New Microsoft Teams Features Unveiled at Microsoft Ignite 2021

Microsoft has released more than 300 Microsoft Teams features during the past year, but at last week’s Microsoft Ignite 2021, the new innovations revealed centered on flexibility in support of hybrid work.

This tracks back to something Microsoft calls the hybrid paradox, covered in its Work Trend Index Report. Seventy percent of workers surveyed cited a desire for remote work options; sixty five percent of participants want more in-person time with teams. To Microsoft, this isn’t a contradiction but a cry for flexibility.

And Microsoft is delivering. Here are a few Microsoft Teams features we can anticipate rolling out now through mid-2022.  

Mesh for Microsoft Teams: Interact in a Whole New World

Virtual appears to be the new reality in work and in play. Pop group ABBA is staging a comeback focused on Abbatars in a mixed media physical and virtual arena that is currently under construction. In the same vein, Microsoft has created Mesh for Microsoft Teams, which provides 2D and 3D experiences with personal avatars interacting in immersive spaces.  

It allows users to build connections with people they know, along with co-workers, customers and partners they haven’t met in-person. It also allows for those spontaneous conversations and casual interactions you would otherwise have in a physical office. You can still bump into people, spark conversations and have those aha moments. They just happen in a cool, interesting new way.

With workers vacillating between remote and in-house workspaces, Mesh provides a different option where everyone can meet up, be present and feel like they’re in the same space.  

Mesh works with all devices and previews during the first half of 2022.

Cameo: a New PowerPoint Experience

You don’t have to be in the room to deliver powerful presentations. PowerPoint is more dynamic, thanks to Teams video integrations. You can customize the placement, format and location of these assets on the slides. Cameo also makes layout recommendations, so that your deck has strong visual impact. The presentation can be delivered on PowerPoint Live in Teams.   

Speaker Coach: Maintain Pace and Audience Engagement

Most people speed up when they are nervous, and this can kill a presentation. Teams’ Speaker Coach privately cues the presenter, indicating an optimal pace of speech and moments to check in with audience (are they still engaged?). Speakers are left with greater confidence in their performance and audiences feel included.  

Meetings: Small Tweaks to Support Focused Work and Engagement

Sometimes the little things play a big part in your experience. Microsoft is implementing the following to keep you engaged and productive in meetings:

  • Raised hands are displayed in order, so that the first question can be answered first, and so on. This way, everyone has the chance to speak.
  • Mute notifications and hide video to minimize distractions during meetings.
  • When scheduling meetings, specify roles and assignments. This way expectations are set from the get-go.
  • New mobile menu makes it easier to prioritize actions and manage notifications—especially if you are using a smaller screen.

Teams Connect: Interact Securely with Internal and External Stakeholders in Shared Channels

Inevitably, projects arise involving people inside and outside of an organization. Teams Connect enables the mixed team to collaborate on shared Teams channels. You don’t need to worry about emailing sensitive information via an unsecure email. Because content is centralized in the channel and channel permissions are updated as people join and leave the team, the situation is secure.

Microsoft account holders are easy to identify. If they aren’t Teams users, it is still easy to invite them to join a conversation. It’s just as easy for them to gain access via alert.

Teams Connect previews early 2022.

Hosting Webinars in Microsoft Teams

It makes sense, on a platform that encourages conversation and interaction, that webinars would be of focus. These additions not only support the webinar experience, they also support coordination.

Green Room: this is the virtual backstage, where organizers and presenters can set up and carry out prep activities.

Co-organizer for webinars: it’s the behind-the-scenes logistics that keep events running. Co-organizer is there to support non-presenter tasks, including admitting attendees from the lobby into the event, creating recordings, polls, surveys, etc.

Q&A: an attendee often doesn’t get to see questions raised during a webinar. But Q&A was enhanced here to enable pinned posts, the marking of best answers, the ability to filter responses and moderate and dismiss questions.

Cvent and Microsoft Teams partnership: manage the entire event lifecycle on the Cvent platform in Teams. Available later in November 2021.

Chat: Improved Communication

3D emojis: emojis sometimes convey social signals that don’t otherwise translate virtually. You can now draw from more than 800 new 3D emojis!

Location: with more people working remotely, globally and flexibly, there is more of a need to respect geography and time zones. That information is now listed in user cards, for easy reference.

Delayed delivery: you can schedule emails, and now you can schedule Teams chats to be delivered during optimal time frames.

Compact setting: it’s easier to see what you need to respond to when 50 percent more messages are visible on the screen.

Teams phone: turn a chat into a call in one click. Fifty percent more calls now originate from chats than this time last year. An end-to-end calling solution was recently announced, in line with popularity of this feature.

Microsoft all in one contact center: this is an integrated solution, combining a traditional contact center as a service, unified communications as a service and customer service capabilities. This center makes it easy to pull SMEs into teams chats and calls. Video capability is currently in development.  

Context: Leverage Teams to Support a Variety of Functions

Multitasking drains our energy, but it’s difficult to avoid it given all that technology enables us to do. Microsoft is trying to reduce fatigue around task switching with collaborative apps that reduce such fatigue.

Dynamics 365 and Teams integrations: unite people, processes and solutions. It allows you to place 365 records and data in Teams without switching apps. With thought and a little creativity, you can create simple workflows using this feature.

Microsoft Teams and Azure Communications Services: help you find new ways to connect. APIs and SDKs enable integrations like voice and video calling, text chat and SMS that can be placed into your applications. This functionality will be available December 2021.

Power virtual agent: employ automation to serve as first responders to repetitive and common questions. These bots free up such departments as IT and HR.

Microsoft Teams can be used to support every department and function across an organization. Interested in how it can transform the IT service desk and help desk management? Check out our Tikit demo.

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