Microsoft Ignite November 2021 – The Highlights

Each year, the Microsoft Ignite conference delivers a blend of innovation, inspiration and expert how-to’s. It’s the chance to peek behind the curtain to see what the wizards of Microsoft have been working on and this year did not disappoint.
One overall theme was bringing people, information and tasks into “the flow of work”. Wherever possible, Microsoft are removing silos and reducing context switching by incorporating elements from different M365 apps into workflows, particularly leveraging Teams, which continues to be the centre of everything for productivity and hybrid work.
Following are our highlights from Microsoft Ignite November 2 – 4, 2021.

1. TEAMS

Teams Connect

Managing guest access has - until now - been a pain, generally requiring the guests to log out from their environment and into another. This Teams enhancement allows you to invite people to chat on Teams with an email address or phone number and still follow your security & compliance policies.

The shared channel is added to the user's home tenant, allowing them to access both external and internal collaboration resources within Teams.

Availability: end of the year.

Virtual Events
Teams events have seen gradual improvements over the last 6 months and further enhancements were announced at Ignite, including:
• Q&A capabilities
• Webinar and meeting co-organiser feature so you can assign up to 10 organisers.
• Virtual green rooms that allow organisers and presenters to talk, monitor chats, manage attendee settings and share content
before an event begins and for enhanced controls that allow hosts to manage what attendees see.
• Integration with events platform Cvent

Power Platform integrations
More capabilities from Power Platform have been integrated with Teams:
• Browse Teams-specific automation in the Teams App Store
• Use Power Automate templates without advanced configuration
• Use the Power BI app to access new scorecard visuals and Power BI Goals
• Share Power Virtual Agents in Teams inappropriate security groups
• New third party application integrations were also announced including Atlassian Jira Cloud and SAP Sales & Service Core

Need some Teams Training to get the best out of this ever-changing platform? Get in touch.

2. MESH AND THE METAVERSE

The “metaverse” is a space inhabited by digital versions of ourselves where we can interact with each other and elements within the digital environment, removing barriers of the physical world.
Microsoft has brought this into the enterprise with Mesh, announced at a previous Ignite, allowing people to take the form of avatars and navigate virtual work environments.

Mesh combines “shared holographic experiences” with existing communication tools like virtual meetings, chats and shared documents, and now this can be experienced through Teams. The avatars are supposed to reduce webcam fatigue but still share meaning through accurate gestures and expressions.

 

The software can be used with a smartphone, laptop or virtual reality device. Mesh for Teams can include an interactive whiteboard, colour-coded tasks or pictures of customers. Prototypes of products could even be laid out on a virtual table. Early adopters Accenture built an immersive digital office environment called “the Nth floor” and have used it to onboard over 100,000 new employees using Occulus VR headsets. It helps new starters experience the culture and grow professional networks.

“The Nth floor brings human connection to our digital world”
Elyn Shook, Accenture

Preview availability H1 2022.

3. MICROSOFT LOOP

Another big announcement this Ignite – a brand new service called Microsoft Loop, built on the Fluid Framework open-source platform. Loop brings together multiple Microsoft 365 apps to create collaborative workspaces, presenting content and ideas from different sources together in one place.

Loop features 3 elements:
1. Loop components: items like notes, lists, tables or Dynamics 365 customer records. Components can be used across chats, meetings, emails and Word docs. Because Loop components stay in sync across M365 apps, you’re always working with the latest information.
2. Loop pages: A canvas for organising components and adding in links, files, or data.
3. Loop workspaces: shared spaces to view and group components. Workspaces make it easy to catch up on progress and react to ideas.
Currently, only Loop components are available, with no timings given for pages or workspaces yet. Microsoft will reveal more details on Loop at Microsoft Build 2022.

4. VIVA

Viva Learning - Now Available!
Viva Learning connects content from your organisation, learning management systems, third-party providers and Microsoft.

New announcements:
Stay up to date on required learning by viewing assignments from integrated Learning Management Systems
Search across learning sources connected to Viva and filter by interests, provider or duration
Assign Learning recommendations and track completions
• Add a curated set of learning resources as a tab in your Teams channels to bring learning directly into the flow of teamwork.

Viva Insights
Viva Insights uses your usage data to generate insights and recommendations. This Ignite, they have announced new features around employee wellbeing, identifying potential issues with recommendations:
Personal insights into time spent in meetings/email
Reminders to make time for learning & building your network
Guided meditation from Headspace + “Virtual commute” for a mindful transition from work to home life
New manager tools to track outstanding tasks, book 1:1 time with team members, recognise accomplishments, ID burnout risks and explore personal habits that impact team culture.
Meeting effectiveness - insights for meeting organisers to improve meeting habits eg timeliness, participant contributions.

