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Microsoft Teams Updates (January 2021)

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Welcome to 2021! I’m sure I can speak for pretty much everyone when I say that 2020 won’t be missed! Nevertheless, Microsoft has graced us with some exciting new updates to start the year off on the right foot. In today’s blog, we’ll cover some of the biggest updates around meetings, calling, management, and even security and compliance released in late December/early January! 

Meetings

Breakout Rooms

Last month, Microsoft released the one feature everyone has been eagerly awaiting, virtual breakout rooms! Breakout rooms give you the ability to separate the meeting into smaller groups so they can each have brainstorming sessions and then regroup once those discussions are done. Breakout rooms have been a very hot item for schools seeing as many teachers are conducting class via Teams, so having this new capability of breakout rooms gives teachers more flexibility in how they want to teach their students. If you’d like to learn more about breakout rooms, I encourage you to check out my blog on this topic

End of meeting notifications

Another small change you may have noticed towards the end of your meeting is the end of meeting notification. Once only 5 minutes are remaining in the meeting, you will see a banner appear at the top of your meeting. The notification can be dismissed or it’ll automatically disappear after 10 seconds without user action. This small change just allows you to keep better track of your time so you can start wrapping up your meeting and still make it to your next meeting on time! 

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							What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2020

Image provided by Microsoft

 

Teams meeting pre-join experience 

Your pre-join experience has been improved drastically! Microsoft now makes it easier to discover your audio, video, and device configurations before joining the meeting. With the new interface, you no longer have to go to the settings to change your meeting devices, now everything can be tweaked prior to joining the meeting. 

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							What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2020

Image provided by Microsoft

 

Live Event limits extended

Microsoft has graciously extended the live event limit all the way until June 30, 2021! This means that you can continue to schedule live events that support:

  • Up to 20,000 attendees.
  • 50 simultaneous live events across your tenant
  • Live Events that can last up to 16 hours per broadcast

If you’d like to learn more about this extension, you can do that here. However, if 20,000 still doesn’t cut it, Microsoft allows for live events for as many as 100,000 attendees which can be planned through the live events assistance program. You can learn more about the program here

 

Calling

Multi-contact dialing

Now when making an audio/video call you’ll see the drop-down arrow allowing you to select from multiple numbers for a single contact (i.e. work number or mobile number). This small change was made to make things easier for the caller so they can see the available numbers before initiating the call. 

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							What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2020

Image provided by Microsoft

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Live Captions during 1:1 calls

If you’re like me and you’ve been working from home, sometimes things can get a bit noisy (in my case, it’s my dog barking at anything and everything it sees outside). Luckily, Microsoft has released the capability of enabling live captions to make it easier to follow along with 1:1 calls you are on. This setting can be controlled by admins (enable/disable), and if enabled will also give the end-user the option of turning this on/off. 

 

Chat & Collaboration

Search Relevance Updates

If you’re like me, you’re probably very accustomed to using the search capabilities within Teams. The search capabilities have become quite robust over the past few years and Microsoft has taken things a step further by using its newly developed relevance model which will generate the top 3 messages based upon various active and passive signals. For example, say you regularly work within a specific team and channel. With this latest update, the search will likely show you the top 3 messages from the channel that you are most active on rather than just the 3 most recent messages. 

Offline file access on iOS

If you’re an iOS user, you’ll be happy to hear that now you’ll have the ability to access files even when you are offline or have poor network connectivity. To benefit from this, all you’ll need to do is select the files you’d like to access and then Teams will keep a downloaded version to use on the mobile app. This can be very useful if you’re about to jump on a plane to travel or maybe you just need to pull up a file quickly while on the go. 

Video playback improvements

Microsoft has made some significant improvements to the video playback experience. Embedded videos will now experience a 25% reduction in time loading the video in Stream, up to 90% reduction in time it takes for the video to start playing! As with it being the new year, Microsoft said “out with the old, and in with the new”! This is all possible due to Microsoft replacing the old embed play and replacing it with the new and improved version called Fast Embed. This results in faster loading times for all of your Stream videos embedded across the entire Microsoft 365 stack!

Yammer communities and conversations in Teams

If you’re familiar with the Communities app in Teams, you’ll be happy to hear that you can now search for different Yammer conversations as well as add tabs with Yammer styling in Teams channels. If you’re unfamiliar with the Communities app, you can learn more about it here. Also, if you’d like to learn how to do this, Microsoft has a quick step-by-step walkthrough on adding the Yammer (Communities) tab to a Teams channel.

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							What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2020

Image provided by Microsoft

 

Updates to SharePoint tab in Teams

Microsoft is making it easier than ever to bring all of your team’s resources to one central place so you can communicate, collaborate, and get work done! Microsoft has made some updates to the SharePoint tab in Teams so you can quickly paste any published pages, news posts, or even lists from a SharePoint site.  To add a page, list, or document library as a tab in Teams, check out the steps to do each of these here

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							What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2020

Image provided by Microsoft

 

Updates to SharePoint Migration Manager

With the latest updates to the SharePoint Migration Manager, you can now get even more granular with your content migration destinations by selecting a specific Teams channel or OneDrive username. To learn how to use the Migration Manager, check out the docs article here.

 

Management

Restrict Teams sign-in to other tenants for Windows and Mac managed devices 

The title says it all, now you can restrict Windows and Mac managed devices from signing in to another organizations tenant by using the other tenant’s credentials from a device that is managed by your organization. In addition, you can use the same policy to configure access to personal accounts. 

Teams display management

Microsoft has now added Teams Display as one of the device categories that can be managed within the Teams admin center. If you’re not familiar with Teams displays, you can learn more about them here.

 

Security and Compliance

Lobby Setting Updates

Microsoft recently released a new lobby setting allowing you to specify whom you want to bypass the lobby using the new “People I invite” option. If this option is chosen, only the participants invited by the organizer in the meeting invite will be able to join the meeting directly. This means that everyone else not invited by the organizer will be sent to the lobby until they’ve been admitted. 

Customer Key for Teams

If you’re not familiar with Customer Key, it is basically an additional layer of encryption at the application level for data-at-rest and allows your organization the ability to control the encryption keys. Customer Keys are already available for services like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive, so this extension into Teams for public preview helps you meet any compliance obligations that may have been missing before. You can see the official announcement here.

That wraps up the biggest updates around Microsoft Teams for our first month of 2021! If you’d like to check out all of the updates (including those around GCC, Education, Firstline Workers, etc.) you can check out Microsoft’s official post here. I hope you have found this article helpful and I encourage you to check back soon, as I will be covering some of these topics in more detail as the features light up in our tenant! 


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About the Author

Brian is a Technical Consultant for Perficient’s Unified Communications practice focusing primarily on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams workloads. He has been in this role since December 2017 and has an active presence blogging about all things Teams related. Currently, Brian resides in the suburbs of Chicago and enjoys running, swimming, weight lifting, and playing soccer in his free time.

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