Is Office 2016 the answer for solving OneDrive for Business conflicts in your document management?

December 19, 2016

Let’s get straight to it: document management is the blood in the veins of your company. If that’s a bit graphic, let’s go with the electrical current flowing through the wires of your business. Or perhaps: the atoms of what you are building in your professional life. Seriously, can you imagine a company that doesn’t deal with files and folders on a daily basis? Of course not. Every organisation is made up of information – of which files and documents are the backbone. And it’s how you organise that information which separates the leading companies from the merely very good ones.

Microsoft knows this better than most, and that’s why their Office suite has been one of the market leaders for business productivity for decades. Microsoft realises that the present (and future) of business lies in collaboration, communication and the flexibility of mobile working. Their push towards a cloud-first, mobile-first mentality can be seen in the recent release of SharePoint 2016, which is the first time the document management platform has been enhanced with the cloud in mind. Alongside the emergence of SharePoint Online comes Office 365 and its many tools and solutions, including OneDrive for Business. Office 365 is clearly Microsoft’s leading product for this aforementioned collaboration, communication and mobile working focus.

Fear of conflict

Unfortunately, despite the impressive efforts the tech giant has put into document management, document conflicts sometimes arise when using OneDrive for Business. And in such cases, what happens when your well-oiled business processes get stuck because of document conflicts? The whole machine breaks down.

  • No ‘one version of the truth’
  • Other people’s work can get overwritten or lost
  • Confusion reigns
  • Frustration rules
  • Precious time is lost
  • It’s a productivity killer

Why pick out OneDrive for Business? Well, that’s because OneDrive for Business doesn’t support offline versioning, unlike SharePoint, for instance. And honestly, that’s a big problem for a sync and share solution, or any tool within the toolbox of document management. Also, there is the fact that there are three different iterations of OneDrive:

  • OneDrive – the 5GB, consumer iteration
  • OneDrive for Business – the business version
  • OneDrive for Business NextGen – the consumer with an Office 365 login

Beyond the confusion of three slightly different versions with slightly different names, all three are stuck with similar problems when it comes to getting their jobs done.

  1. OneDrive for Business NextGen only works with your personal space in the cloud.
  1. OneDrive for Business can work with Team Sites which means that you’ll likely be using it in collaboration with others in your Team Site, creating the possibility of conflicts.
  1. OneDrive for Business NextGen only works with your personal space in the cloud, yet you can still share documents and so conflicts are still possible.

How to overcome these document management challenges?

So, what are your options? Quit the collaboration game entirely? Stop working with documents? Neither of these are much of an option if you want your business to remain functioning at any kind of high level.

But then what about Office 2016 applications? That’s the famous Office application set you’re already familiar with (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.), now with better features – such as a shared, multi-user environment. In fact, as soon as you start to edit a document it will tell you if there are other users also editing at precisely the same time. That means you can see what the other person is doing in real time and this helps avoid a conflict. Hurrah!

Not so fast

Hold on! There remains an issue about who has final word on the document and its edits. Plus, if you edit the document offline and the previous document gets changed while you are offline, you will run into a ‘hard’ conflict. When you reconnect, OneDrive for Business will synchronise, but nothing in the OneDrive interface will alert you to the conflict; on opening the document, you’ll see it hasn’t been uploaded yet, as it’s still pending your resolution on the changes made to the document. But you wouldn’t realise this unless you opened the document. So, we’re back to square one.

If the question is: Is Office 2016 the answer for solving OneDrive for Business conflicts in your document management? The answer, it would seem, is still no.

“Life happens sometimes, though, and conflicts might arise when an Office program stops running unexpectedly or when two people edit a file at the same time and something goes wrong.”

The above quote is an official line from Microsoft, themselves. This is kind of a bad sign and one that suggests there isn’t an answer to the question at all!

Well, as Einstein put it: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Cue Easier 365

This is where Easier 365 comes in. First, when any file is conflicted, the word ‘Conflict’ appears next to it in the interface (an interface that you simply don’t have with OneDrive for Business). With that you can also click the Conflicts tab and view a list of all your conflicted documents. The next step then is managing them properly:

Restore button

A colleague has updated a file in SharePoint and overwritten your local changes. As we suggested above, your work would be lost. But Easier 365 automatically copies your changed local file into a local ‘version’. That way you can hit the ‘restore’ button if you don’t want the newly downloaded file in the local folder. And it also ‘versions’ the modified file in SharePoint too, so you’re backed-up from every angle.

Remove and Remove All buttons

Say you made a minor alteration to a document and then decided that it was no longer needed and you prefer the downloaded version to remain. Hitting Remove will forget the conflict.

Merge

This control merges the conflicting files and thus removes the conflict. You can retain the merged file in the local folder and upload the file to SharePoint.

Compare

What happens if you can’t tell what changes were made to a document? Hit the compare button and get a display of two sets of changes using Word’s track changes. You can review the documents and accept or reject the changes by either party. The version saved will become the local version and will also be uploaded to SharePoint.

In the end, Office 2016 on its own is not the answer to the shortcomings of OneDrive for Business. However, Easier 365 is fully compatible and built to work with Office 365 and SharePoint – providing you with the answer you’ve been looking for. If you’d like to see how we can help you make the most from your Microsoft investment, get in touch today.


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