My Top 4 Microsoft Ignite Learns

My recent visit to Microsoft Ignite in Orlando was a trip of firsts for me. Before last week I had never been to either America or a Microsoft conference; it was a sensory assault to say the least. Everything was big, the coffee was strange and I witnessed grown men do outrageous things just for some free swag. There has been a lot to process in the week following so I wanted to round up some of my thoughts and favorites in a top 4 list of learns and observations.

Top 4 product learns at Ignite:

Yammer: There were lots of exciting updates, but Yammer stood out for me – and not just because of the radical facelift. They doubled down on the core use cases for an enterprise-wide knowledge-sharing platform. This explanation of the ‘how’ provided a clear link to the ‘why’; connecting leaders and employees, which was great to see. The integration story was another strong focus, promising a consistent Yammer experience across Teams, SharePoint and Outlook. Hopefully, this will finally quell the rumors that Yammer is going to be culled from the O365 stack. My top updates:

  • Modern look and feel – Simple, less cluttered and more ‘social media-esque’.
  • Communities replacing groups – Following the updates, communities will be better able to brand themselves and define their purpose.
  • Community manager tools – Filtering and closing questions in communities
  • Refined Feed – Enhanced by AI and machine learning to further personalise the experience; showing you what’s important, driving discovery and open sharing
  • Video on the go – Instantly capture, trim, apply filters, and publish with a new video experience
  • Outlook integrations – Participate in Yammer conversations without leaving your Outlook inbox

Teams: There wasn’t any one stand out announcement for Teams for me – rather, a wave of useful and much needed improvements to experience and functionality. It’s great to see how closely Microsoft are listening to feedback. The abundance of some of the less sexy administrative updates show that they are continuously building out this tool into a powerful teamwork tool for enterprises. There are so many updates, but here are my top picks:

  • Live captioning in meetings – Captions for speech will be available, appearing in real time
  • Meeting options – Introducing the ability to clearly define presenters and attendees, allowing you to take back control of speaking arrangements  
  • Tasks in teams – Provides a new, unified view of your personal and assigned tasks within Teams
  • Private Channels – Enable users to create channels within existing teams that can be viewed and accessed only by select members
  • Pop out chat – Easily manage chat windows by popping them out of your
  • Outlook integrations – Users can move an email conversation from Outlook, including attachments, into a Teams chat or channel conversation
  • Echo avoidance – Detects another endpoint and automatically mutes. No more echoes!  (Probably my favorite)

Project Cortex – Coined as the biggest announcement since Microsoft Teams, there was certainly a lot of buzz around Project Cortex. As a non-technical consultant, I will attempt to describe it (albeit crudely). It is an artificially intelligent knowledge network that automatically connects and defines information so that users don’t have to.
It is was borne out of the difficulty of connecting the information in your company to the people who need it. The three core outputs are:

  • Organize knowledge across teams and systems
  • Empower people with knowledge and expertise “just-in-time”, in the apps used every day
  • Intelligently manage and protect content with built-in security and workflow

Fluid framework – I can best describe the fluid framework (again, a non-techy so bear with me), as a deconstructed collaboration framework that takes the principle of document co-authoring and simplifies it down a level to specific data sets. This allows users to collaborate on sets of content that live in numerous locations at the same time, without going into each document to modify. This will help to ensure that only the latest content is displayed and will be invaluable to critical and sensitive information. I think this graphic does a great job of explaining it:

Yammer will now use the Office 365 profile

Yammer profiles are about to change. And for many, this is long overdue!

From late September, profile pages in Yammer will synchronise with your Office profile – which means that staff will no longer be able to have different personal information in Yammer and Office 365.

What does this mean?

After September’s update, Office 365 profiles will become the single source of truth for contact information, ‘about me’ bios and profile pictures across all applications. This has long been true in most of the Office 365 apps – but Yammer has always had a separate profile system.

Sometimes this has been desirable – savvy Yammer members were able to change their display names to include additional information (such as indicating that they were out of the office or travelling).

But more often than not, having different profiles led to confusion. The disconnect between Office 365 and Yammer profiles meant that Yammer often had outdated or inconsistent information. It also meant that staff could (unintentionally) contravene HR policies – like changing their job titles. The disconnect also occassionally led to technical problems, with official profile pictures showing up in Office 365, but completely missing in Yammer!

Moving forward Yammer profiles will automatically sync with Office 365 profiles to ensure parity.

*If a Yammer member does not have a corresponding Office 365 identity, they will not be affected by this feature.

After the change takes effect, Yammer members who wish to change project, education and skills information will have to navigate to their Office 365 profile. Get there by selecting the profile picture in the top right and corner after signing into and then update profile (see below). Depending on your settings users may have to contact their IT administrator to update their name, job title and profile picture.


Office 365 profile

How to access your Office 365 profile


How will this affect your users?

Office 365 user profiles will soon override Yammer profiles. When this happens anything that has been added to the Yammer profile will be lost and any non-AAD profile properties (profile fields that are only found on the Yammer profile) will disappear, for example, custom ‘about me’ information, or a link to a staff member’s Facebook page.

Next steps

There are a few steps that you may want to take to ensure minimal disruption when this update comes into play:

  • Update training content, materials and onboarding processes

It’s handy to get in quick and update any reference materials so that users can self-serve any issues and add Office 365 profile population to the onboarding process.

  • Let your users know

Communicate the change to your staff, explain that their Office 365 profile is now the single source of truth and let them know how to edit it. This is important as it may affect keyword searches and results on Yammer.

And if your staff have created custom information in Yammer – let them know that this change will cause that data to dissappear.