Boost Your Organization’s Productivity with Microsoft Copilot and MS 365

Boost Your Organization’s Productivity with Microsoft Copilot and MS 365


Associations and nonprofits are on a mission to create substantial impact, and emerging productivity tools are unlocking new possibilities for them to excel and innovate beyond conventional boundaries. Their drive for productivity is rooted not just in increasing output but in amplifying their meaningful contributions to members and stakeholders and advancing their core missions. The embrace of innovative automation technologies is key to this endeavor. A striking 80% of employees in a recent survey reported that these digital tools have not only streamlined their workflow but also significantly deepened their community relationships, highlighting the multifaceted benefits of such technologies. 

Microsoft Copilot stands out in the AI landscape for its ability to enhance the quality of outcomes and streamline processes. This tool goes beyond automating routine tasks by offering intelligent insights and solutions, thus enabling teams to focus more on strategic and impactful work. Its design is aimed at boosting decision-making and efficiency, making it a valuable asset in modern workflows. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how Copilot can be a game-changer for your organization. We’ll walk you through its impressive features and show you the real-world benefits they bring, especially when teamed up with a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Get ready to discover how this incredible new AI tool can streamline your processes and inject efficiency and strategy into your everyday work life.  

What is Microsoft Copilot? 

Copilot is an artificial intelligence chatbot that uses large language model (LLM) algorithms, and leverages Microsoft’s proprietary Prometheus model, to generate content instantaneously based on user prompts. Its name perfectly summarizes the program’s purpose: to act as your trusty companion, helping you accomplish tasks more efficiently and preserving your energy for more creative projects.  

You can use the basic version to complete various tasks, such as writing, answering questions, coding, and even generating images. It can also mimic more complex human cognitive processes, such as solving problems, recognizing patterns, predicting outcomes, and even discerning emotions. 

Breaking down the premium versions 

Copilot operates on a freemium model, meaning that users can access most features for free but can also access more advanced capabilities with a paid subscription. 

In January 2024, Microsoft introduced Copilot Pro, a paid version for individuals to leverage the AI assistant directly in various applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Pro users can also get priority access to GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo during peak times and experience faster AI-image generation in landscape format.   

Concurrently, Microsoft expanded the AI assistant’s reach to small and medium-sized businesses through Copilot for Microsoft 365. Tailored for organizational use, it integrates enterprise-grade security and compliance features. Users gain access to Microsoft Graph-powered chat, Teams integration, and customizable plugins and controls, requiring a 365 Business Standard or Premium subscription. 

What are the benefits for your organization? 

Enhanced content creation and management  

Integrating Copilot into MS 365 enhances productivity across key applications. It refines document and presentation creation in Word and PowerPoint, and streamlines content summarization in PowerPoint and OneNote, making it an essential tool for efficient content management. 

  • Document Management in Word: Facilitates document organization, creation, and editing. It can assist in drafting, referencing relevant files for detail inclusion, optimizing grammar and tone, and ensuring clarity in your main message. 
  • Presentation Creation in PowerPoint: Aids in crafting presentations, either from scratch, based on a Word document, or using organizational templates for brand consistency. It also assists in selecting appropriate imagery and organizing complex information into clear presentations. 
  • Summarizing Content: In applications like PowerPoint and OneNote, it can summarize documents, spotlighting key information for quick understanding. 

Improved communication and collaboration 

Associations and nonprofits need cohesive teamwork to achieve their missions. Copilot integrates with various Microsoft Office products to expedite mundane collaboration tasks, allowing people to gain more value from their connections. For example, it can: 

  • Summarize the important decisions from long email threads in Outlook or lengthy Teams chats – no more extensive scrolling needed to catch up! 
  • Compose a reply to someone’s Outlook email that contextualizes its content to ensure a relevant message.  
  • Create an agenda or prepare specific discussion questions to produce more efficient and effective Teams meetings 

More informed decision-making 

When engaging in strategic planning, effective data analysis is necessary for evaluating your performance, identifying any weaknesses, and setting well-aligned goals.   

To expend less manual effort on that process, Copilot can generate reports with valuable observations about your operations. For example, it can provide insights based on the data in your existing Excel tables or suggest formulas for what you want to calculate. It can also quickly highlight, sort, and filter your tables. 

Whether in Word, Outlook, or Teams, you can also engage the AI tool’s conversation feature to review documents or meetings and ask questions to get feedback you might not have considered yourself. Examples of questions might be “What actions would you suggest for my organization going forward?” or “How can I improve this plan? What is missing?” 

More efficient project management 

Copilot enables you to provide well-defined processes and workflows, so all employees know how and when to contribute to your long-term objectives. 

In OneNote, for example, you can ask the tool to create a to-do list, tasks, or even an entire project plan from your notes. After a Teams meeting, it can generate the main takeaways and action items. This will give your team explicit guidance on expectations, responsibilities, and project milestones – helping avoid any confusion. 

While subscribing to this new AI assistant for Microsoft 365 costs money upfront, it can help your organization save over time. With increased efficiency and more effective project management, you can focus on more value-added activities, better allocate resources, minimize delays, and stick to your projected budget. 

How To Get Started in Your Organization 

  1. Evaluate and Plan: Assess your current workflow. Identify how this new tool can enhance or streamline these processes and ensure your infrastructure is ready for integration. 
  2. Implement Management Tools and Policies: Partner with your IT team or service provider to establish a comprehensive management strategy for Microsoft 365. This strategy should include setting clear policies for user access and permissions, ensuring data quality and accuracy, and following best practices for AI and cloud security. This will ensure a secure, efficient, and responsible environment for using MS 365 and AI tools effectively. 
  3. Train and Support Your Team: Provide comprehensive training on new functionalities. Set guidelines for its use to maintain consistency and efficiency in operations. 
  4. Seek Feedback and Adjust: Regularly gather feedback from users and monitor the tool’s performance. Be ready to adjust your approach for optimal benefit. 

Get professional IT support when integrating innovative technologies 

More productive associations or nonprofits are much more likely to experience significant outcomes from their initiatives. Copilot for MS 365, which recently expanded to support smaller organizations, is a helpful alternative for enhancing how you manage your documents, plan your projects, communicate with your colleagues, and other critical daily workplace tasks. 

Collaborating with an IT Managed Services Provider like designDATA enhances your journey with cloud managed services. Their expertise covers every phase of integrating new productivity tools into your organization, offering comprehensive support from business analysis and system deployment to effective staff communication and targeted training programs. This partnership ensures a smooth, efficient transition to leveraging AI’s capabilities within your operational framework. 

Contact us today to discuss how designDATA can help you leverage innovative productivity software like Copilot to transform your work for more meaningful impact. 

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Enhance Your Productivity with Microsoft Teams Premium

Enhance Your Productivity with Microsoft Teams Premium


The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended traditional work methods, instigating a sharp increase in remote and hybrid work. In response, Microsoft Teams emerged as the go-to platform for collaborating virtually in the workplace, with over 320 million active monthly users as of October 2023.

Thanks to the tool’s deep integration within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, organizations love using a unified interconnected space to make communication more efficient and cohesive. However, they’ve also felt frustrated with what sometimes felt like a one-size-fits-all technology that didn’t always reflect diverse working styles, preferences, or business goals.

At the start of 2023, Microsoft launched Microsoft Teams Premium to give organizations more options for personalizing and securing their environment. Below, we’ll break down the features included in a Premium subscription and explore ways that they can enhance productivity at work.

Advanced Meeting Capabilities

Even when conducted virtually, attending meetings can be exhausting. Along with the excessive screen time, they require considerable cognitive work, as participants must multitask, listen, take notes, and organize the next steps. With Microsoft Teams Premium, users can now enhance and streamline their virtual collaboration experience, so it takes less effort to communicate clearly and effectively.

Intelligent Recap

Intelligent Recap integrates OpenAI technology to create AI-driven meeting insights, making virtual connections more efficient. With this feature, users can reflect more purposefully on a meeting’s content after it ends. This tool can be helpful for anyone, whether you want a refresher, showed up late, had to leave early, or had to miss the meeting entirely.

After a meeting, the platform will auto-generate chapters, creating segments based on content topics. It will also make “personalized timeline markers” to highlight critical moments. There is no need to watch the entire recording; you can quickly sift through to find a relevant topic or moment, like when someone mentioned your name. With “speaker timeline markers,” you can quickly jump around the recording if you want to re-listen to a specific comment from a particular person.

AI-Generated Notes And Tasks

With Premium, you can leverage Teams to shoulder the mundane administrative tasks around meetings. The tool will highlight critical conversation points, noting suggestions for follow-up assignments so your employees can seamlessly transition from having a conversation to taking action. They won’t have to spend as much time manually analyzing the meeting notes to determine the key takeaways. Instead, they can focus on the more complex work of solving problems and making tangible business decisions.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, do you want to discover other ways to elevate your workplace productivity? Check out our free resource on unlocking the potential of AI. It includes three exclusive training videos to help boost your skills.

Live Translation for Captions

Many organizations operate with diverse, internationally located teams or run large-scale meetings and webinars with customers worldwide. This translation feature can help many users engage with a meeting’s content with fewer communication barriers and misunderstandings. You can harness artificial intelligence to translate the meeting conversation into more than 40 different languages in real time. The transcript will also automatically label and identify speakers. As a result, participants won’t have to stress out over taking notes to translate later; instead, they can use that energy to collaborate in the moment.

Remember, you can access the most sophisticated digital technology – but if you don’t have a strategy for accomplishing it meaningfully, your tools won’t yield the desired outcomes. Read these three ways to improve hybrid meetings to discover how to leverage Microsoft Teams Premium with purpose.

Tailored and Scalable Meeting Experiences

Organizations have previously felt dissatisfied with virtual meeting spaces’ limited functionality. They found it challenging to create a standardized, cohesive digital professional appearance aligned with their offline presence.

Customized Meeting Templates

With Microsoft Teams Premium, users can access customizable meeting templates that allow them to tailor their virtual events to be more consistent with their needs. In your template, you can control settings for various functions related to the chat, the lobby, reactions, or mic and camera use. As a result, administrators can predefine their default settings so that it’s frictionless for employees to comply with internal communication policies or industry regulations automatically.

The “Branded Meetings” feature also lets organizations present a consistent brand image at every touchpoint with meeting attendees, whether before they join, while in the lobby, or during the meeting, through elements such as your logo, color palette, and even custom backgrounds.

Advanced Webinars

Teams Premium gives organizations many options for controlling large-scale meetings so that their participants have a smoother and more professional experience.

Before the meeting, organizations can now use Teams to create an event sign-up page with customized branding and presenter bios. They can also more easily manage registration, with the ability to customize when registration will start and end, create a waitlist for potential audience members after you’ve reached your event capacity, and manually organize registrants if needed. During the meeting, they can now offer presenters and hosts a Virtual Green Room to chat before the official start time. Coming soon, hosts will have the ability to email attendees before and on the event day.

Enhanced Security and Compliance Features

Building a productive digital work environment also requires creating a secure infrastructure. If you don’t sufficiently protect your data, the resulting downtime can upend your operations. That’s why the enhanced security features in Microsoft Teams Premium are so important; they give organizations a safe communication platform designed to mitigate risk and keep productivity high.


