Throughout 2020, as we’ve navigated the equivalent of a year of digital transformation every month, it’s IT pros who’ve led the way. When COVID-19 caused a sudden shift to remote work, IT pros brought entire organisations online – sometimes over a single weekend. They trained individuals and teams on essential new tools, quickly deployed custom apps, and vigilantly protected organisations from increasingly complex security threats. Now, as business leaders look to build resilient organisations and find new opportunities for expansion, they’re looking to IT pros for sustainable solutions to support them for the long haul.
We are experiencing digital transformation at epic speed. COVID-19 has accelerated secular trends in the ways we work and live, jumpstarting durable new habits that will persist well past the pandemic.
Reimagine teamwork, culture, and social capital-digitally.
Microsoft are reimagining meeting and workspaces to unlock new forms of collaboration, help people and teams stay connected and engaged, and ensure fluid communication across organisations.
Better meetings for everyone
Microsoft Teams offers an end-to-end meeting solution that scales to support your meeting, calling, and large-scale needs. Announced this summer, Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that helps participants feel closer together even when they are apart by placing them in a shared background. This makes meetings more engaging by showing participants’ faces and body language, making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. At Microsoft’s recent Ignite event, they announced new Together mode scenes, including auditoriums, conference rooms, and a coffee shop – all available later this year. Presenters will be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default for all meeting attendees. We’re also introducing the use of machine learning in Together mode to automatically scale and center meeting participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera, creating a more realistic visual experience.
In July, Microsoft announced new ways for meeting participants to control what they see in Teams with Dynamic view. Custom layouts has now been announced, coming later this year, and will allow presenters to customise how content shows up for participants during the meeting. For example, when a presenter is showing a PowerPoint slide, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.
Breakout rooms, one of the most requested Teams features, will be available this month. Meeting organisers will be able to split up participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or work group discussions. Presenters can then hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting.
More than 20 partners including HireVue, ServiceNow, Range, Buncee, and PagerDuty are using new Teams meeting extensions, which will move to general availability in October, to integrate their apps and enable custom meeting experiences in Teams. Meeting organisers can access apps from either AppSource or the Teams store and add them as they schedule the meetings.
After a meeting in Teams, a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files, and more will be automatically created in Teams. Meeting recaps help move work forward for both meeting participants and for those who were unable to attend a meeting. The recap will also be available in your Outlook calendar by going to the meeting event. And soon, meeting recordings will be automatically stored – like other files are today – in Microsoft 365 so they can be shared, easily and compliantly, with external participants.
For customer presentations including webinars, we’re announcing Teams support for attendee registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance and view a reporting dashboard after the meeting to help understand attendee engagement. Attendee reporting and scheduling APIs will also be available, so customers can bring this data into their CRM and marketing automation apps, and more.
A number of enhancements are coming later this year for the Calling experience within Microsoft Teams, including a streamlined view that shows contacts, voicemail, and calling history at once, making it easier to initiate or return a call with a single click.
Also, Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants with the full meeting experience by the end of the year. For larger meetings and event that require additional control, Teams will soon seamlessly scale to support 20,000 participants in a view-only meeting experience that includes the ability to use live captions. These new capabilities will be available to customers with the new Advanced Communications plan.
Tools for a connected employee experience
The new home site app brings the power of your SharePoint home site, along with the rest of your intranet, directly into Teams. This gives employees an easy gateway to their organisations intranet, with customisable naming, branding, and multi-level navigation to teams, communities, and resources. Coming later this year, you’ll be able to customise the app name and icon to match your organisation’s branding and pin it to the app bar in Teams for quick access to search and a personalised view of news and important sites.
We’re also announcing a set of new tools for workplace communications that will enable organisations to boost the visibility of news and announcements, better connect employees to their leaders, and foster a tighter workplace community.
Devices for the workspace of the future
To help create work spaces where people can collaborate effectively and safely both remotely and from the work site, we’re designing experiences where every attendee, remote or in-person, is a first-class participant. As organisations continue the transition back to the office, shared space devices like Microsoft Teams rooms and Surface Hub will be critical tools in delivering the ultimate hybrid work place experience.
