Updated Review: Lenovo ThinkSmart View for Teams

Lenovo ThinkSmart Display

 

Updated: December 2020

Now, I don’t need to tell you just how fast #MicrosoftTeams is being adopted across organisations globally, but one thing we are seeing is the shire explosion of new form factor devices by leading (and new) manufacturers into the Teams Collaboration space. Some of these new devices fits into the new category of Microsoft Teams Displays.

Microsoft Teams Displays – are a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices featuring an ambient touchscreen, and a hands-free / touch-free experience “powered by Cortana” (though this is currently only available in the US only at this point). 

One of these vendors is Lenovo, who are no means a “new kid on the block” when it comes to end user devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktops, but they are kind of new in the Teams Collaboration Device Space. Interestingly, Lenovo are now also supplying the “PC” component of, not only their new Teams Rooms Systems, but also that of Poly!

You may ask why, when employees have access to laptops, web browsers, smart phones and tablets, all more than capable of running Microsoft Teams, so we need a dedicated Teams Collaboration Display….

Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View

The Lenovo ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for hosting and taking part in Microsoft Teams audio and video calls – the devices of which can be managed by the Lenovo ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.

Lenovo ThinkSmart Display
Picture of Lenovo ThinkSmart display for Teams

Designed and certified exclusively for Microsoft Teams, Lenovo calls this a “…collaborative smart device that works from an individual’s workspace…”  – it’s a collaboration device really designed for execs or those with a pop-up home office who want to be “free from their laptop or tablet” but still need a video rich and audio rich endpoint and a price point that really appeals.

Lenovo are attempting to “reimagine the personal workspace” with Microsoft Teams displays by integrating the Teams collaboration and communication experience into the home and workplace with high fidelity audio and video.

So, what can you use it for?

Meetings – and it’s really good at them too!

Most of what the device can do is set out by, and limited by what Microsoft allows the device to do since the collaboration device is powered by the Microsoft Teams Android client that runs on the device. Initially, and when first reviewed the device earlier this year, the device was really just for joining meetings and for Teams Phone features, however the update in September 2020 brought the FULL Teams Mobile features to the device including:

  • Phone
    • Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
    • Common Area and Personal Phone Support
    • Hot Desking Support
  • Meetings
    • Support Live Captions / Subtitles
    • Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
    • Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
    • Raise hand support
    • Better Together for Calling & Meeting
  • IM and Chat
    • Full support for starting, participating, navigating and interacting with Chat 
  • Files
    • Full access to your recent files and full access to your OneDrive
  • Organisational View
    • View your Team and company org chart

My other favourite is the ability for colleagues (or most likely, your kids to leave you a message, voice memo or video memo) on the device if you are away from your desk (more likely..in the loo or getting a coffee!)

What’s in the box?

This is really simple.  The ThinkSmart View device and a UK plug.

What’s the Price?

The retail for these is £229 plus VAT – so I definitely put them into the affordable gadget category for most managers/exec that work at home or need a dedicated Teams Video endpoint in their office.

What’s the Spec?

As I said – think of this as a giant Teams Phone. Its runs the same native Teams Mobile app but is perfect as a Teams On-the-go collaboration device – as long as you have a power-plug to power it up as it doesn’t have a built in battery. With this device you get:

  • 5MP wide angle (720p) with a physical camera shutter to cover it for privacy.
  • Supports software background blur in Teams meetings
  • Built in microphone with mute switch to temporarily cut the audio.
  • 1.75″ 10W full-range speaker
  • Bluetooth® 4.2 (LE) – pairing allows use with a headset and support auto device lock.
  • 8″ HD (1200 x 800) IPS touchscreen with auto rotate for landscape / portrait mode

Lenovo ThinkSmart View in portrait mode

Usage

The ThinkSmart View is an interesting form factor device from Lenovo. It’s not immediately clear as to the audience it has been designed for. I think initially it’s designed for the exec or manager’s office – but with the 2020 being the year of “remote working”, this is ideally suited as a second / dedicated Teams end-point… 

Audio is surprising good – rather than the often tinny sounds you get from laptop speakers, the 10-Watt full-range speaker in the ThinkSmart View has 2 passive tweeters allowing it to produce loud, crisp and clear audio, and testing on the receiving end (yes, I called my self), the audio picked up by the 360-degree microphone array was also “room system” quality in my opinion. Audio is important…. with virtual meetings, the spoken voice is the most important aspect of the call/meeting and while video is king, now more than ever, you can more easily forgive poor quality video as long as audio is sharp and clear.

For anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!

Within the “office environment”, the Lenovo ThinkSmart display can also fill the need for a “walk up and use” video collab device which can be placed in a small focus space or breakout area  – especially as it supports “hot desk mode” – the lack of a handset makes it a bit in practical for a common area but you can pair it with a headset (again – great to dedicated use, no so much for common area use).

I think for anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!

Competition

This a new(ish) form factor, though not entirely unique to Lenovo. The other Teams Collaboration device manufacturer in this space today is Yealink – who’s device is due to launch early 2021 and is rumoured to have a battery as well as being mains powered which is the main thing missing from the Lenovo in my opinion. 

Summary

As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent. There is a premium feel to the device and its weighted on one-side, presumably to prevent accidental movement or repositioning. Its not heavy though – no heavier than a Bluetooth speaker the weight just helps with positioning and premium feel. 

At just over £200 (RRP is £240 as of Dec 2020), it’s a great device to buy a handful of, to test out the use case within your organisation – a few of the clients I work with have done just this. 

Click here to visit the Lenovo Website

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review -Much better than you might think..

Surface Devices

Introduction

Anyone that reads my blogs/ramblings will know I’m a huge fan of Windows 10 and Surface and I have reviewed a fair few of them over the past 18 months.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is a more than capable, great looking, and best of all “affordable” premium laptop from Microsoft that is every bit “Surface”..well almost!

Surface Laptop Go starts at just £549 in the UK (as of Nov 2020) and it’s not often that you can find a “premium device” at this price point that isn’t plasticy, chunky, heavy, and slow (often with several generation old processors) – which is the typical trend around this price point – after all you get what you pay for right!

Here’s my hands on review.

Hands-on Review

What I find funny about Surface is that many analysts/reviewers (I won’t name names) often slate Surface for being an overpriced device when compared to, well, cheaper, non-premium device, but then again Surface is a premium brand, and, like Apple and premium does carry a price tag. What I think everyone who has ever had a Surface (from Surface Pro 4 and upwards) will agree, is that Microsoft do make some pretty awesome, good-looking, powerful and extremely productive devices with ink and touch and the centre of the Surface and Microsoft 365 message…. (more on that later).

If you’ve not experienced Surface before, then I truly think you are missing out.. Its like having a mediocre smart phone and then having never picked up a flagship Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy Phone. You have to try Surface!

Speeds, Feeds and Bolt-ons

Starting at just £549, the Surface Laptop Go package weighs a solid 2.44 lbs and feels every bit as premium as its larger flagship brother- the Surface Laptop. 

The base / entry level features:

  • 12.4-inch 2:3 ratio touch screen with 10-point multi-touch
  • 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor
  • 64GB of eMMC storage (with upgrade options to 128 GB or 256 GB SSD)
  • 1x USB-C and 1x USB-A port
  • Headphone Jack (yep – still got it)
  • Mid-range Intel UHD graphics
  • 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (upgradable to 256GB)
  • 720p HD f2.0 front-facing webcam (not Windows Hello)
  • Firmware based TPM chip
  • All day battery (and it really is!).

What is missing?

There is of course “some” compromise in getting a premium device like Surface down to this price point, but thereof this brand and I must admit, I was surprised by two omissions on the Laptop Go (given it’s a sibling of the Surface Go).

