2020 was the year video conferencing platforms truly came into their own. By no means a new concept prior to the pandemic, their popularity was certainly fast-tracked due to nothing more than necessity. Ever since Lockdown 1.0, new solutions and old have gone head-to-head in the bid to become the preferred virtual meeting platform, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams at the forefront. As 2021 unfolds, it’s becoming clearer that Teams is starting to edge ahead, if only because of the sheer number of new features and capabilities Microsoft has introduced to the collaboration hub over recent months. As of October 2020, over 115 million people were using Teams on a daily basis, a staggering 53% increase since April.
Teams really stepped up last year, and now gives users greater control over the quality of their digital meetings. That said, there’s a lot still to look forward to from the platform, and even more value to derive from it right now by harnessing features you may not even know existed.
Here are eight reasons we believe 2021 will be the year of Microsoft Teams.
- Dynamic View
Announced back in July 2020, Microsoft has now confirmed that Dynamic View will be arriving in Teams from March this year. This exciting new feature could prove a game-changer for virtual presentations in Teams by enabling shared content and speakers to be displayed side by side for the very first time. AI-powered, Dynamic View automatically optimises how shared content is presented, and even allows users to pin certain participants so they appear larger. This view can also be customised, so everything is displayed to suit your preferences.
- Enhanced audio control
Microsoft recently revealed several features that enhance the audio quality of virtual meetings in Teams. We all know how distracting background noise can be on a call, but thanks to Teams’ AI-based noise suppression, unwanted audio disturbance can be easily removed or reduced to prevent meeting disruption. Slow broadband and data limits have also been considered when it comes to audio – Satin (Microsoft’s new codec) ensures audio quality endures for those on lower bitrates, and Packet Loss adapts calls to your network so choppy audio is no longer an issue. And that’s not all – later this year, live captions for one-to-one calls are being made available, seeing that you don’t miss a beat.
- Virtual breakout rooms
December 2020 saw Microsoft add the availability of virtual breakout rooms to Teams. Allowing organisers of large meetings to create sub-groups for more intimate discussions, these rooms ensure innovative thinking is able to continue away from the main meeting. Up to 50 breakout rooms can be created at once, and attendees can be readily switched between them as needed. These virtual rooms give participants the freedom to explore ideas in a smaller group before presenting these back to the larger meeting, boosting confidence and creativity. There are a few important things to consider if you’re going to trial this feature, however, namely group size, timing, and purpose. If you’re creating breakout rooms without a specific focus or even a facilitator, the chances are they will not achieve what you need them to.
- A more interactive experience
Teams works hard to ensure the virtual meeting experience is the best it can be. Back in August, it introduced “Together Mode”, which uses AI mapping to place participants’ videos in a shared view, making it appear as if they are in the same room. It has also enhanced how team members interact, by adding the ability to “high five” or “tap the shoulder” of colleagues. Live reactions in gallery view mode also enable users to instantly clap, like, or raise a hand with the use of emojis, helping people feel as connected as possible.
- Live events for longer
Because so many events transformed into all-digital affairs last year, Microsoft recently increased its participant limit to 20,000 users for events that are up to 16 hours long. This increased limit is now being extended to June to better enable virtual events to take place in 2021. The considerable uplift in guests does require an Advanced Communications licence, but this does mean that your events can last longer than four hours once the extension is over. This is fantastic news for any businesses looking to maximise the scope and length of their virtual events this year.
- Capitalise on Zoom
Zoom and Microsoft Teams no longer need to be mutually exclusive! In fact, Zoom can now be integrated into Teams to create a single meetings notification hub. Here, all of your Zoom and Teams meetings can be scheduled, started, and managed with ease – you can even screen-share more simply. By taking advantage of this integration, you don’t have to keep switching between the two platforms for every new meeting, making video conferencing more frictionless than ever.
- Simpler video storage
Another big change making its way to Microsoft Teams this year is how video meeting recordings will be stored. Instead of being saved in Stream, Microsoft’s enterprise video service, these recordings will be automatically stored on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. This new method of storage means user permissions will be easier to set and recordings can be shared and accessed more quickly. For those with prior recordings in Stream, never fear – any existing files will remain stored in Stream until March, when they will be migrated over to OneDrive and SharePoint.
- Everything integrated
Hands down, Microsoft Teams’ integration with the wider Microsoft Office stack is what makes it so compelling. Everything works together seamlessly, helping to vastly accelerate user productivity. The best thing about this collaborative approach is that it’s constantly improving. This is only emphasised by the fact Microsoft recently announced integration with Outlook was in development, allowing copies of conversations and email messages, including attachments, to be shared via Teams chats. Teams’ upcoming History Menu will also enable users to quickly navigate to recently visited locations and jump between documents and tabs at their leisure. All of this and more makes using Teams an absolute pleasure.
There are many reasons why 2021 will be the year of Microsoft Teams, including a flurry of other new features that haven’t even made our list. Many of these changes come as a direct result of feedback from Teams users, only showing how important it is to Microsoft that Teams delivers the best experience possible. As Microsoft partners, we’ve no doubt the platform will continue to impress far into the future, and are here to help you maximise its value. If you would like to know more about how we do this, please get in touch.