Improving the functionality of Teams has been a focus for Microsoft as the solution’s popularity has seen an exponential increase, and 2021 will see some major updates.
The roadmap for the product that was announced at Ignite 2021 shows an intention to build it out into a one-stop-shop for interpersonal connectivity, from customer and employee experience to expanding live events capabilities.
Empired and Lab3, two partners who specialise in providing Teams solutions, provided insight on what they saw as the biggest benefits and challenges for Teams users in the coming year.
Empired modern work, security and Azure solution director Jaen Snyman laid out some context for the market as it is today.
“Most of these features, if not all, are as a direct result of the COVID-19 experience. We had to change our events to 100 percent online webinars and meetings. The change to using it all the time certainly highlighted the missing features and the importance of them to improve the virtual meeting world we found ourselves in.”
He added that the exception to this is the upcoming Slack-like Teams Connect, which will allow the creation of channels to which external parties can be invited, which “was the number one requested feature in Teams for a long time.”
These updates are laying the groundwork for the new work-from-home world, said Lab3 chief executive Chris Cook.
“Working from home is here to stay. The new features and additions include a significant increase to capabilities around collaboration and these capabilities will go up a notch further, when paired with the new Microsoft Viva offerings (which are also on the agenda to be released this year).”
Both Snyman and Cook pointed to the updated webinar features as a major plus.
Cook said that it “unlocks a whole new use case and collaboration experience, specifically around participant interaction and collaboration.”
Snyman said, “All the webinars, presentations and meeting room features are great because it is in such demand at the moment with lockdowns still a reality. It really enhances the product even more to provide not only a great user experience, but also a great presenter experience.”
Security is at the fore of many people’s minds with the need to secure and ensure compliance of all of this new digital infrastructure. Upcoming Teams’ security enhancements include invite-only meeting controls, end to end encryption and geographical data control.
“The security, privacy and compliance enhancement are not surprising when the service is fast becoming a critical part of the way we communicate and work everyday,” said Snyman.
“It is still good to see the continued improvement in security and the important geolocation control over where data is stored. This will be welcomed by many customers.”
One challenge noted by Lab3’s Cook is that these updates mean greater demands on cloud infrastructure, which could cause problems if users are not prepared.
“Connectivity issues are really important for organisations to resolve to enhance virtual workplaces and the benefits of collaborative tools like Teams. Many organisations rushed to the cloud, on any platform, under the illusion that all cloud is equal – it’s not, and now they face performance issues.”
As these updates and capabilities roll out over the year, Cook sums up the product’s potential as a communication and collaboration platform powerhouse: “Overall, things are looking exciting for Teams in 2021!”