It’s all app’ening with Microsoft 365   



Back in August (how long ago that now seems!), Microsoft 365 announced its first significant price rise for commercial users since the launch of Office 365 in June 2011. Those 10 years have seen huge changes in the platform, developing it from what many people then regarded as a set of worthy but unexciting programs for word-processing, data-crunching, email-sending and slide-presenting into an all-powerful software suite that’s been known as Microsoft 365 since 2017.

But how well do you really know it? How many of Microsoft 365’s superpowers do you actually tap into regularly, if at all? And – most pertinently in the face of that price hike – how can you make it sweat harder for your council and community?

Since the pandemic began, Microsoft 365’s Teams platform-within-a-platform has become a ubiquitous mainstay not just of how councils run meetings but also of how they manage their agendas, data, GDPR requirements, communications and entire workflow. Yet that’s only scratching the surface.

One of the Teams’ major strengths is the range of “off-the-shelf” apps it now includes as standard, coupled with its ability to seamlessly plug in third-party apps. Many global businesses, including SAP, Adobe and Salesforce have developed apps that integrate with it, and there’s nothing to stop local councils from getting in on the act, too. In fact, getting “appy” is a fantastic, low cost, highly effective way of streamlining and improving your services.

The most obvious step you can take is to familiarise yourself with all of Microsoft 365’s native apps, including Planner for task management, OneNote for digital note-taking (helping you do your bit to save trees, too), the new Lists app for organising work and, of course, developing a deep understanding of Teams.

If you need more council-oriented tools to help you modernise your services and improve your operating and cost efficiency, we’ve been collaborating with local authorities around the country, including Stamford Town Council, to create a suite of apps that are easy to use, cost-effective and secure – and which, of course, fit straight into your Microsoft 365 platform as comfortably as Cinderella slipped into that glass slipper.

You can currently download tried-and-tested apps for managing park inspections and allotments, and these will soon be joined by apps for the management of council assets, general inspections, green spaces (the fruit of a partnership with Campbell Park Parish Council and our charity partner, Cloudy Foundation) and youth services (a collaboration with NALC Star Council Awards winner, Woughton Community Council).

And there is one step beyond – developing your very own bespoke app that talks directly to your residents’ specific needs, helping to improve access to your services and, as a result, community engagement. If you’ve got team members who are app-savvy, this is something you can achieve inexpensively, using simple “low-code” development platforms with an intuitive visual-graphics approach that don't involve long, painstaking hours of manually programming. If going it alone isn’t an option, there is plenty of help available. For example, we can team you up with student IT developers from the Cloudy Enterprise Academy who will work with you to build just what you need.

Tolearn more about how digital tools, training and app development could help your council more than offset Microsoft 365’s New Year price increase, book into our session at NALC's Future Communities 2021 online conference on 2 December. We’ll also be discussing these topics at the SLCC Practitioners’ Conference 2022in February, alongside Microsoft industry executive for local and regional government, Linda Chandler. 

For more informationabout how to manage your digital transformation, visitApps for Local Government - Cloudy IT.

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