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Microsoft has made it abundantly clear: Their mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. With the pervasiveness of technology and data across all industries, every company needs to think like a technology company, and every company should be paying attention to the innovation taking place at Microsoft.

Microsoft held their annual IT professional and developer technology conference, Microsoft Ignite, in Orlando this week. In the first full day of Ignite, there was a wealth of new, exciting announcements for attendees of all backgrounds and role types. We know there was a lot of information that was very technical, so we put together this list of key takeaways for interested individuals who are excited about the future of productivity, collaboration, and security.

 

1. New Microsoft Teams features add to an already hefty collaboration experience

Microsoft Teams is the hub for Teamwork in Microsoft 365. Combining chat, meetings, telephony, document libraries, and business processes, Microsoft Teams is transforming workplace collaboration. In fact, 91% of Fortune 100 companies are using Microsoft Teams. As Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365, said at the Microsoft Teams session, “It is a framework, a scaffolding that allows us to take the possibilities of Microsoft 365 together.”

The rich set of features offered by the Microsoft Teams platform is getting richer. Here are just a few of the new features announced for Microsoft Teams:

  • Private channels are available starting this week in Teams. These allow you to create channels within an existing team that are viewable to only specific members of the team.
  • Multi-window capability streamlines your workflow. You will be able to pop out chats, meetings, calls, and documents into separate windows starting early next year.
  • The new Tasks function provides a unified view of your assigned tasks. Integration with Planner and Microsoft To-Do consolidates tasks with multiple smart views. This will be available to all users early next year.
  • Outlook integration brings the conversation to you wherever you are. The new integration features with Outlook will allow Teams users to easily share an e-mail to Teams from Outlook, complete with information and attachments, and vice versa. This rolls out early next year.

2. Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams co-existence reduces transition anxieties

2020 is the last full year of life for Skype for Business Online. We have already discussed why this is ultimately a good thing. However, it is easy for organizations who heavily rely on Skype for Business for their calling and chat to feel a sense of dread at the thought of transitioning their organization to a new platform. Microsoft’s new Advisor for Teams tool empowers IT administrators to successfully deploy Teams in their organizations.

This feature, which is currently in public preview, makes it easier than ever to streamline the rollout of Teams workloads, including messaging, meetings, and calling. There are also advanced options for Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams coexistence to minimize end user impact during the transition period.

3. The new Yammer aims to inspire collaboration and engagement

Microsoft Yammer is Microsoft’s social networking service intended for private communication within organizations. Microsoft announced at the Ignite conference that they are rolling out a completely new, modern interface for both web and mobile. In an effort to make 2020 the #YearOfYammer, the re-focus and re-design includes a breadth of new features, enhanced security & compliance, and integrations with Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and SharePoint. Here are a few of the new features that will help keep your organization connected and informed:

  • The new, personalized smart feed connects conversations from across the organization. Azure-powered AI features prioritize the conversation that are most relevant to everyone.
  • The All Company feed helps drive key messaging within your company. Customize the feed with your organization’s branding, promote company-wide initiatives, and reinforce company values.
  • Create a focused experience with Yammer Communities. The current Yammer groups functionality is being revamped as “communities”, with more customization and interactivity options to improve overall experience.
  • Integration with Microsoft Teams. The new Yammer add-on in Microsoft Teams will further drive Microsoft Teams as the one-stop shop of your Office 365 experience.

 

Image via Microsoft

The new Yammer experience is set to roll out to all customers in the first half of 2020.

4. Investing in a comprehensive security platform is more important than ever before

“The total amount of costs of cybercrime has reached over $1 Trillion dollars,” announced CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. He stated that those who are most affected by this are small and medium-sized businesses and consumers. There is a clear, strong need to invest in a comprehensive security solution that combines identity, devices, cloud apps, data, and infrastructure.

The newly announced Microsoft Endpoint Manager simplifies IT security management and drives organizations towards a modern management solution. This new tool combines Microsoft Intune and System Center Configuration Manager. This creates a more centralized device management solution for both company-owned and employee-owned devices, in both fully cloud and hybrid environments.

5. Project Cortex takes data inside of your organization and converts it into knowledge

The future of the workplace and the world is gearing towards autonomous systems. As Satya Nadella said during his Vision Keynote, this extends to far more than just the automobile industry and self-driving cars. In fact, just about every industry around the world will be seeing a major pivot towards implementing artificial intelligence into their environments. Microsoft, in their continued efforts to be ahead of the frontier with A.I., announced a brand new A.I.-driven topic curation database that will be unique to each organization.

Project Cortex is the first new service within Microsoft 365 since the launch of Microsoft Teams in 2017. It uses advanced AI to take data inside of your organization and convert it into a robust, interactive knowledge repository. This will be used to empower your team members to learn, increase their skill levels, and deliver quicker.

For example, if you receive an email from a team member referring to a project or internal term that you are not familiar with, you can hover over the unique phrase and the A.I. database will compile a list of articles, experts, and documents relevant to the topic so you can immediately get up to speed.

Project Cortex is currently in private preview and is expected to become publicly available in the first half of 2020.

 

Gif via Microsoft

The future of productivity, collaboration, and security is here. With advancements in Microsoft Teams, device security, and machine learning, there are changes on the horizon for all aspects of your business.

Our Ready assessment workshops,  Ignite deployment services, and Empower managed services can accelerate your organization with the Microsoft 365 platform, driving adoption and instilling best practices within your organization, empowering you to achieve the outcomes you seek.