For Your Reading List: Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 by Michael Sampson

re imaginingwork
Michael Sampson

Michael Sampson’s latest book, Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365, is a “must read” if you are currently using or planning to use Office 365. Michael is a brilliant author and approaches his overview of Office 365 not from the perspective of the individual technology elements, but from the perspective of the activities that “information workers” do every day:

  • Storing and sharing files
  • Profiling employee expertise
  • Co-authoring documents
  • Managing meetings
  • Holding discussions
  • Running team projects
  • Thinking productively

The focus on business activities instead of specific technologies provides a very practical way of consuming the information in this very well researched book. It will help you understand which aspect of Office 365 to use in a variety of business use cases and how you can best engage your colleagues to be successful with this technology suite. Though the features and capabilities of Office 365 are updated almost too quickly to be incorporated into a book, Michael has found a way to make sure the book’s content stays relevant by indicating where future updates will improve or enhance the experiences he describes.

One of my favorite chapters is the one that talks about co-authoring documents. Co-authoring helps reduce the organizational disease I call “versionitis.” Versionitis happens when multiple versions of the same document end up being emailed around the organization for feedback. Co-authoring means that all of the document editors can work on the same document at the same time, eliminating the need to get notified when someone has finished editing so you can take your turn or adding your comments and creating another version of the document that the original author has to integrate in to the final version manually. Office 365 offers two ways to edit documents – in the browser version of Word, PowerPoint, or Excel or in the desktop version – and the co-authoring experience differs somewhat depending on which Office product you are using and which editing approach each author is using. Michael does a great job clearly describing the scenarios for co-authoring in each product and explains exactly what will happen in each scenario.

Co-authoring currently works most seamlessly for Microsoft Word. Multiple people can work on the same Word document at the same time with some people editing in the browser (Word Online) and others editing in Word on the desktop. For PowerPoint and Excel, however, co-authoring is not quite as seamless as with Word and Michael has created two really helpful tables to describe the experiences in these two cases. I was looking for a good way to explain the various scenarios to a client recently and these tables, shown below with permission from the author, were really helpful.

At this time, co-authoring in Excel is only available if all authors are using Excel Online.

co author excel scenarios Michael Sampson


PowerPoint can be opened simultaneously by a user in PowerPoint Online and another user in the PowerPoint desktop client but updates are not always shown in real time.

co author ppt scenarios Michael Sampson


Michael recognizes that re-imagining productive work with Office 365 is as much about cultural change as it is about technology. As a result, he wraps up each chapter with a set of what he calls “behavioral aspects.” These are really tips and best practices for the key work processes that are described in the book. These tips provide excellent reminders that to truly re-imagine productive work with Office 365, we need to think about cultural and behavioral change. For example, one of the best practices (behavioral aspects) offered in the chapter about co-authoring is the following:

Wherever Doesn’t Equal Whenever. Office 365 eliminates the wherever constraint-wherever you are working you can now almost certainly get access to your in-progress documents. However, the availability of technology does not mean the availability of focused mental energy, deep attention, and clarity of insight to make an excellent contribution to the document, spreadsheet, or presentation. Each co-author will still need to create the right conditions for making the best contribution they can offer.”

There are another half dozen great practices for co-authoring in this chapter and dozens more in the rest of this terrific book. It won’t take very long to read, but you will definitely come away with a much better understanding of what you can do in your organization to improve performance, enhance collaboration, and create a space for innovation with Office 365.

If you are planning to be in Auckland, New Zealand from August 8-10, please join me and Michael and at the Digital Workplace Conference. In addition to Michael’s keynote about change management for digital innovation, you will have an opportunity to learn from an incredibly talented group of amazing speakers and attendees.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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