  1. No LTE option (one of things that makes the Surface Go so great – you never know they might add an option in early 2021)
  2. No Windows Hello camera – though the high spec models have a Windows Hello finger-print reader. If you are used to Surface like me then you may find this hard to get used to!
  3. Whilst the Surface Laptop Go has a really nice and responsive touch screen, the one thing that really got me was this device does not support ink and pen – which is the first Surface to be released without pen or ink support – this “personally” is a big no no for me…Its a surface…. its a signature feature (ok rant over). 

What Spec did I test?

Microsoft sent me an evaluation unit (my company, Cisilion are Microsoft Gold Partners for Surface), which was a more beefed-up model and had: –

  • 16 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Windows Hello (via Fingerprint Reader)

How did it pan out?

Really well actually.

Screen:
I’ve read a few comments from other reviewers about “poor” screen quality! It’s not – it is just not as higher-resolution as the screen on the Laptop 3 and Surface Pro (as you’d expect for the price). The screen on the Laptop Go is the standard 3:2 ratio and features the much “as standard on Surface” ten-point multi touch. 

Battery: Microsoft claims up to 13 hours of usage, but in the week that I was testing for 50% work (Outlook, Teams, Word, PowerPoint) and 50% social (web, social, Netflix etc) and it managed on average just over 9.5hrs. 

Laptop Go will easily get anyone through a full day without having to charge/top it up which was one of my “issues” with the original Surface Go and while it’s not a big issue, charging is limited to the Surface charger cable – and it’s a shame for such a mobile device that charging isn’t supported via USB-C.

Performance: Ok so I was actually really impressed by just how well this little gem performed. I’ve been using “my” Laptop Go for a full week as main daily driver (my usual device is a Surface Book 2) and had none, absolutely none, performance issues at all. I has this connected to a Surface Dock (1st gen), driving a second screen and running every thing I need – Teams, Office Apps, PowerBI, Web Apps, CRM – everything. 

Noise: What? What a funny category to add Rob! So I added this category because, whilst the Laptop Go is silent most of the time, when you dial up the performance and drive a second screen, the Fan was on, almost continuously. Dial it back to “Better Performance” the fan turned off though with lots of apps open and the device on mains power, I favour “Best Performance Mode”. 

The Crux of it – Would I recommend and for what?

In short – yes!!

Building on the success of Surface Laptop the new Laptop Go is great device for anyone (home or business) that needs a light, good looking, mid-range laptop that is still a beautiful looking device – which this is.

The question of course is who’s it good for and when. Again I think there some great use cases

  • Education – DEFINATELY (all day battery, light, powerful)
  • Most Workers – DEFINATELY either as a second device or a primary device if you don’t need a powerhouse
  • Developers/Power Users – NOPE.
  • Home Use – DEFINATELY

I cant comment on the entry level version of course, but from what I have seen and experienced from a battery, processor performance these are great devices. Laptop Go is the ideal choice for the school (its a Windows device too so no application compromises) and the 10th Gen Intel Core i5 is meaty enough to get through any classroom task!

My Advice

  • For business – get a couple try them out – you’ll be surprised
  • For home – If you are buying a new laptop for home – don’t by  cheap clunky heap of plastic. Buy this – you’ll love it, your kids will love it. They are great.

Microsoft announces refreshed Surface Pro X and new Surface Laptop Go

1st October 2020 and Microsoft has officially announced the 2020 line up of new Surface devices. Here’s a quick summary of the new devices that were announced:

New Surface Laptop Go

A new baby is born – a 12.5-inch Surface Laptop Go starting at just under £499, and like the Surface Go, brings the features most loved by Surface Laptop customers to a smaller, more affordable design and is the “lightest, most affordable Surface laptop yet“.

  • Surface Laptop Go – has a 12.4″ touchscreen display, large precision trackpad and a full-size keyboard. This comes in comes in three lightweight metal finishes: Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum and has secure sign-in options including Windows Hello and optional Fingerprint Power Button with One Touch sign-in through Windows Hello. The new Surface Laptop Go has an Intel’s 10th Gen i5 Quad-Core processor under the hood with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. So much more of a power horse than the Surface Go and Go 2. 

