As remote has increased in popularity, better collaboration tools have become more of a necessity. Microsoft has been paying attention to this trend of course and recently announced numerous enhancements to its Teams platform. Teams has been around for more than a year and combines chat and instant messaging with video conferencing. Most of its newest features are only available on the latest version of its Windows desktop app that was released at the end of July: the web browser and Mac versions are not yet at feature parity.
If you think of Teams as just being a mind-meld between Slack and Webex, you would be underestimating what Microsoft is trying to do with this software. And with the latest update, Microsoft aims to make Teams more of the connective tissue that will bring together its various Office applications, as well as a platform that can enable better collaboration among office workers.
The additions cover a wide range across four general topics: third-party integrations and application extensions, general usability, security and IT management. Let’s review the specifics in each area.
Calling Teams a “platform” isn’t an exaggeration, and perhaps the biggest source of innovation with the product. Earlier this summer Microsoft announced the Teams Power Platform — this came with a collection of add-ons to help build bots such as a series of templates to add chatbot virtual agents. Part of this effort includes links that incorporate Microsoft’s Power BI toolset to build business intelligence connections to Office documents. With these links, you can add a dynamic graph inside a Teams discussion that builds on the fly with data extracted from an Excel spreadsheet.
The July enhancements take things a few steps further to make it easier to build your own custom Teams apps using both Visual Studio and Power Virtual Agents, and publish your bot to the Teams App Store and the Teams Admin Center for internal distribution. As part of these enhancements, Microsoft is also making lifecycle tracking and updating easier too. What this means is that Teams could eclipse Visual Basic as a modern low-code app building tool.
One of the more interesting improvements to Teams is its integration with Webex. Both Microsoft and Cisco sell large-screen meeting room gear to make it easier for distributed groups to quickly connect to each other. Microsoft has taken this a step further: you can now use your Teams’ room devices to join a Cisco Webex meeting, and, conversely, have a Webex room device join a Teams meeting. Microsoft is also planning a similar integration to Zoom meetings and has produced an application programming interface called Cloud Video Interop that will support integrations with other video conferencing providers, including Bluejeans, Pexip and Poly.
In addition, individual calls and meetings will now pop-out to their own windows. There are also changes to meeting controls and a new issue tracking tool called Lists will be available for Teams to track conversations.
All of these features mean that you will want better-centralized management of Teams. With that in mind, Microsoft has beefed up the Teams Admin Center where you can manage all of your Teams endpoints from a central screen. This includes automated device enrollment and software updates, as well as the ability to install Teams apps directly from this location. You can proactively inspect the health of every endpoint and find devices that need further troubleshooting. Additionally, there are expanded controls for audio and video policies to allow more granular control over their bandwidth consumption and automated connection permissions. Finally, for premium Teams users, Microsoft will manage and monitor the meeting rooms for your business.
The final series of improvements involve making Teams more secure. This is a combination of general Office 365 improvements and Teams specialized settings — for example, there is a new “only me” setting for the meeting room lobby so that meeting organizers can better monitor who joins each meeting.
An example of the overall Office 365 security improvements is better integration of Teams logs with Azure Sentinel, which is Microsoft’s Security Information and Event Management cloud service. Microsoft announced support for additional third-party connectors to gather more useful network threat data.
Another example is the public preview of the Endpoint Data Loss Prevention service to all Teams devices, which is also built into the latest Edge browser that is based on the Chrome codebase. Microsoft has also created a helpful series of compliance templates.
All of these improvements make Microsoft Office 365 the right choice when you want to improve organizational productivity without sacrificing security. Award-winning customer support from Network Solutions makes that choice even easier. You’ll enjoy peace of mind and a comprehensive suite of apps and services that facilitate and defend open collaboration.