Teams Premium’s “Watermark” feature allows you to share confidential and sensitive information during digital meetings confidently. When turned on, it overlays a participant’s email over the video feed and screen share, deterring data leaks and making unauthorized disclosures more traceable. But don’t worry – it hides the watermark while attendees are engaging in their discussion so that it won’t impact the user experience.

Sensitivity Labels

Your organization can also leverage the “sensitive labels’ feature to streamline how you manage meeting security. By previously establishing your parameters for what constitutes “sensitive” content, you can quickly apply locked settings to meetings and configure blocks on specific actions, such as who can record, whether someone can copy chat contents, or whether someone can present at the session. You can now dive deeper on the admin side to determine which roles can control the recording process for each meeting.

End-to-End Encryption

You can add even stronger layers of protection for the most sensitive discussions by applying end-to-end encryption during a meeting. Although this may deactivate some of your meeting features, it will allow you to prevent anyone besides the meeting participants from consuming the content discussed – including the people at Microsoft!

Advanced Virtual Appointment Functionality

Whether you’re an association with a membership base, a nonprofit with clients and donors, or a business with customers, the new Advanced Virtual Appointments features available with Teams Premium may enrich how your team connects with individual stakeholders virtually. These capabilities empower better B2C (business-to-customer) engagement in many situations, from financial consultations and focus groups to therapy sessions and job interviews.

The Teams Premium “Virtual Appointments” app gives you a centralized location for managing appointment logistics, making it more straightforward to fit appointments into your employee’s schedules alongside their other tasks. You can also leverage the “SMS notifications” to send text reminders to attendees and the “branded virtual lobby” to offer a professional atmosphere at every touch point with the individual. With the option to look at “Virtual Appointment Analytics,” the organization can use concrete data like usage trends, wait times, and no-shows to make informed decisions about your appointment strategy.

Navigate Digital Collaboration with Our IT Solutions

Microsoft Teams Premium is a valuable solution for organizations looking to strengthen their approach to communicating and collaborating digitally. From its advanced meeting capabilities that leverage artificial intelligence to its security-focused features like sensitivity labels and end-to-end encryption, you can access diverse features to create a seamless and professional atmosphere for your team, clients, and partners.

If you want to explore Microsoft Teams Premium and other digital productivity tools for your team, our designDATA experts are here to help you implement them effectively. We’ll always be here to provide ongoing education and training when you need it.

When you partner with us for our cloud managed services and other robust IT solutions, we will build comprehensive tech strategies that meet your needs. Our team will handle sourcing, deploying, and maintaining your technology so you can focus on using it to accomplish your goals.

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How To Use the Microsoft Secure Score To Optimize Your Cybersecurity

How To Use the Microsoft Secure Score To Optimize Your Cybersecurity


Static cybersecurity strategies won’t cut it in a world where digital threats are continuously evolving. Instead, we must regularly update our tactics to protect our data while operating online. But how do we know which methods to adapt to provide the most vigorous defense?

Nowadays, most businesses use the Microsoft 365 ecosystem to manage how they communicate and store data in the workplace. Suppose you want to take more specific actions to prioritize security in that setting. In that case, the Microsoft Secure Score offers your organization a powerful tool to assess and quantify your security posture. You’ll also receive actionable recommendations for boosting your digital resilience.

Below, we’ll explore how you can use the Security Score to guide your organization’s security strategy, ensuring it aligns with industry standards and best practices.

What is the Microsoft Secure Score?

The Microsoft Security Score is a feature in the portal for Microsoft 365 Defender, Microsoft’s extended detection and response (XDR) solution. Businesses can strengthen their security strategy in this centralized location by identifying, investigating, and responding to threats across their infrastructure, whether within their endpoints, identities, email, or applications.

The Security Score specifically gives organizations a numerical grade on their current level of security.  It seeks to uncover weaknesses and vulnerabilities in how organizations configure the Microsoft 365 environment, user behavior, account activity, and device management. The number also helps you create internal and external benchmarks: you can compare your level of security as it changes with time to see your progress, and you can also see how you measure up compared to similar organizations.

A higher score means that your security posture is more robust and that you’ve already implemented a larger number of the actions they recommend to minimize your risk of a serious cybersecurity incident.

Remember, the Microsoft Secure Score is one of several excellent tools for mitigating threats. After learning about it in-depth here, visit our free resource library to check out our guide chock-full of recommendations for other methods to help get better results out of Microsoft 365.

Key Components of the Microsoft Secure Score

So, how exactly does Microsoft determine your Secure Score? What’s their system for coming up with the number on display?

The tool will give you points based on whether you’ve configured certain recommended security features, accomplished specific tasks, or addressed their recommendations using an alternative strategy, such as a third-party solution. You will only receive recommendations for the Microsoft products that your organization uses.

The tool will score your activity on whether you’ve fully completed the recommended action. However, in some cases, you can receive partial points if you’ve finished it for some devices or users.

Besides your current score, you can also see your “planned score” to determine how much you can improve after you complete specific actions, as well as your “achievable score,” which shows how much you can improve your score based on your level of risk acceptance and your current Microsoft licenses.

You’ll likely never receive a perfect score of 100% since certain recommendations might make your environment less user-friendly for your team or may not work in your distinct circumstances. In many cases, you may accept the risk to maintain productivity. However, your score can still help you create the best-case secure environment to meet your needs.

Benefits of Using Microsoft Secure Score

Leveraging the Microsoft Security Score means that you gain a clearly defined roadmap for making decisions about improving your cybersecurity. You’ll no longer need to rely on assumptions or intuition because you can take informed action based on measurable security insights.

This benefit will ensure that your tactics are more effective and cost-effective in protecting your digital assets! This streamlined security assessment process will reduce manual labor related to analysis and help you avoid wasting money on resources that don’t significantly impact your security.

Complying with industry standards and regulations will also become much easier since you will have explicit instructions and a structured approach to keeping your data confidential, available, and intact.

