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Microsoft Turns Up Teams Focus
As Microsoft's annual Ignite conference kicks off today and unfolds over the course of this week, three overarching themes will permeate the news -- security, artificial intelligence (AI) and data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing -- company officials shared last week in a pre-show briefing. And regardless of the relationship to any of these primary areas of focus, officials assured that Microsoft will have plenty to say around enterprise communications and collaboration technologies for the modern workforce.
Much of this, of course, will relate to Microsoft Teams. In a 28-page Ignite "Book of News" Microsoft put together for media, there's nary a mention of Skype for Business. But Teams, the center of the company's intelligent communications vision articulated at Ignite 2017, gets its fair share of ink.
Among today's news, for example, Microsoft announced general availability of two AI-powered video meeting features in Teams: background blur and meeting recording (each introduced earlier this year at Enterprise Connect). For background blur, Microsoft applies facial detection to blur a user's background during video meetings, for settings where sensitive information may be on a whiteboard on the back wall, for example. With meeting recording, attendees can play back recorded content at any time with captions and a searchable, time-coded transcript, shared Ron Markezich, CVP, Microsoft 365 Commercial, in a company blog post.
As Microsoft has oft-stated in the last year, Teams will be the center of the user's work experience, regardless of role or industry. Toward that end, today it's introducing new capabilities tailored to industry-specific and role-based workflows, Markezich said.
"Firstline" workers -- those individuals who are first in line to engage with customers, represent a company's brand, and see products and services in action, according to Microsoft -- are one role-based target (see related No Jitter post, "Microsoft Mixes Up Reality, Video Calling to Assist Remote Workers"). As an example, Markezich pointed to schedule management tools, due in October, that will let managers create and share schedules in Teams (as shown at right). On the flip side, the tools will let employees do things like swap shifts, request time off, and see who else is working.
And in vertical industry-specific offerings, Microsoft revealed the private preview of a patient care coordination tool for healthcare -- evidence, Markezich said, of Teams' feasibility for secure workflows in regulated industries. The solution integrates with electronic health records systems and takes advantage of two new secure messaging features -- image annotation and priority messaging. While these secure messaging features are rolling out to all Teams customers, they have particular relevance in healthcare, Markezich said. "Now, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians can coordinate patient care while staying HIPAA-compliant and avoid the privacy risks that arise when healthcare professionals use consumer chat apps," he wrote.
Integration, as always, is getting attention in this go-round of Ignite, with Microsoft announcing deeper connections between Teams and Yammer as well as Teams and SharePoint. A new Yammer tab in Teams links work teams to relevant conversations taking place organization wide, and tabs for SharePoint lists and apps will come early next year.
In integration of another sort, Microsoft announced it's strengthening the binds between LinkedIn and Office 365, bringing together users' corporate directory and LinkedIn network of professionals. That way, when users connect their LinkedIn accounts to Office 365, they'll be able to coauthor Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents with people in their LinkedIn networks, as well as send emails to them from Outlook. In addition, meeting invites will include LinkedIn highlights of participants. These capabilities will be "coming soon," Microsoft said.
Ignite kicks off this morning, Monday, Sept. 24, with a 9:00 a.m. ET keynote. Watch this space for continued coverage, and be sure to join our go-to Microsoft UC expert, Kevin Kieller of enableUC, for a live webinar and get an up-to-the minute update on the critical things you need to know about your voice deployment on Teams and Skype for Business. In the webinar -- sponsored by Ribbon Communications and Polycom (now part of Plantronics) and hosted by Enterprise Connect and No Jitter -- Kevin and his co-presenters will discuss how to think about managing telephony in a cloud-first environment, with an eye on critical elements such as security, manageability, and emergency management. Register now, and tune in Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET.