Microsoft Office has long been a fixture in the landscape of tools that teams and individuals use to carry out their professional duties across the world. So entrenched is the MS Office suite in our computing devices that we have ceased to think of it as a collection of tools specifically designed to support business purposes. After all, many of us use a Word file to draw up a list for grocery shopping while maintaining an Excel Sheet to keep a tab of the latest movies and tv shows we want to watch. We have long since come to see the tools in MS Office as handy for just about anything- whether business-related or not.
This versatility speaks for the efficiency of the tools. But at the same time, it’s also true that while it’s easy for an individual to use the tools for their purposes, the options for collaboration are limited. Microsoft aims to remedy this situation. Or so it seems, going by the fact that they have announced the brand new app, Microsoft Loop.
In fact, Loop is a newly branded version of Fluid from Microsoft. Those familiar with Fluid would know that it consists of different blocks of collaborative Office content which could be copied and shared with others in your team.
The different elements of Loop
Like Fluid, Microsoft Loop also contains three main parts. These are the Loop Components, Loop pages and Loop workspaces. All of these elements are life, meaning that different individuals could edit them concurrently, provided they have been granted permission for the same.
Loop components are pieces of content which could exist across different apps. Not just that, these content pieces could be worked upon by different individuals. If anyone makes a change in any of them, those changes will get updated in real-time in all the apps which it's present.
A key rationale behind introducing Microsoft Loop seems to be the increasing adoption of hybrid work in the wake of the pandemic. This has seen multiple people working from different locations, and using different apps. In this context, it is feasible that members of the same team would access the same piece of content but on different apps. In such situations, Loop components could be a quite valuable asset for collaboration.
The shared component could be anything from a list that has been uploaded on a Teams channel to a calendar entry. As mentioned before, you could manipulate these on different platforms. For instance, you could paste a document on Outlook and edit the same on your email, in real-time.
At the same time, the Loop components could exist within the Microsoft Loop hub as well. More specifically, inside what’s known as Loop workspaces.
You could envision it as akin to a project board. You would find a list of all the Loop components and Loop pages in a single space, along with information on who is working on them. Here also, the components get updated in real-time.
The second part of Microsoft Loop is Loop Pages. These are distinct canvases where individuals could share their Loop components with others so that they could collaborate on them.
The closest analogy might be a whiteboard. But you would be mistaken to think its functionalities are limited like that of a whiteboard. Among other things, you could share the Loop Pages components which have been created outside Microsoft Loop. Even if someone is not a part of the Loop page, they still could edit the components on different apps that they have access to, bringing down the hassles in collaborating.
Microsoft has been talking about components on which team members could collaborate for quite some time now. It’s more than logical to assume that the company has been not just signalling about the possibility of launching such features. They have most probably been also working on the ideas they discussed. However, it looks clear that some tweaking has been made in Loop so that it fits a work culture that has been altered in the aftermath of a pandemic.
For instance, the demonstrations that the company gave the central Microsoft Loop hub purport an efficient mechanism to remotely track the components. When Managers and their team members often find themselves working apart from each other geographically, this is not just a useful feature but a necessary one.
Project management services are many in the marketplace- surely a phenomenon of which Microsoft is well aware. Given how the market for such services is only widening, it’s understandable why Microsoft may wish to corner its own slice of the pie.
The notion, especially, is one project management tool that has been challenging the Microsoft Office ecosystem. By introducing Loop- many of whose aspects sound like boosted-up versions of tools available in other project management tools- Microsoft seems to be trying to confront such competitors head-on.
But the efficacy of the tool is not possible without the third element of Microsoft Loop- which is Loop workspaces.
As the name indicates, they can be used to keep things organized. You could segregate pages into various sections according to the parameters of your choice.
The primary objective, of course, is to make finding something easier- especially useful in the case of big projects involving a large number of tasks and processes. Like in the case of Loop pages, multiple users could collaborate in a Loop workspace too.
It’s hard to measure the efficacy of Microsoft Loops despite the fact that the demonstrations company has given so far have been commendable.
But seeing is not the same as using. This is especially true with a collaborative project management tool.
Multiple things should work flawlessly for the system to be considered robust. Not only should the features function well for individual use, they should also support real-time collaboration. If, for instance, someone makes a change in a document on an app and that is not reflected inside Loop in real-time, it defeats the purpose of a collaborative ecosystem.
Microsoft Loop components would soon be available on Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Outlook. Once that happens, we could know for sure how well or poorly the features are going to function in the real world.
Going by Microsoft’s track record, there is every reason to have faith in the efficacy of the proposed project management software, if it is indeed a project management software in the traditional sense of the phrase.
There are many questions to which we still seek answers. Would the software support agile project management? Will, there be seamless integration among the different apps or would that be a problem area for the tool, as is the typical in such instances? Would the load- the number of people who collaborate simultaneously- affect the efficacy of the tool?
Such questions would only get answered when we have a chance to get our hands on the tool and use it. Until then, it looks like Microsoft has announced an exciting and useful tool.
Their competitors, beware while potential users could have reasons to cheer.
Will any important feature be missing from Loop?
The announcement about Loop that Microsoft made has been received with palpable excitement online. While individual users have expressed their anticipation on social media, technology journalists have been busy detailing the various features Microsoft has promised in the tool. Indeed, the features are the cause for the greatest excitement.
After all, who wouldn’t like the flexibility of editing a document in one app and having the edits reflected in the primary tool others in your team uses?
For one thing, it frees you from having to upload a file into the primary tool(in this case, Loop) every time you make an edit. Needless to say, you could save valuable time this way.
Useful as such features are, there is ambiguity as to whether a certain crucial feature is included in the project management tool or not- the ability to accurately measure the time someone spends working/collaborating on tasks.
This feature may sound arbitrary, but only until you consider the fact that without having that measure of time, you wouldn’t be able to accurately predict the project delivery time. If you cannot make that prediction, your chances of a predictable revenue fall consequently.
Whether Microsoft Loop would have that feature or not in the future remains to be seen. (There doesn’t seem to be any indication that the feature is included in the impending version, though you are advised to check on the same).
In the meantime, you could check out I’m Productive- a project management software which, among other things measures the time spent on a task accurately, without counting irrelevant metrics like break time. The project management software even incorporates an AI with which you could predict with precision the project delivery time, with just the click of a button.
Head to their website and learn how this project management software could help you manage your project.
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