Microsoft have announced Microsoft Teams panels, a new category of devices that can be mounted outside of a meeting space to notify participants of scheduling and occupancy and to assist with wayfinding around the office. Teams panels can also use information from other connected certified Teams devices, like cameras that support people counting, to show room capacity information and help everyone follow their organisation’s safety guidelines for shared spaces.
Microsoft are also enabling additional ways to engage with in-room devices without touch. Later this year, Microsoft Teams Rooms devices will support new touch-less meetings capabilities like the Room remote app, Teams casting, and voice assistance with Microsoft Cortana.
Prioritise well-being to help people focus and be their best.
As the in-office, nine-to-five workday gives way to fluid work models and flexible hours, we’re spending more time communicating with one another digitally, and often outside of traditional work house. In Teams, for instance, the number of chats and meetings per person continue to grow, especially after hours. Meanwhile, workdays around the world are increasing in length. While it’s great to connect with our teammates, we all need reminders to take time to detach from work in order to preserve our well-being. Research from Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index underscores just how important this is. In a global study, over 30% of Firstline and information workers said the pandemic had increased their sense of burnout at work. And one-third of remote workers said the lack of separation between work and life is negatively impacting their well-being. To help leaders prioritise well-being for every employee, Microsoft have introduced experiences to help structure the day, make space for breaks, nurture relationships, and stay on top of tasks.
Wellbeing experiences in Teams
We may not miss that hour of traffic bookending our days, but studies from Microsoft Research show that commutes can serve as meaningful transitions at the beginning and end of the workday – and that the reflection we do during that time can increase productivity by 12-15%. Available in the first half of 2021, new features in Teams will make it seamless to structure your day by scheduling a virtual commute that helps you have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening. Our global study also found that 70% of people think meditation could help relieve their work-related stress. The science backs this up. Studies show meditation can reduce stress and burnout and improve your ability to react to feedback. Microsoft have partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into the flow of work in Microsoft Teams. Whether you’re a remote worker looking to find focus before a big presentation or a Firstline Worker hoping to de-stress after a long workday, this experience makes it easier to find time to relax and recover.
A new stay connected experience in Teams helps individuals strengthen relationships with their colleagues by making it easy to praise top collaborators for key achievements and to schedule 1:1s to catch up. It also helps you stay on top of your commitments by intelligently surfacing suggested tasks and emails from Outlook – plus @mentions in Teams – that might require follow up.
Near the start of the day, individuals will also receive a daily Briefing email from Cortana – including key personal productivity insights and suggested tasks for that day – right in their Outlook inboxes. This feature will become generally available beginning in September.
Manager and leader insights in Teams
Managers carry the life preservers for their teams in periods of disruption, helping them prioritise and protect their time while staying connected. Beginning in October, Microsoft are bringing Workplace Analytics into Teams to give managers line of sight into teamwork norms like after-hours collaboration, focus time, meeting effectiveness, and cross-company connections. These will then be compared to averages among similar teams to provide managers with actionable insights.
Currently, Workplace Analytics offers manager-initiated change programs to bring the team together around an action plan for improving health and effectiveness. Suggestions remind individuals to unplug at the end of the day, reclaim time to focus, and reduce meeting overload. Weekly summaries allow the team to monitor progress and celebrate successes. In 2021, Microsoft will integrate these features in Teams as well.
As organisations face uncertainty and change, company leaders need visibility into how work is evolving and how changes are effecting the people whose creativity and innovation will propel their business into the future. Powered by Workplace Analytics, new insights in Teams allow leaders to ask questions like “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?” Operating like a health monitor for organisational resilience, this feature helps leaders track indicators of employee wellbeing, respond to irregular rhythms with research-backed best practices, and measure the impact of change over time.
Finally, Microsoft are refreshing the business continuity report, part of the Microsoft Productivity Score, to help customers measure how the move to remote work has affected collaboration norms for their organisations.
A lot was announced at Microsoft’s recent Ignite event, and we are looking forward to sharing more with you very soon.