Microsoft Office 2016: A Big Upgrade for Small Business

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted September 30, 2015

Office 2016 is finally available for Windows (Windows 7 and up), and as with any major software launch, if offers plenty of new features and capabilities to pore through. This time around, Microsoft boasts that the productivity software more tightly integrates with enterprise security, mobile device management, and collaboration platforms. This ensures that teams or whole departments can securely author, edit, and share Office content across practically any device.

Essentially, Office has grown from a set of business applications to a productivity platform of sorts and an ecosystem in its own right.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that "Office has transformed from a familiar set of tools like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel to a new way to work together on the fly with new solutions like OneDrive, Sway, Sunrise, Wunderlist, Outlook, Skype, Yammer, Delve and Power BI," in a recent blog post. "By subscribing to Office 365, customers get continuously updated and enhanced apps and services for use across their devices."

Sounds impressive, but what does the latest version of Office have in store for small businesses? Plenty, it turns out.

Feeling Right at (a Slightly Remodeled) Home

Last week, Microsoft released Office 2016 for Windows—Mac users got it earlier this summer—offering updated versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook with a slightly new, more modern look and feel.

Right off the bat, users will want to get accustomed to the new bells and whistles. Fortunately, Office 2016's user interface (UI) is more of an evolution, not a revolution. The software giant wisely elected to largely carry forward the familiar Office experience.

Beyond a few repositioned pixels and a more polished UI, Office 2016 also offers several other features that help small businesses achieve higher levels of productivity. Let's explore.

Office 2016: real-time co-authoring i Word

Microsoft Office 2016 offers real-time co-authoring in Word.

Big Data Analytics for Small Businesses

In addition to new, eye-grabbing chart types, Excel now features tighter integration with Power BI, Microsoft's cloud-enabled business intelligence software.

With Power BI, small business owners can craft personalized dashboards and generate interactive reports that help them and their workers keep an eye on key performance metrics and uncover new insights. Users can upload Excel data and connect to Google Analytics, QuickBooks Online, and a growing list of cloud-based services.

Within moments, users can start analyzing their data. Companion Power BI apps for Apple iOS, Android, and of course Windows, means small business owners can chart their progress or see warning signs on the go.

Power BI is free for users with modest needs (1 GB of storage; once daily refresh) while users with more data-crunching requirements can subscribe to the Pro plan for $9.99 per user per month.

Real-Time Small Business Collaboration

Many software vendors toss around the term "collaboration" like it's confetti. They plaster the label on cloud file sync-and-share platforms, messaging apps, and a host of business software solutions.

But when it comes time to actually work together on a sales proposal or other Office document, coworkers often find themselves waiting for one another to make edits, save them, and hand off the file. Office 2016 solves this by borrowing the real-time co-authoring capabilities from the Web-based versions of the Office apps.

With an Office 365 subscription, the new versions of Word, PowerPoint and OneNote allow multiple users to work on a presentation or press release at the same time. It automatically syncs and saves changes across all users and devices, spelling the end of inbox-clogging Office email attachments.

Tighter Cloud Security

Financial systems and customer databases are tempting targets for hackers. However, Office documents on the cloud or stored on mobile devices can also contain valuable data.

Office 2016 allows small businesses to add another layer of security, like biometric authentication, in addition to a password. For organizations with tighter security requirements, Office now supports multifactor authentication for secure access to files and data-loss prevention capabilities that prevent users from sharing or copy/pasting sensitive content.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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