Microsoft Just Introduced a Killer App For 85 Million Customers…And It’s Free

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

“Didn’t we have that same product issue a few months ago?”

“I know you and I had that conversation a while back. Don’t you remember?”

“Why are we paying for Office and hardly using it?”

You’ve asked these questions. Now, you’ll have some answers. This week, Microsoft launched a new product called Microsoft Teams and, if you’re already one of its 85 million Office 365 customers, you don’t have to pay anything more for it.

This is not just an Office 365 app. It’s a messaging and collaboration app that brings together many of your existing Office 365 services under one umbrella. It’s the app that, if used the right way by your employees (and external guests in the future), will result in you taking advantage of all those Office 365 apps that you’ve ignored over the years. My ten-person company will deploy it internally this year. More importantly, we’re going to push our clients to use it, too. Not just because it’s a revenue opportunity for us, a Microsoft Partner. But because it’s finally a way for my clients to actually use more than the ten percent of Office 365 that they’re currently using.

So, what’s so killer about it?

Microsoft Teams will be your company’s internal portal for projects, ideas and initiatives. You will create a folder (called “channels”) when there’s a new product inspiration, a problem with a customer, an opportunity with a prospect, a building improvement project, a huge job that you just landed, a new employee that you’re considering. You will invite people to collaborate. The folder will house all chats, meetings, tasks, messages, emails, notes, documents, spreadsheets, videos, calls and links to other information. A quick keyword search will bring up anything you need to know about that, or any other project/idea/initiative even years later. Your team members will get alerts, participate in conversations and enter data from their devices – desktop, laptop or mobile.

There are more than 150 human resources, project management and other business applications that already integrate with Teams as well as its other Office 365 apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype, etc.). In the future, look for the application to be a significant part of Microsoft’s rollout of artificial intelligence and bot technologies that will increase automation and enable businesses to use workflows to perform tasks and communicate with others behind the scenes and without human intervention.

The big upsides: you will eliminate other applications. You will consolidate your communications, collaboration and internal project management onto one platform. Most importantly, you will finally be using…actually using…all of those Office applications that you’ve been paying for all these years but have been lying dormant. Oh, and it’s free (if you’re an Office 365 customer).

But there is a hitch: you’re going to need some help. Most of my clients are too busy, or don’t have the internal resources to get a powerful application like this set up and used properly with the right processes without things turning into a mess. You’ll need to invest in some training and consulting with a Microsoft Partner if you’re going to do it right. Yes, it’s a revenue opportunity for my firm and other Microsoft Partners like me. But it’s a bona fide productivity tool that all of our clients should be using.

If you’re an Office 365 customer with Business Essentials, Business Premium, or Enterprise E1, E3, and E5, then you’re ready to start using Microsoft Teams. A stand-alone version will not be available.

Be forewarned: this is a first-release Microsoft product, so we all know what that means. But the company plans big changes and many more features in the months and years to come. I’m sure many of my clients who already love collaboration apps like Slack and HipChat will not be anxious to move away from them. But if they’re already using – or more likely under-using – Office 365, then Microsoft is going to make a very compelling argument to do just that in the future.

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