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Advanced Microsoft 365 Features to Enhance Your Business Workflow

VBS IT Services

Microsoft 365

As a local IT provider in Toronto, we’ve watched Microsoft 365 transform mundane tasks into streamlined processes for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) all over the city. From centralized communications to secure file sharing across locations, we’ve already explored how SMBs in Mississauga could use Microsoft 365’s smart tools to boost productivity. Today, we’re bringing you the advanced options.

This blog explores several advanced Microsoft 365 features – from Power Automate to Power BI – and provides expert insights on tailoring these tools to your operational needs. Get ready to discover how you can enhance your workflow, reduce errors, and open the doors to innovation.

Power Automate

Power Automate is a service designed to help you create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services. It allows your team to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data, and more, without the need for coding knowledge.

Time is money for businesses in the GTA, and these days, every minute counts. Automating recurring tasks like data entry, inventory management, and invoicing frees up employees to focus on more critical jobs. With tedious tasks taken care of, your team will be not only happier but also more engaged, sparking innovation while securely closing the door on human error.

Did you know: On average, office workers spend 10% of their time doing manual data entry. That adds up to almost half a workday every week!

How to Optimize Microsoft Power Automate:

  1. Integrate with Other Services: Use Power Automate to connect Microsoft 365 apps with your external services like Salesforce or Zendesk, enhancing data flow and reducing manual entry.
  2. Utilize Templates: Start with pre-built templates to quickly automate common business processes, like payment approvals, then customize them as needed.
  3. Monitor and Analyze: Regularly review the performance of your flows. Use Power Automate’s built-in analytics tools to help identify bottlenecks and optimize processes.


Planner is a user-friendly task management tool within Microsoft 365 that enables teams to create, assign, and organize work visually within boards. It’s perfect for streamlining project management and collaboration in SMBs.

Implementing Planner, with the help of IT support in Toronto, enables your team to stay on track with their projects. It fosters transparency, as every member can see task statuses, deadlines, and descriptions, and since it offers Kanban, calendar, and chart layouts, each employee can choose the overview that works best for them. If you’ve already got Microsoft 365, Planner offers a great way to get on top of project management without having to spend on a third-party app.

How to Leverage Microsoft Planner Effectively:

  1. Regular Updates: Encourage team members to update task statuses regularly to keep everyone in the loop and projects on track.
  2. Integrate with Teams: Use Planner within Microsoft Teams to enhance visibility and communication around tasks.
  3. Categorize Tasks: Use labels and buckets to categorize tasks by priority, project phase, or team, making it easier to manage workloads.


For SMBs offering services in Toronto, Bookings simplifies the scheduling process, reduces double-bookings, and manages staff calendars seamlessly.

Microsoft Bookings is an online and mobile app for small businesses that need to schedule appointments with their customers or meetings with clients. It includes a customizable booking page for customers to view availability and book appointments, without the need for back-and-forth emails or messages.

Fun Fact: 3 in 4 consumers say they’d be more likely to visit a business in person if they had an appointment.

How SMBs Can Optimize Microsoft Bookings:

  1. Customize Your Booking Page: Ensure your booking page reflects your brand and provides all necessary information to reduce no-shows and cancellations.
  2. Set Up Reminders: Use automated email and SMS reminders to reduce missed appointments.
  3. Analyze Booking Patterns: Use the analytics within Bookings to identify popular times and services, helping to optimize staff allocation.


Any successful business shows commitment to improving, and in order to do this, you need to tailor your offerings to your customers’ needs. Microsoft Forms allows you to create surveys, quizzes, and polls to collect feedback and data on your products and services quickly and easily.

Using Forms, SMBs can simplify the often-fragmented process of gathering insights from both customers and employees. This tool is invaluable for market research, feedback collection, and internal assessments that highlight any inefficiencies in your workflows. Once you know what’s working and what isn’t, you can set about improving those processes (with the help of a Toronto-based IT company, if the issues are tech-related).

How To Make the Most of Microsoft Forms:

  1. Integrate Responses with Other Tools: Automatically import responses into Excel or Power BI for advanced analysis (more on those tools in a bit).
  2. Use Branching Logic: Make your forms smarter by using branching logic that adjusts questions based on previous answers. This helps keep the experience relevant to the recipient, improving their odds of completing the whole form.
  3. Keep It Simple: Design forms that are easy to complete, enhancing response rates and data quality.

Excel Power Query

Power Query is a powerful data connection technology that enables you to discover, connect, combine, and refine data sources to meet your analysis needs. Built into Microsoft Excel, this tool can automate the process of data preparation, saving hours of manual work. It also ensures data accuracy and accessibility.

For example, an SMB could use Excel Power Query to streamline data management by automating the collection and cleaning of sales figures from multiple sources. This prepared data can then be seamlessly imported into Power BI, where dynamic dashboards and detailed visualizations offer deep insights into business performance trends and customer behavior.

Did you know: 18% of companies used over 20 data sources for decision-making in 2019 – that number’s likely even higher now.

How To Optimize Microsoft Excel Power Query:

  1. Automate Data Import: Set up automatic data imports from various sources, ensuring your reports can use fresh information without the need for manual intervention.
  2. Use Data Transformations: Utilize Power Query’s data transformation capabilities to clean and structure data efficiently.
  3. Learn M Language: Advanced users should consider learning the M language to write more sophisticated queries and further automate data tasks. Consider talking to a local IT provider in Toronto about the specific data tasks your business could automate.

Power BI

Power BI is a suite of analytics tools that provide insights into your business data, enabling rich visualizations and informed decision making. After consolidating and cleaning up your data in Power Query, your team could then use Power BI to transform that raw data into actionable insights, presenting complex information in an understandable format that speeds up your ability to make strategic decisions.

Bonus Fact: 50% of business decisions are data-driven, but the average organization only uses half the data available to them when making decisions.

How To Harness Microsoft Power BI:

  1. Dashboards: Create interactive dashboards to monitor all your key metrics at a glance.
  2. Regular Refreshes: Set up scheduled refreshes to keep data up-to-date automatically.
  3. Training: Invest in training to empower your team to create their own reports and dashboards, enhancing their self-service analytics capabilities.

Final Thoughts: Transform Your Workflows with Advanced Tools

For SMBs in the GTA, maximizing the potential of advanced Microsoft 365 tools like Power Automate, Planner, Bookings, Forms, Excel Power Query, and Power BI can significantly enhance business workflows. Partnering with an experienced IT support provider in Toronto can ensure you’re getting the absolute most out of these tools. Implement their insights and these tips to not only streamline your operations but also retain a competitive edge in your market.

VBS IT Services: Delivering Exceptional Outsourced IT Management and Technology Solutions to Businesses Across The GTA

At VBS, we strive to be more than an IT provider. We combine exceptional personal service with strategic solutions designed to move the needle for your business, while working hard to build a partnership that keeps on giving. We provide businesses in and around Toronto with proactive, personalized, and secure technology that helps them flourish in our vibrant city.

We’re proudly helping businesses across manufacturing, construction, retail, professional services, and more reach their potential. Curious to see what effective IT could do for your SMB? Reach out today for a free IT discovery session.