Updated Surface Pro X

An updated version of last year’s Surface Pro X featuring a new Microsoft SQ 2 processor, which like last year’s SQ1 processor was built by Microsoft and Qualcomm and is stated to be “the fastest processor in its class” and claims to be able to deliver 15 hrs of battery life. This is available to order now and starts shipping on October 13th.

  • This new Microsoft SQ 2 processor for the Surface Pro X will be coupled with a more powerful Adreno 690 GPU and will be available in the new top end Surface Pro X with 16GB of RAM and will be around £1,400. The Surface Pro X with the existing SQ1 processor will keep its £900 starting price, and Microsoft also announced that they are adding a new Platinum finish as an alternative to the original Matte black colour in the Surface Pro X. 

Both Surface Pro Xs retain the same great look and design with 13” PixelSense Display, and ports as the original model with the SQ 1 processor, though the new chip is promised to deliver significant performance improvements over last year’s already supper fast Surface Pro X.  Both models come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 LTE modem that supports Gigabit LTE speeds – no news on a 5G model yet (unless I missed that bit of the announcement).

 

What’s the future of ARM on Windows 10?

Good question – Microsoft also announced just yesterday that more native apps will soon be coming to the ARM for Windows 10 platform including a native ARM64 version of Microsoft Teams which is well overdue.

Microsoft also said that from November, Microsoft will be testing support for x64 emulation with Windows Insiders, which should really help to fix the app compatibility issues on Windows 10 on ARM and should also see better performance for apps. 

The Surface Pro X is still Microsoft’s thinnest ever Surface Pro tablet, and it’s also the first Surface tablet to ship with two USB-C ports, a removable SSD, and above all a Firmware TPM chip for enterprise security. 

The 2020 Surface Family Portrait – the family keeps growing

Surface Family 2020
2020 Surface Line up (C) Microsoft.

Microsoft Ignite ‘flooded’ with these incredible new #MicrosoftTeams enhancements

Day one of Ignite yesterday (Sept 22 2020), was full of many new announcements across Microsoft 365, Azure and Power Platform but day 1 was certainly dominated by a new stack of updates coming now or very soon to Microsoft Teams, with the list including well-being tools for employees, calling enhancements, new webinar features and breakout rooms and a whole lot more.

Here’s my review of the key new features. There’s also a quick video I recorded from the main Teams session…

Virtual Commute

With the virtual commute feature, Teams users will be able to schedule a virtual commute to structure their day so they can have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening.

As part of Virtual Commute, Microsoft has partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into Teams based on the user’s day, and how busy their day appears from their activity across Teams and Office 365. This is designed to help make it easier for employees to find time to relax and recover and therefore better focus.

There’s a lot of activity happening in Teams, we can see that. We also hear people telling us that there are adverse effects and that leads us to product strategy and what you’re seeing at Ignite,” said Microsoft executive Jared Spataro.

The sudden transition to working from home during the pandemic has completely upended the lives of workers around the world.”

While many employees used to use their morning commute as a chance to relax or reflect on the day ahead of them, the switch to remote working has taken this personal time from them. To make matters worse, many organisations now expect their workers to begin their jobs right at the start of the day since they no longer need to travel to and from the office.

According to a study from Microsoft Research, commutes can serve as meaningful transitions at the beginning and end of the workday and in fact, the reflection done during this time can increase productivity by 12 to 15 percent.

New Well-being tools

New Insights in Teams powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics

With rollout starting in October and with new enhancements coming over the new few months, is a new set of well-being features and productivity insights for Microsoft Teams.

This will be powered by a combination of MyAnalytics and a new Workplace Analytics experience designed for Teams, Microsoft said that this aims to will gives individuals, managers, and business leaders powerful insights which are personalised about their roles and their teams within work and to ensure employees and employers can focus more effort and energy into their people (the heart of their business) helping everyone to focus on their work, and be their best.

Teams users will see recommended actions to help them  make changing their work habits and improving their productivity and well-being easier. Examples include suggested tasks for the day, reminders to have breaks and taking time away from the screen which will be delivered to your Outlook inbox.

