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Microsoft Teams on Its Way to Being the Center of Your Workday With Bevy of New Features

Microsoft Teams received a bevy of new capabilities that focus on new ways to customize the experience for users and manage the workflow for administrators, all announced at Microsoft’s annual infrastructure-focused Ignite conference in Orlando on Nov. 4.

In a blog post running down the newly released features, Microsoft Teams Product Marketer Karan Nigam shares the goods:

User Customization for Teams

  • Users can now create private channels within teams, inviting only the team members they want to be involved. Think of it as somewhere between a private chat and a team subchannel.
  • Coming early next year will be a new multiwindow feature that allows users to organize meetings, calls, and documents in separate windows.
  • Later this year, there will be a new Teams client released for Linux.
  • Users will be able to conduct polls and surveys right in Teams chat later this year.

Management of Other Microsoft 365 Apps in Teams

  • Outlook will now get a “Share to Teams” button early next year.
  • Tasks in Teams is a new view that consolidates tasks from Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner, and Outlook.
  • A Yammer app coming next year will help Teams users stay in touch with that messaging realm without needing to leave the Teams interface.

Meetings Bells & Whistles

  • Meetings can now share a whiteboard with unlimited space.
  • Live captions will be added in US English later this year with plans to add more languages in the future.
  • Organizers can now predefine presenter and attendee roles, determining who has control over the content viewed in the meeting.
  • Microsoft is partnering with hardware vendors Poly and Yealink to release a new category of devices: collaboration bars. The idea is the bars attach to any screen and turn it into a video conferencing facility.

Poly and Yealink will launch Microsoft Teams collaboration bars in early 2020.

Courtesy: Microsoft Teams Blog

  • Microsoft is collaborating with Citrix to optimize Teams for its virtual environments. It will release the solution within the next 30 days.
  • Cisco is also working with Microsoft, supporting Teams meetings via its WebEx Room devices and session initiation protocol (SIP) video conferencing devices, to be released early next year.

Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews, Report Published April 10, 2019

Workflows for Field Staff

  • Microsoft refers to field staff as “firstline workers” and they’re getting some consideration for their workflows in a batch of new features. First up is SMS Sign-In, allowing them to log in to Teams from a mobile device by receiving a one-time passcode via SMS, similar to how two-factor authentication works. This will be available in public preview early next year.
  • The off shift access setting prompts a user for consent before receiving a Teams message outside of payable hours.
  • Global Sign-Out signs a user out of all devices they’re logged into at once.
  • Delegated user management lets managers manage user credentials on behalf of IT.

Industry Features

  • Virtual Consults, now in private preview, allow a business to conduct a business-to-consumer consultation through the (also new) external appointments functionality. Microsoft suggests that healthcare practitioners could use this to talk to patients or managers could use this to conduct job interviews.
  • Patient Coordination, also for healthcare, uses a secure platform to handle patient information entered by healthcare workers.

Manage and Secure Teams

  • Advisor for Teams helps with the deployment of Teams by offering recommended plans. It will be available in public preview later this year.
  • A certified app catalog provides information to IT admins before they enable apps. Details such as publisher, policy details, and certification status are available here. This is to roll out early next year.
  • Policy packages allow for the assignment of predefined policies and settings to users with similar roles. The first set of such policies are meant for the education space and more will be released soon.
  • Teams Rooms in the Teams Admin Portal allows IT admins to manage the collaboration device inventory and assign configurations or restart devices. This will be available later this year.

Workflow Automation and Custom App Integration

  • Power Apps (a no-code business apps developer program) creators can now publish apps as Teams apps. Admins will be able to add the apps to the company’s library so users can discover them. This will be available later this year.
  • Power Apps can also now be pinned to the left rail in the Teams app, providing a quick shortcut to commonly used apps.
  • Users can create automated workflows right in Teams. For example, when someone joins a team, a set of messages could be sent. This will be available later this year.

Our Take

Clearly, there are many new capabilities to take in here. With that long list, Microsoft is signaling that it’s committed to making Teams the center of everyone’s workday. Just as Slack has done for many startups with its integration capabilities, Teams is becoming the leaping-off point for just about any work task that involves collaboration.

Teams' inclusion in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem already provided a good starting point for this sort of workflow centrality, given many enterprises’ reliance on Microsoft productivity software. By allowing integration with other enterprise technology, providing a way for custom applications to be easily added and used, and centralizing some of the admin functions, Microsoft is making it even easier for organizations to justify shifting more activities to this collaboration space. Just as Microsoft Outlook made the inbox the center of the workday for the current generation, Teams could make collaboration software the center for the next generation.

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