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Microsoft launches Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit

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Microsoft launches Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit.

Microsoft has demonstrated its recognition of businesses’ increased participation in the ‘gig’ economy with the launch of the Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit, described by the firm as “a curated set of tools, templates, and best practices to help our customers launch, execute and manage freelance programs at scale”.

The toolkit, which was launched late last week, is available for no extra cost to existing subscribers of Office 365 Business Premium, Office 365 Enterprise and Microsoft 365 Enterprise. The toolkit was launched with partner Upwork, a global freelancing website connecting businesses with independent professionals to help deliver work projects.

In its explanation surrounding the toolkit’s release, Microsoft points to research commissioned by Upwork which found that 47 percent of hiring managers at enterprise firms now used freelancers, and that 9 out of 10 hiring managers are “open to” engaging freelancers rather than temporary employees. With the growth of freelancing in mind, enterprises must adapt accordingly, says Microsoft, with on-demand freelancers potentially offering speed and efficiency benefits.

So what does the Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit actually offer, then? Well, the theory is that it will aid businesses in overcoming common potential issues and concerns in working with freelancers, and it does so by focusing on four key areas: internal communications, collaboration, data analytics and workflow automation. The toolkit itself uses existing applications – Sharepoint, Teams, Flow, and Power BI – to address these challenges.

The web-based collaborative platform Sharepoint is singled out as a key tool for communicating with internal employees about engaging with freelancers, providing a space to access necessary work training and to share best practice documents, for example. The freelance toolkit provides a customised ‘one-stop-shop’ site template to help set up a site on an intranet to help drive awareness of any freelance program, plus generally keep staff up to date with any news or relevant tasks.

Young lady using a laptop and perhaps the Microsoft 365 Freelance Kit.
The lack of scattered chocolate biscuit wrappers, unwashed coffee cups and tears of regret indicate this person is a model and not a real freelancer.

Working on enterprise freelance projects can mean working with various teams across multiple documents and projects, sometimes even across different time zones. The freelance toolkit points users towards using the Microsoft Teams online chat and collaboration hub to help bring any communications and real-time project management surrounding these projects in the one accessible (and free) online space. Microsoft notes that freelancers can be easily included in the conversation by adding them as external guest users, while also keeping any documents secure among the organisation’s internal employees and relevant, trusted freelance professionals.

Microsoft Flow can help businesses to automate certain administrative processes concerning working with freelancers. Case studies included within the freelance toolkit show companies how they can use the tool. Microsoft gives employee training as an example, with employees who sign up for a freelance pilot program being automatically sent relevant instructions via email.

Finally, the Power BI business analytics program should help businesses in measuring the success of any freelance engagement, allowing for the tracking of project aspects such as time and cost of projects. The freelance toolkit provides templates that should help businesses to compare the success of freelance solutions – looking at freelance KPIs – with conventional staffing.

Microsoft is confident that the introduction of the freelance toolkit can bring tangible benefits to business. According to its blog post, the toolkit essentially stemmed from its own dealings with the freelance community, with over 2,000 freelance projects completed over the past year alone. It claims that with the adoption of the tools and templates set out in the toolkit, it has seen “measurable cost and time savings”.

To read more on the Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit, follow this link.

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