Microsoft Ignite 2021 summary

Last week was Microsoft’s annual conference, Ignite, and wow, was it a big one! From new feature announcements to thought-provoking discussions on the challenges facing us over the next decade, there was no shortage of inspiring content. With so much to digest, we have pulled together a summary of our top five take-aways from Ignite 2021.

Strap yourselves in. This is a big one.

1. Hybrid experiences are here to stay

Every industry has seen a change to how, when and where work gets done. This isn’t exclusive to traditional knowledge workers either. Organisations with frontline or deskless staff must rethink the way they engage with their workforce and customers (e.g. through virtual consultations, improved line-of-business applications etc). This should include new experiences that blend both digital and physical experiences. Some ways Microsoft are supporting this include:

A new take on virtual collaboration with Mesh

By far one of the most interesting announcements to come out of Ignite is Mesh for Microsoft Teams. Mesh is the new metaverse platform that enables shared experiences through mixed reality applications. It aims to extend upon what’s possible in a virtual world by creating immersive spaces that resemble physical spaces. You can create your own avatar, bump into colleagues old and new to spark that water cooler chat you’ve missed so much.

A range of new meeting enhancements, including:

  • The new cameo feature which seamlessly puts your Teams camera feed directly into your PowerPoint presentation.

  • Speaker coach which uses AI to provide you with real-time feedback on your pace and tips like checking in with your audience.
  • Enhancements to the virtual meeting experience; including assigning roles to meeting participants (so they know why they’ve been invited to a meeting), seeing the order of raised hands, the ability to hide your own camera from your personal view, and much more.
  • New in-room tech to help you design for people not in the room – including intelligent speakers and camera, to help make hybrid meetings feel more equitable.

2. People are at the centre of every major update

The past 18 months have been a catalyst for change across every industry globally. And at the heart of this change, are people.

Looking ahead to the next decade, it’s clear that we’re at the start of a much bigger journey. The way you sell, support customers, market your organisation, and connect with your employees is all undergoing what Satya Nadella calls a “sea-change.”

“Fundamentally, we are moving from a mobile and cloud era to an era of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence. An era which will experience more digitization over the next 10 years than the last 40.“Satya Nadella, Keynote, Ignite 2021

And the research is clear – everyone wants flexibility. The hybrid paradox and great re-shuffle highlight the critical importance of designing experiences that support people to connect and collaborate. As Jared Spatero said in his presentation “the digital employee experience is the employee experience.”

So, how are Microsoft keeping people at the centre of technology?

The biggest way they’re doing this is through their new employee experience platform – Microsoft Viva.

Last week, Microsoft announced the launch of Viva Learning – the fourth module in their employee experience platform – and the addition of a fifth module in the new year; Ally.io, focused on connecting people to organisational goals.

Listening to Chuck Friedman, CVP for Employee Experience, speak about Viva and the value it brings to people, it’s clear that Microsoft are hugely inspired by the humanity behind the challenges we’re facing today.

With updates to the Connections dashboard announced, the launch of Connections for mobile (a game-changer for communications and engagement with frontline); new manager and meeting insights; and updates to the Topics management dashboard, Viva could truly revolutionise the employee experience for knowledge workers, frontline and deskless staff alike.

The announcements of Industry Cloud

While clouds for industry is nothing new, we saw a huge number of updates, including the addition of new industry-specific clouds. This is hugely important to help deliver solutions that are suited the context of your business and, more importantly your people and customers.

For more information, check out the updates below:

3. Integration is the key to personalised and productive experiences

“What tool do I use, and when?” “We have too many systems” “Why can’t we have one source-of-truth?” … sound familiar?

It’s no surprise to anyone that our working lives have become more complex in a hybrid world. Microsoft are acutely aware of this and are working hard to equip you with the tools and capabilities needed to design more integrated and personalised experiences for your people.

Some ways they’re doing this include:

  • Partnering with more third-party organisations and extending upon existing partnerships to provide seamless experiences. For example, launching new collaborative apps from partners including Atlassian and SAP.

4. The gap between AI and people is closing

Another exciting part of Ignite was listening to the number of new AI integrations and capabilities coming to the platform. This included:

The announcement of context IQ

Extending on the humble ‘spell-check’ feature (which is natively integrated across M365), with Context IQ which can predict, suggest and seek information that you might need while working on a document or emailing a colleague.

Personal insights

Microsoft also announced new premium features coming to Viva Insights to help individuals and managers to improve collaboration and promote healthier work habits. This includes new insights to improve meetings, access to guided meditations and mindfulness exercises from Headspace, plus more.

5. Collaboration is getting a boost

Congratulations on making it this far! We warned you there were lots of updates 😊

Teams connect

How often have you wanted to include an external colleague or vendor in a single Teams Channel rather than spinning up a whole new Team? Yep, us too. Well, be prepared to be amazed with Teams Connect – a new feature coming to Teams, which will help make collaboration and communication easier and more secure across organisations.

We think Teams Connect compliments our Address Book solution like two peas in a pod. If you’re keen to learn more about this get in touch!

Updates to the meeting experience

We’ve arguably saved the best ‘til (second) last. There are a bunch of new meeting enhancements coming, to help you run more effective meetings – whether it’s a 1:1 or a webinar. Some of our favourites include:

  • The ability to assign roles – so people know why they’ve been included on a meeting and what’s expected of them
  • Mobile enhancements – including revamping the mobile overflow menu to prioritize actions like viewing chats

And finally Microsoft Loop is coming

Microsoft Loop is a new app that helps people collaborate more seamlessly across applications. It includes Loop components, pages and workspaces and is designed to help you make quick updates to information without duplicating content.

Want to know more?

We hope you enjoyed our Microsoft Ignite 2021 summary.

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