These insights will be available soon for any team size from the My team tab in the Viva Insights app for Microsoft Teams.

Viva Topics
Viva Topics applies AI to organise content and expertise across systems and teams into related topics, like projects, products, processes and customers. This content appears as topic pages and topic cards that deliver knowledge in the flow of work across Outlook, SharePoint and Office.
New updates:
• More integration into Outlook, Yammer, Bing + people profile cards. (Available end 2021.)
• Add Topics to chats and link to topic cards from highlighted topics in Teams. (Available March 2022)
• Viva Topics inside Outlook: indicator showing all topics referenced in an email. Hashtags to add topic highlights or Viva Topics can suggest topics based on email content. (Preview year end.)

Viva Connections
Connections is designed to be a communications hub aggregating content such as personalised news, communications, tasks, people & resources and events – all within Teams.

• Connections mobile app – now available
• New dashboard web part aggregates content from across M365: News – SharePoint, Chat – Yammer, Video – Stream (releasing this month)
• Can be tailored for frontline workers
• Boost functionality prioritises important news with likes & comments for engagement
• Branding now available with logo & colours
• Integrations with workday, UKG, ServiceNow and more

The fifth element – Ally.io
Ally.io, a leading objectives and key results (OKR) company, will join Microsoft Viva (H2 2022). This component will communicate company results and track progress on outcomes at a corporate and individual level, bringing strategic planning to a granular level and helping with managing for outcomes.

Ally.io connects everyday work to the company’s strategic objectives and aims to bring deeper connection to work, purpose and results in the hybrid world.

5. AZURE OPEN AI

Power to the people - OpenAI’s machine learning models will now be available on the Azure platform. OpenAI’s language model can produce large amounts of quality copy with only a few prompts, using GPT-3, the largest neural network ever produced. GPT-3 has been used to create articles, poetry, stories and news reports.
Access will be invitation-only and applicants must demonstrate responsible principles and strategies for using the technology. No potential Skynet terminators here.

6. SECURITY

“Cyber Security is the biggest threat to Digital Transformation”
Satya Nadella

Cyber security issues cost the economy $6 trillion annually, with small businesses often the target. 92% of organisations now have a multi-cloud strategy adding complexity to security measures and people mixing work PCs with BYOD adds another layer
Comprehensive tools across identity, security, compliance, privacy, and management are needed. New Security announcements at Ignite included:
• Azure Security Centre and Azure Defender are now Microsoft Defender for Cloud – centralising security across multi-cloud environments
• Co-authoring on Word, Excel, & PowerPoint documents encrypted with sensitivity labels
• Communication Compliance enhancements: Day Zero Insights - See trends such as harassment, threats or sharing of sensitive information throughout all communication channels (e.g. Teams, emails) in near-real time
• More advanced detections for anomalous tokens and unfamiliar sign-in properties for session cookies

7. CONTEXT IQ

The Microsoft Graph connects to various Microsoft 365 services to provide access to data and functionality from Exchange, OneDrive, Teams and other productivity platforms.
Context IQ is a set of capabilities for Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365 that surface the right information, people and insights in the moment, in context.
a. Context IQ Editor offers predictive assistance in Word, Chrome and Outlook eg suggesting attachments or recommending meeting times
b. Start Teams chats within D365 with suggested SMEs to resolve customer issues faster
c. Conversation intelligence transcribes sales calls and provides insights

Will this be like Clippy, only better? For now, it’s only available in preview on the web – not desktop apps.

8. BEST OF THE REST

There were WAY too many to list them all, but here are some other announcements of note:
Vertical Clouds - Microsoft is addressing industry needs with clouds for specific verticals such as finance, health, manufacturing and not for profits, supporting requirements such as legal & security certifications. A new cloud in the preview is Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to help measure & manage carbon emissions, set sustainability goals and actions.
Microsoft Customer Experience Platform - A series of integrations between Dynamics 365 Marketing and its Customer Insights customer data platform, modules that can be added to Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.
Physical Spaces – Intelligent speakers and cameras make hybrid meetings smoother and more effective, isolating in-office attendees into individual views and using voice recognition + improved translation in PowerPoint live. “Front row” brings life-size videos of remote participants to the table, and Dynamic view automatically optimizes video display between in-office and remote participants.
Rich content experiences in OneDrive - Microsoft announced new OneDrive features to streamline workflows, providing better access to top libraries and improving resource-sharing visibility. With the Quick Access feature, you can pin and reorder your shared libraries. Teams meetings video - with transcriptions - are now saved to OneDrive so you can quickly find the section you want.

That’s it for one more year! Click here if you would like to see our 30-minute Ignite Announcements webinar.