In addition, a new stay connected experience will also help individuals strengthen relationships with their colleagues by making it easy to praise top collaborators for key achievements and to schedule one-on-ones to catch up.

Finally, there will be new insights tab in Teams that allow leaders to ask natural questions like, “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?”

Webinar Registration and reporting

For more structured meetings and events such as customer webinars, meeting and event organisers will soon be able to use powerful event registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance. Ater the meeting, you’ll be able view a detailed reporting dashboard that will help understand attendee engagement. These new features are expected to begin to roll out by end of 2020 – and i suspect the Advanced Communications license will be needed to use these features (just a hunch).

News Teams Webinar Experience – Coming Q4 2020

Teams Templates

Teams templates, which are now in the rollout phase, are designed to help teams get started faster and be more effective. Teams owners can now choose from common business scenarios, such as event management or crisis response, and industry-specific templates, like a hospital ward or bank branch. Each template comes with pre-defined channels, apps, and guidance and admins can create their own for your organisation.

New Teams Templates – Rolling out now

New backgrounds for Together mode

New Backgrounds to Together Mode coming Q4 2020

Promised between now and the end of 2020, Together Mode feature will see some improvements with new Together mode scenes which will include conference rooms and a coffee shop and later, the ability to add your own such as meetings rooms from your own office. Microsoft hopes these features can help people feel connected and engaged from anywhere and reduce fatigue caused by regular grid view meetings.

With these improvements, like custom backgrounds in video chats, presenters will soon be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default scene for all together mode meeting attendees. Microsoft said they will also be enhancing the feature further to automatically scale and center participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera.

Additionally, custom layouts in Teams meeting (not just Together mode) will allow presenters to customise how meeting content is displayed for participants during the meeting.

Similar to a weather forecast or the news, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the content being presented on screen making for a more professional presentation.

Breakout Rooms

New Breakout Rooms – Coming October 2020

Already in preview for education, Teams meetings is getting a much-anticipated breakout room feature.

This highly requested feature will allow meeting organisers to split participants into smaller groups (manually or automatically) so they can have their own discussions. It’s ideal for brainstorming and workgroup discussions or for running event with multiple streams or optional sessions for example.

This means presenters will then be able to hop between different breakout rooms and make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting room. Participants will still be able to access the notes, chat, files and whiteboards from the breakout session after the breakout rooms close.

Collaborative Calling

Starting rollout from the end of this month, is a new set of calling improvements for Teams.

One of these is Collaborative Calling, which enables users better collaborate and share information from within the channel while taking calls from employees or their customers in the queue.

Also included are a host of improvements to transcription, live captions, recording, and the ability to transfer between Teams mobile and desktop apps when doing one-on-one calls seemlessly.

Microsoft also said that their new  live captions with speaker attribution is now generally available (though I don’t see it yet). This provides a live and recap service for the meeting which includes the recording, an online transcript, chat, shared files, and more.

New Microsoft Teams panels

As employees begin to return to the office, part time, occasionally or permanently, meeting rooms will provide a welcome change to their work from home setups and will likely be at a premium.

To make it easier for workers to know when a meeting room is occupied, Microsoft has unveiled a new category of devices called Microsoft Teams panels that can be mounted outside of a meeting space.

These devices are essentially small tablets that can also use information from other connected certified Teams devices such as cameras to show room capacity information and help workers follow their organisation’s social distancing guidelines.

OK.. There is more…

In addition to these main announcements yesterday, Microsoft also announced several new smaller enhancements to Teams which include:

  1. New Search Experience
  2. Ability to create tasks directly from a team’s chat or channel
  3. New Cortana powered hands-free meeting controls in Teams Rooms

Let me know what I missed….

6 new countries added to Microsoft Cloud Calling Plans

Microsoft made a big announcement today as it announced an additional 6 countries that it is adding to its coverage of Microsoft provided calling plans which will be available from the 1st October 2020.