The Score and its accompanying features also help you proactively minimize risk, making your organization less likely to respond to threats reactively during a crisis. You will have already made preemptive changes to thwart many types of risk in their tracks before they can cause any actual damage. It will also be more straightforward to manage your permissions so unauthorized users don’t access your confidential, sensitive data, reinforcing stakeholder trust in your team.

Ultimately, this will help keep your organization operating smoothly, with less data and financial loss.

Strategies to Improve Your Microsoft Secure Score

Think about your Microsoft Secure Score as a snapshot depicting the overall puzzle that makes up your cybersecurity. You must address various pieces across different categories to improve your organization’s score – but make sure to prioritize acting on the recommendations that are most feasible for your organization at the current time, based on your resources and limitations, as well as the recommendations that will have a bigger impact.

Tackling how you approach identity within your Microsoft 365 environment is a crucial place to start. Among our suggestions for improving internet security, enabling multi-factor authentication is always among our go-to tips – because it’s a simple way to add an extra layer of security. Enabling MFA will improve your score – and Defender offers partial credit as more users do it. We also recommend reviewing permissions and user roles to ensure team members only receive privileges based on what’s required to accomplish their tasks.

Your organization must also focus on how you store and use your data across Microsoft 365 products to improve your Security Score. Creating and enforcing strong data loss prevention policies can help you align your data use with Microsoft’s best practices. These measures include encrypting your data when necessary and classifying and labeling it to ensure only authorized users can access it.

Implementing advanced threat protection (ATP) tools will help you defend against sophisticated threats and boost your score. For example, most ATP tools focus on endpoint protection. As a result, you’ll proactively maintain your device health and avoid getting recommendations for remediating issues because you’ve already met security standards.

Organizations should develop holistic strategies for maintaining and increasing their security score over time. Beyond addressing your security recommendations in Defender, it’s critical to build a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity that involves regularly assessing your technology and updating your systems, software, and applications. You should also educate all employees on behaving more securely when interacting with your digital tools and assets.

You can get more ideas for improving your Microsoft Secure Score by checking out our essential building blocks for a strong cybersecurity framework.

Partner With designDATA To Strengthen Your Security Resilience

The Microsoft Secure Score offers organizations a valuable method for understanding their current level of security and vulnerability. By regularly monitoring and working to improve their score, organizations can make themselves more resilient to future hazards. And when data remains safe, business can continue as usual, with minimal disruption and better productivity.

When your organization partners with designDATA to implement our cybersecurity solutions, we will demystify your Secure Score. Our experts will guide you through implementing the recommended actions and employing other strong tactics to defend your data.

After that, learn more about our approach in this guide to how designDATA leverages the Microsoft Secure Score.

Want to discover other tools for enhancing workplace productivity?

We’ve got three exclusive training videos on using AI to increase efficiency in everyday tasks, from writing and forecasting trends to creating presentations and managing emails.

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Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Integrating a Video Into Teams

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Integrating a Video Into Teams


Three-minute read

One standout feature that illustrates the user-friendliness and versatility of Microsoft Teams is its ability to integrate common technologies into the platform. For example, did you know you can make YouTube videos easily accessible for you and your teammates in Teams?

Plus, it’s really easy to do!

Here’s how:

1. Start with the Video: Go to the YouTube video you wish to add to Teams, click the Share button, and then select Copy to copy the link.

2. Begin Integration in Teams: Click the + button at the top right of the channel toolbar where you want the video.

3. Add YouTube as a New Tab: A screen titled “Add a tab” will appear. Type “YouTube” in the search field, and click the YouTube icon when it shows up.

4. Incorporate YouTube into Your Channel: On the following screen, click Add to add YouTube to your Teams channel.

5. Embed the Video: Paste the copied YouTube URL and press Enter. When the video preview pops up, click on it and then select Save.

6. You’re All Set!: Now, the YouTube video should be visible as a new tab in your Teams channel.

Microsoft Teams isn’t just a tool for collaboration; it’s a comprehensive platform that boosts productivity in diverse organizational settings.

If you’re curious about other fantastic features of this power tool, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our Microsoft experts.

For more valuable tools and guides, including a downloadable PDF version of this blog and other resources, be sure to visit our resource page.

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Microsoft 365 Feature App: Microsoft Forms

Microsoft 365 Feature App: Microsoft Forms


Two-minute read

Microsoft Forms, a user-friendly application included in your Office 365 subscription and accessible to anyone with a Microsoft account, is your go-to tool for creating and sharing forms, surveys, and quizzes with both internal and external recipients.

To get started, simply choose the type of question you want to ask (multiple-choice, text-based, etc.), type in the question and possible responses. Once you’ve input all your questions, hit the Preview button to see how your survey will look on both a computer and a mobile device.

After you’re satisfied with your form, click the Share button to generate a link to the form. You can then share this link via email, a Teams chat, or any other platform of your choice.


The best part?


The recipient doesn’t need to be an Office 365 customer to fill out your form!

To view the responses, navigate to the Responses tab of your form. Here, you can view the responses directly from the form window or export them to an Excel spreadsheet.

But that’s not all!


Microsoft Forms has a plethora of other fantastic features, such as creating tests or quizzes and using branching to determine which questions users need to answer based on their responses. We highly recommend exploring this application further.

To help you get the most out of Microsoft Forms, we’ve created a comprehensive PDF guide detailing our favorite features. You can access it here. We believe this guide will enhance your understanding and usage of this powerful tool.

