Microsoft Teams turned five recently. The versatile work environment continues to expand – read about three features in our introduction.
The five-year-old productivity tool has been remembered with a wealth of attention, and reviews of the past and especially the future have been created.
The two most debated new features are probably Teams Connect, a channel shared across organizational boundaries of separate organizations, and Mesh for Teams, which will bring Metaverse, Microsoft’s augmented virtual reality to Teams users. It is expected to be released later this year.
In this context, I will present three interesting features for the near future:
1) Microsoft Mesh
2) Microsoft Whiteboard
3) Viva Insights
1. Microsoft Mesh
Mesh is a metaverse, a digital environment where people, represented by their avatars, can act, and do things like the things we have been able to do so far in digital environments like today – and more.
A metaverse is a new and improved experience of the internet as a “place” where we can virtually “go” to a concert or even to work together with others and create shared experiences together. It expands our virtual reality, adding to it the characteristics and possibilities of physical reality.
With metaverse, we can do things that would not be possible at all in a traditional digital environment. In addition, it already reinforces the experiential side of potential things in ways that bridge the gap between the virtual and real worlds and are likely to make metaverse part of the digital work environment of the future.
The Mesh App for Hololens2 is already in trial and Mesh for Teams is coming in during 2022.
2. Microsoft Whiteboard
Whiteboard is a virtual sketchpad that allows participants to design things together using text, virtual sticky notes, images, and other content.
Some of us may have tried Whiteboard, which has been available in the Microsoft App Store for some time – and maybe made fewer flattering remarks about it. The limited and inconsistent user experience is thankfully now history, and the updated Whiteboard is unified.
The same Whiteboard can be used simultaneously with different applications and devices, such as the Microsoft Teams channel, the Teams meeting, the browser, the mobile application and the desktop application, and the Microsoft Surface Hub.
In addition, Whiteboard’s all-new user experience now includes the features of virtual teamwork you should expect from it.
There are more than 40 templates to apply to a variety of teamwork situations. Ready-made and useful templates can be found for ideation, problem-solving, planning and research, strategy work, project planning, retrospectives, workshops, and studying. There are a few more simple games that can be used to break the ice at the beginning of a virtual workshop.
The usability of the Whiteboard has been considerably improved. Adding and processing images and graphics is reasonably easy, and the tool includes functions such as aligning objects and moving overlapping objects to the foreground or background.
Microsoft will soon be upgrading to Whiteboard with an anticipated feature that will allow Whiteboard to be used by guests and unidentified users of Teams meetings. I dare to say that with this feature, Whiteboard will finally become a familiar tool to all of us.
3. Viva Insights
Third, I will introduce Viva Insights, a service based on data analytics to support well-being at work, which will now include MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics.
The online magazine Fast Company put Microsoft at the top of the list of the ten most innovative companies in the data analytics industry in 2022.
The top spot was gained due to the way Microsoft leverages the data of its customer users to develop its Workplace products. As an example of this, the magazine mentions a virtual commute experience built on an understanding of the data. It allows teleworkers to prepare more purposefully for work and return to leisure afterwards.
The Viva Insights virtual commute was developed in a study that collected data from more than 30,000 Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn users in 31 different countries.
Viva Insights includes other interesting and useful features for hybrid work, such as uninterrupted business hours, regular lunch hours, and delayed emailing. From a user perspective, Viva Insights is a Teams application, an Outlook add-in, a Dashboard, daily and weekly emails, and contextual suggestions in Outlook. It includes features for the use of every employee and especially supervisors.
In 2022, Viva Insights will have “Effective meetings” functionality in the Teams application, which will make it possible to make work community meeting practices more efficient with the help of meeting plans.