September 3, 2019

Best Office 365 Communication Tools and How to Use Them

Post by: Libby Fisette

When we start talking about the Office 365 toolset, or when we help clients modernize their environment, we usually start with communication and ask key questions like:

  • What does communication look like for you now?
  • How are you pushing out information to the whole company? Emails? Newsletters?
  • What is your corporate culture like?

As we talk about communication, it’s important to ask how you are communicating with many different people, including:

  • Employees
  • Colleagues
  • Customers
  • Vendors

How Do I Reach Out?

One of the biggest questions we get from clients is, “How do I start a conversation? What should I be using for each of these groups?” We like to use an inner loop, outer loop, or targeted approach. Let’s walk through each of these areas and the tools we are using so you can understand the benefits of each.

Targeted Content – Outlook

I get fewer emails and more and more Teams chats these days, but Outlook is not going away. There are always going to be times where we need to email those outside of the office or a combination of internal and external team members.

Although Outlook tends to be more formal in tone, we like to use “@mentions” where you can quickly put an @ symbol in front of someone’s name. Doing so puts a special symbol next to the email in their inbox to direct them to respond to something in that email.

Another handy feature is being able to attach files or easily share from OneDrive or Office 365 groups. If you are sending within the company, it will attach a link instead of the actual file. Of course, if you need to send something to someone outside the company, it will add the file as an attachment. Outlook also has some built-in features to ensure confidentiality or encryption when sharing files or important information.

Outlook still serves a purpose, but we’re finding that a lot of our internal conversations are now happening in Teams.

Inner Loop – Teams

We are heading more into Teams for chatting, teamwork, file sharing, collaborating, and the like. Microsoft announced an end-of-life date for Skype, so we are wholly embracing Teams as the new platform.

One of the great features of this app is being able to add different people to the Teams. We know who’s involved from a security perspective, and we’re able to target our messages appropriately. Teams’ persistent chat and more informal feel, with its memes and emojis, offers a friendlier way to converse with colleagues and have some fun along the way.

Our team has also embraced the video-calling features. If someone starts a meeting and they are sharing video, the other participants quickly turn on their video so we rarely have a meeting where we don’t see each other in real-time. This helps with engagement on the calls – lessening multi-tasking and encouraging active participation – and lets us stay connected as a team.

For us, Teams has been instrumental in promoting our corporate culture and allowing us to “Work as a team; Win as a team” – which is one of our mottos.

Caution! Rolling out Teams without a plan will be the Wild West before you know it. If you haven’t started using Teams yet, we recommend these simple precautions:

  • Start small with a pilot team
  • Have a governance plan in place before you get started
    • Who can create teams?
    • Is there a naming convention to follow?
    • Should the teams expire or live on in perpetuity?
    • How will channels be used?
    • Are people allowed to edit their own posts?
  • Educate people on the available settings so Teams enhances (not hinders) their productivity

Outer Loop – Yammer

Although we’re starting to see Yammer slip a little with Teams in place, it’s still a good workplace social media platform. Employees can have open discussions about non-work-related interest groups (like travel and cooking); ask questions and reply, like or share answers; give praise to colleagues; and create quick polls about who’s coming to the company picnic or everyone’s favorite pizza toppings. It’s a good method to reach a larger audience, get to know people on a different level, and help define and advance the culture of an organization.

For companies without an intranet, Yammer serves as a place for corporate communications, CEO updates, or upcoming events. For companies that need to reach a broader audience outside of the organization, Yammer also works well for that. As a Microsoft partner, Core uses Yammer to quickly get updates on new programs, services, trends or capabilities. It is a good outer loop tool for sharing general information.


Choosing the correct tool can be daunting – and it’s not necessarily an either-or scenario. We’ve seen many companies adopt all the communication tools listed in this post with a high-level of success. The key is knowing what the tool does best, how it fits with your culture, and getting buy-in from employees to embrace the technology and incorporate it into their daily routines.

In my next blog, I’m going to dig into content, sites, and the file-sharing and collaboration side of the Office 365 toolset.

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