Teams gets serious one year on

Like most Microsoft offerings, it continues to change and add new features, all aimed at helping your people do more in less time, work closer together and move projects along more quickly.

As more and more people are used to chat-based tools, like iMessage, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, working in a persistent chat-mode is no issue.

With Teams, they can share files, create meetings and collaborate on documents in Word, spreadsheets in Excel and converse in Skype, all in real time, while chatting with colleagues, rather than waiting for documents to be reviewed and returned.

In addition, Microsoft Teams combines the full range of Office 365 apps to deliver a true teamwork hub. PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Planner, Power BI and Delve are all built in, so people have all the information and tools they need at their finger tips.

A successful year

More than 200,000 organisations around the globe, have already created 3 million Teams in just the first year.

Although aimed at the large enterprise market, Teams is relatively easy to adopt for organisations of every size, particularly those that already utilise everything Office 365 has to offer.

Additional features

When introduced, much was made of the fact that when team members chat, all the strands of the conversation are saved, so other team members can follow discussions held between colleagues.

Members of any team can reply only to a specific individual during a group conversation, a bit like a scribbled comment shared in a face to face meeting. Conversations can be seen by the whole team, but any discussion can become private when required.

And, it’s not just about typing. Skype is fully integrated to allow collaboration in voice and video conferences, with new features now included to make more of Skype.

Microsoft has announced it will be partnering with Lenovo and HP to develop new Skype Room Systems, all of which will support Teams.

Microsoft has also said it will be certifying new solutions from partners to improve how Teams works with other hardware offerings, like desktop and conference room phones.

Continuous updates

It seems new features are being added every few months and in recent months, significant changes have been made to Teams to improve collaboration and increase productivity.

Information from a huge range of apps can now be imported directly into messages. You can search for a task in Trello, a project in Wrike, or result in Survey Monkey and include an interactive card detailing that information into a message.

The addition of a new personal apps space offers each individual a quick overview of the apps they are using, items assigned across apps and items recently accessed. This personal app space also includes ‘Who’, which Microsoft claims will allow people to quickly search for others in their organisation.

Teams now comes with a new Store to help users find the apps they need more quickly, searching by name or category, as well as by the type of integration. Once the app is found, the user can tell Teams to surface the app in a specific channel or in their personal app view.

Along with new language options, Teams also now allows ‘Out of office’ messages to be set while an individual is out of the office or on holiday.

Intelligent Communications with Calling in Teams

Teams now features the full range of dialling capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialling, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail and text telephone (TTY) support for the hearing impaired.

To add calling in Teams, simply subscribe to a Calling Plan for any number of users in your organisation, who each get a primary phone number to allow them to make and receive calls to and from outside of your organisation.

Adding calling to Teams further drives a modern collaborative experience for your people, with a single place for content, contacts and communications, including chat, meetings and calling.

On the record

Microsoft is adding cloud recording to Teams, which is intended to allow one-click recordings to be made of meetings.

Automatic transcription and time coding of these meetings will come as standard, allowing team members to search the transcript for the terms they want, to playback specific segments of any given meeting. Or all of it can be replayed by those that missed it and want to review its content.

Accuracy will be critical. The technology might tick boxes for security, privacy and compliance, but if it chooses voice recognition instead of sending out for third-party transcription by experienced humans, it has to be good.

Microsoft has promised to add facial recognition in the future, so the transcription will show who said what, but again, accuracy of transcription will be crucial.

Teams translates in real-time

Interesting for organisations with overseas interests, offices on other continents or freelance support in foreign countries, Microsoft is also introducing in-line message translation. The idea is to streamline communication between people who speak different languages, using Cortana voice interaction. It will allow users within Teams to make calls, join meetings, etc., using spoken language, to help make Teams even more user-friendly and convenient.

Michael Owen, Head of Business Productivity, Circyl

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