This is big news seeing Microsoft has not added a country since May 2018 so adding 6 countries is a big deal!

What countries are being added?

  • Austria
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

The addition of these 6 countries in to the already available list of countries that support the Calling Plans Microsoft increases the total number of counties to 16, with the total list now being

  • Austria
  • Australia (via local telco)
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan (via local telco)
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Microsoft is adding the following countries to its list of countries in which customers can consume callimg plans directly from Microsoft or their license/CSP partners.

Direct Routing is also an option for customers wishing to keep their own SBCs, their own SIP provider/carriers or where callings plans are not available is specific counties.

Official notice on the Microsoft 365 Public roadmap



Skype for Business (3PIP) phone support extended beyond original 2023 end date

Image of 3PIP phones

Great news for any organisations using Skype for Business and moving to Teams, was announced yesterday.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that they were extending support for their 3PIP gateway service (which was originally supported until 2023). Skype for Business Online is end of life from July 2021 and the 3PIP service provides support for any legacy Skype for Business Phone. By extending the support for the 3PIP gateway service, organisations will be able to leverage their existing Skype for Business phones for longer – saving money and giving them longer to invest in #MicrosoftTeams certified phones.

Image of 3PIP phones

We realise that being able to use existing hardware can provide important cost savings when moving to a new phone system.” Microsoft said in a blog post yesterday. “Today, we are announcing extended support for Skype for Business (3PIP) phones beyond 2023, so you can continue to use your existing Skype for Business phones as you move to Teams”.

Support for Standard SIP Phones

Microsoft also confirmed that they will be supporting core calling features on standard SIP-based phones from Cisco, Yealink, Polycom, and others with Microsoft Teams. Microsoft said this support will be available in the first half of 2021.

More Teams phones with “Buttons”

Microsoft also said yesterday that, due to customer demand, the leading Teams phone vendors including Yealink and Audiocodes will be launching new Teams certified phones with physical buttons.

It seems Microsoft’s plans to include Calling minutes in E5 have now been cancelled.

A few weeks ago we hear that Microsoft were going to include 120mins calling minutes within many of their ‘E5’ subscriptions (see previous post).

Thanks to Will for spotting and letting me know on my blog the official post by Microsoft has now been updated, which states that “The Enterprise Voice and E5 and A5 with Calling Minutes launch has been canceled.”

Hold on… What?

Yep you heard right, and if you check out the updated version of the Microsoft release you’ll see that they go on to say:
We will not be launching Enterprise Voice Plan 1 and 2 and the accompanying inclusion of domestic calling minutes in the E5 and A5 plans, as was previously planned for August 1, 2020. The launch has been placed on hold indefinitely.”

I personally think this is a really wierd move.. I’m sure there more that we haven’t been told yet, but so many of our customers were excited by this announcement and had started to make plans to accelerate their move to Microsoft Cloud Calling now that minutes were going to be included..

As soon as I hear any more I’ll update you all. In the mean time what’s your thoughts on this…? Were you looking at advancing your Microsoft Cloud Calling due to this announcement.?

Microsoft “Forms Pro” becomes “Customer Voice”

Dynamics Customer Voice

Yesterday at Inspire, Microsoft’s Global Partner Event, Microsoft made a massive announcement about changes coming to their survey and feedback tool known as Forms Pro). Released almost a year ago to the day, Forms Pro provided a host of additional features to Forms including functionality tied into the Common Data Service and was the suggested replacement for the previous “Voice of the Customer” which was part of Dynamics 365.

Introducing “Customer Voice

Dynamics 365 Customer Voice is a not just a name change for Forms Pro, it’s a new product which will replace Forms Pro – it’s primary focus being to request and manage customer feedback at multiple levels.

As MVP Megan Walker said in a blog, “it took a few steps to get there, but hopefully, now we can see that Microsoft Forms is one product, and Customer Voice is another“.

Customer Voice (which is available from end of August) will have the same notable features as Forms Pro but will also include a host of new capabilities and exciting features.

