What is Microsoft 365 reporting and why is it important?

The importance of Microsoft 365 reporting

Learn how to interpret Microsoft 365 usage reports and gain insight into how users within your organization are adopting and using the tools you provide for them.

Moving to the cloud can offer huge cost savings to your company, as well as improvements in employee productivity and mobility.

However, all of those benefits go out of the window if Microsoft 365 is not used correctly, which is why reporting on Microsoft 365 usage within your organization is so valuable—you are able to discover how your licenses are actually being used, by who and for what purpose.

For example, through your reporting activities, you might discover that many of the licenses you are paying for are not even being used. Finding out that certain accounts never get logged into can help you make immediate cost savings for the business.

đź“– Related reading: ShareGate users’ favorite reports for managing Microsoft 365

But Microsoft reporting is about so much more than that. If you’ve got a good plan in place for monitoring your usage, not only can that help save you money, but you can also help your colleagues use the platform to its full potential, get them to try out other features of Microsoft 365 they might not have heard of, and really access all the benefits of the cloud.

So, let’s dive in and explore what reporting features are available in Microsoft 365, how you can generate reports that will save cash (and make your CFO smile!), and see the kind of impact that reporting can have in your organization.

Microsoft 365: So much more than previous platforms

Compared to earlier on-premises Microsoft productivity platforms, the reporting options available in Microsoft 365 are a big step up.

In the past, you could run reports with a PowerShell script, but let’s be honest, it was a pretty time-consuming process that required a fair amount of programming knowledge.

However, with Microsoft 365, Microsoft has made reporting much more user-friendly, and you can access a wide range of instantly-available reports from the Microsoft 365 admin center. We love this feature!

Office 365 Reporting Home Page

Before we look at some of the reports available in Microsoft 365, it’s important to first think about what you actually want to achieve.

  1. Know and understand your reporting goals

    Here are some of the possible reasons that reporting on your Microsoft 365 environment could be important:

    1. Ensure money is being well spent: Are there any unused accounts that you’re paying for?
    2. User adoption: Are your users taking advantage of everything that’s available to them?
    3. Security: Are people behaving in risky ways? Is content being shared where it shouldn’t be or with people that shouldn’t have access?
  1. Set up an action plan based on the results of your reporting

    There are a lot of different options available for reporting in Microsoft 365. It’s important to have a clear idea of what kinds of reports you will be doing ahead of time so that you can set up a follow-up strategy based on the actionable insights that can be gained from them.

    What happens if an account is unused? Who should be informed if there’s risky behavior happening in your environment? What kind of training can be set up if people aren’t using Microsoft 365 to its full potential?

    Reporting will be useless if nothing is done with the results!

  2. Set up regular times to run your chosen reports

    What’s more, you’ll also want to decide how regularly you’ll complete these reports. Is it something you’ll do daily, weekly, or quarterly? Set up a time and add reminders in your calendar so you know it always gets done.

    If you find this process too time-consuming, some third-party applications like ShareGate can help make you more productive by allowing you to schedule certain reports and actions.

Now that you have an idea of the basics of reporting in Microsoft 365, let’s look at the reporting features that are available on the platform.

What reports are available?

There are a wide variety of reports available in Microsoft 365. For almost every application that is included in your Microsoft 365 license, you can view and download reports about your activity. These include:

  • Active Users
  • Email apps usage
  • Microsoft 365 groups
  • OneDrive for Business user activity
  • OneDrive for Business usage
  • SharePoint site usage
  • SharePoint activity
  • Skype for Business Online activity
  • Skype for Business Online conference organized activity
  • Skype for Business Online conference participant activity
  • Skype for Business Online peer-to-peer activity
  • Skype for Business clients used
  • Yammer activity
  • Yammer device usage

That’s a lot of different reports! Obviously, you’re not going to want to produce regular reports on all these services. Again, that’s why it’s important to know what your goals are and what you plan to do with the results before starting.

If, for instance, your organization has simply chosen not to use Yammer, you won’t need to spend time downloading Yammer usage reports. On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase organizational communication, you’ll want to investigate the usage of all your tools for communication—including Email and Yammer.

Let’s look at how you might use the reporting features in the email reports and Microsoft 365 activations to get a better idea of how reporting would work.

