Yes, I consider myself a SharePoint geek, but I play more and more in the larger Office 365 (O365) sphere these days. In doing so, I’ve noticed that O365 as a concept is difficult to explain… both to IT folks and the everyday workers who are expected to use it.
I’ve blogged about the difference between SharePoint and O365 and answered the question “So, what is SharePoint?” in the past, but since those quaint days I’ve gotten neck deep in O365 and haven’t taken on explaining this subject.
That’s because I needed to understand it myself. And I think I can give you a simple O365 overview that will work for anybody that needs/wants to use it, especially if you’re the IT person tasked with selling it to your CIO or the project manager tapped to roll it out to all your colleagues.
The most important thing is, no, O365 isn’t just Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook in your browser. That’s like saying your smartphone only makes phone calls.
O365 is an entire ecosystem of applications in the cloud. “In the cloud” simply means “on someone else’s computer but accessible on your device”. In this case, it’s Microsoft’s servers around the world. Microsoft stores and protects your organization’s info, upkeeps the system, and lets your IT team do other, higher-priority things.
(And if you’re considering a cloud move but experiencing resistance from finicky business decision makers who think it’s unsafe, remind them that they keep their finances in a money cloud called a bank.)
Think of O365 as a web-based version of Windows, accessible pretty much anywhere. It comes complete with its own Start Menu (the waffle) and can be accessed through almost any browser on almost any device.
Gone are the days of email and file shares only accessible in the office or through VPN. Now you literally have your conversations and files at your fingertips: in your Android’s apps, on Safari on your Mac, Firefox on your PC, Chrome on your iPad. You name it.
Thanks to a caffeine-fueled Starbucks session back in early 2017, I present the Periodic Table of Office 365, a visual way to represent the apps, what they do, and how they’re related. This was recently upgraded to a dynamic, web-based version.
Now, no accurate overview of O365 is simple. As with many topics, simplification implies a drop in accuracy. So take this with a grain of salt. Click below to access the new dynamic, web-based version and if you like it, share it, embed it in your intranet, and send it to your friends and colleagues who just don’t get Office 365.
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Ninja edit: Still wondering about Office 365 Groups? Well, they’re not actually apps! So they’re not in this article. But I cover them with an infographic here.
- 2017-06-17: Added Microsoft Forms, as documented here.
- 2017-12-05: Removed Office 365 Video and introduced the web version of the table.