If you’re interested in other Microsoft applications that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

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The 5 Best ‘Hidden Gem’ Features in Microsoft Teams

The 5 Best ‘Hidden Gem’ Features in Microsoft Teams


Having a comprehensive online team space for collaboration and virtual engagement has become essential in today’s remote and hybrid business environments. Since the pandemic, many organizations have turned to Microsoft Teams to simplify their group work and increase their virtual teams’ creativity and productivity. With more than 115 million users, Microsoft Teams has become a popular tool for managing remote work. In this blog, we will outline the best features of Microsoft Teams and how you can use them to your advantage. 

From apps designed to improve workflow and efficiency to comprehensive project management tools, there are many great “hidden gem” features in Microsoft Teams to help organizations reach their productivity goals.

One of Microsoft Teams’ best assets is integrating fully with Microsoft 365 and the apps that many team members are likely already using, like Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word and SharePoint. This means that all your apps are in one location, and introducing Microsoft Teams should be a seamless transition, allowing team members to collaborate in real-time easily.


Want to get back to the basics and learn even more about Microsoft Teams features, themes and presenting options? Register for our next free training session now.

Here are our top five favourite hidden gem features in Microsoft Teams:

Being able to bookmark messages and attachments makes it easy to save required actions for later. This is especially useful when you are multitasking and have multiple chats open. It is also possible to mark a message as unread if you want to tend to it later. These commands are found by clicking on the ellipsis next to a message. To find your unread or saved messages, use the slash feature by inputting “/unread” or “/saved” in the search bar.

2. Search Bar and Slash Commands
A search bar is nothing new or extraordinary and may not seem like a hidden gem feature in Microsoft Teams. In this case, however, it doubles as a command bar, which is handy for quick navigation. Commands are shortcuts for performing specific tasks in Teams like changing your status, opening a file, making a video call or starting a chat. By inserting a “/” before a word in the search bar, a list of useful commands appears.

3. Applying Background Effects in Video Chats
When it comes to virtual meetings, background distractions can be a frustrating thing to manage. There are great features in Microsoft Teams that allow participants to utilize background effects to subtly conceal their background so that only they are visible during a Teams video call. To blur the background, click the ellipsis in the bottom toolbar. It is also possible to suppress background noises during a video call. To control the background noise settings, go to your profile picture at the top of Teams, then go to Settings > Devices > Noise Suppression.


4. Meeting Whiteboards
Meeting whiteboards are a useful feature in Microsoft Teams that allow participants to collaborate visually in real time. There are two ways to use whiteboards in Teams: using the Microsoft Whiteboard app or the Freehand tool by InVision. Meeting participants can sketch, write and brainstorm new ideas onto a shared digital canvas, much like they would in the boardroom. This makes for a more personal and interactive experience. After a meeting has ended, the board will still be available to participants in a tab labeled “Whiteboard.”

5. Multiple Languages and Built-in Translators
Having Microsoft Teams support more than 60 languages allows for more inclusive collaboration for teams across the globe. This handy feature allows for captions in the spoken language or translated captions in one’s native language for messages and chats without leaving the app. This means that team members who are more comfortable speaking in their first language can do so during meetings or chats.

The translate function can be accessed via the ellipsis next to a message. You can also record a meeting, and have it transcribed – this is then available to team members needing a recap of what was discussed in the meeting.

6. Work Better — Hybrid and Home Office Editions
Microsoft Teams has greatly helped facilitate our move to remote work and the practical and productive functioning of this work environment. We’ve recently launched Microsoft 365 Business Voice and have found that this telephony software has also helped replicate the physical workspace in a meaningful way.

Let us help you achieve the same meaningful results and improve your company’s efficiency; join one of our experts for a free productivity consult.

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5 Valuable EXCEL Features

5 Valuable EXCEL Features


1. Auto Fill

Auto Fill allows you to take a formula or pattern that has been applied to one cell and apply that same formula or pattern to other cells. In the example below, we have used a formula to give Bob a 3% salary increase. We can then select the tiny green dot at the bottom right corner of the cell containing Bob’s new salary and hold the mouse down and drag it vertically until all of the other cells in the column are selected.

Once we let go of the mouse, all of the remaining cells in the column will be populated using the same formula that was used to compute Bob’s new salary.

2. Remove Duplicates

When analyzing or sorting through data, no matter what industry you are in, it can get chaotic and maybe even a bit messy. Depending on the way the data is imported, some sequences may be added more than once, resulting in duplication. Knowing how to remove copies of data segments is important so that the copies don’t skew the end amount.

To access the Remove Duplicates feature, tap on Data > Data Tools > Remove Duplicates. Make sure the proper dataset is selected. You can then click Remove Duplicates. You will be able to view the different columns, so ensure the “My data has headers” box is crossed off if the column names are failing to display. Simply click okay and you’re good to go.

3. Find and Search

These may seem like basic functions but they are integral and can save you tons of time. Also, it is good to know that Find and Search are not one and the same.

To access Find, click the Search (Alt + Q) bar at the top of the sheet. This will give you three options, with the top one being Find. Click on it. Find will only return case-sensitive matches, whereas using the Search feature will give you broader matches. Search isn’t limited to case sensitivity and it will find the words in pieces of text too.

Both of the features can make finding information in a spreadsheet much easier.

4. Insert Function

The Insert Function button allows you to tell Excel what you are trying to do, and it will give you a list of likely functions to solve your problem. It will also walk you through how to enter the parameters needed for that particular function.

For example, imagine you wanted to find the largest value in the list of current salaries in our previous example. You would type “Largest in a set of values” in the Search box and select “Go,” and Excel will return two possible functions that meet your needs. You can see exactly what the functions do at the bottom of the screen. Once you determine which of these functions you want to use, select the function and press ENTER.

Once you press ENTER, you will be presented with the Arguments screen where Excel will walk you through each of the arguments that the function requires. The text at the bottom tells you exactly what needs to be entered for that argument.

