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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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Poly First To Market With Zoom And Teams Certifications

On June 10th, Poly announced the First Zoom Rooms Certification of Poly’s native portfolio of video conferencing solutions along with the following announcement of Studio X certification for Native Microsoft Teams on June 16th. This is impactful because this makes Poly the only vendor to have certification on both Zoom and Teams, meaning that enterprises have the freedom to choose between vendors without the hassle of having to change their hardware. Poly is innovating quickly with its solutions and I suspect the company could play a big part in collaboration devices as we hash out what the future of work looks like.

These last couple of months have met business owners with unknowns and uncertainty. We know that the future of remote and hybrid work environments is here to stay. As employees begin to return to the office, some will remain remote. Many companies are giving their employees options to stay working remotely and even sending out surveys to understand what percentages have this desire. One question arises from this: how can remote workers stay connected and have a good collaboration experience with employees in the office without physically being there? 

Zoom partnership

With this new launch, these devices will be the “first Android-based appliances that have native Zoom Rooms, Poly Studio X30, Poly Studio X50, and G7500 video conferencing devices” that are managed by Zoom Device Management (article). ZDM is Zooms mobile device tool that allows you to control actions from your enrolled devices from the Zoom portal, creating a seamless connectivity experience. With this Zoom certification, the Poly Studio X family combines with G7500 create a great audio and video experience that includes features such as conversation tracking, NoiseBlockAI, and Acoustic fence technologies that will block out outside noises and distractions. Together, Poly and Zoom create a secure experience for users that enables them to have seamless collaboration. Poly is the only company that has native video, voice, and headset solutions specifically for the Zoom portfolio.

One of the most exciting Poly features is Poly Lens. With this feature, you can look into your collaborative environment of Poly devices and manage all of the devices across an organization. Currently, you can manage video bars, headsets, Trios and soon desk phones.

Microsoft Teams partnership

In the last couple of months, MS Teams has seen much growth “from 32 million active users in early March to 75 million active users by April” (MS update article). Last week, Poly made an addition to its Microsoft Teams device portfolio with the certification of the Studio X family. This means you can order Studio X30 and X50 with native Teams already running when you take it out of the box. A couple of prominent features are Proximity Join, Meeting AI, Acoustic Fence, and Poly Lens.

With Proximity Join, you can join any meeting from a meeting space from your personal device using the Microsoft Teams app. You can also share content directly through the Teams app on your own device. This means no bundle of cords to rifle through and creates a seamless collaboration experience. The audio-conferencing experience also got better with the addition of Poly NoiseBlockAI and Acoustic Fence. The two audio features redesigned to keep out distracting noises during your meeting. MeetingAI tracks speakers in the room and keeps the visual focus on the person speaking.

Wrapping up

All in all, it is good to see Polys new line of video and audio-conferencing devices certified with both Zoom and Teams. Having the ability to get Poly devices with pre-installed Native Zoom or Microsoft Teams will be helpful to enterprise customers as they navigate videoconferencing collaboration solutions as they future of work is changing. You can also access other platforms such as Blue Jeans, Webex, and 8×8 through this tool. Nobody else in the market currently offers this multi-mode option. With the future of work looking more and more remote, it is great to see more enterprise collaboration offerings that are integrated with the platforms like Teams and Zoom.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy researchers and analysts may have contributed to this article.

Disclosure: Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided paid research, analysis, advising, or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Amazon.com, Advanced Micro Devices, Apstra, ARM Holdings, Aruba Networks, AWS, A-10 Strategies, Bitfusion, Cisco Systems, Dell, Dell EMC, Dell Technologies, Diablo Technologies, Digital Optics, Dreamchain, Echelon, Ericsson, Foxconn, Frame, Fujitsu, Gen Z Consortium, Glue Networks, GlobalFoundries, Google, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei Technologies, IBM, Intel, Interdigital, Jabil Circuit, Konica Minolta, Lattice Semiconductor, Lenovo, Linux Foundation, MACOM (Applied Micro), MapBox, Mavenir, Mesosphere, Microsoft, National Instruments, NetApp, NOKIA, Nortek, NVIDIA, ON Semiconductor, ONUG, OpenStack Foundation, Panasas, Peraso, Pixelworks, Plume Design, Portworx, Pure Storage, Qualcomm, Rackspace, Rambus, Rayvolt E-Bikes, Red Hat, Samsung Electronics, Silver Peak, SONY, Springpath, Sprint, Stratus Technologies, Symantec, Synaptics, Syniverse, TensTorrent, Tobii Technology, Twitter, Unity Technologies, Verizon Communications, Vidyo, Wave Computing, Wellsmith, Xilinx, Zebra, which may be cited in this article.

Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/moorinsights/2020/06/22/poly-first-to-market-with-zoom-and-teams-certifications/#4e8e2752634b

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Poly 5 Tips for Working from Home

We’re all reading a lot about remote working in light of the coronavirus, and the steps many companies are taking to help protect their employees. I’ve been an active participant in flexible working for the past seven years and can offer both rants and raves on various aspects. Yes, it’s great to have the office dog, and yes, it’s annoying to have to keep my home office pristine for video (but I’m thankful I have a home office and am not working from my kitchen counter). Through some trial and error, though, here are some things to keep in mind.

TIP 1: TURN YOUR CAMERA ON

Use the video service that your situation allows, and really, turn your camera on. I can’t say this enough. Conference calls that are audio-only drive complacency, multitasking, and just plain not paying attention (remember this? Too true!). Video allows you see people, expressions, reactions, and personality. It keeps a key part of your brain engaged. Neuroscience has shown that video makes meetings more inclusive because mentally you parse the group as ‘your’ crowd.

TIP 2: SET THE STAGE

Small tweaks make a difference — light in front of you, not behind you. If you’re using your laptop camera, think about raising that laptop a bit – maybe on a few books, or in my case, a ream of copy paper — this prevents the camera from going for the ‘nose-hair view’. I also recommend a bright lipstick, if that’s your jam. My personal go-to is ‘Regal’ by Bobbi Brown.

TIP 3: STAY ON MUTE WHEN YOU’RE NOT SPEAKING

Know where your mute button is, and don’t be afraid to use it. Dogs, cars, leaf blowers, vacuums, family members… There are distractions at home that can be disruptive to others on the call. But don’t forget that hitting the mute button means remembering to unmute, too.

TIP 4: PROFESSIONAL EQUIPMENT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Most laptops were not designed with audio capability that rivals what you get with a quality headset or speakerphone. The occasional call is one thing – but if you work from home regularly, it’s another. Use a headset or a portable USB speakerphone that works with your communications software of choice, like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. That way you’ll also have prompts to remind you when you start talking on mute – and, therefore avoiding that, “Sorry, Karen, we can’t hear you… you’re on mute” part of the call.

TIP 5: REMEMBER TO MOVE

I’ve had days where I’ve checked my smartwatch early afternoon to discover I’ve only taken all of 13 steps… ouch! Set a timer to remind yourself to stand, to stretch, to check out another room in the house. It’s important to stay active and to air out the cobwebs. In fact, a hidden benefit of WFH is that you can throw in a midday workout if your schedule allows. Whether that’s a walk around the block or a quick ride on the Peloton (my choice), getting your heart and body engaged will make you more productive.

Sources: https://blogs.poly.com/5-tips-working-from-home