In the first two weeks of 2020, Microsoft made good on two promises it made during the Ignite 2019 conference: The company released its Edge Chromium browser and Fluid Framework preview. Although they are very different technologies, they both fit with Microsoft’s renewed emphasis on productivity and collaboration. Both also come with a learning curve.
What’s more, the release of Edge and Fluid Framework is just the beginning–during Ignite 2019, Microsoft issued nearly 180 announcements related to its software and services, including Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Azure, and other technologies.
For organizations, that means it’s time to pay attention and develop an adoption strategy for the many changes that are coming soon. It’s especially critical to know which changes are rolling out and when, and their potential impact on users.
MANY OF THE NEW AND CHANGED CAPABILITIES ANNOUNCED AT IGNITE 2019 ARE DESIGNED TO HELP USERS—AND IT DEPARTMENTS—WORK MORE EFFICIENTLY WITHOUT SACRIFICING SECURITY.
Not every announced update will require the same kind of preparation, nor will they affect each organization in the same way, but there are key changes every business leader should keep an eye out for. Here are five notable ones:
- Private channels in Microsoft Teams: This feature, which was a longstanding top request on the Microsoft Teams UserVoice feedback forum, is useful for a range of circumstances—collaborating on sensitive topics such as budgets and strategic plans; creating a focused collaboration space without having to create a separate team; and facilitating collaboration among employees working on a specific project. Private channels are available now.
- Pop-out chat and meeting windows in Teams: For some users, one of Teams’ greatest challenges is that it requires you to adopt a new approach to work and collaboration. By introducing pop-out chat and meeting windows, Microsoft aims to make your organization’s transition to the new world of work easier. Pop-out windows will be rolled out in early 2020.
- Teams and Outlook integration: This feature will enable users to share and move emails and attachments into a Teams chat channel via a “Share to Teams” button. It will let users choose the mode of communication that best suits the situation—whether it’s live chat or email. Available in early 2020.
- Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS and Android: According to research conducted by McKinsey, the average business user spends 28 percent of the work day—about 2.5 hours—reading and answering email. Considering the 26-minute commute of the average worker, Play My Emails has enormous productivity-boosting potential. Play My Emails is generally available now in Outlook for iOS.
- Integration of Power Automate (formerly called Flow) into Teams, and other Office 365 capabilities: Microsoft rebranded Flow to Power Automate, which, along with Power BI and Power Apps, is part of its low-code/no-code Power Platform. Power Automate is an online workflow service that automates actions across the most common apps and services. For example, Power Automate enables users to create a flow that adds a lead to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and a record in MailChimp whenever someone with more than 100 followers tweets about your company. Another example: Create a flow that automatically records responses from Microsoft Forms to SharePoint. New triggers and actions will be available soon within Teams.
Other notable changes include simplified IT management with Endpoint Manager, Microsoft Productivity Score, Managed Meeting Rooms service, and updates to the Microsoft 365 admin center and Office 365 Groups; and improved resource management with Azure.
Many of the new and changed capabilities announced at Ignite 2019 are designed to help users—and IT departments—work more efficiently without sacrificing security. From AI features like Ideas in Word and Cortana-powered Play My Emails in Outlook Mobile, to automation tools like Power Automate (formerly called Flow), the changes enable everyone to take advantage of AI and automation to improve the way they get their work done.
That is, of course, if they have the right training, support and resources to do so. Organizations must take a proactive approach:
- Check the Microsoft 365 Roadmap frequently.
- Prioritize clear, frequent communication. Be sure users know what’s coming, why the changes are being made, and how changed functionality could impact day-to-day tasks.
- Don’t just tell employees how they can prepare—show them by providing a range of learning and support options.
Most importantly, keep in mind that updates are no longer just technology changes—successful adoption of new features and functionality depends on how well an organization can manage change and overcome obstacles before they become too overwhelming.
It’s a new world of work–make sure your organization is part of it.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.