Simplify your Communication and Collaboration Tools with Microsoft 365

In this digital age, we have a remarkable number of applications at our fingertips. More tools, however, doesn’t always mean that things will be simpler. By setting up systems and processes within high-use software, you can work smarter rather than harder. Simplify your communication and collaboration tools within Microsoft Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint.


Let’s begin with what I assume is your primary source of communication—your email inbox.  While it might seem like an open and shut application, there are some easy ways to start making this tool work for you.

1. Manage your calendar

That’s right—the first thing isn’t even email-centric! Holistically, while Teams is your main collaboration hub, it ties into your Outlook calendar in more ways than one. Suffice it to say, by managing your schedule here, you give your collaborators clear expectations of your availability in all the places that it matters.

Microsoft Viva is a free service that provides schedule recommendations. Per day, they suggest two hours of focus time to get your work done, 30 minutes for email, up to two hours to learn a new skill and two 15-minute breaks. Setting up recurring events can make scheduling a breeze.

Block out-of-office times as soon as you can. Working proactively gives your coworkers a schedule they can rely on while minimizing confusion and rescheduling nightmares.

2. Tag and manage emails

Get out of the one-inbox rut by setting up folders for emails on a certain subject matter. Not into the email-folder life? I’ll tell you a secret…it’s not really my jam, either. When a project or initiative wraps up, that’s when I’ll archive emails into a folder. Until that point, I work from my single source.

Within your inbox, flag emails containing action items. By default, it will assign a due date of that same day, but you can easily go into the drop-down and select a new due date, tomorrow, next week, etc. This way, you can easily go in and sort emails by flagged items, letting you see immediately all the items you owe follow-up on.

Beyond flags, you can create categories for emails. The beauty of this is the ability to color coordinate messages to assess email contents at a glance without needing to open it or skim the contents.

3. Integrate into Teams

It’s true, Microsoft Teams has revolutionized the way we virtually collaborate. Get an important email that’s relevant to your whole Team? Instead of pressing forward, consider sharing it to your team or a specific channel. In this way, you give everyone visibility and an opportunity to comment back and forth without clogging up inboxes with mass replies. From a different angle, if it’s a client-facing or sensitive email, you’ll eliminate the risk that your email thread will get sent to an unintended party.

We just covered scheduling, but it’s here worth noting that you can easily set up a Teams meeting within your Outlook calendar. While you can do this in Teams, it’s easier within Outlook to view the availability of coworkers and propose a time.


Now we’ll move into our favorite of all collaboration tools—the amazing Microsoft Teams! Instead of plowing in willy nilly, use some foresight to craft a system that will keep you from confusion in the long run. With so much available in Teams, you can end up spending much of your workday in-app.

1. Work to set up a document environment that works for you AS A TEAM

Too often I’ve seen one person, giddy with Teams, dump a bunch of files and information into a channel, only to find that their information was outdated. The worst part was that others began sourcing these files as the truth. As you can imagine, this creates a snowball of issues that can take months (even years!) to sort out. The beauty and power of Teams is the accessibility of files and creating what people like to call “one version of the truth.” It’s also a big responsibility. Please hold off on adding files until you talk amongst your people.

  • Craft a plan

Decide with your team how you want to use your environment. Determine which areas, if any, you’d like to break into separate channels (Teams creates a “general” channel by default). Determine your privacy settings—who do you want to have access to your work? Decide up-front—how will you handle multiple versions of documents getting pulled in? What applications would you like to have integrated? Is there a high-use webpage you want to have available within the team?

  • Communicate your plan

Type up your guidelines and post them to the channel’s main page (the “Posts” tab displays first by default). Be sure to “pin” the message so it’s the first thing people see. Ignore any whines of protest by people who already “get” it; everyone should be singing your praises when you get a new team member coming on board!

2. Integrate Planner into Teams

There are a variety of apps you can integrate into Teams, but I find Planner most essential. As a lightweight project management software, it’s easy to learn, visually intuitive, and simply helps keep your group on track. Microsoft has made it easy; when you assign tasks and apply due dates, it will automatically trigger a reminder email to those responsible. Simple!

While in my department, we like to use buckets to organize tasks by this week, next week, next quarter, backlog, etc, but this time-based approach might not suit everyone’s endeavors. Work to find an organizational style that meets your needs and remember: if you need to detonate a Planner board, you can move tasks from your old board to a new one beforehand.

3. Work on documents together in real-time

Reduce the back-and-forth and get rid of document versions flying between inboxes by working in Teams. Storing a file there enables everyone to work from that glorious “one source of truth.” Worried about Joe Schmo messing it up? Microsoft supports document versioning and change tracking, so you can see exactly who made what alterations and when.

Oftentimes, it’s faster to have a working session with someone. In Teams, multiple people can be working on the document while on call or video conferencing. See changes being made in real-time.

4. Take and make outgoing calls

With Microsoft Business Voice, your Teams account is assigned a conventional telephone number. Gone is a separate softphone app or call forwarding to your personal number. It’s amazing the number of features you can now access under a single Microsoft 365 login!


Forgive me when I say that SharePoint is the ugly stepsister to Team’s Cinderella. The only thing is, she’s the one doing all the work. With each channel in Teams, a new SharePoint site is created for Files. See, you can even open the files in SharePoint from inside Teams.

By using some basic techniques, you can create an easy-to-use filing system to simplify your document searches. Put in the work upfront to establish a document library, and you’ll save yourself future headaches.

1. Establish naming conventions

So simple, yet so often overlooked. Don’t use bizarre acronyms or strange department-specific lingo. Not only are you limiting your ability to search by keyword, but you’re also isolating future coworkers with your secret code—ensuring their dependence on you to provide them files they can’t find. Sounds like a pain, right? Even if the file name seems too long, it’s worth it to put in the typing now to create a fully searchable system.

By keeping file names standardized, you can also leverage SharePoint’s replace feature, which updates the file of the same name while keeping any links to the document or other metadata intact.

2. Use metadata to deepen your files

Within a SharePoint document library, you’ll see columns for file information. By adding custom columns, you allow users to filter and group files according to various categories and conditions, isolating related documents for ease of use.

By the way, did you know that once you have a custom column set up, you can apply it to numerous document libraries? Best of all, if you add or modify the column in one library, it will automatically update wherever it occurs throughout your site.

3. Set up views

Not every document library contains the same sort of files, so why should they all look the same? Set up a default public view that suits your needs: icons for images, list view for files, and don’t forget that you can group items according to any of your columns.

4. Let others know how it works

It’s dangerous to assume that people know how to use software, even within a tech company. Consider writing up a quick guide to make sure your current team is on the same page, not to mention quickly onboarding new coworkers.

The moral of the story here is to be proactive. Look at the tools at your disposal and consider your team members (current and potential). A lot of headaches stem from poorly communicating and/or being disorganized. Resolve to be better than that.

While the focus of this blog has remained small scale (you and your team), more impact can be realized when you get your whole organization on the same page. Advisicon offers a variety of technology training, consulting, and implementation services. Our experts can establish systems and processes that cut chaos out of your workload and simplify your communication and collaboration tools. Reach out to us today for a free consultation!