After a nice Independence Day break safely visiting family, I’m back and strapped into the technology jump seat. I’m still working from home, the San Francisco Giants continue their unbeaten string of games broadcast on the radio each weekend, and Microsoft continues to roll out updates to Teams. Read about the updates to Teams here (there’s a bonus if you tell me about the Safe Transfer feature). Or just follow along and I’ll hit the highlights for you.
An Expanded Gallery View
Imagine watching Brady Bunch IV—The Next, Next Generation. Or something like that. Teams “Gallery View”, often referred to as “The Brady Bunch View” (huh?) has expanded to support 49 video thumbnails. That’s a 7 x 7 view for the mathematicians in the house. Zoom already supports 49 video thumbnails, so Microsoft is playing catch-up with this update to Teams.
I’m excited about this update to Teams. Countless times I’ve had to click out of the meeting view so I could navigate somewhere to grab a file to display or answer another call. With this update to Teams, I can pop the meeting window out (PC and Mac client apps only). I’m hoping this will make the Teams meeting user experience nicer.
Inline Chat Translation
We have a customer that operates in some thirty countries throughout Asia. Early on, as we rolled out Office 365, we grappled with the question of how to support multiple languages. Thankfully, Microsoft has addressed this need in another update to Teams. Users can configure their Teams client app to automatically translate chat messages, as they’re received. We’ve written about this before. If you want to know more about translation, here’s a link. As an Admin, you must first turn inline translation on for your organization. Once it’s on, the user can enable inline translation by selecting More options > Translate and choosing the language they want (there are currently about 35 supported languages).
Inline translation has been available on PC and Mac Teams client apps for about a year. What’s new here is that it’s now supported on iOS devices.
Multiple Breakout Room Support
Here’s a “sleeper” update to Teams. I’m involved in three conferences now that have each been converted to a virtual format. Think about those conference sessions where you organize the attendees into groups and ask them to address some aspect of the session topic. Once they’re done with their deliberations, you want all the groups to reconvene and have the groups present results to one another. How are you going to do that in a virtual format? Breakout rooms.
As the meeting organizer, you can assign attendees to groups (each with their own breakout room), or you can let attendees self-select group membership. You can virtually flit between rooms as needed. And you can reconvene the groups into the main meeting room to present results (which can be captured in the meeting transcript).
As we move more of our collaboration to a virtual format, we’ll appreciate being able to use breakout rooms. One note: this update to Teams isn’t here yet. It’s expected before the end of the year.
One Annoying Update to Teams
Here’s one update to Teams I doubt I will appreciate. You can set Priority Notifications on for all messages you mark as Urgent. Once set, the system will send an update notice to the recipient—once every two minutes for up to twenty minutes—reminding them that you’ve sent them an urgent message (and presumably are awaiting a response).
Why am I so grumpy about Priority Notifications? First, let me say that the feature is off by default. So, you must turn it on in the Admin Center if you want users to access it. But back to me and my grumpiness. I have two objections.
- Clutter. Part of what makes us cringe over our email Inboxes is receiving all those “please respond to my message” messages. You sent me one message that I should attend to, and 24 more messages trying to move your original message back to the top of my queue. Now I must process 25 messages. Not helpful.
- Abuse. We all know about users that mark every support request as “urgent.” I recall from my days working at a manufacturer, how callers would page the person to a phone rather than leave a voice message. It’s too easy to translate “urgent” into “please make my message your top priority”.
On a Positive Note: A Few More Updates to Teams
OK, I’m off my soap box. Let’s list a few other updates to Teams that might be valuable for you.
- You can now have up to 300 attendees in your Teams meeting.
- Not directly Teams-related, but Microsoft has created some Forms-based templates that you can you to gauge employee sentiment. Read about that here. With everyone working from home, it’s harder to get a sense of how folks are doing, especially for larger organizations. These Forms let you gather information from employees to take a temperature check. I used a Form this morning for another data collection task and found it much more pleasant than filling out a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. What’s new here is that you can add these Forms to a Teams channel. I know some organizations have set up “water cooler” channels; this might be a good home for these “pulse of the organization” Forms.
- They’ve moved the Meet Now control to the main Teams screen. No more going to the Calendar view to find it.
Expect to see more updates to Teams going forward. I certainly don’t see the demand for them going away anytime soon. And thanks for asking: I had a great time off.