3 tips for remote collaboration with OneDrive, Teams

By Byron Patrick, CPA/CITP, CGMA

Q. My department uses Microsoft Teams to facilitate collaboration through video meetings and chat messages, but we're still emailing files for review and revisions, even on group projects. This method causes confusion and delays. Can you offer suggestions for a better approach?

A. We all know that working on any kind of group project is easier when you're in the same room or under the same roof. Unfortunately, that hasn't been possible for almost a year.

I do have good news for you, however. Microsoft 365 provides multiple ways to work together even when we can't physically be together. Let's take a look at three tips that could help you eliminate the problems associated with emailing copies of files for revisions.

Tip 1: Start a project and share it

Microsoft 365 allows users to create files and then share them with other users. In other words, people can leave comments and make revisions on the same file. No more saving on your computer and emailing a copy to one or more other people who make changes and return the file to you, leaving you with the chore of consolidating all the changes into one document.

Fortunately, you can save a ton of time and aggravation by doing the following:

Create your document (Excel, PowerPoint, or Word) as you normally would, but after you've saved, use the Share option in the top right corner (see the screenshot below). If you're not already using OneDrive to save your documents to the cloud, you'll be prompted to do that.

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Once the file is in OneDrive, the Share tool allows you to grant others access to the file. You can set editing permissions and even block file downloads to ensure everyone is always working on the latest version in the cloud.

Your collaborators will receive a link to the file in your OneDrive and will be able to edit (if you've granted them permission) directly from their browser. Any comments, notes, or changes made in the file will be visible to you, with no extra downloading or sending back and forth required.

Tip 2: Edit together in real time

Not only can everyone now work on the same file, but they can also do it at the same time. To see this in action, after going through the process of saving to OneDrive and using the Share option, leave your document open. Once another user opens the file, you'll see their exact location in the document and the edits they're making in real time, thanks to a handy ID bubble on their cursor, as shown in the screenshot below.

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You can use the Comments option next to the Share button in the toolbar to create new comments and view or even reply to in-line comments from others in real time. Don't forget to use the @ symbol to notify a specific collaborator if their expertise is needed in a certain area of your shared document.

Co-authoring in real time can help your team accomplish goals and expand on ideas much faster than the old methods of saving revisions. I've worked with six people simultaneously in a document and created a complete white paper in about a tenth of the time it would have taken in the "old school" method of exchanging versions.

Tip 3: Use a Teams meeting to collaborate in real time

All Microsoft 365 licenses come with the Microsoft Teams app, which allows for live chat, conferencing, and video calls. This built-in tool is the ultimate way to share and collaborate in a remote-working world.

If you need to schedule some live video collaboration time, head to your Outlook calendar. From there, select New Meeting and invite attendees along with the OneDrive link to your file. (You can get the link by going to Share and then Copy Link in your file.)

Once the meeting is set, you can simply join this meeting from your Teams app. Depending on your preferences, you can either have everyone open the document on their own machine, share your own screen with the document open, or show meeting notes to have a community whiteboard. All these options are found in the Teams menu bar once your meeting begins. This allows for maximum flexibility during brainstorming or editing sessions.

This year, we need all the help we can get to keep our employees and co-workers motivated and ensure that our businesses keep turning out the best possible results as we all adjust to remote work. Real-time collaboration in Microsoft 365 helps make this possible.


About the author

Byron Patrick, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is vice president of growth and success at Botkeeper.

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