With the festive period fast approaching, and many employees currently working from home due to Covid-19 restrictions, Microsoft Teams will once again be utilised by organisations to facilitate widespread remote between colleagues.
It’s been a challenging year for businesses, with many forced to adapt to new ways of working, through the implementation of technical solutions that enhance online communication and collaboration. Teams is one of those solutions, and with over 115 million daily active users, its popularity has been unrivalled throughout the pandemic.
However, instead of offering a short-term solution during the lockdown, there are many businesses warming to the idea of remote working, with an intention to keep it going into 2021 and beyond. For this reason, Microsoft are actively introducing new and exciting monthly updates to enhance the user experience.
In recent weeks, Microsoft has rolled out a host of exciting updates, including a new AI-based noise suppression feature and enhanced post pinning capabilities, that allow users to prioritise information based on its importance.
One of the biggest appeals of Microsoft Teams are the meeting features that allow workers to communicate as if they were still in the office. Therefore, any updates to enhance the meetings experience are popular with users and the recent round of improvements is no different.
The AI-based noise suppression feature is one such update, which removes unwelcome background noise during meetings by analysing your audio feed and filtering out the noise, retaining only the speech signal. This setting can be changed to control how much noise suppression you want, allowing you to remove more background noise if needed.
Meanwhile, a new ‘together mode scene selection’ has been introduced that will transport participants to a variety of settings, whether it be a conference room or café. This will help participants feel closer together by immersing them in the meeting experience.
During these meetings, it’s important for organisers to interact with participants so they can gauge opinions and receive feedback in real-time. To enable this, Microsoft has released a new polling feature that allows attendees to view and respond to polls in the pop-up bubble or chat pane.
To facilitate remote working, instant meetings can now be started from your mobile device, so that colleagues can connect instantly and be added directly through any messaging app.
Worthy of its own separate section, the highly anticipated ‘breakout rooms’ feature has recently been made generally available, allowing meeting organisers to divide the meeting into sub-groups to facilitate discussions and research sessions.
The organiser can create up to 50 breakout rooms and choose to automatically or manually assign participants based on their requirements. Breakout rooms can be created in a Teams meeting or channel for greater flexibility.
Once enabled, it’s possible for participants to re-enter the main meeting room to ask questions without disrupting ongoing discussions, whilst the organiser can join any of breakout sessions to monitor progress accordingly.
These breakout rooms can be joined from desktop, web and mobile app for greater accessibility, but organisers must first switch on the new experience through the general settings option.
Chat & collaboration
Like meetings, the chat feature in Microsoft Teams is also key to the overwhelming popularity of the service, as it gives people the tools needed to communicate in real-time, in the absence of face-to-face contact.
One of the latest chat features to be introduced is pinned posts, which can be used to make information easily accessible by pinning a message in a channel, so it appears in the information pane for all members to see. This is ideal for sharing company updates during the pandemic, with workers currently in different locations.
From a collaboration perspective, users can now gather information or keep track of projects in chat and channels with new app templates for polls, surveys and checklists. Once installed and configured, the messaging extensions provide a simple and integrated experience removing the need for third party apps.
Within the chat channel, users can quickly create and send polls to gather input or create surveys that will give them access to important feedback. Meanwhile, shared checklists will allow team members to stay on track and monitor progress.
Presence status is another recent chat update that enables users to change their profile, so others know when they are available. This can be set for a specific period to ensure they are not disturbed during meetings or calls.
One of the most exciting updates in recent weeks is the new Power Apps application for Teams, which has now been made generally available. Through the simple, embedded graphical app studio, businesses can now build and deploy custom apps with ease.
Offering a more sophisticated Teams experience to users, this release allows businesses to build much-needed apps inside Teams, harnessing immediate value from built in templates like the Great Ideas or Inspections apps, which can be deployed quickly.
Power Automate is another highly anticipated app that makes it easier for users to automate workflows, using the simplified designer to build flows by selecting templates and options from drop-down menus. The home screen of the app also improves visibility and flow management within the service.
Power Virtual Agents (PVA) has also been made generally available, following an initial spike in popularity, which has seen thousands of chat bots created in recent weeks. Additional features have been added with the release, including native authentication, where bots can be designed to provide user-specific info.
Preparing for the year ahead…
Although 2020 has been challenging, there’s no reason why businesses can’t head into the new year with renewed optimism, as they look turn their fortunes around following a tough few months of lockdown and tier restrictions.
Currently, it looks as though remote working will continue to be popular within most organisations, but instead of letting this impact productivity, businesses can take steps to ensure operations continue running smoothly, wherever their workforce is based.
To help them achieve this, Microsoft have doubled down on their efforts to enhance and improve the Teams experience, releasing regular updates that provide users with the tools needed to communicate and collaborate efficiently.
If you aren’t familiar with Teams, but would like to experience its benefits first-hand, then contact our in-house team of experts and find a solution that meets the unique requirements of your business.