Example: Reporting on email activity in the Microsoft 365 admin center

An email activity report can be utilized for a number of different reasons. It will give you insights into high-level email traffic trends—how many emails have been sent and received and so on. It also lets you drill down to specific users and monitor their activity.

You might want to report on Email activity to: understand who is using their accounts. Are some staff underusing their email account? Do they never seem to log on? Is this because they are simply not actually sending emails (and if so, why?) Or is it because they are using a personal email account for work?

To view your organization’s email activity reports:

  • You must be a global administrator in Microsoft 365 (or an Exchange or SharePoint admin)
  • Enter the admin center and click on reports
  • Under the Exchange menu, click on Email activity
  • From there you get an immediate report for the whole organization
Office 365 Reporting Email Activity

The report allows you to view email activity over different periods of time, and you can toggle between the number of emails sent, received, and read. You can also filter down to specific users, or monitor the organization as a whole.

Office 365 email activity

Example: Reporting on Microsoft Office activations

A Microsoft 365 activations report can give you an insight into which products in your Microsoft 365 environment are actually being used. It will tell you which users have logged into which Microsoft 365 tools, how often, and for how long.

You might want to report on Microsoft 365 activity to view which users have actually activated their accounts. This will tell you how well adopted your platform is, tell you about any rises or drops in usage over time and help you build a case for the return on investment (ROI) of using Microsoft 365.

What’s more, the report can also potentially tell you which users are struggling the most with the platform.

To view your Microsoft 365 report:

  • You must be a global administrator in Microsoft 365 (or an Exchange or SharePoint admin)
  • Enter the admin center and click on reports
  • Under the Microsoft 365 menu, click on Activations
  • From there you get an immediate report for the whole organization

This report will tell you how many activations there have been across the whole organization, and you can also drill down to specific users. It can also be used to show what devices that Microsoft has been activated from, so you can get a better idea of how your mobile device projects are going.

How could you use Microsoft 365 reporting in the real world?

Microsoft 365 reporting is especially useful if you want to track changes over time. If you’re attempting to make a change in your business, Microsoft 365 reports can help you measure how successful that change has been. Let’s look at Microsoft 365 activations as an example:

  • Like many businesses, you may have first migrated to Microsoft 365 simply because storing email in Exchange Online is cheaper than the server version of the product.
  • However, you soon realize that there’s much more to Microsoft 365 than just email.
  • Your CEO and other stakeholders decide to push through an initiative to boost usage of the mobile features of Microsoft 365, with the goal of encouraging more employees to work remotely.
  • Your Microsoft 365 usage reports will give you a clear set of metrics to understand how people have been accessing the platform and from what kind of device.
  • Because Microsoft 365 reports give you the granularity to drill down to the individual user level, you can also work out which employees are struggling to adopt the technology.
  • From here, you could reach out to individual users and ask them what problems they’re having. Are they struggling to log onto Microsoft 365 from their smartphones? Do they even know it’s a possibility?

As this example shows, Microsoft 365 reports can be used to help your organization get more usage out of Microsoft 365 and boost ROI.

Getting even more reporting details for security and usage

With Microsoft 365 reporting, Microsoft has really upped the possibilities compared to what was possible before. In the past, there was little more than just PowerShell for reporting. However, while the new reporting features are good, they still only provide a very high-level overview.

Fortunately, however, Microsoft has opened up an API that lets third-party developers create monitoring tools that give users even greater granularity about how Microsoft 365 is being used.

At ShareGate, we’re really excited about the potential that these reports hold for helping organizations get even more out of their Microsoft 365 investments. Our Microsoft 365 Monitoring and reporting capabilities give you insights far beyond what you can get with out-of-the-box Microsoft reports. For example, you can keep a close eye on external sharing and usage, so you can always stay in control of your cloud environment.

By reporting on Microsoft 365 usage, you will get greater visibility into what’s happening in your environment, have a clearer view of any security issues and understand what problems users are encountering with your platform.

Visibility is everything, and ultimately Microsoft 365 reporting is in place to help you to get greater user adoption for your environments and therefore a higher return on investment. This will allow you to make a big impact on your business, both short-term and in your long-term Microsoft 365 strategies.

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