One of the challenges of working from home with Microsoft Teams is that it’s much harder to gauge how those in a meeting feel about what someone is saying. In person, we intuitively pick up on what people are thinking about what’s being said, based on their body language. On a screen during a video call, it’s not quite as easy 😭.
A new feature, being introduced over the next month, aims to restore the ability to show how you feel about what’s being said, without interrupting the speaker. Borrowing somewhat from social networks like Facebook, Microsoft are adding emoji-based ‘reactions’ to the video meeting experience.
It’s a common problem – you’re happily using Teams, when you get distracted by some activity, or a colleague messages you. You switch to another area of Teams to address the task at hand. Moments later, though, you want to go back to what you were originally working on… but where did it go?
Never fear. Much like the back button in popular browsers, Teams is now gaining a ‘History’ menu, which will let you retrace your footsteps through Microsoft Teams.
Retrace your steps in Teams
Thanks to the new History menu, it will be a piece of cake to navigate to previous locations. By simply hovering over the ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons at the top of the Teams window, you will be able to see all the tabs, conversations, teams and files you recently looked at.
Two new types of usage report – for Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Search – are being rolled out to Microsoft 365 in February 2021. Here’s what you need to know.
Microsoft Teams usage report
Admins will be able to find a new Microsoft Teams usage activity report in the usage reports section of the Microsoft 365 Admin Centre.
The report gathers together data from across your organisation’s use of Microsoft Teams, and reveals useful information both at an overall (tenant) level, and on a team-by-team level. This gives you a ‘big picture’ view of how your organisation is making use of Teams.
The Teams Usage Activity Report started rolling out in January, and everyone should have it by early February 2021.
Microsoft 365 Groups may not be as recognised a name as Microsoft Teams, but it is a key component how Teams operates.
The massive increase in Microsoft Teams usage because of organisations rapidly transitioning to remote working has meant that both Administrators and the Microsoft 365 platform have had to react to ensure operations run smoothly.
The Microsoft 365 Groups Roadmap highlights the future plans and features which are being released. This article aims to highlight the items which we think are worth your attention.
What are Microsoft 365 Groups?
Microsoft 365 Groups is the membership service for more than 22 collaboration apps and workloads within Microsoft 365. The most visible of these for users is typically Microsoft Teams, but it also includes Yammer, Stream and Planner.
Microsoft 365 Groups were previously called Office 365 Groups. This relabelling aligns the service with the wider ‘Microsoft 365’ branding across the platform. There is no change to the capabilities and the terms are basically interchangeable.
A Microsoft 365 Group does have a few similarities (but many differences) to a traditional Active Directory or Azure AD Security Group, which will be familiar to system admins. Although Azure AD underpins the group identity management, the relationship with the collaboration workloads is a new capability and needs to be understood to prevent issues for users and administrators.
Productivity Score is a new feature of Microsoft 365 designed to let administrators monitor how productive your organisation is, and the extent to which staff are adopting the platform’s features.
It also lets you benchmark your organisation against others of a similar size. The idea is that you can take action where there has been limited take-up – ideally by taking steps to encourage user adoption, or alternatively by making a positive choice to disable a feature or tool.
Productivity Score is accessed via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. It provides immediate information on how your organisation is using Microosft 365 via metrics including Communication, Meetings, Content Collaboration, Teamwork and Mobility. This data is gathered from across all your users from the last 30 days, and benchmarked against live data from peer businesses of a similar size.
It also provides a small number of metrics relating to the technology side, such as internet connectivity, and whether users have the latest updates installed. This helps admins ensure users are getting the best possible technology experience.
Each of the eight categories is given a score out of 100, which also provides you an overall organisational score out of 800. Admins can use this data about how Microsoft 365 is being used to make better-informed decisions.
Privacy concerns quelled
Initially, Microsoft 365 Productivity Score included statistics for individual named users throughout your organisation. You could even download a spreadsheet showing precisely how much each individual, named user had used each Microsoft 365 feature in the last 28 days.
Microsoft SharePoint Syntex, the first product to come out of Microsoft’s larger Project Cortex, is now available under general release. But what is it, how does it work, and how much does it cost?
Syntex takes advantge of the advanced AI and machine learning coming out of Project Cortex to automatically categorise and classify documents based on models set up by the user. Using these models, Syntex can extract specific data and apply it as metadata to documents, as well as applying Sensitivity and Retention labels for information protection.
SharePoint Syntex lets users create two types of model: Form Processing and Document Understanding. The difference between the two is that Form Processing extracts values from a structured form, while Document Understanding is trained to pick out information from an unstructured document.
Document Understanding with Syntex
To implement a Document Understanding model, a you first need to provision a Content Center. A Content Center is a SharePoint site that’s used to create and store the different document models, as well as to apply those models to your Document Libraries.
