Ahead of Inspire, Microsoft Touts Teams Improvements and Partner Perks
- By Kurt Mackie
- July 12, 2019
As part of the run-up to its annual Inspire partner conference, Microsoft on Thursday talked up its Teams collaboration service, including its more than "13 million daily active users."
Launched a few years ago, Teams is Microsoft's "hub for teamwork" or "workspace collaboration" application that's typically compared with the Slack communication solution. The rapid growth of Teams is possibly due to its inclusion in Office 365 subscription plans, according to 2018 survey analysis by Spiceworks, a resource site for IT pros, which also reported back then that Teams use had overtaken Slack.
Microsoft's Thursday announcement, though, showed Teams overtaking Slack sometime before June of this year, according to its analysis.
Teams combines chat, videoconferencing, voice-over-IP calling and file-access capabilities for end users. It's somewhat redundant with Microsoft's Skype for Business unified communications solution. However, Microsoft announced more than a year ago that the Teams client will eventually supplant the Skype for Business client. There are complicated migration steps for organizations using Skype for Business to get to Teams.
The Inspire starts on Monday, and so the announcement included details regarding Teams "ecosystem" enhancements for partners.
The big news is that some partners will be able to launch Teams trials for their customers. Specifically, Microsoft Cloud Service Provider (CSP) partners can establish free six-month Teams trials for some customers. The free trial offer just applies to new Office 365 customers and existing ones that are using plans that don't include Teams, such as Exchange Online Only users, according to the announcement and a Microsoft partner document (PDF).
In addition, Microsoft is opening Teams integration with partnering contact center companies, including "Five9, Genesys, NICE inContact" and others. It's also partnering on Teams with call recording companies, such as "ASC, NICE and Verint." Workforce management solutions integration with Teams is another ongoing partner effort.
Teams is getting a few other upcoming improvements, according to Microsoft's Thursday announcement. For IT pros, Microsoft noted that Teams is currently available to Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus subscribers, which was announced last month. Teams will get turned on automatically for tenants unless IT pros block it beforehand.
Also, Microsoft plans to deliver a set of predefined "Policy Packages" in the Teams Admin Center for IT pros that will let them specify various Teams functions for end users based on their roles in the organization. The Policy Packages will be arriving "soon," Microsoft indicated.
Other Teams announcements concerned features for end users. Sometime this month, end users will get the ability to mark time-sensitive messages with a new "Priority Notifications" feature, which will be capable of "pinging a recipient every two minutes on their mobile and desktop until a response is received." Also coming this month will be a "Read Receipts" feature in chat, letting a user know a message was read.
Microsoft has released an "Announcement" capability in Teams that lets end users highlight things like new projects or new team members. Coming "soon" will be a "Channel Cross Posting" capability to target various Teams channels at once with a message, as well as a "Channel Moderation" capability that lets moderators manage channel posts.
Shift workers are now getting the ability to clock out using a "Time Clock" feature in the Shifts module of Teams. There's a sneaky control for managers associated with this feature because they have an "option to geo-fence a location to ensure team members are at the designated worksite when clocking in or out."
Next month, Microsoft plans to add a "Targeted Communication" feature in Teams. It'll let team owners send a message to everyone having a specific role in an organization using the "@mention" messaging feature.
Microsoft's upbeat announcement was perhaps somewhat overshadowed by Teams user access problems that also happened on Thursday. The problems appear to have affected service areas in the United States and Northern Europe, lasting maybe nine hours, based on July 11 complaints reported to the Downdetector.com site (see heat map image):
The cause of the Teams service issues was a problematic update, according to a Twitter post by Microsoft. This bad update was rolled back to resolve the problems.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.