Microsoft 365, whether in Outlook, Teams, To Do, MyAnalytics and other apps. We hope this first set of new and updated experiences will help you get more control of your day, spend less time preparing for meetings, protect your personal time, and organize your calendar to stay balanced.
This is not a forced blurring of the divide between personal and work time; it is rather a recognition that if users have something personal on their calendar, they shouldn’t be booked for a work meeting at the same time. For the millions of us working shifts in order to accommodate child-care at the moment, having this be transparent to colleagues is of huge benefit.
Building tasks from emails that instantly flow automatically into To-Do, Planner and Outlook Tasks is another key win for workers: the underlying data will always live in whichever system suits you, and you’re not locked into a specific tool in order to accomplish your tasks for the day. For those of us that use different tools at different times of the day (e.g. To-Do on mobile, and Planner on a laptop) it creates a seamless experience.
The challenge, however, is the same one that has always accompanied improvements in technology; people need to know these features exist, or they will continue to do things the old, analog way. Given the amount of time all of these improvements bring to the table, every company would be remiss not to train folks on how they work, to start to bake this digital improvement into the very fabric of company culture. A perfect example of this is default meeting shortening: rather than asking every member in an organization to manually edit each meeting to stop 5 minutes early, or 10 minutes early – you can now simply set this default in Outlook for all meetings.
I’ve been using this feature for several months and this simple step will create a fount of positive energy among staff used to flipping between back-to-back meetings.
Have more questions about unlocking the most benefit from your Microsoft 365 investment? Reach out to us today at New Signature, Cognizant’s Microsoft Business Group, about how to make this a reality at your organization.
About the Author
Reed Wiedower is New Signature’s Chief Technology Officer