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.
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.
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.
In an increasingly volatile world, organisational resilience depends upon the agility and responsiveness of your people. It's more critical than ever to connect, inspire, and activate people. But it is also more difficult than ever. While many people may have adapted to working remotely, we hear from customers that it's challenging to connect people, particularly outside of their core working groups, to drive culture and communication, and foster knowledge sharing and new innovations.
At Microsoft's recent Ignite event, they announced innovations that transform workplace communications, and empower communicators with integrated storytelling tools to inform, engage and inspire people across the organisation. Top announcements include:
For many of you, the intranet is a canvas for communications, and for nearly two decades, SharePoint has been the leading platform for intranets, enabling organisations to connect the workplace, share information, and deliver rich employee experiences. Recent innovations in SharePoint like home sites, multilingual support, and audience targeting allow customers to create award-winning intranets in Microsoft 365, with no code.
As more people use Teams as a hub for teamwork, users have asked to integrate the superpowers of SharePoint with Teams, to reach people effectively where they work.
Microsoft have announced the new home site app for Teams, which brings your home site and the best of your intelligent intranet to Teams. the app gives users a gateway to your organisation, starting with the app's name and icon, which you can customise to reflect the identity of your organisation or your intranet. The app's multi-level navigation lets people find sites across the organisation, including portals, teams, communities and applications.
Sites built on modern SharePoint will render inside Teams itself. And the app makes it easy to share and discuss content from intranet sites in Teams channels and chat.
With the home site app, people can tap into news and resources across the intelligent intranet without leaving the hub for teamwork. And communicators can build and deliver rich communications experiences in Teams.
Users have also requested a global navigation experience that connects the workplace. The new SharePoint app bar brings a consistent navigation experience to every site on your intelligent intranet, featuring quick access to important sites across the organisation, personally relevant sites, and the news feed. The customisable, global navigation in the app bar is shared with the home site app, giving employees that consistent navigation experience across Teams and the browser.
Communicators told us that it's harder than ever to get the right information to the right people, at the right time, across applications and devices. Today we announced improvements to news feeds and news digests.
The news feed delivers an intelligent view of news, targeted to you based on factors like your role or location, and further personalised based on signals in Microsoft Graph about where, how, and with whom you work. But communicators have told us that not all announcements and news are equal. Sometimes you need to boost the visibility of important news articles in the feed, rather then relying solely on AI. Soon, you can boost a news post until it has been read, for a set number of impressions, or until a given date. When the criteria is satisfied, the post returns to its normal position in the feed.
We're delivering an enhanced news feed that supports boosting news in Edge, in news web parts, and in the SharePoint start page. In the future, we'll be bringing this improved news feed to other experiences, and we'll be adding new superpowers to the feed.
And employees have told us that keeping up with so much news and information can be challenging. To help you keep up-to-date with workplace communications, the automatically generated news digest will send an email summary, curated by AI, of news articles you may have missed or not read that week. The digest will help ensure people stay on top of news that you have boosted. And you can customise the news digest with your organisation's branding.
For communities in Yammer, Microsoft recently empowered community managers to pin conversations to the top of the feed, and now you can feature a conversation, which showcases the conversation in the community feed and raises its visibility in Yammer's home feed. You can also post priority announcements, which raises the visibility of notifications in community members' inboxes. Additionally, leaders can delegate the ability to post to Yammer to their communications leads, allowing communicators to post news and announcements on behalf of leaders.
Communicators have also told us that to engage an audience that represents diverse generations and work styles, you need to reach people where they are. You can share news and announcements to people and engage them across your SharePoint intranet, and now, Teams and Yammer.
You can share a news article to a Teams channel or a Yammer community, to reach your audience and encourage conversation about the item. You can spark richer engagement with the superpowers of these apps. For example, when sharing a news article to Yammer, you can add a poll to measure sentiment, or share it as a question to crowd source ideas.
Users do not want to spend precious resources and brain cycles designing intranet sites. Last year Microsoft introduced the lookbook to help you build beautiful employee experiences.
