Written by Rob Quickenden, Cisilion’s Chief Strategy Officer
Day One of Microsoft Ignite (Tuesday 22 September 2020), was full of many new announcements across Microsoft 365, Azure, and Power Platform. The day was certainly dominated by a new stack of updates coming now or very soon to Microsoft Teams, including wellbeing tools for employees, calling enhancements, new webinar features, breakout rooms and a whole lot more!
Here’s my review of the new key features, starting with a quick video I recorded from the main Teams session:
1. Virtual Commute
With the virtual commute feature, Teams users will be able to schedule a virtual commute to structure their day providing them with a productive start in the morning and the ability to mindfully disconnect in the evening.
As part of virtual commute, Microsoft has partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into Teams based on the user’s day, and how busy their day appears across Teams and Office 365. The idea is to assist users with finding time to relax and recover, in turn resulting in better focus.
“There’s a lot of activity happening in Teams, we can see that. We also hear people telling us that there are adverse effects and that leads us to product strategy and what you’re seeing at Ignite,” said Microsoft executive Jared Spataro.
“The sudden transition to working from home during the pandemic has completely upended the lives of workers around the world.”
While many employees previously used their morning commute as a chance to relax or reflect on the day ahead, the switch to remote working has taken this personal time from them. To make matters worse, many organisations now expect their workers to begin their jobs right at the start of the day since they no longer need to travel to and from the office.
According to a study from Microsoft Research, commutes can serve as meaningful transitions at the beginning and end of the workday and in fact, the reflection done during this time can increase productivity by 12 to 15%.
2. New Wellbeing tools
Starting from October, there will be a new set of wellbeing features and productivity insights available for Microsoft Teams, as well as new enhancements coming out over the next few months
This will be powered by a combination of MyAnalytics and a new Workplace Analytics experience designed for Teams. According to Microsoft, this aims to provide individuals, managers, and business leaders with powerful insights. These insights will be personalised about their roles and teams, ensuring that employees and employers can focus more effort and energy into their people – the heart of their business – helping everyone to focus and work to the best of their ability.
Teams users will see see recommended actions that will be delivered to their Outlook inbox, helping them to make changing changes to their work habits and improve their productivity and wellbeing more easily. Examples include suggested tasks for the day, reminders to have breaks and taking time away from the screen.
In addition, a new stay connected experience will also enable individuals to strengthen the relationships with their colleagues by making it easier to praise top collaborators for key achievements and scheduling one-on-ones meetings to catch up.
Finally, there will be new insights tab in Teams that allows leaders to ask questions like, “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?”
3. Webinar Registration and reporting
For more structured meetings and events such as customer meetings, webinars and event organisers will soon be able to use tools to add event registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance. After the meeting, you’ll be able view a detailed reporting dashboard to display attendee engagement. These new features are expected to roll out by end of 2020 – and I suspect the Advanced Communications license will be needed to use these features (just a hunch).
4. Teams Templates
Teams templates, which are now in the rollout phase, are designed to help teams get started faster and be more effective. Teams owners can now choose from common business scenarios, such as event management or crisis response, and industry-specific templates, like a hospital ward or bank branch. Each template comes with pre-defined channels, apps, and guidance, all of which admins can create and personalise to your organisation.
5. New backgrounds for Together mode
Promised between now and the end of 2020, the Together Mode feature will see some improvements. For instance, the new Together Mode scenes which will include conference rooms and a coffee shop and later, the ability to add your own such meetings rooms from your own office. Microsoft hopes that these features can help people feel more connected and engaged from anywhere and reduce fatigue caused by the regular grid-view meetings.
With these improvements, like custom backgrounds in video chats, presenters will soon be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default scene for all Together Mode meeting attendees. Microsoft added that they will also be enhancing the feature further to automatically scale and centre participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera.
Additionally, custom layouts in Teams meeting (not just Together Mode) will allow presenters to customise how meeting content is displayed for participants during the meeting.
Similar to a weather forecast or the news, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the content being presented on screen making for a more professional presentation.
6. Breakout Rooms
Already in preview for education, Teams meetings is getting a much–anticipated breakout room feature.
This highly requested feature will allow meeting organisers to split participants into smaller groups (manually or automatically) so they can have their own discussions. It’s ideal for brainstorming and workgroup discussions or for running an event with multiple streams or optional sessions for example.
Presenters will then be able to hop between different breakout rooms, as well as make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting room. Participants will still be able to access the notes, chat, files and whiteboards from the breakout session after the breakout rooms close.
7. Collaborative Calling
A new set of calling improvements for Teams will be starting rollout from the end of the month.
One of the improved feature is Collaborative Calling, which enables users to better collaborate and share information from within the channel while taking calls from employees or their customers in the queue.
Additionally, there will be a host of improvements to transcription, live captions, recording, and the ability to transfer between Teams mobile and desktop apps seamlessly when doing one-on-one calls.
Microsoft’s new live captions with speaker attribution is now generally available (though I don’t see it yet). This provides a live and recap service for the meeting which includes the recording, an online transcript, chat, shared files, and more.
8. New Microsoft Teams panels
As users start to return to the office, either part time, occasionally or permanently, meeting rooms will provide a welcome change to their work from home setups and will likely be at a premium.
To make it easier for workers to know when a meeting room is occupied, Microsoft has unveiled a new category of devices called Microsoft Teams panels that can be mounted outside of a meeting space.
These devices are essentially small tablets that can also use information from other connected certified Teams devices such as cameras to show room capacity information and help workers follow their organisation’s social distancing guidelines.
Okay… There’s more!
In addition to these main announcements yesterday, Microsoft also announced several new smaller enhancements to Teams which include:
9. New Search Experience
10. Ability to create tasks directly from a team’s chat or channel
11. New Cortana powered hands-free meeting controls in Teams Rooms
Your Next Steps:
Sign up for our Microsoft Ignite Webinar
Friday 25 September, 12 noon
Sign up for Friday‘s Microsoft Ignite Review live event where we’ll be joined by Microsoft Partner Technical Architect Jack Lewis to dig down into the key announcements from across the week.
Fill in the form below to register and make sure you take part in our Q&A!