Key Announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2021

Now Ignite 2021 is over we can take stock of the many announcements and what they mean for our business and clients. Here are our top picks, those relevant to the Digital Workplace, and what we think they will mean for organisations and individual users. Teams seemed to be the winner again this year, which is to be expected given the continuing trend to hybrid work.

“These cloud advances are what will enable every organisation in every sector to create [a] broad economic surplus in every community, in every country. This is what the Microsoft cloud delivers.”

Satya Nadella

1. Microsoft Mesh

First, the F U T U R E. Microsoft Mesh is a collaborative platform that allows shared virtual experiences. Mesh allows people to appear in the same space, talk and interact with virtual objects like product models. Mesh will initially show you as an avatar, but “holoportation” will soon render more realistic 3D imagesOf course Microsoft would prefer you to use a Hololens, but a variety of devices are supported.

Is this relevant to most people? No. Is it awesome? Yes. 

2. Teams Integrations

There are lots of exciting new things being integrated into everyone’s favourite collaboration platform, with the obvious advantages of reduced context switching and productivity 

1. The new "PowerPoint Live" Teams integration allows the presenter to appear next to or IN their content to better express emotion and improve connection. Additionally, users can now choose to have the participant gallery at the top of the window.  

2. A new PowerBI integration provides the capability to distribute PBI data directly in Teams. Also in the Power Platform, you will be able make a Power Automate workflow directly from a Teams message, with lots of new Power Automate templates in the Teams app store under the new Automation category. 

3. Teams and Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrations allows users to access and share D365 content from within Teams, without having to switch over to Dynamics 365. Converselywe can leverage Teams from within Dynamics 365 to place calls, start or continue chats, hold meetings and collaborate.   

3. Other Teams Announcements

1. Microsoft Teams Connect enables users to share channels both inside and outside their organisation. Each shared channel will appear within a user’s primary Teams tenant alongside existing teams and channels, providing access within their existing workflow. 

2. Live reactions in meetingsChoose from a range of active responses including hearts, smileys, claps or thumbs up - these reactions help promote inclusivity in meetings and keep things upbeat and interactive. 

3. Teams Live: Teams now supports interactive webinars for up to 1,000 attendees, including audiences inside and outside your organisation. A new custom registration page with live reactions means future WebVine webinars will likely be in Teams – give us a heart emoji! Users can organise, promote and report on Teams events from inside Dynamics 365 Marketing.

4. End-to-end encryption: Teams will enable end-to-end encryption to protect sensitive one to one calls. This will be available for commercial customers by June.

4. Power Fx

Microsoft continues to embrace open source. They have now announced Power Fx, a new open source, low-code language based on Microsoft Excel formulas. Power Fx will become the standard for writing logic customisation across Microsoft’s own low-code Power Platform. This may well become a helpful common language between business users and IT where it can be used to build logic and discuss solutions. This language is available now, with implementation being open sourced on GitHub later this year.

5. Microsoft Viva

While this new bundle had already been introduced, Microsoft did announce that Viva Connections will be available to all customers as part of their existing Microsoft 365 and SharePoint license. If a user has access to SharePoint, Viva Connections will be accessible.

What is Viva? It has been marketed as a single employee experience platform (delivered via Teams) but it is made up of four parts:

1. Viva Topics - using AI to organise and present relevant knowledge throughout your organisation.

2. Viva Connections helping users engage with intranet content and services by delivering them through a personalised gateway in Teams.

3. Viva Learning - a central hub for learning in Microsoft Teams. Content is aggregated in one place from across your organisation, within Office 365 and LinkedIn as well as other platforms like Coursera and Skillsoft. The Viva Learning public preview will be available next month.

4. Viva Insights – provides personalised and actionable analysis with advice to improve productivity and wellbeing. With a greater focus on individual privacy, managers can only view trends at a higher level. Insights is in public preview now.

Want more? Check out the Ignite 2021 Book of News