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New Functionalities to Microsoft Teams Core Features

PART 5 OF A 5 PART SERIES

In previous installations of this series (read parts 123 and 4), my colleagues discussed when, why and how to start using Microsoft Teams as well as an equally important topic – how to be confident your network will be able to support this new application and its associated traffic. In this blog, I’ll explain the ‘core’ features, capabilities, as well as the exciting new functionality and features around Chat, Meetings, Teams and Channels, and Phone System added to the What’s New in Microsoft Teams bulletin for June 2020. Then, I’ll close with some best practices to accelerate adoption and drive usage of Microsoft Teams throughout your organization.

CORE FEATURES AND CAPABILITIES

The core features and capabilities of Microsoft Teams are Chat, Meetings, Teams, Channels and Phone System. Let’s start by discussing the most widely used feature – Chat.

CHAT

One-to-one chat or one-to-many instant message (IM) Chat is a basic feature most new users start with. As the feature implies, it allows users to exchange private IMs with a certain individuals or groups. However, it is important to note that large enterprises have to meet certain compliance criteria and all electronic communication could be journaled for e-Discovery purposes in order to be compliant. In addition to messaging, you can attach files, pictures, etc. And, what is a modern chat without emoji’s, stickers and GIFs?

All these awesome features from the Chat are available whenever you are participating in a “private” chat – one-to-one or one-to-many or in a “Channel” chat, where communication is visible to any member of the team of the respective channel. One nice addition when you are participating in a channel chat, is that the messages are “threaded”. You can reply to a specific message and keep the thread going, which allows you to keep communication focused.

What’s New:

  • Teams Mobile On-Demand Chat Translation: Inline message translation is now available on iOS devices.
  • Priority notifications: Users can send and receive unlimited urgent messages with priority notification.
  • Pulse Survey Templates: New Microsoft Forms survey templates that can be deployed via Teams channels.

MEETINGS

In my view, Meetings is another prominent features of Teams. Often times, “Meetings First” is a migration path our customers choose to follow, when migrating from a Skype for Business Server to Microsoft Teams. In this approach, Microsoft Teams client is used for web conferencing and online meetings. Here’s a shortlist of what can we do in a Teams meeting:

  • Schedule a meeting (from Microsoft Teams application or Outlook client).
  • Start an instant (ad-hoc) meeting.
  • Join a meeting in Microsoft Teams – from a link, calendar, chat, in a channel, call into a meeting, and add a room when you join.
  • Meeting features: audio, video (including background blurring, adding a virtual background, and pinning a video from specific participant), screensharing, record meeting, live captions, meeting participant chat, and viewing meeting participants.

What’s New:

  • Large gallery view: Coming soon, this feature expands the Microsoft Teams grid view to 7×7 to accommodate up to 49 participants at once on a single screen.
  • Virtual breakout rooms: Coming later this year, breakout rooms allow smaller groups to split from the rest of the meeting participants. This allows for focused brainstorming, learning, and side conversations. Discussions in the breakouts can later be shared back to the larger group.
  • Multi-window for Meetings & Calling: Currently available, this feature supports the ability to have meetings and calling in separate windows.
  • Increased meeting attendance: Now you can have a maximum of 300 participants in a Microsoft Teams meeting.

TEAMS AND CHANNELS

Teams and channels are the heart of Microsoft Teams. A Team in Microsoft Teams is a collection of:

  • People – main ingredient
  • Content – equally important ingredient
  • Tools and applications

You can create a Team from scratch or, create one from an existing Office 365 Group or Team.  If you’re creating one, you have the option for it to be Private (people need to be granted permission to join) or Public (anyone in your organization can join). If the Team is public, it can have up to 10,000 members. Here is a link to the limits and specifications from Microsoft.

Teams are made up of channels.  They are best used to help organize and bring people together in a collaborative space to get things done. It’s up to you on how you use a “Team” site, but Team sites are great for consolidating collaboration – conversations, files, notes and content.

Channels are dedicated “containers” to further help to organize things in a Team site by certain classifications and criteria, e.g. specific topics, projects, activities – whatever makes it work for your team. A Team site can be open to all team members or made for a select audience (private channels). You can augment the channels with apps, including tabs, connector and bots – making Team use much more productive.

What’s New:

  • Meet Now Button: This new button is now located in the Channel header for easy access.

PHONE SYSTEM

Phone System, formerly called Cloud PBX, gives users the ability to place and receive Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) calls, and can stand in for existing on-premises PBX system with a set of features delivered by Microsoft Office 365. To use Microsoft as your telephony carrier, you need to obtain Calling Plan licenses or use Direct Routing with a certified SBC.

With Phone System, users can use Microsoft Teams client to place, receive, transfer, and mute calls. Calls between users in your organization are handled internally and never go to the PSTN. This also applies to calls between users in your organization located in different geographical areas, removing costs associated with long distance calls. Furthermore, for calls outside of your organization, there’re a few options for connecting Microsoft Phone System to PSTN.

Basic features include Caller ID, Auto attendants, Call queues, Call park/retrieve, call sharing and group call pickup, shared line appearances and emergency calling.

What’s New:

  • PSTN participant phone numbers masked from external users: Coming soon for customers with PSTN conferencing, PSTN participant phone numbers will be masked to all users who have joined from outside of the organization.
  • Safe Transfer: Available now, ability to transfer a call safely to any other user in the organization.
  • New SBC certified: Additional SBCs available for Direct Routing deployments.

PEOPLE-ORIENTED ROI

When first introduced to Microsoft Teams, people often ask about specific features. After going over the core features and the added functionalities, I hope you see that Teams is so more than just chat and calling. It has a ton of rich features and is your organization’s hub for teamwork, providing a shared workspace for various applications in Microsoft Office. This allows users to work natively without needing to toggle between applications as they try to get work done. So how do you get your people switched over to Teams?

To accelerate adoption and drive usage of Microsoft Teams you need to:

  • Establish the framework necessary for successful adoption.
  • Design an adoption strategy built around the business needs and work habits of end users.
  • Accelerate ROI by identifying the pieces of your business that will benefit most from use of Microsoft Teams.
  • Have the mechanisms and insights you need to track and measure adoption over time, and regularly complete follow up reviews to measure success.

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