M365 Monthly Update: September Ignite Special

We know it’s hard to keep on top of all the new updates to Microsoft 365 in normal times but in the aftermath of Ignite, it can be nauseating. To help we have handpicked the top M365 productivity suite announcements from across Ignite.

For a more comprehensive look at all of the update check out this great resource from Microsoft rounding up all of the news from Ignite here in the Book of News

1. SharePoint Syntex

What’s new:

SharePoint Syntex uses advanced AI to deliver ‘content management superpowers’ according to Microsoft. In summary Syntex reads documents using AI and categorises, tags and captures key information points to facilitate knowledge sharing, reuse and search. Syntex allows you to program your own meta data models for maximum effectiveness and automatically apply security and retention labels based on the content.

Why is this important:

Managing data, files and information can be labor intensive at every stage of the content management life cycle. The biggest point of weakness being when time poor end users upload files. No matter how many policies, mandatory fields or guidelines are in place, manually tagging documents with meta data is a tedious affair resulting in a high risk of erroneous or unfinished entries. By automating the heavy lifting with Syntex document management processes can be streamlined and optimised. The resulting information can then be used to curate common themes an topics from multiple locations for users seamlessly.

When is it coming:

Available for purchase from 1st of October

2. PowerApps in Teams

What’s new:

You will soon be able to create Power Apps solutions including virtual agents directly from within Teams. New updates to Power platform capabilities in Teams now make it easier for anyone to automate, build and use apps and bots all in one place. Solutions built with Power Platform can be easily published to the Teams app store and can be used off the shelf or customized for specific needs. Power Virtual Agents bots can identify the user interacting with them and respond with personalized, user-specific returns.

Why is this important:

One of the most exiting parts of this update is the availability of out of the box Power Apps templates. The power platform is well known for its low code framework promoting citizen development from non-techy users but the new templates avalible in Teams let anyone create a PowerApp in seconds right where they are interacting with the work.

When is it coming:

Avalible now

3. Together Mode update

What’s new:

Together mode was announced earlier this year and rolled out over the last few months. Over Ignite a host of updates were unveiled for this feature. These include:

News scenes – Soon you can catch up with your colleagues in a virtual coffee shop or conference room

Scale and centre – with Machine learning to ensure participants are comfortably positioned in their virtual seats

Virtual commute – To allow people to prepare and debrief for the day – virtually.

Why is this important:

We know that virtual meetings burn us out quicker so creating opportunities to break up the norm and create engaging experiences is a win. Feedback from the first release of together mode was mixed and felt more novel than actually helpful. Hopefully, the coupling of these new updates with the rest of the new meeting features will help to create truly meaningful digital experiences.

When is it coming:

Unconfirmed

4. The new Home Site App in Teams

What’s new:

The new Home Site app gives employees a gateway to your organization, starting with the app’s name and icon, which you can customize to reflect the identity of your organization or your intranet. The app’s multi-level navigation lets people find sites across the organization, including portals, teams, communities and applications.

Why is this important:

There has been lots of talk recently about Intranet vs Teams, Teams vs intranet and in some cases one will win over the other in terms of functionality and need. However this new app allows organisations to leverage the best out of both platforms by pulling the power of your SharePoint intranet directly into Teams, making the navigation between the two seamless. Meeting people where they work with the information they need. The core difference with this features as apposed to adding the home page pinned with a Tab is that its fully brandable and offers an immersive site consumption experience, complete with navigation, mega-menus and support for tenant wide search.

When is it coming:

Unconfirmed

5. Templates in Teams

What’s new:

Allows users to predefine a set of channels, tabs, apps and settings catered to industry-specific and role-based scenarios. Templates include common activities such as project management and employee onboarding, as well as industry-specific and Firstline Worker templates, such as Organize a Store, Retail Manager Collaboration and Collaborate on Patient Care.

Why is this important:

The downside of rapid adoption is sprawl. A surplus of Teams, Channels and apps being created with little or no thought. Templates allow both end-users and IT admins define a best-case format to help to standardise the way people work and communicate.