Once all the arguments are entered, just select OK, and your function will be entered into the appropriate cell! If you look at the formula bar above the data, you will see the function that Excel created for you:

5. Conditional Formatting

Conditional Formatting allows you to graphically depict your data based on their values. You can use colors or icons to depict the data in different ways. For example, imagine we wanted to show the difference in people’s salaries. We could use the Data Bars type of conditional formatting as shown below so that the people with the highest salaries have the longest purple bars while those with the smallest salaries have the shortest bars.

We could also use icons instead of just colors so that the people with the highest salaries have a green “up” arrow, while those with the lowest salaries have a red “down” arrow.

There are many more options for conditional formatting; be sure to try them out until you find the one that works best for you!

Want to find out more ways your staff can make the most of Excel? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. For more workplace productivity tips, you can join our free training sessions where you will be able to learn about the latest techniques and tools to help your organization achieve proficiency.

Check out these resources:


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The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

our-minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to seriously consider how they manage the collaboration of geographically dispersed teams.

In search of flexibility and access to high-quality communications, many have turned to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as the ideal solution to streamline their corporate communications.

A seemingly unlikely organization now threatens all leading VoIP/commercial telephony providers: Microsoft. They are leading innovation, modernization, and business intelligence in VoIP. Nowhere is this more apparent than their latest offering in cloud-based telephony: Microsoft Business Voice.

Below we’ve outlined the interesting history behind today’s quickest growing corporate phone system.

A brief history of Microsoft telephony

In a surprising move, Microsoft bought Skype in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. The company was incorporated as a division of Microsoft, with the purchase including the acquisition of all of Skype’s technologies. As part of Microsoft’s plan to expand into IP communications, acquiring Skype not only meant gaining the technology to do this but also granted the enterprise access to an expanded user base.

A brief history of Microsoft telephonyWhile the corporation initially kept Skype running without any significant changes, in April 2015,Microsoft launched Skype for Business, which could be integrated into Office apps and included added features like enterprise-grade security and the ability to manage employee accounts.

Two years later, the corporation introduced Microsoft Teams, intending to phase out Skype for Business, essentially making Skype obsolete by August 2021.

This means that come August, organizations using Skype will be forced to use Teams for their internal and external communications, screen-sharing, and conference calling.

Microsoft Business Voice steps into the arena

Microsoft Teams built on what Skype delivers, but with added features to make it an all-in-one communications platform intended to streamline remote communications and workflow. Since its inception, more features have been added to enhance this purpose.

One of these features is Microsoft Business Voice. Launched in 2020, it is a cloud-based phone system offered as an add-on to an existing Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription and integrates into Teams.

Microsoft Business Voice steps into the arenaBusiness Voice allows both calling and chat together within Teams; you can call anywhere from any mobile device. It is even possible to make and receive PTSN calls with people outside your organization. Business Voice also offers call forwarding, call queues, and can convert text to speech, among other great benefits.

As an add-on to your existing Microsoft subscription, no new licenses are needed or additional software to manage. It is also possible to port your current phone numbers and integrate them along with a phone plan from Microsoft. This means shifting to Business Voice can be a seamless transition.

Business Voice is the culmination of Microsoft’s vision of having users working on everything within the same platform. While it may not have made sense at the time, Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype has certainly paid off. The corporation seems unstoppable compared to other manufacturers of cloud-based phone systems, and it is likely to continue gaining traction for the foreseeable future.

designDATA’s Business Voice solutions

Microsoft Teams lets you call, meet, and collaborate all in one place. And now, with Business Voice, you will have access to the corporate phone system, too. Microsoft Business Voice is the ideal solution for organizations needing flexibility and convenience in today’s remote working landscape. Luckily, designDATA can help your enterprise set up your corporate phone system to leverage Microsoft Business Voice’s best features.

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Screenshot of Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Screenshot of Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo

Three-minute read

Microsoft Tasks by Planner and ToDo (formerly known as Planner) is a feature-rich application that integrates with Microsoft Teams. This powerful tool enables users to assign, collaborate, and monitor projects and tasks using a variety of dashboards.

To integrate the Planner app into Teams, simply navigate to the desired channel and select the + (Add a Tab) button in the menu bar. When the list of applications comes up, select Tasks by Planner and ToDo. If you don’t see this listed, start typing Tasks in the search bar and you should see the app appear.

screenshot of Microsoft Teams - how to add a tab
Once selected, on the next screen click Create a new plan and give your plan a name:

Screenshot of Tasks by Planer and To Do showing how to create a plan
You will see a new tab with the Planner name on your Team’s menu bar.

The main user interface of Planner shows tasks in the bucket view. These buckets represent different groups of tasks, like Client-specific, Internal, and Webinar Series. Within each bucket, you can create individual tasks, choose a due date, and make assignments:

Screenshot of Microsoft Teams showing tasks in Tasks By Planner and ToDo

When users are assigned a task, they receive an email with the new task information. The task information can be monitored from the main Planner screen in Teams (see above). Users can also edit tasks and mark them complete using this same interface by clicking on the task to open the Task Details screen:

In addition to the bucket view, users also have the ability to view their team’s tasks using a charts view, which groups tasks by various categories. For example, in the screenshots below, the tasks are broken down by status, bucket, priority, and members:



Finally, Planner provides a list view which enables you to view all tasks in a standard list:

Microsoft Planner is an easy-to-use task management application that nicely integrates with Teams. Try it out to see if it could help your organization’s task management needs, and if you have any questions or would like help choosing the best Microsoft tools for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

How to Use Microsoft 365 Business Voice to Your Advantage

Four-minute read

Learning these key Microsoft 365 Business Voice features will make you much more productive during the workday. Keep reading to get started.

Microsoft is a staple in the business world, offering essential software that significantly boosts productivity. For many organizations, operating without the Microsoft Office Suite is unimaginable.