When you have identified a document type you wish to model – such as Statements of Work, CVs/resumés or Purchase Orders – you can create the new model in the Content Center. On creation, the default action is to create a new Content Type; however, you can change this to use an existing Content Type if you have one already set up in your Content Type Hub.
Training a Syntex model
After creating the model, you need to train it by adding in some example files. Syntex only requires five positive examples and one negative example, but more is always better if possible. Once the example files have been uploaded, explanations need to be created alongside them to train the model. The model can then be tested within the Content Center.
Microsoft Stream was launched just over three years ago as the service to replace Office 365 Video, providing corporate video streaming and sharing video capabilities.
In October 2020, Microsoft announced that Stream would be much better integrated with Microsoft 365 to provide ‘fast, intelligent video’ capabilities for all users. So, what does this mean in practice?
Classic Stream vs New Stream
In terms of terminology there is now ‘Classic’ Stream, which is what every customer has now. New Stream is the future service and there will be a transition period where customers are switched from Classic to New.
Although the user impact of New Stream may not be enormous, it is a large technical change from Microsoft’s point of view with a complete rebuilding of the Stream video service in aggressive timelines.
From a Microsoft 365 administration point of view, the primary change is that New Stream will use OneDrive or SharePoint to store videos (as an MP4 file) rather than the separate Stream service. A Stream video will therefore be treated in the same way as any other file being stored in SharePoint/OneDrive.
SharePoint will be used where a meeting recording is within a Microsoft 365 Group / Teams channel. Where the recording is not linked to a group, the organisers OneDrive will be used.
Microsoft has said Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams will finally be rolled out to all users during November 2020.
Breakout rooms let video call participants create separate ‘rooms’ for private discussion, before being brought back together into the main call. The meeting’s organisers or hosts can move between breakout rooms and even send messages to all participants.
Breakout rooms – a most-requested feature
Microsoft has taken its time rolling out breakout rooms. This is despite it frequently being used as an excuse for businesses to use competing video calling tools, like Zoom. The feature has been present in those apps for years, so it’s no surprise that it quickly became one of the most-requested features in Teams, even before so many of us moved to remote working. A request for the feature on Microsoft’s Feedback Forum, started two years ago, quickly gained more than 18,000 votes from users.
Breakout sessions will be enabled at the same time as Microsoft plans to drastically increase the number of participants you can have on a call. The limit of active participants is going to be raised from 300 to a massive 1,000, while ‘view-only’ participants in Teams Live Events will be doubled, from 10,000 to 20,000.
And with the introduction of a larger 7×7 video grid, you will be able to see up to 49 people at once on your call, rather than nine on the current 3×3 grid.
Set up Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
In order to use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams, your tenant administrator will need to enable certain settings to allow users access to the feature. The features that must be enabled are:
Scheduling private meetings
Meet now in private meeting
Channel meeting scheduling
Meet now in channels
With these features enabled, users can now use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams. All users who want to participate must switch to what Microsoft calls the ‘new meeting experience’. To ensure you have access to breakout rooms, in the Teams app, click your profile image, then ‘Settings’, and ensure ‘Turn on new meeting experience’ is selected. If it wasn’t already selected, you may need to restart Teams before it takes effect.
You can be certain that Teams is set up correctly with the new meeting experience if your meetings open in their own, separate, windows.
Once you’re in a meeting, it’s easy for meeting organisers to create breakout rooms. Look next to the ‘raise hand’ icon and you’ll see a new icon for breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams. Note that participants in the meeting who aren’t meeting organisers won’t see the option. Also note that you can only create breakout rooms on the desktop Teams app – it’s not yet possible to do from an iOS or Android mobile or tablet device.
A new-look Yammer with some useful new features is rolling out now. CompanyNet’s subject matter expert James Mackerness takes a look at what’s new.
The long-awaited new user experience for Yammer is rolling out worldwide right now. It’s the same Yammer functionality you already know and love, but with a fresh coat of paint to bring it up to a modern standard.
New Yammer, new features
It brings a couple of changes that bring it into line with the ‘best practice’ role that Yammer should have in your organisation:
It’s cleaner and slicker, with praise, announcements, polls, and Q&A posts all looking visually distinct.
Posts can be pinned, and there’s also a new AI-based discovery feed which should help with engagement.
Groups have been renamed to Communities, and are now pinnable by each user.
As CompanyNet’s migration subject matter expert Stuart McLaughlin explains, there are now more options than ever for migrating your data to Office 365.
Leveraging Office 365 Cloud Storage
For companies who are adopting Microsoft Office 365, one of the typical activities is to migrate their ‘on premise’ data from local file stores to the cloud.
Office 365 provides a large volume of storage as part of the subscription. This is currently 1TB (as a minimum) for SharePoint Online in addition to licensed user’s OneDrive allocation.
Reducing the cost of ownership by removing file share infrastructure or additional cloud storage subscriptions is a key benefit. Other benefits can be realised however, whether improving collaboration and secure sharing with third parties, or using the security and compliance features for information management and oversight.
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