Why Office 365 is Great for Small Businesses

Lets Collaborate has been using Office 365 for a year now – and we’re loving it!

Having a small geographically dispersed, virtual team means we have to have an online environment where we can collaborate on and share information.  It may not look gorgeous, but it works!  For us that’s more important right now, along with lots of storage space.

Our team consists of 3 permanents, 2 part timers and an accountant who need access to our intranet.  We’re scattered between Sharonlea, Bryanston, Sandton, Hartbeesport Dam and Centurion.  We don’t need offices because all our work is done at our clients and we share everything on our intranet.  We use restaurants to meet when required and as an excuse to have a lunch and a get-together over a glass of wine or a beer. 🙂  Then watch our creative juices flow! We’ve had amazing ideas flourish like this.

You may notice our very scientific name. 🙂  You’d think considering what we do we could come up with a better one!  Not yet.  So in the meantime our credo is – if it’s not on SharePoint it doesn’t exist.


We use Office 365 for the following :

  • Home Page : Company News to share happenings.  An RSS feed to the Information Worker blogroll.  A to-do list  for any special projects to be done over and above the day to day stuff.  About Us Section to explain what to do as a new employee, what we do as a business and the long term vision, all our details like registration numbers, addresses, switchboard number etc. A list for contacts details of all staff and suppliers; a database of our clients and partners, along with statuses which feeds the invoicing, timesheet and projects areas.  How We Work – the day to day operations and just the way we do things here.  
  • Admin Page : a database of all delegates that have come on training so we can extract reports for clients on demand, manage the waitlist, manage all the invoices and track what’s been sent, to whom, for how much; what got paid and when – we extract reports from this to pick up trends.  We’re trying to keep all the expenses and statements and things in there too, but it is proving to be too overwhelming with the amount of documentation that gets emailed in so many different formats to different people. All the payslips get stored here, Office 365 news, templates for all the docs, company logos. 
  • Training Portal Page : The PDF versions of all training material to send to clients on demand.  Training packs to print for each course, registers for all courses with information of who’s training, how many people registered. Registers are scanned in and uploaded by the trainers which we can send to clients on demand.  The calendar to keep track of who’s training where and when.  Timesheets list for all staff to capture hours so we can extract reports on demand and issue invoices on the time spent.  The Internal Training subsite has all the editable training material.  Cool Tools is awesome software we’ve found to make our lives easier or fun.  Course material is any material we obtained from attending courses. SharePoint 2013 is our self study library for this version. All the editable versions of our training material is stored here. We discuss new training course ideas here too.
  • Projects Page : Any documentation we receive or share with clients is kept here.  A register of all projects underway is updated twice a month.  A wiki of our clients’ intranets listed so everyone knows what they’re called and how they work. Client logos also here to use in documents or on our website. The Pipeline lists all future work to be planned for.
  • Events Page : We manage our company birthday, the Share Conference, SharePoint Saturday Jhb from this page. We store and compare quotes and do budgets for the events, and share fun ideas.
  • Lets Empower : Is a collaboration between us on a forthcoming SharePoint book.  We capture chapters using a list instead of Word which makes it so much easier to work with.
  • Our Internet Presence : A list of all our public facing websites in case someone needs to refer a client to them.
  • MVP Page : Where I store all my annual submission documentation as well as awarded docs and logos.
  • Sandbox : Links to a separate site collection where everyone has Site Collection Admin access to go play.

Office365-for-small-businesses site map

There are weekly summary alerts set up to everyone for the Company News on the home page where anyone can add news.  I’ve got random alerts on other places just to keep an eye on the most important things, but I must be honest, now that it’s months later; I don’t need to have them.  Everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be.

We believe in total transparency in LC, so everyone gets to see everything.  For us it helps to keep everyone on the same page, and also we’re a backup for each other when one of us needs some time off.  We have documented how to do everything in case of illness and someone needs to step in.

We’re keeping it simple and something we use, and when there’s time, we evaluate it to see what can be streamlined or made sexier.  Anyone is allowed to innovate and make changes to the system long as they do it themselves, communicate and see it through to the end.

As a business owner, it’s freed up my time considerably after the initial work to get it set up (months that took I might add!).  Having an intranet in a small business can change your life forever! Bottlenecks are removed and information starts flowing and that’s vital for growth.  We all work weird and wonderful hours, so we don’t need to wait for stuff to be emailed to us the next day because it’s all online.  We never email attachments internally – heads will roll – we only send links.

We don’t need to worry about servers and backups, it’s all taken care of.  Not only that, but because email is included in Office 365, it’s all also backed up and available from any device any time.

We’ll be doing the visual upgrade to our intranet to SharePoint 2013 this month and the fun and games will begin all over again.


  1. For me what really give value to the Office 365 besides all the SharePoint features are the public facing websites, is the best way for the small companies to have a great website. The default tools are a bit limited to design the page but with Bind Tuning themes you can easily give a personalized unique look to the site very quickly and without spending thousands. Take a look at http://www.bindtuning.com


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