Confusion: Which communication option to use when?

With Office 365, we have many methods of communicating with others. You may get confused about which communication method to use when. This article explains when to use which method. Estimated reading time 4 min

Communication options- Mail, Lync, OneDrive, Team Site, Yammer!

Communication options

If you have Office 365 E3 or equivalent, there are many options available to communicate with each other within and outside the organization (other than meeting physically).

  1. Mail
  2. Lync Chat
  3. Lync Audio
  4. Lync Presentation
  5. Presentation using Office Presentation Service
  6. SharePoint Team Site
  7. OneDrive for Business
  8. OneDrive (personal)
  9. Yammer

This can be confusing even for experts. To add to the complexity, communication can be of two types – with a document or without a document.

Finally, the same person and the same document have different requirements of interaction at different stages of its life-cycle.


For example, consider a presentation I am making. I need some inputs from others which I will handle through simple email. No attachment required.

I want inputs from Lisa and Raj while on the presentation, while I am refining it.

Then I want it to be sent as an attachment as a submission for my project work.

I also want to present it to my colleagues – some of whom are working in different countries, but we are on the same network.

I may also want to present it to my customers who are outside my network and get their feedback.

Finally, I want to keep it as a reference for myself and my team.

I am same, the document is same but the context and the objectives keep changing.

Changing context means you have to change the tool involved.

Confusion or Benefit?

On the face of it, this sounds very confusing. Most of us don’t have the time to understand the pros and cons of each method and therefore, we may gravitate to some method which we are comfortable with.

Most of us are comfortable with email. All other tools came much later and therefore, we are reluctant to experiment with them – even if they are freely available.

But if you do that, you are simply never going to get the benefits of all the other options.

Therefore, the right approach is to understand the strengths – and more importantly weaknesses – of each approach and use discretion to choose the optimal method.

Communication involves two parties at the minimum. Therefore, it is not enough for you to be comfortable with using the chosen technology. The other party must also have the tool and the knowledge about how to use it.

Here is a simple and easy approach to choose the right method of communication.

Using the right tool for the right purpose

What do you want to do? Optimal Approach
Send a file and forget This is called “delivery”. Email with Attachment
Share a file asking for inputs, comments, changes Post on OneDrive for Business and Share with others Multiple persons can edit the same document at the same time.
Share a file asking for inputs but the response is required immediately Share the file on Lync and give control to the other party and ask them to review, edit and finalize
Share a file with your team Post on Team site which is created for your team members
Share a presentation – no modification expected Email with attachment. Change the setting to Viewed by an Individual
Share a presentation – inputs and modifications expected Save to OneDrive for Business and share with others
Share a presentation – show live Audio using separate conference call Office presentation service
Share a presentation – expect interaction, need integrated audio Lync
Share a presentation as a collateral during an online meeting Lync Attachment
Communicate without a file Email
Communicate urgently Lync Chat
Verbal communication Phone call if local. Lync Audio / Video for remote.
Visual communication Lync Video
Submit Excel reports Save to OneDrive / Team site and share with others. Specify which areas to make visible before saving to SharePoint.
You did something unique, innovative or commendable. You want others to know about it. But obviously you should not (and in most cases you CANNOT) send a mail to everyone. Post it on Yammer.
You want to ask a question but don’t know whom to ask. Post it on Yammer.
You want to interact with a group of people in the context of a specific topic, with some associated files Keep the files in SharePoint. For discussion you have two options:
Create a Shared OneNote notebook on SharePoint OR
Create a separate group on Yammer, invite the required people and use it as an ad-hoc, semi-formal discussion board.Warning: DO NOT post files directly to Yammer. That defeats the purpose of having SharePoint.

For personal usage use OneDrive instead of OneDrive for Business.

What did we learn?

Each product is designed with a specific objective in mind. It is designed to solve one or more problems.

It is our job as a user to understand the core objective and then think of your specific situation and needs. Use the product where it fits the purpose. Remember that during different phases in the life cycle of the SAME document, you will need to use DIFFERENT tools or approaches.

All this is theory. Does it actually happen?

Good question. Simple answer is NO. It may happen in pockets. Few savvy users may use it for a while. But usually everyone gravitates to the inefficiency of email misuse.

Why does that happen?

Because even if you know the benefits, other parties involved are not aware of it. Therefore, if you try to send links to people instead of CCs, they still download a copy – modify it and send it to you by mail. Now you get frustrated and everything goes back to square one.

The solution is simple but requires additional effort

If you are convinced about using the appropriate technology, you must communicate the benefits of adopting the new approach to the other parties involved in the loop.

It becomes even more difficult to do so if it involves your boss(es). In that case, do a parallel run. Don’t force your stuff on others like a fanatic. Send CC and also send link and try to demonstrate the difference. Eventually everyone will fall in the line.

Remember: nobody wants to be inefficient consciously. It is just bad habits and long term inertia which comes in the way. If the benefits are compelling enough and people have the confidence to use the new approach, they will happily adopt it.

Unfortunately, the training imparted (if any) is too inadequate to build that conviction, comfort and confidence in the minds of end users.

Never mind. You teach. It is not a waste of time – it is an investment into YOUR OWN efficiency. In a collaborative world, you cannot be efficient in isolation!

What next

Some of these options we have not yet covered. These include Excel reporting options for SharePoint and effective usage of Lync. We will cover these in the upcoming articles.