Now you can use built-in templates to give any existing site an extreme makeover. Templates, like the leadership connection template, have been purpose built to support specific scenarios. They integrate the superpowers of SharePoint and other Microsoft 365 experiences, and deliver a beautiful, out-of-box design that you can customise with no code to reflect your branding and your needs. Of course, templates are responsive and accessible, so your experiences can be inclusive of all users, across devices.
Microsoft also recently announced that SharePoint spaces reaches general availability this fall. SharePoint spaces enable anyone to create immersive and engaging mixed reality experiences that showcase 3D content, models and 360° imagery, and bring 2D content to life in stunning new ways. Spaces transform scenarios from hosting virtual events to on-boarding employees, and can be experienced across devices, with a browser or a headset.
Because customers emphasise the need to connect and engage everyone, across the organisation, Microsoft continue to invest in communities that foster a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels empowered to contribute to the conversation.
Innovations for Yammer's All Company community turn it into a powerful tool for informing and engaging the entire organisation, from the top-floor to the shop floor. Posts to the All Company community are discoverable by everyone, and anyone can engage. Now, you can customise the All Company community with your organisation's branding, and you can restrict who can post announcements or start new conversations in the community.
And when you share an announcement in Yammer's All Company community, notifications are generated for everyone in the organisation across Yammer, Outlook, and now Teams; across web, desktop and mobile. People can engage from the apps they use every day and express themselves with nuance using new reactions.
Finally, communicators have emphasised the importance of measuring the reach and effectiveness of communications. New insights include a heat map of interaction or dwell time on content. An analytics digest, powered by AI, will automatically be sent to the author of a news post one week after content is posted, and provides suggestions to increase visibility of their post. And in Yammer, updated Community Insights empower communicators and community manages with detailed analytics for Conversations, Live Events, and Question and Answers.
It has never been more critical for organisations to connect, inspire, and activate their employees. Microsoft 365 bring you innovations that transform workplace communications. Whether you're a leader, an HR or communications professional, or a communicator anywhere in the organisation, we will continue to invest in integrated storytelling capabilities that empower you to inform, engage and inspire people, and to measure and improve your impact.
Contact us today if you would like us to discuss in more detail.
Due to the wealth of information being recently released around Microsoft 365 from the recent Ignite event, we will be sharing more with you very soon.
IT leaders have the ability to make the work experience more inclusive of the 1 billion people in the world with disabilities, with the technology products and capabilities they choose to make available to organisations. At Microsoft's recent Ignite event, they announced exciting new features that everyone - including people with disabilities - can leverage to be more productive and to make the workplace more inclusive. From Live transcripts, to search for personal wellbeing insights, read on to learn all the ways Teams can help you work more inclusively.
Live captions and transcripts with speaker attribution available for 1:1 calls and meetings
With more important calls, meetings and events happening virtually, it's critical to make sure everyone can understand the discussion and participate easily, including people with disabilities. Live captions and transcripts with speaker attribution can make meetings more inclusive of people who are hard of hearing or deaf, or have learning disabilities like dyslexia and prefer spoken content to be reinforced with text. You can now provide live captions and transcripts with speaker attribution for 1:1 calls, all the way through to interactive meetings of up to 1,000 participants. And when you need to expand the reach of your meeting even further, up to 20,000 participants can view the meeting and live captions to follow along. These features can be enabled via the control bar within the call or meeting window, and will be made available in the coming months. Speaker attribution for live captions in meetings is now Generally Available for Commercial customers.
New Together mode scenes
When managing our mental health and wellbeing, it's important to make sure we feel connected and close to other people - whether family members, local communities or those we collaborate with at work. Microsoft commissioned a Harris Poll survey of over 2,000 remote workers in six countries, and nearly 60% of people surveyed reported feeling less connected to their colleagues since they started working remotely more often. In China, this number spiked to 70%. In the past few months, Microsoft introduced new capabilities to make it easier for each of us to more naturally connect with teammates, and to take control of our wellbeing. One of these new capabilities is Together mode, a view in Teams meetings that makes you feel like you're sitting in the same room with your teammates, and makes it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to natural human interaction and connection. This week Microsoft announced new Together mode scenes, coming later this year, including various auditoriums, conference rooms and a coffee shop. Presenters will also be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default scene for all meeting attendees. We hope you can find a Together mode scene that works for you and your team, and that can help your team feel closer together.
