Earlier this month, Microsoft held its annual Ignite conference. While this year’s event was somewhat different, taking place entirely online, the announcements were as exciting as ever. Among these were a number of changes to Microsoft Teams. Some of these are minor tweaks to existing features, while others are completely new additions. Let’s take a closer look.
More options for meetings
Meetings are the bread and butter of Teams and, as such, Microsoft is always keen to improve the user experience. Meeting participants will soon have access to several new views, designed to create a more natural feeling conversation:
The new dynamic view will automatically change to focus on the action of the meeting. New users joining the chat or speaking for the first time will be highlighted so that everyone can keep track of what is happening.
A view switcher will allow participants to choose the view that works best for them. You will be able to switch between together mode, focus mode and full-screen mode according to your preference.
A new presenter mode allows you to give professional presentations with ease. Presenters can choose between a number of views, placing themselves in the foreground or the background of the presentation.
PowerPoint Live allows presenters to integrate PowerPoint slides into their presentations. Slides will appear alongside your notes, the web chat and the gallery of meeting participants.
Webinars are easier to organise
With the return of large gatherings still some way off, webinars are crucial for bringing people together. Thanks to some of the new Teams features, setting up a webinar will soon be as simple as setting up a meeting:
Teams will allow you to create a custom registration page for webinar attendees. When attendees register, they will automatically receive a confirmation via email. This will contain a link, allowing them to join the webinar with a single click.
The platform will soon support webinars with up to 1,000 attendees. Moderators will be able to disable chat, audio and video for participants should they need.
For gatherings of more than 1,000 people, Teams now provides a view-only experience for up to 20,000 participants. Once again, moderators can prevent interruptions by disabling audio and video when necessary.
After your webinar, you will be able to download an in-depth attendee report. This allows you to analyse the level of participation amongst your attendees. You will be able to see who participated and how long they stayed at the webinar.
As businesses increasingly rely on Teams for their professional communication, security is vital. Microsoft has announced several security upgrades designed to keep your information safe:
- Users will be able to use end-to-end encryption during one-on-one Teams VoIP calls. This gives you peace of mind when conducting sensitive conversations over Teams.
- Invite-only meetings will give you greater control over who participates in video calls. Uninvited attendees will be redirected to the lobby until they are allowed into the meeting.
- The new Safe Links feature will protect you from malicious sites by scanning any links that are shared in Teams.
- You will be able to disable the video feed of specific attendees during a meeting. This allows you to respond quickly to unwanted disruptions.
- Multiple users can now work on encrypted documents at the same time.
New collaboration features
Teams is all about bringing people together, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft is keen to offer even more options for collaboration:
Teams Connect allows you to share channels both internally and externally. These shared channels can be used to meet, chat and work together on documents. Although data can be shared with external users, admins can decide which information is visible to those outside the organisation.
Corporate teams can add checklists to published tasks. This allows you to give clearer instructions on who needs to do what.
From April, the Approvals app will include a template feature. This allows you to repeat common approvals such as requests for time off without creating a new approval from scratch.
Although Teams is primarily used for video calling, it also provides a convenient platform from traditional telephony. With this in mind, Microsoft has introduced a number of features to make phone calls as smooth as possible:
- Operator Connect makes it easier to integrate non-Microsoft telephony providers into Teams.
- The new Endpoint Transfer feature allows you to move between devices without disrupting ongoing calls.
Greater flexibility for managers
As the number of Teams features grows, managers will have more to keep track of. Microsoft is mindful of this, and has announced several new features designed to simplify the process:
A new AI-driven service will allow you to secure meeting rooms in real-time. It employs Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to detect threats and vulnerabilities as they occur. The service will automatically take the necessary action, keeping you safe at all times.
It will soon be easier to add remote Android devices to Teams. Remote provisioning allows you to sign into devices in the Teams Admin Centre using a MAC address and a verification code. This removes the need to physically handle new devices.
A new app risk evaluation feature will be introduced later this year. This allows you to view detailed security, compliance and data privacy ratings for external apps before you install them.
Teams will now schedule regular reviews of guest access to Teams and Groups. This allows you to keep track of which external users have access to your organisations’ Teams, and to revoke these permissions if necessary.
By the time Ignite 2022 comes around, life will have hopefully returned to normal. In the meantime though, Teams will continue to be a lifeline for remote workers. With more updates on the way, it’s clear that Microsoft is committed to providing the best experience possible for its users.
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