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Microsoft Gives 'Teams' Update, Still Set for Q1 Release

Microsoft recently gave a progress report on its upcoming Microsoft Teams chat service, which has been in the preview stage since November.

Microsoft Teams is designed for small group discussions by Office 365 users. At the product's unveiling last fall, Microsoft said it expects to make the service generally available in Q1 of 2017. In an announcement this week, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president on the Office team, said it's still on target to meet that "general availability" release target date.

Koenigsbauer contended that Microsoft Teams had acquired momentum, with "30,000 organizations across 145 markets and 19 languages" actively using the test version as of the last month.

Microsoft expects to deliver a WhoBot when Microsoft Teams reaches general availability, Koenigsbauer added. The WhoBot is based on the Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) developer model for creating chatbots and is plugged into the underlying Microsoft Graph search functionality of Office 365. Microsoft Teams users will be able to tap the WhoBot to identify experts within their organizations.

Microsoft Teams also will be getting "new compliance and reporting capabilities" in the coming weeks, which will enable communications while "keeping sensitive corporate information secure," Koenigsbauer promised.

One of Microsoft's early Teams testers has been Avanade, a global IT consultancy that received an early investment from Microsoft. Wictor Wilén, director of digital employee experience at Avanade and a SharePoint Microsoft Certified Master, noted in a recent Hyperfish interview that Slack, a competing service to Microsoft Teams, wasn't an application that met with Avanade's compliance requirements, but Avanade has been testing the Microsoft Teams beta "from Day 1."

The best aspect of Microsoft Teams is that it has been built on top of Office 365 Groups, Wilén said. It follows Office 365 Groups for governance. One benefit of that approach is that it's easy to attach a team to an Office 365 Group because of its underlying Active Directory support. He recommended that organizations clean up their Active Directory implementations to make that work well. There also will be support for "dynamic groups," he added.

The WhoBot coming to Microsoft Teams is something that some of Avanade's clients have wanted since Day 0, Wilén added. It could be that organizations could use bots instead of Delve to surface recommendations, he suggested.

Wilén was interviewed by Jeremy Thake, vice president of product technology at Hyperfish. Thake is a former senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, and Hyperfish produces an Active Directory quality-monitoring solution. Thake noted that the Microsoft Teams beta currently doesn't have support for external users, and Wilén responded that it might be something Microsoft is planning to address.

Thake also noted that Microsoft Teams currently only supports 600 team members. Wilén didn't think that this limit would matter in practice, since "I fear a team where 600 people are chatting," he said.

Thake has also weighed in with his own analysis of Microsoft's various collaboration tools, which include Yammer, Groups, SharePoint Online and now Teams. He offered some pros and cons about those tools in this blog post.

Currently, Microsoft Teams is the only one of those services that supports group chatbots, Thake noted. The current limits on membership size and the lack of connection to external users in Microsoft Teams could eventually go away, he speculated. The profusion of Microsoft's collaboration options right now is just "not that straightforward" for organizations to figure out, he admitted.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.