3 Office 365 enhancements you might have missed

The Office 365 Admin Center, OneNote, and Skype for Business all get needed improvements

I work with Office 365 portals daily, and it can be easy to miss new features as they are released. Microsoft is developing Office 365 at cloud cadence, so new features come when new features come -- some minor, some major. (Microsoft's official road map can help you keep track.)

But three recent changes are worth your attention.

Office 365 Admin Center

Now in beta release, the new Admin Center is a big upgrade visually from the current 1980s-style interface.

I really like the new reporting portal. The fact that I can now see at-a-glance information on user activity in functional graphs is nice. I also like that I can drill down into a report (like email activity) and adjust the timeframe I'm looking at to seven, 30, 90, or 180 days.

I also like that the new reporting feature shows usage. When you make the move to Office 365, you may need to justify the usage on the back end. In the new Admin Center, you'll be able to see email activity, OneDrive file usage, Office activations, and Skype activity. (In the current beta, I can see only email activity and Office activations.)

Microsoft will also provide the Power BI Content Pack for drilling further into the usage data, so you can get richer insight. Later this year, Microsoft plans to provide APIs for connecting the reporting usage data to third-party tools.


Microsoft has really been pushing hard to capture the note-taking market, but many people still use third-party tools like Evernote (which became a cross-platform fan favorite a few years back).

To entice Evernote users, Microsoft has released a beta tool to help import Evernote notes into OneNote. It's currently only available for Windows, but Microsoft says the Mac version is coming soon.

Based on the comments of avid note-takers, Evernote handles some tasks (like clipping) better than OneNote, but OneNote excels in some areas (like the text editor) versus Evernote. Meanwhile, Evernote users complain that there isn't the same level of search through attached PDF files, and OneNote doesn't annotate images as smoothly. But if you're ready to move from Evernote to OneNote, there's now a tool for it.

But to be clear: It's in beta and not perfect.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business was rushed out for launch, and everyone knows the result is poor. There are a ton of improvements expected.

Microsoft has in fact announced some of those improvements. One is a new Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business that will let customers worldwide use Office 365 Cloud PBX with their carriers of choice.

Microsoft also plans a new feature called Organizational Auto Attendant for automated call handling and speech recognition capabilities within the Cloud PBX.

Skype Meetings will at some point add meeting rooms (via Project Rigel) and work with traditional videoconferencing systems.

But a more immediate and practical need (though Microsoft offers no timeline) is for improved analytics and reporting so that you can better see and understand usage patterns, analyze call quality, and troubleshoot problems coming from the cloud or your hybrid configuration.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.