This year’s Ignite – a virtual event, as many tech shows are in 2020 – has reiterated one message: Microsoft is here to help with “the new way to work.” The company’s collaborative workspace platform, Teams, is on the vanguard of that new way to work. Within the Microsoft 365 platform, which Microsoft announced just three short years ago, Teams has become the de facto hub of all activity for team members across a company.
The Microsoft Teams updates coming to the service, announced this week by Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President Jared Spataro, take into consideration the significant increase in virtual meetings since the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to shift their workforces to a work-from-home posture. The goal, according to Spataro, is to “unlock new forms of collaboration, help people and teams stay connected and engaged, and ensure fluid communication across organizations.”
Microsoft Teams Meetings Together Mode
The familiar virtual meeting view, which displays square images of those attending a virtual meeting, is by now remarkably familiar to most organizations. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced their Together Mode for meetings in Microsoft Teams to help battle against meeting fatigue. The idea was to create a virtual meeting space that could make the team feel like they were in the same room and not just looking at a screen full of squares where everyone’s background and focus were different.
Later this year, new auditoriums will be added along with conference rooms and a coffee shop. Microsoft already uses AI-powered tools to remove backgrounds and get meeting participants into the virtual meeting space but that will be used further automatically scale and center participants to make sure all participants present a balanced appearance in Together Mode.
Microsoft Teams is already capable of dynamically adjusting the view in the meeting window based on the number of participants and the current presentation mode. Available with the latest round of Microsoft Teams updates, new layouts will enable presenters to customize this view to control how meeting content shows up for viewers.
Options include the presenter’s video being overlayed in front of the presentation content. This utilizes the same AI/ML that is part of Together Mode and Background Blur to create these unique effects. The presenter’s facial reactions and some gestures are fully in view alongside of the content being presented.
This feature, expected by the end of 2020, enables a large group meeting to break up into separate groups without leaving the current virtual meeting.
Once meeting participants are in their separate breakout rooms, the moderator can easily move between rooms, make announcements to all of the existing rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone back to the main meeting.
From a productivity perspective, these Microsoft Teams updates mean no more ending one meeting just to start smaller meetings for the assigned work. Plus, everyone can come back together easily to report out about their breakout work.
Rather than having all of the varied elements of a meeting scattered across the Microsoft Teams channel, now a meeting recap will be created following each meeting.
This should save a lot of time for team members by having all the pertinent information for a meeting in one place and nicely packaged.
In addition to the features already mentioned, the latest Microsoft Teams updates include improvements in these areas:
- Live captions with speaker attribution during meetings
- Support for 1,000 meeting participants
- Support for up to 20,000 participants in view-only meetings (requires the Advanced Communications plan in Microsoft 365).
- Attendee registration for meetings with automated emails and a reporting dashboard to track meeting engagement by participants.
- Team templates help with the setup process for new teams. Custom templates of existing teams can be saved and used to standardize team creation for configuration within a company.
- Info pane provides quick summary of active members, key posts, and other important information about a Teams channel. This information can help new team members come up to speed very quickly and keep current members up to date.
- Maximum size of 25,000 members for teams coming later this year.
Microsoft continues to invest in Microsoft Teams as the hub for all team activity – and this intentional expansion of the service's capabilities reinforces the company’s plan to give customers a single pane of glass to see nearly everything they need for their job.