Although not quite as well-known as some of its larger products, Microsoft 365 Business Voice is a valuable tool for companies willing to harness its power.

Unsure where to start? We’ve got a guide that can help you.

Let’s dive in.

Unlocking Key Features

To make the most of this software, you need to take full advantage of the numerous features. Many of these tools require setup, but the implementation is well worth it.

One of the most notable is the fully-customizable auto attendant. This tool expertly handles incoming calls, directing them to appropriate queues based on criteria like language, time zone, or availability.

When these callers reach the queues, they’ll be presented with a custom greeting while they wait (accompanied by music if necessary). Other notable features include audio conferencing, cloud-based voicemail management (and voicemail transcription), and direct SIP trunk routing.

It’s best to determine which tools your company can benefit from most and integrate them as soon as possible.

The Microsoft Teams Admin Center

As the name suggests, the Microsoft Teams admin center serves as a centralized location that you can use to help manage your organization’s projects and tools. You can also use it for 365 Business Voice.

This tool helps you set up cloud calling and audio conferencing. You can also contribute to a database of relevant phone numbers that are easily accessible.

You can even use the admin center to assign certain levels of functionality to specific phone numbers. For example, one phone number could be a dedicated conference bridge connecting multiple users to a single conference call.

It’s possible to do the same for call queues and auto attendants. By taking full advantage of this utility, you’ll be able to improve your level of customer service drastically.

Build Upon Its Functionality

Although Business Voice provides a large amount of utility for many organizations, some businesses still prefer to use other software alongside it.

For example, a small business owner might use Business Voice as a foundation while also implementing a different partner compliance recording solution.

This scenario is easily achievable. Microsoft 365 Business Voice is highly extensible, allowing users to expand upon its functionality. This means that those who already have a preferred contact center software don’t have to worry about any conflicts arising.

This is particularly useful for more sizeable organizations that benefit from using a large set of tools.

Train Your Team

To get the most out of Microsoft Business Voice, you’ll need to train your team on its functionality. Fortunately, the volume of training required is very low.

Employees who have experience using Microsoft Teams will likely require only 5 to 10 minutes to get familiar with Business Voice. After everything has been configured within the admin center, your employees will often only need to set up their respective voicemails before they can begin to make calls.

This makes Business Voice extremely straightforward to integrate into a company’s practices and is one of the primary reasons entrepreneurs choose to use it.

Ready to Enhance Your Business Communication?

Microsoft 365 Business Voice is more than just a tool; it’s a game-changer for your business communication needs. Are you ready to take your organization’s communication to the next level?

Discover how we can transform your communication strategies with Microsoft 365 Business Voice.

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Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Why Email Is Dead – And What to Do About It

Three-minute read

Email is the physical mailbox of the virtual world. It was designed to make it easy for anyone to reach anyone about anything and, thus, was built for broad, ubiquitous communication. But organization needs have drastically changed since the creation of virtual mailboxes. Now, companies require collaboration hubs that tick off all the communication-needs boxes. Moreover, not only is email becoming less useful, but it is also pulling engagement away from the effectiveness of your collaboration hub.

Below, we outline three key design features that prevent email from being a suitable mechanism for collaboration. We hope this information allows you to make an informative decision with your fellow teammates about how to shift communications to your collaboration hub.

  1. Anyone can email you about anything The ping of an email inbox can draw your attention to an important document, a marketing solicitation, or a phishing scheme – there is no prioritization. Last in is the first up, and important contextual information is missing. Who is this from? What is this about? Do I need to take any action on this?
  2.  Email inboxes are terrible knowledge repositories Information quickly gets buried in email. Depending on who is cc’d on what, conversations become fractured into an array of email strings that need to be pieced together. Teams also run into version control issues as each team member works on a different static version of the same document. All these inconveniences add up, bringing down organizational productivity.
  3. Email is built for one and done communication Have you ever selected “reply all” when you meant to send a private message to the sender? Ever sent an emotionally charged message that you wished you could pull back? Recognized a careless typo immediately after clicking send? Forgot to attach the document you referenced in the body of the message? Ever been the victim of a steady stream of responses that all essentially just confirm receipt (“I got it” / “Thanks”)? Email is simply not conducive to revision, recall, or response, and this lack often causes frustration and misunderstandings.

A collaboration hub, such as MS Teams or Slack, is designed to solve these problems. For example, messages can be easily edited and deleted. As well, information is organized by team, topic, and project, providing important context and keeping all the pieces of a conversation connected. You can also “@” someone to draw attention to the fact that they are being asked to respond. All of these factors improve the quality and efficiency of communication and collaboration. For these reasons and then some, we are currently working on getting zero internal communications via email, ensuring we take advantage of our organization’s more efficient technologies.  

If you’re curious about implementing a collaboration hub or have one but are unsure how to optimize team use, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would love to discuss critical factors specific to your organization that will help ease the transition or improve your current workflows.  

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Polly App

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: The Polly App

Microsoft’s Productivity Tools: The Polly App

Polly App

Three-minute read

Microsoft Teams is chock-full of valuable applications designed to make our lives easier. One such tool which increases collaboration and improves productivity is the Polly app. Polly is an application that creates polls and surveys. For Polly, a poll includes one question, whereas a survey includes multiple.

It’s important to note that Polly has two versions – a free and a paid version. With the free version, you can easily create polls; however, surveys are reserved for the paid version.

Before expanding on other differences between the two versions, let’s first run through how you and your teams can easily install and use the Polly app.

1. Click on the three dots at the bottom of your navigation bar, left of the screen in Teams. You can search for and download any application here and pin it to your navigation bar so that it is always visible and accessible.

screenshot of navigation bar in Microsoft Teams

2. Now, whenever you start a conversation in a channel or chat, you will see a Polly icon among the others (like attachments and gifs).