In case you missed it
Wellbeing and productivity insights coming in Teams
The rise in remote and hybrid work during the ongoing pandemic is pushing people and organisations to work in new ways, introducing challenges as well as opportunities for a new normal. Microsoft's research shows four clear challenges: after-hours work is on the rise, boundaries between work and home are being eliminated, the rise of virtual collaboration and video meetings has led to a rise in stress levels, and people feel less connected to their colleagues when working remotely. To help address some of these challenges so we can thrive and build resilience, Microsoft is bringing wellbeing and productivity insights to Microsoft Teams. From unwinding with Headspace on your virtual commute to discovering opportunities to prevent burnout, see how new insights for individuals, teams, and organisations can help.
Improved search experience
A new search experience in Teams, powered by Microsoft Search and available by the end of 2020, will make finding messages, people and files faster and more intuitive for everyone, including people with disabilities who use assistive technologies like screen readers. A redesigned search results page provides better content and faster results, with AI-powered relevance based on the people and content you engage with most in Teams, and other Microsoft 365 services. Assistive technology users will be able to use the 'Control F' shortcut to access the search bar, initiate a search, and bring information right to their fingertips. It's everyone you love about Search in other Microsoft 365 applications, right in the Teams experience.
In case you missed it
Play My Emails more broadly available - Play My Emails lets you listen and respond to what's new in your inbox hands-free using Cortana, giving people with learning disabilities like dyslexia a way to consume written content that doesn't require reading blocks of text. Play my Emails is already available in Outlook for iOS and Android in English in the United States and will start rolling out in the coming months in English in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and India. With updates this month to Outlook for iOS in English in the United States, users can interact with their inbox via their headphones while their phone is in their pocket, initiate a call with the sender of an email to move the conversation forward in real-time, play emails from a specific person, time or topic, and connect multiple eligible accounts - whether personal or professional to the experience.
Voice commands in Outlook Mobile - Now you can use your voice to write emails, schedule meetings, and make calls, all from within Outlook mobile. Tap the microphone, and say "Email Adele that I'm running late", "schedule a meeting about Group Meditation with Megan", or "Call Anna on Teams". Outlook will find the relevant person, draft up a message, meeting or provide the option to start a call, and help you be more productive, all with voice. Voice capabilities like these provide people with learning disabilities like dyslexia, another way to write content, that doesn't require typing. It also gives those with mobility disabilities another way to create content on the go.
Briefing Email from Cortana improvements - The Briefing Email is becoming generally available in September for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users with Exchange Online mailboxes in English. And with updates coming by the end of the year, the Briefing email will streamline meeting preparation. Actionable reminders will make it easy to add an agenda or a Teams link for an upcoming meeting of you forget and to spot if a meeting is missing quorum. Integration with Microsoft To-Do will make it seamless to follow up on a suggested task later. We're also working on bringing specialised insights for people managers to help boost your team's productivity and wellbeing, such as prompts to schedule regular one-on-one time with your direct reports and reminders to follow up on key asks. The Briefing Email gives people with disabilities like memory loss or ADHD, more proactive assistance and tools to stay on top of their important tasks and relationships.
A reimagined Microsoft Stream - This week Microsoft announced a new vision for Microsoft Stream - to bring intelligent video creation, sharing, and viewing to all parts of Microsoft 365 while empowering users and administrators to manage video just as they would any other file. Part of this new vision is an enhanced playback experience that displays more accurate transcripts with speaker attribution for meeting recordings, among other exciting enhancements. These experience will be made available over the coming year.
In case you missed it
Dictation with Voice Commands in Word - Whether you are on a short walk to stretch your legs, have a temporary or permanent disability that makes typing or writing difficult, or you just think better out loud, now you can Dictate your content into a Word document, and add formatting through voice commands as you go.
A lot was announced at Microsoft's recent Ignite event, especially around Microsoft Teams.
We are excited to be sharing more with you very soon.
Click here for more on Microsoft 365 Inclusive Workplace resources.