The user interface will also be separate and different from Microsoft Forms – a move that will hopefully remove a lot of the confusion of not knowing exactly which product was which when using Forms and / or Forms Pro since they do, in essence, look the same!

What are the new Features?

Customer Voice works more on the concept of Projects than just a whole bunch of unstructured surveys. These projects can hold one or more surveys – so the layout is slightly different but easier to manage – for example, you can group surveys based on products or surveys etc.

There are also new satisfaction metrics coming for sentiment, Net promoter or CSAT.

You can also pick new solution templates for projects such as

  • Multiple surveys
  • Branching rules
  • Custom templates and even third-party templates

The full list of features can be found on Microsoft’s office page here:  

Megan – a friend and experts in her field has also done a great video blog on these changes and new stuff…check it out here:

When will the changes kick in?

The transition from Forms Pro to Customer Voice will happen in Mid/Late August 2020 and all existing Forms Pro Surveys and responses will transition across to the new service.

What do you think, are you are Forms Pro user? What do you think of the latest changes?
Let me know

 

New Enterprise Voice Plans PLUS Microsoft to include 120 calling minutes in E5 plans from August 1st

Teams Phone

Microsoft have just announced some changes and enhancements coming to the way their Microsoft Teams “Cloud Voice” services are purchased and licensed.

Firstly, from August 1st, all Office E5/A5 and Microsoft E5/A5 plans will now include 120-minutes per month domestic user calling plans in eight countries at no additional cost. This will be for new and existing E5/A5 users including the following countries: –

  • UK
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Netherlands
  • Spain

Secondly, Microsoft are also adding new Microsoft 365 Enterprise Voice Plans. This will make it easier for customers to add voice to Teams since these new bundles will include That means, in those countries, E5 now ships as a full phone system with PSTN connectivity and user phone numbers/minutes included in the single license.

The new Enterprise Voice bundles are a new offering / add-on that will includes.

  • Phone System,
  • Audio Conferencing, and
  • Domestic calling minutes

The new Voice bundles will come in different sizes and will include a different number of inclusive minutes (similar to how the Calling Plans are purchased today).

Voice Plan 1 works out around £4.50 per user per month cheaper than the previous separate items of Phone System, Audio Conferencing and 120 Minute Calling Plan

Office 365 E5/Microsoft 365 E5 will include PLAN 1 which equates to 120 mins.

About Microsoft Enterprise Voice

Microsoft 365 Enterprise Voice

…is a cloud-based telephony solution that enables users to make and receive PSTN calls in Microsoft Teams. It includes Phone System, Audio Conferencing, and Domestic Calling Plans. These will be now be available in a Plan 1 and Plan 2.

Calling plans

…are what Microsoft call the associated DDI and calling minutes which are assigned to users or common are phones for example and gives users a PSTN phone number and inclusive out-bound minutes to make PSTN calls outbound. Inbound PSTN calls are not minute capped or charged. E5 licenses already include “Phone System” which enables the ability to use Microsoft Teams as a phone, but there is a still a requirement to add either a Microsoft Calling Plan or to use Direct Routing (an SBC and service from an approved Telco) to enable a user to make and receive phone calls.

Pricing

Enterprise Voice Plans (for A3/E3/F3 users)

  • Voice Plan 1 (incudes 120 mins a month): RRP £9.80 
  • Voice Plan 2: (includes TBC mins per month) RRP £16.60

Note: Voice Plan 1 works out around £4.50 per user per month cheaper than the previous separate items of Phone System, Audio Conferencing and 120 Minute Calling Plan

Find out more

To find out more, you can refer to the announcement here:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/partner-center/announcements/2020-july

How Microsoft’s new digital skills initiative aims to skill up 25 million people

#Microsoft today, has launched an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a #COVID19 economy grounded in three areas of activity:

(1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;

(2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;

(3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

Within the announcement, Microsoft said they are also developing a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees. This will bring together best in class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and a company’s own learning content and make it all available in a place where employees can easily learn in the flow of their work.

Read the full Microsoft blog and announcement here;