3. You can also add Polly as a tab into any Team by simply clicking on the + sign at the top of the intended Team. Search for Polly to add it.

Screenshot showing how to add Polly to a tab in Microsoft Teams

Now that you have Polly installed, how does it work? Wherever you’d like to access it, simply click on the Polly icon to open it. When it opens, you will see that you can create a poll template. With the free version, your choices are fairly limited, but you can choose an audience, a channel for the poll to live in, and when you’d like to send it.

Here are some options the paid version offers: templates, polls, surveys, recurring polls, greater analytics, and sending reminders.

To view the results of a completed poll, click on the View All Results button from your poll; this will bring you to a simple graph outlining everyone’s choices.

designDATA’s Microsoft Experts Can Help

Whether your organization is new to Microsoft’s tools and technology or an experienced lot, our experts can help analyze and outline the best applications to bolster your team’s productivity and collaboration. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts to leverage Microsoft 365 features like never before.

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Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Why You Should Move Over to Microsoft Teams

Two-minute read

Every day I get asked the following questions:

⇒ How can my team collaborate better?
⇒ How can we minimize the number of applications we use?
⇒ How can I decrease the cost of the subscriptions we use?

My response is always the same: by switching over to Microsoft Teams. Here are some of the ways this all-out platform responds to the above concerns:

Save Money

Microsoft Teams does what 3-5 of your existing subscriptions do, so why not pay once and continue doing all you need to do, plus more?

One App to Rule the World

Speed up collaboration and increase your organization’s productivity levels by using one app for everything. Some of the features Teams can provide are:

⇒ Business Voice
⇒ Chat windows
⇒ Meetings
⇒ File management
⇒ Project management


Microsoft has over 200 app integrations. Connect to other apps easily so that you can continue to collaborate. This also offers extensive flexibility, so you can make Teams work for you and customize your usage to fit every team’s unique needs.

Stay Connected – Anytime, Anywhere

Microsoft Teams addresses the need to communicate with remote, hybrid, and traveling employees. With the Teams phone app, you have immediate access to all apps and documents. You can even respond to chat conversations, join video calls, and continue collaborating on projects.

Improved Collaboration and Communication

Because of the integration with Office 365, you don’t need to switch apps when collaborating on a document. You can create the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document in Teams, immediately share it with your coworkers, and co-author in the blink of an eye.

Other Fantastic Features

Call transfer is easy – no more blindsiding your coworkers anymore! Simply send them a quick heads up before transferring the call.
Compatibility – Teams is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
Integration – Teams is fully integrated with Office 365 and can integrate with most major applications.

designDATA’s Microsoft Support

With Microsoft Teams and Business Voice, you don’t have to sacrifice the features you need or love. Our experts offer implementation and support for Microsoft solutions – if your organization requires support or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Innovative Features in Microsoft Teams for Remote Work

Four-minute read

The shift to remote work has transformed the traditional office landscape, challenging organizations worldwide to foster connection and engagement in a virtual setting. Microsoft Teams has risen to prominence as a vital tool for managing remote teams and facilitating collaboration, evolving with features designed to mirror the in-office experience.

Let’s explore five innovative tools in Microsoft Teams that enhance communication, spark creativity, and promote collaboration:

1. Announcements for everyone to see

Within a physical office space, it’s easy to make announcements to your whole team. A great new feature in Microsoft Teams that replicates this is the ability to create an announcement. This will appear as a banner at the top of a post and is a helpful way to instantly draw attention to important information about an upcoming project, meeting, or social matter.

Plus, they’re customizable: you can add a title and image to the announcement, and it can be marked as important by adding a red exclamation point. Announcements are available in channels, and it’s also possible to post one across multiple channels. You can even email them directly via Outlook.

2. Whiteboard or mural for interactive brainstorming

Whiteboard is a great feature that replicates the boardroom environment by allowing participants in a virtual meeting to sketch, write, and brainstorm new ideas onto a shared digital canvas.

Mural is just as awesome. This Teams app provides a digital workspace for real-time visual collaboration. The app allows participants to create diagrams, add digital sticky notes and more while simultaneously collaborating.

3. Virtual meeting room with Together Mode

Together Mode is an innovative new app in Teams that also replicates the boardroom. Using AI segmentation technology, meeting participants are digitally placed in a shared background to make it feel like they are all in the same room.

Not everyone in the team has to use the feature, but for it to work most effectively, every participant needs to have their camera on during the meeting. Everyone will be visible simultaneously, and their position does not change throughout the online session. This makes it easier to read body language, reactions, and create a more cohesive and engaging virtual meeting space.

4. Customized channels for collaboration

Much like having different teams hosting meetings and collaborating directly within an office, channels are a handy way to deal with project management. It’s a space where everyone who has access to the channel can collaborate, hold meetings, and have conversations. Team members within a channel can use the ‘follow’ option to receive updates about all channel activities.

5. Live reactions for communications

The lack of visual cues and personal interactions often leaves virtual-meeting participants frustrated. Plus, it can be challenging to express yourself in a virtual environment.

Thankfully, Teams has released some fun new tools for users to communicate and respond during a meeting without interrupting the flow. There are four reactions available: like, love, applause, and laugh. Participants can also click on an icon to raise their hand in a meeting – a great option to avoid those awkward moments when a few people try to speak simultaneously. These reactions are accessed by hovering over the ‘show reaction’ in meeting controls at the screen’s top right area.

Welcoming Teams software into your work environment

Microsoft Teams has greatly helped facilitate our move to remote work, promoting productivity among our teams and softening the blow of losing our office space. We’ve recently launched Microsoft 365 Business Voice and have found that this telephony software has also helped replicate the physical workspace in such a meaningful way. Let designDATA help you achieve the same results by setting up your business phone system for calling, chatting, and virtual meetings all in one app.

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