If you are looking for an easy win working with your team, planning your work, collecting data and showcasing the results of everyone's efforts then here's a quick guide to making best use of the Office 365 apps - Sway, Teams, and Forms.


1. Office 365 Sway

Sway is an online app to create and share interactive, nicely designed reports, personal stories, presentations and blog posts. 

Sway is free to use for anyone with a Microsoft Account (Hotmail, Live, or Outlook.com). You can create more sophisticated Sways with more content when you use Sway as part of an Office 365 subscription - which is free (a fully donated plan) for registered charities.

You can either type text into the Sway page or copy and paste into it. You can upload your own photos to Sway too or select from the image library. If you use an online photo album like Flickr you could use the embed option to display your photos at the size you want them.  

In fact, if you are going down the embed route you can embed anything including multi-media from anywhere. As long as you are not going to infringe anyone else’s copyright! To embed directly into the Sway you are working on, you need to find the embed link from your video, map or photo on another site. Then you copy the code and paste it into your Sway.

Sway gives you the option to share a private link to members of staff or specific email addresses you add to the invite, for editing purposes. This is a great way of collaborating and co-designing your showcase piece. You can also download your finished Sway as a PDF and share as well via email (it adds in a thumbnail image which is a nice touch) or embed on your website.  Here are a couple of examples of how different charities have used the Sway app.

Things to watch out for:

It takes a bit of patience to start grouping items e.g. photos so they display exactly how you want them to. You can also embed your entire sway in your web page - but you may need to override the default size so that visitors don't need to scroll too much.  Alternatively, you can point out the 'View in full screen' icon.


2. Office 365 Teams

Teams is an invaluable way to share files, conversations, resources and plans with individuals who are working with you on a specific project or internal organisational functions. 

It is your very own dedicated collaboration and communications space which you can use for chat, online meetings (video or audio), and also share whiteboards or presentations. Teams enables you to do this in real time, including with external partners if you have switched this feature on in your Office 365 Admin portal.

(Note when you are working with external users, you send them an invitation to join as a Guest.  This allows them to see just what is in the Team site and they will not have access to any other files on Sharepoint. Phew!)

You set up a team as the Owner and then invite other people into the space - giving them permission to add files, other Team members etc as appropriate.  You can upload all relevant files for a project including photos, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, PDFs and more. Take time out to think how you are going to organise your information before you start adding stuff.  You can also Chat with team members - @ mentioning them so that they get an alert if you want them for example to comment on a specific file. This is a great way to have conversations 'off email' with everyone in the team able to access discussions in one place and make contributions themselves.

Since we can't invite you all in to our Superhighways Team site to have a look around, here are some possible scenarios that might prompt you to try out Teams.

  • You are organising an event and need to share documents and info with partners or exhibitors
  • Creating an organisational working group to review the staff handbook policies
  • Managing your trustee board meetings and minutes - great when you don't need trustees to have access to Sharepoint
  • Collaborating on a project with external partners - keeping all related docs and conversations in one place

You can also add extra 'Tabs' to your Team space, including other Office 365 aps such as the fantastic Planner tool or specific website links e.g. a SurveyMonkey results dashboard or Eventbrite bookings page.


Things to watch out for:  

Just because Teams offers a space to collaborate in - it doesn't mean members will just collaborate automatically!  Think about how you may need to support people to make the most out of the various features.  Especially if this is a new way of working - you may need to give some direction and guidance. 

If you are setting up Teams for a time limited project - think about what you will need to do with contents afterwards.  You might not need to keep it, but if so, it is possible to archive across to Sharepoint.


3. Office 365 Forms

Forms offer you a simple way to collect information from service users, colleagues, partners and other stakeholders.

The app is really quick to use. Although it doesn't have all the question types available which Survey Monkey and others offer, it's a great alternative and also doesn't have limitations to numbers of questions or responses.

Question types available include:

  • multiple choice options
  • free text (short or long)
  • a great feature called rate it,
  • options to select preferred dates from an online calendar
  • or rank items according to importance

You can also select whether an answer is required or optional and easily set up in-survey branching e.g. if the answer to a certain question is Yes, then jump to question 5 or if No, then jump to question 10.  

It also offers some wacky template designs to spice up the publishing side of data collection - really worth looking at the space and undersea templates!  Best of all you can create your own wonderful and totally bespoke background templates too.  Or just select a block background colour that matches your branding and upload your logo in the Title field.

Once you're happy with your survey there are a number of share options including an online link, embed code or QR code.  And in terms of results...

  1. You can opt to have an email alert as and when people submit responses
  2. It's easy to see response results via the Responses tab - both a summary and individual responses
  3. It creates a set of online charts, building a live picture of the results as they come 
  4. You can download responses as an Excel speadsheet or individual PDF files

You can also create a quiz employing the same data collection options but with predefined scores for specific answer options. Useful perhaps as a teaching resource. Try it out here...


Things to watch out for: 

When sending out a link for people outside of your organisation to complete your form - make sure you have switched it to the 'Anyone can respond with this link' option.  Otherwise you will get a number of emails asking to send out a sharable link because no one could access the form - obviously not what you'd want!


Need some help?

Superhighways provides regular training on Office 365 apps. We can also provide bespoke training for your staff - get in touch with us if you would like to explore the full benefits of your charity's Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft also have great set of support resources including short intro videos which you can find in their Office 365 Training Centre.  We'd recommend you take a look as it's a great way to see how these apps work in practice.


This blog has been produced as part of our Digital Leadership 101 series of training and advice for CEOs and trustees of small charities, funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and run in partnership with The FSI, NAVCA and London Plus.