Microsoft Teams: All the new features that you need to know about

Microsoft used its annual conference for developers and IT pros to showcase a heap of new additions to Microsoft Teams.

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Microsoft Ignite 2020 brought Teams features galore

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft Ignite 2020 has been and gone, with the Redmond software giant using this year's event – held in virtual format due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – to showcase a number of new updates to its ever-growing suite of software products and IT services.

With the trend of remote work still going strong, it's little wonder that Microsoft used its annual conference for developers and IT pros to showcase the latest additions to Microsoft Teams, which has seen massive growth in 2020. From new meeting modes and calling experiences to security updates, industry-specific integrations and a new range of Teams-ready devices, there was no shortage news for the video conferencing and collab platform's 75 million-strong user base.

In case you missed it, here are (nearly) all the new Microsoft Teams features announced at Microsoft Ignite 2020.

Meetings

  • Microsoft announced new background templates for Together mode: Joining the current auditorium backdrop later this year will be, amongst other settings, a coffee shop and a conference room.
  • Presenters will be able customize how the content they share is displayed for other participants sitting in the meeting. This includes a greenscreen-like effect that will allow presenters to have their video display on top of the slide of a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Breakout rooms will allow meeting participants to split up into smaller groups and go into their own closed meeting spaces for discussions and brainstorming sessions. Presenters will be able to jump between these different rooms to make announcements and then bring everybody back into the main meeting room when they need to.
  • A new Meeting Recap feature will automatically save a record of everything said and shared during a Teams meeting, including audio of the conversation, a transcript, chat logs and shared files.
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Breakout rooms are for brainstorming sessions in small teams

Image: Microsoft
  • Better support for webinars will be coming to Microsoft Teams later this year, including automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance, and reporting tools for understanding attendee engagement.
  • Touchless meeting experiences will allow employees to navigate calls using voice and gesture-based interactions, making use of Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant and the Surface Hub
  • Meeting room capacity notifications enabled by meeting room cameras will keep track of the number of people in a physical meeting room so they don't go over capacity, helping organizations stick to social distancing guidelines.
  • A new range of devices called Microsoft Teams Panels will be available early 2021 from Crestron and Yealink. These are designed to be mounted outside of meetings rooms to provide at-a-glace information about room availability and bookings.

Calls

  • A simplified view for the Microsoft Teams calling experience will display contacts, voicemail and history in one place.
  • The new collaborative calling feature is designed with IT helpdesks and administrative hotlines in mind and allows Teams users to add a call queue to a Teams channel. Admins can then easily connect call queues to specific channels.
  • From 1 October, Microsoft is expanding Microsoft Calling to include Austria, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.

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Chat and collaboration

  • A new info pane, pinned posts, and conversation button are being added to Teams help highlight important posts pinned by members, and other relevant information shared in a Teams channel.
  • A new AI-powered search experience is being added to Teams later this year to make it easier and quicker for users to find people, messages and files from across Microsoft 365 services. Microsoft is also bumping the membership limit for Teams from 10,000 to 25,000 members.
  • Microsoft Lists has been added to Teams for commercial and government customers, making it easier for businesses to track, manage and organize important work.
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The new info pane provides an at-a-glance summary of important info in a chat channel

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft 365 integrations

  • Wellbeing features and productivity insights are coming to Microsoft Teams starting in October. Powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics, these are designed to help managers and organization leaders gain insights into employee wellbeing and better support the needs of their workforce. A "virtual commute" to help add structure to employees' days, as well as guided meditations by Headspace, are also being added.
  • A new SharePoint home site app will help connect Teams directly to their organization's intranet, offering quick access to company news and information.

Firstline Workers

  • Walkie Talkie Android is a new feature for frontline workers that turns company-owned and personal Android handsets or tablets into a walkie talkie, using a simple push-to-talk function. Voice calls are facilitated securely in the cloud.
  • New integration between Microsoft Teams and RealWear's head-mounted devices will allow field workers in hazardous settings participate in hands-free voice calls.
  • Part of the Power Platform suite, the new Power Automate Shifts connector for Teams allows managers to more easily manage work shifts and schedules with auto-approve functionality and integration with calendars, including Outlook.

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Healthcare

  • A new connector will allow healthcare organizations to launch virtual consultations with patients or colleagues in Teams, directly from their electronic health record (EHR) system. US healthcare IT vendor Epic will be the first to integrate with Teams in 2020, with support for other EHR systems coming soon. 
  • Teams will also integrate with Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX), an AI-powered clinical documentation tool, that will allow healthcare professionals to securely record interactions between clinicians and patients during telehealth consultations, and then automatically generate clinical notes. This is currently in private beta.

Security and compliance

  • Customer Key support for Microsoft Teams is being added to allow admins to encrypt Teams data while at rest in the data center. A public preview is expected before end of the year.
  • The new Microsoft Graph API for Teams DLP is now available, allowing developers to build apps that can record Teams messages for data loss prevention (DLP) scenarios for both Teams customers and software vendors.
  • The Teams Export API allows messages sent in Teams chats – including attachments and other shared media like GIFs and stickers - to be exported according to organizations' data retention, indexing, classification, and regulatory policies.

Management

  • IT admins will soon be able to customize their business app catalogue with their organization's branding.
  • New bulk policy assignments allow administrators to control which Teams features are available to users in batches of up to 50,000 users at once. At the same time, a new delegate device admin role allows global admins to restrict and control the permission of managing other Teams admin functions.
  • Microsoft is releasing a dedicated Teams app for ARM-based devices to improve performance.

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Power Platform and custom development

  • Developers will soon be able to integrate their apps into Teams to bring additional in-meeting functionality to the platform. Apps from than 20 launch partners will be ready for use when the feature becomes generally available in October, Microsoft said.
  • Approvals for Teams will become generally available in October, allowing Teams users to create and sign off on documents directly from a chat or channel conversation. Integrations with Adobe Sign and DocuSign are expected before the end of the year.
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More support for third-party app integration is coming to Microsoft Teams.

Image: Microsoft
  • A new Power Automate app for Teams in coming later this year, bringing a new set of templates for automating work done in Teams. Microsoft's Power BI app for Teams is also getting a boost, meanwhile GitHub has launched a new version of its GitHub for Teams app.
  • Developers will soon be able to build Power Platform connectors with Azure API Management and Azure Functions to any Microsoft hosted third-party, legacy, or line-of-business apps.
  • Single sign-on (SSO) for Teams apps is now available through the Azure Active Directory, with support for chatbots and other messaging extensions coming soon.

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