A look at Microsoft Ignite 2020 and all the key updates to Microsoft Teams that will improve and humanise the online experience.
Microsoft Teams is evolving to meet the growing need for a more humanised and real-world experience online. Driven by exponential user growth – with daily active users jumping from 32 million to 75 million in the height of the pandemic – updates to Teams have come thick and fast with the latest developments revealed at Microsoft Ignite 2020.
At Microsoft’s showcase event, held entirely online for the first time this year, Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive, discussed how Teams has rapidly progressed to meet shifting consumer demand and the need for a more tactile experience. He described it as a “powerful content management system” capable of delivering tailored experiences that meet the needs of human connection.
Discussing the drivers behind the latest Teams updates, he commented: “Let’s unwind a little bit, build social capital, brainstorm. Let’s get to know each other like we did when we were out in the office or go out to dinner or to a coffee bar. A lot of what we’re trying to do is not just provide this flexible tool for communications and recognise that we’re all human beings and we want to relate to each other better.”
Microsoft is redefining the inter-human virtual meeting experience in Teams. The platform’s developers have gone further than simply taking what we know and love in the real world and translating it online, but are creating an entirely new space that mixes the best of both worlds. Seamless connectivity, easy collaboration and instant access to apps and data.
So what are the key features and updates to Microsoft Teams that will improve and humanise the online experience?
Five ways Microsoft Teams updates will bridge the virtual-human experience
1. Connect with even more people with increased participant limits
As Teams usage expands so does its limitations on participants, with the option to meet and collaborate with more people virtually than ever before.
In May, Microsoft increased the number of gallery view participants in a meeting from four to nine. Then in July they went further to announce Large Gallery View – showcasing a whopping 49 participants. In addition, by the end of the year Teams meetings will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 participants with the full meeting experience (still with 49 people viewed simultaneously). For larger meetings and events that do not require full participation (i.e. broadcasts), Teams will also soon scale to support up to 20,000 participants.
And finally, outside of the meetings space, Microsoft is increasing the number of members in each individual team from 10,000 to 25,000.
There are not many organisations that have the floor space to accommodate collaboration at that scale and bringing people together from all over the world into a single space.
2. Meet in formal and social settings with Together Mode Scenes
Together Mode, launched in July, uses Artificial Intelligence to create a virtual meeting room mimicking an auditorium environment. The science behind the development was to improve the presenter experience and beat ‘meeting fatigue’ from the static gallery view. Following a successful soft launch, Microsoft is creating new scenes including different auditorium styles, conference rooms and even a coffee shop.
Microsoft has also applied Machine Learning to Together Mode to create a slick new feature. Participants will be automatically scaled and centred in their virtual seats. That way everyone appears the same size and distance from each other, regardless of how close they are to the web-camera.
Once launched, you will be able to switch between formal and informal settings. What’s more you can take your colleagues out for a coffee without having to foot the bill.
3. Bring presentations to life with Custom Layouts
Similar to Together Mode, Custom Layouts mimic the real-world experience to superimpose a presenter’s video feed over the presentation content. Presenters will then be able to point, talk through and engage with the content just as they could physically.
The feature will include different options that allow presenters to customise how content appears during a meeting and facilitate switching between the video feed and presentation more seamlessly.
We think this will help to bring content to life and give all-star presenters the platform they’ve been missing.
4. Engage all participants in Breakout Rooms
It can sometimes be hard to engage all participants in the discussion in large team meetings, even with the recent addition of the Raised Hand feature in Teams. Breakout Rooms is therefore a welcome addition to the online meeting experience that aims to support closer collaboration.
Organisers will be able to split up meeting participants into smaller groups to hold brainstorm sessions, discussions or other activities. Presenters can even jump between the Breakout Rooms to facilitate the discussion, make announcements, observe and return everyone to the main meeting.
Nominating a spokesperson from each sub-group could be a great way to ensure all employees are involved and heard, especially for those camera-shy speaking in front of a large group.
5. Create the space for wellbeing in Teams and MyAnalytics
We recently wrote about how Microsoft 365 can support remote workers wellbeing. Thanks to some new integration features in Microsoft 365, Teams will soon house wellbeing features and productivity insights designed to improve the employee experience. Powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics, users will see their personal dashboard with recommended tips for improving productivity and looking after mental and physical wellbeing.
Included in the updates is a ‘virtual commute’ that aims to create time and space to add more structure to your remote working day. The commute also provides a clear transition between work and leisure time. Launching in the first half of 2021, Microsoft has also partnered with Headspace to provide a set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations within the Teams flow.
As the lines between work and home life have been blurred for many in 2020, these updates should help create a culture of individual and collaborative wellbeing.
More information on Microsoft Teams updates Q4 2020
For a detailed round-up of all the updates to Microsoft Teams revealed at Microsoft Ignite, visit the Microsoft Tech Community.
To find out what these changes mean for you and how Trustmarque can help you optimise your Teams adoption, contact a member of our specialist Microsoft Modern Workplace team. We also have some dedicated Microsoft Teams content coming up at ConnectIT LIVE 2.0 – see below for details.
Delve deeper into Teams at ConnectIT LIVE
ConnectIT LIVE 2.0 took place online between 03-05 November 2020 and bought together industry-leading technologists. We had two dedicated webinars on Microsoft Teams.
By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast