Office 365 Pinball: Why Bouncing Between Apps Hurts Productivity

Office 365 offers a dizzying array of applications with potential value to help your business. The caveat is that they often aren’t integrated, forcing employees to bounce from app to app to perform their duties. Employees often get frustrated by this and stop using anything beyond the basics like Word and Outlook, even though their company pays for the full Office app suite.

We crafted SiteSprout™, our SharePoint-powered Office 365 digital workspace, to integrate the best Office can offer into a single, seamless solution. SiteSprout helps businesses get the most out of their Office 365 investment while also helping them work more efficiently. This provides our customers with a competitive edge by keeping their employees, and ultimately their customers, happy.

Consider the Following Scenario

Company XYZ needs to create disaster recovery documents. The PM managing the project must assign tasks to the authors who are writing the documents, communicate the requirements, and provide deadlines and milestones to complete their assigned tasks.

The “old fashioned way” to execute the project is for authors and approvers to “play catch” with the documents. They send iterations back and forth as email attachments until they are finalized. The PM creates and manages the project plan, which isn’t easily accessible to the team. This is not the best practice because no one will know who has the most current version of the document, and the PM could be out of the loop if not CC’d on the emails.

The PM wants to use Office 365 to facilitate this project. To do this, consider two potential solutions: Microsoft’s way and our way.

Microsoft’s Solution: Using Disjointed Apps

Microsoft intends for the PM and team to use a pair of Office 365 apps: Teams and Planner. Teams’ focal point is group chat for project discussions, but also provides document storage and access to an Outlook calendar to plan meetings. The PM can use Planner for assigning and prioritizing tasks, scheduling those tasks using a calendar (which is separate from the Teams calendar), and tracking their progress status. Additionally, Planner offers links to document storage that is again separate from that provided by Teams.

Teams and Planner look and behave quite differently, and confuse novice users by launching in separate browser tabs with no visible link for return navigation. Not only is their UI inconsistent, but the implementation is as well. Teams automatically syncs with any member’s Outlook calendar, but Planner’s sync must be done manually. Planner also prohibits team members performing that sync unless the PM does it first. Even if that sync is performed, Planner tasks can only be updated from within the app itself. This forces disoriented users to bounce between apps like pinballs to perform basic actions for a simple project.

Even more frustrating is that, along with Teams and Planner, the Office 365 app launcher (nicknamed the “Waffle”) contains two additional tasks apps, Tasks and To-Do. One displays the contents of the current user’s Outlook tasks, where users can review them or mark as complete, while the other allows users to add “to do” items in yet again a separate location with a different interface. Not only is having both Tasks and To-Do redundant, but also neither integrate with Teams or Planner, providing a third and fourth place to look for project information.

i-Squared’s Solution: Do Everything in SiteSprout

i-Squared intends for the PM and team to use one solution that covers all aspects of the project: SiteSprout, our seamless Office 365 Digital Workspace. More specifically, SiteSprout’s project sites, which provide the functionality of apps like Teams and Planner, without the downsides of their inability to share data with each other.

Access to SiteSprout project sites is open to project assignees. The site’s main page rollup displays milestones, deliverables and due dates across a timeline or calendar, and a breakdown of the status of all tasks. SiteSprout project sites also include libraries for document storage and lists where tasks are managed, all in one convenient location. The PM and their team, able to review and manage all their project responsibilities seamlessly from a single browser tab, will work much more efficiently.

SiteSprout also features workflows, which can automate communication and task updates based on a document’s metadata, saving the team the trouble of remembering to report that a document is ready for review. The product is also deeply integrated with Outlook, allowing it to sync with SiteSprout’s tasks lists and display files shared from the project site. As a result, SiteSprout gives users easy project task and document access.


Microsoft Office 365’s suite of powerful tools has the potential to help any company work more efficiently. Unfortunately, the lack of integration among apps within the platform ends up being a productivity bottleneck when multiple tools are used. SharePoint stands out among those tools as the optimal foundation for your digital workspace.

i-Squared’s SiteSprout framework was built on SharePoint to provide that kind of seamless efficiency and can be adapted to your company’s needs within six months of adoption. Get in touch with us and we’ll work together to build the solution your company deserves.

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