Microsoft 365 – Four Features Accountants Should Be Using

As the digital transformation drives companies to move most operations into cloud computing, the transition continues to be a challenge for many professionals. Those within the accounting industry are particularly struggling with adopting newer technology. 

The good news is that Microsoft 365 (M365) – formerly Office 365 – has many advanced features that specifically help accounting firms in their daily operations. 

The best part is that these features do not require advanced programming knowledge. However, many accounting professionals are unaware of the vast features of their M365 subscription.

In a survey conducted by Microsoft, 66% of respondents stated that they are more confident in their organization’s ability to thrive with complete M365 adaptation. So, what features should accountants be using?

4 M365 Features Accountants Should be Using

M365 is a suite of cloud apps often used together to improve collaboration, productivity, and communications. With remote work being the new norm, accounting firms all over the country are starting to take advantage of some of the lesser-known features within M365.

It is an extremely user-friendly package of software as a service (SaaS) applications, which is why firms have had no trouble adapting to it ever since it came out in the early 90s. However, M365 has come a long way since then, and many accounting firms aren’t even aware of all the features and platforms that are included in their subscription.

Every CPA and accounting professional should be taking advantage of these four M365 features to help streamline operations.

1. SharePoint team sites

This web-based platform natively integrates with Microsoft 365 and offers users a centralized storage hub and collaboration tool. It allows people inside and outside a firm to work together to co-author files and documents. 

It also provides firms a rich toolset to help create and maintain a company’s intranet – a local, private communications network within an organization. SharePoint is highly configurable, and usage varies significantly among industries. 

With SharePoint, accounting firms can:

  • Migrate on-premise folders to the cloud
  • Set permissions
  • Sync files to enable access from anywhere
  • Have team sites (different departments)
  • Edit with co-workers in real-time
  • Share links instead of large files

Microsoft offers various options to help users create a secure and productive environment for file collaboration. Securing data is a top priority to accounting firms and other organizations that manage such sensitive data, like bank account records and social security and tax ID numbers.

2. Microsoft Teams’ Chat Features and Integrations

Accounting firms are ditching Zoom and taking full advantage of the features of Microsoft Teams. This proprietary business communication platform combines the communication features of Zoom and Slack for real-time contact with any member of the team. 

It is more than just the ultimate messaging app. Colleagues can share meeting notes, files, and applications using Teams. Its many benefits are why Teams is quickly replacing the other Microsoft-based business collaboration and messaging platforms.

There are four tiers of the Teams subscription service for businesses. There is even a free version that gives organizations a chance to check out the service before they buy. It also gives smaller firms a competitive edge to keep up with the larger accounting businesses.

With Teams, organizations can: 

  • Meet with clients and staff on Teams
  • Schedule meetings fast
  • Enjoy seamless Outlook integration
  • Create different Teams channels for each department

There are times when staff need to use a phone to call into a meeting. Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business offer the Audio Conferencing feature for this exact situation. It works for voice and video calls.

3. Shared Mailboxes in Outlook

Shared mailboxes are a type of email inbox granting permission to specific users so they can retrieve communication memos without a username and password. Users cannot log into them directly. 

Instead, users add the shared mailbox to their Outlook profiles by signing into their own inbox after an administrator grants them access. They can then retrieve emails from the shared mailbox. It’s perfect for when multiple people need access to the same inbox. 

There are three primary permission types with M365 shared mailboxes.

  • Full Access permissions allow users to log in and use the shared mailbox as if they were the inbox owner. 
  • Send As permissions allow users to impersonate the shared inbox when sending emails to others.
  • Send of Behalf permissions lets users send emails on behalf of the shared mailboxes.

4. Create Custom Workflows in Microsoft Lists

CPAs can track data, organize workflows, and customize collaborations with their teams using Microsoft Lists. They can create, share, and track lists with anybody to better schedule and manage events, contain assets, troubleshoot issues, and so much more. 

Microsoft Lists is an exceptional program for onboarding new team members and clients. Furthermore, it integrates with Teams seamlessly for improved collaborations and communications. 

Staff can use the ready-made templates to help them get started on a project quickly. With easy access to recent and favorite lists, team members can manage lists wherever they work for the day.

How about Microsoft Planner?

Another great program is Microsoft Planner. This Microsoft offering is included in the M365 suite and helps users plan and execute projects

It allows users to gather each element to create a project outline for every stage of its lifecycle. It is an intuitive task management tool and is available with the Business Essentials plan. 

Some of its features include:

  • Schedule viewing
  • Group and filter tasks
  • Task management
  • Task assignment to teams
  • Imports into Outlook
  • Email notifications

CPAs and accounting professionals benefit from using Microsoft Planner. The program delivers a collaboration tool that integrates seamlessly with their other Windows OS applications. It’s essential for task-based initiatives.

How Accounting Firms Get the Most Out of M365

M365’s cloud-based application stack gives every member of the team the tools they need to remain productive without missing a single task or commitment. Users don’t have to utilize every program feature, but the four listed above are a must! 

Microsoft offers a flexible pricing plan so that any sized firm can benefit from the many features of the M365 suite. Integration is seamless, and program adoption doesn’t require users to be tech experts.  

Although sometimes, people need a little help understanding how to get the most out of their M365 subscription. At Tech Guru, we help our clients solve the technical challenges associated with integrating new programs into their daily operations. 

Are you getting the most out of SharePoint and your other M365 features? Download our SharePoint test drive today to find out just how simple it is to get started with SharePoint.