Ah, September. People resurrecting Earth, Wind & Fire’s iconic song. Microsoft rolling out a batch of September Teams features. We have reported on Teams feature updates before. Check here and here for two examples. Alright, l will get to it. Some of these September Teams features are meh. A few are fantastic!
Take Me to the Message
I love Teams search. It is fast and (mostly) serves up exactly what I was looking for. Microsoft is making one valuable improvement here with this September Teams feature. If you search for a word or a file attachment that you know is in a message, Teams will now take you directly to that message. No more fishing around. Thanks!
You Look Marvelous(er)
Teams is rolling out a feature they call “soft focus.” No, it is not a way to check on your fantasy football team while in a Teams meeting. Soft focus is a September Teams feature that applies some AI techniques to improve your facial image while you are on video. Soft focus may remove some of the “smearing” of your image that occurs when you move around a fake background. It may also recolor your face tones to make you look nicer. I am not clear on what soft focus does, to be honest. Anything that can make me look more like a movie star is OK by me.
Teams and Outlook Integration
Enhancing the integration of Teams and Outlook is one of those permanent employment kinds of jobs. There are some useful improvements I will note.
- If you are reading a message that looks like it could turn into one of those never-ending threads, you can click on the Teams button and choose “schedule a meeting.” This is fantastic. Sometimes, a meeting is exactly the vehicle to get to the bottom of an issue. Thank you for this September Teams feature!
- I also like the options to reply to the email sender, or the entire email recipient list, with a Teams chat or conversation. There are those folks that are still ramping up their use of chat over email. If you are further ahead on that progression, you can get frustrated when someone replies via email to a conversation that was in (or should have been in) a chat conversation. Now, you have a way to re-route that conversation back to Teams.
Pre-Assign Participants to Breakout Rooms
You can now pre-assign meeting participants to breakout rooms. It helps meeting flow to do this ahead of the meeting. You can avoid the awkward “break into teams” shuffle that happens otherwise. I would be more excited about this feature if Zoom did not already do this.
Now You Can Rank
Microsoft is saying they have introduced “poll improvements.” But what they are offering now with this September Teams feature is really one (notable) improvement. You can create a ranked choice question as one of your poll questions. Perhaps you want to canvas meeting members about where the next Executive Team meeting should be held. You can list the choices, and let participants move a choice up or down the stack to indicate how they rank each option.
Can You Repeat the Question?
Do you have folks (hello, HR!) that hold regular meetings with employees? Given our new hybrid work environment, those meetings might be happening over Teams these days. If you have a poll question that you repeatedly use in these meetings, you no longer need to recreate it for every meeting. With this September Teams feature, if you regularly ask employees to rate their satisfaction with the organization (or management or whatever), you can grab the poll you created in the past and use it again. Nice.
Distribute a Form Directly to a Team
I talked earlier about how you can more easily post a poll in a Teams meeting. Great when you are in a meeting. But what about polling staff outside of a meeting? Teams has a solution for you. With this September Teams feature, you can post a Form or a poll directly to a Team and channel. Just a few clicks and you are there. You could do this in the past, but it involved sending the Form or poll in an email to the team.
Have you noticed that some of these features seem designed to keep you in Teams. That is what I see. More clearly, Teams is trying to make it easier to stay out of email. Microsoft is increasing the entry points into Teams. Microsoft is also giving users a way to redirect communication back into Teams, after some participants have shifted the conversation into email.
Share an Audio File
You can now share an audio file using your Teams iOS client. You might have an audio clip you want to share with the Team. Well, now you can.
Kill the Wiki!
This last September Teams feature warms my heart. When you create a Teams channel, Teams will no longer automatically create a Wiki tab. HALLELUJA. Customers I talk to would rather use OneNote as a note-taking app. Wiki does not make the cut. So, it was a bit confusing for customers to see a Teams channel that has both a OneNote tab and a Wiki tab.
If you have Wikis in use on some of your channels, they will not be affected by this feature. Of course, you can still add a Wiki tab to a channel if you like. It just will not show up by default. Sometimes less is more.