Why is Sway part of Office 365?

The new Sway service has been available for consumer preview for some time, and recently made its way over to Office 365 as well as showing up as a Windows 10 app.

I’d seen some buzz about it and had a quick look but never really got my head around it.

Sway exists as a visual storytelling solution. Its aim is not to displace PowerPoint, but instead to offer a more visual method of telling a story as opposed to presenting data.

So why is it a part of Office 365? I don’t honestly know.

To see if we could get our head around it I challenged my team at Paradyne to a Sway competition. Everyone would need to create and present a Sway, following on from which we would all vote for the best one. Every single person in the business was involved in this, ranging from deep technical staff through to change managers, sales, and myself. The topics had to be something work related which meant it was about cloud and more specifically Microsoft cloud solutions.

The hard reality of the experiment/challenge was that our SharePoint lead had the best looking Sway as design is a big part of his job, and subsequently he won.

Our learnings were this:

  • We would have to switch between the Sway app and the web browser interface, as the app provided more functionality but would sometimes freeze.
  • There is no place for speaker notes
  • It is more challenging to get the flow of a Sway right, than to configure animations in PowerPoint
  • As much as Sway attempts to handle the design element when you use the “Remix” button – it’s never to the level you want it to be
  • Presenting a Sway using app or desktop sharing via Skype for Business is a TERRIBLE experience

Overall each of our team spent hours creating our Sways and found the entire process frustrating. Sure this was most likely because it would have been our first time using it, but I think more so the reality is that we simply couldn’t get our head around its application.

I love PowerPoint, but in saying that I’m all about using SmartArt and keeping text on screen to a minimum. I’m one of those people who can create a presentation in minutes and speaks to the slides, instead of from them. So I get where Sway has a place, as a lot of the time in my presentations I am trying to tell a story – and that is where Sway fits perfectly.

Sway is simple and pretty, and aimed at visual storytelling either in person or people reading it their own pace – similar to a magazine or picture book.

So this leads back to my original question – why is it a part of Office 365? I would see something as Office Mix more useful as it greatly extends the functionality of PowerPoint by making it interactive and more media-rich.

As much as I believe Sway is a fantastic application and certainly has its place I simply don’t understand why it is now available to every single Office 365 user. Yes administrators can disable it from the App Launcher, but I just don’t understand why Microsoft believes this it should be available for all users and on par with services like OneDrive and Outlook.

I believe that the use of Sways within organisations will be incredibly small. In education I believe it will be used quite heavily.

And perhaps that’s the difference: Microsoft could have enabled it for all education tenants, but had it available as an add-in for commercial ones.

While usually I agree with what Microsoft does with Office 365, this one confuses me.

Do you have a different experience or opinion? Please comment – I’d love to see other sides of the coin.


Turn any room into a conference room – part 3

In my previous two posts I shared the hardware that I use for audio as well as what I use for video. So what’s left?

Letting other people see your screen, or work together on a whiteboard.

Sure you can run a long HDMI cable but it makes it a bit messy and dangerous. Devices like the Surface Pro 3 have Miracast built into them (aka WiDi) which allows you to connect your device to an external screen. At the Paradyne office we use a Netgear Push2TV device which works fairly well. This supports up to 1080p and is very easy to set up and get going, and retails for around $67 RRP.

What this allows you to do is also use your tablet and corresponding screen as a portable whiteboard. Instead of having a whiteboard and markers – simply use the Surface Pro 3 and the supplied stylus (or equivalent tablet device). Sure it’s not Surface Hub, but it’s a lot cheaper!

I use this setup on video calls using Skype for Business where we share the whiteboard in the meeting, instead of having an expensive digital device or having to point the camera at it.

Combined with the audio & video hardware devices I wrote about previously – for very little money you’ve now turned virtually any room into a conference room.


(NOTE: I am aware that Microsoft has a Wireless Display Adapter however it wasn’t available when I first wanted to use Miracast with my Surface Pro 3 so I haven’t had the opportunity to test it and am still happy with the Netgear Push2TV.)