When is it coming:

Available now

6. Custom meeting layouts

What’s new:

Custom layouts will allow presenters to customize how meeting content shows up for participants during the meeting. For example, they can choose for participants to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the content being presented on screen. This feature uses the same AI segmentation technology employed by background blur and Together mode to deliver a more dynamic content viewing experience where presenters can easily direct their audiences’ attention through hand gestures and facial cues, without making the viewer choose between the speaker and the content.

Why is this important:

The idea of a ‘traditional meeting’ has been destroyed over the last six months. As we communicate and collaborate solely through cameras and screens we are defining more digital experience scenarios than ever before. Given the need for versatility across our meeting experiences users can now create custom layouts allowing predefined settings and features to be configured prior to kick off. This feature will coincide with the dynamic view unveiled earlier this year for a truly custom digital experience.

When is it coming:

Unconfirmed

7. Breakout rooms

What’s new:

Meeting organizers will soon be able  to split up meeting participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions. Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting.

Why is this important:

This is one of the most requested features for Microsoft Teams and its great to see that there is a commitment to have this shipped before the end of the year. Breakout rooms are a great way to offer another dimension to virtual meetings facilitating workshop style scenarios allowing for live collaboration.

When is it coming:

End of 2020

8. New Stream

What’s new:

Stream is getting a face lift and then some. Fundamentally the way video content is surface, stored and viewed across M365 will change with the new integrated Stream experience. It will be the home for all videos in M365 where ever they live. The key difference is where the videos themselves are stored. To ensure compliance, governance and permissions remain consistent across all videos they will be stored in SharePoint and OneDrive. Internet integration will also be a lot more slick with customisation, branding options and seamless integration.

Why is this important:

Video content and consumption is core to our way of life. It’s therefore essential that video in the workplace is as easy to search, consume and share as the documents we use. This new update to Stream put video at the core of Microsoft 365 by unlocking the Graph API and allowing all elements of video to be searchable. The downside is the new Stream will require another migration, however this will happen in stages.

When is it coming:

End of the fourth quarter this year

9. Wellbeing updates

What’s new:

The productivity score update announced last year will be gaining some new employee experience categories focusing on Meetings and Teamwork. As organizations continue to evolve how they meet and work together in teams, understanding best practices and technologies that ensure inclusive, consistent and effective ways of working together is critical.

Meditation is coming to Teams with Headspace. Microsoft is partnering up with third party apps like Headspace to introduce time out meditations to keep teams sharp and energized throughout the day

Workplace analytics Organizational insights and capabilities from Workplace Analytics in Teams will help managers and leaders spot and address trends with their employees’ experiences. For example, insights will help leaders understand if employees are maintaining connections with colleagues and customers, or if they are at risk for burnout from long workdays and meeting overload.

Why is this important:

I think we can all attest to the importance of mental health over the last six months. Its more vital than ever to quickly identify when something is wrong and have the tools at hand to deal with them. The new update releases from Microsoft give teams the power to analyse data to better protect staff. 

When is it coming:

Staggered release dates

10. Yammer community manager updates

What’s new:

The updates to Yammer are less big bang than Teams and more behind the scenes. The main update that has everyone talking is the delegated posting feature aimed at community admins and managers. It lets people post on behalf of other people with the core scenario being senior leaders and executives.

Why is this important:

This year is feeling a lot more like the Year of Teams rather than the Year of Yammer. Even so Microsoft reiterated the fact that Yammer remains a core pillar of enterprise communication and engagement. I can understand why the Yammer faithful’s are up in arms about the recent U-turn on delegate posting contradicting years of authentic voice rhetoric advocation. But for me, I think it is positive. People have been asking for it for a long time and, ultimately if it drives more activity on the platform then it can only be a good thing, right? Does a delegated post have to be better than a companywide email?

When is it coming:

Unconfirmed

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