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



Microsoft to bring all tasks across Office365 into new “Tasks in Teams”

Tasks in Teams

Tasks in Teams – this will be the new name for the Planner app currently in Teams today, which will consolidate tasks across To Do, Teams Channels, Planner as well as Outlook Tasks. The goal is to bring all your tasks to ‘Tasks in Teams’ no matter where you create them.

Tasks In Teams

The new Teams Tasks app (which will replace the current planner app) will allow users to see their individual tasks as well as team tasks in a single app. This latest update will begin to rollout in May /  June this year.

Why the change?

According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the “Tasks in Teams,” feature describes the coming Tasks app as ‘providing users with a consolidation of tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook Tasks.’

New Teams Tasks View

The Microsoft 365, Teams Public Roadmap ID 57213, describes the reason for the change is that “with the new Tasks experience in Teams, we are delivering several capabilities that will support new levels of team collaboration. Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting in Teams allows corporate and regional leadership to send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued mobile device showing them exactly what to do next.”

Good idea?

What do you think. Is this a good move, confusing or a logical coming together of all your tasks in one place.?

Check out the Microsoft Tasks In Teams YouTube video

There’s now 4.1 Billion Meeting minutes a day in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).

Incredible usage numbers

Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.

What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.

The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.

In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.

Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”

Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management

I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.

User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).

Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards:  ISO 27001ISO 27018SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2HIPAA , and  EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.

What happens after Covid19?

Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.

“SMS sign in” for Microsoft Teams* now in public preview.

Another #MicrosoftTeams feature is rolling out (ok so it’s in public preview so pretty much rolled out).

This time is a feature aimed more at front line workers like retail for example who may oy have a mobile phone to access their busienss apps.

Introducing SMS based user sign-in

With SMS based user sign-in, users can simply sign-in with their phone number and receive a code via SMS, which will then log them in (the number needs to be registered against them in Azure Active Directory).

How’s it works?

Worth noting that this is just in preview and is still some key features missing (a key one being this doesn’t yet work with MFA… But it will).

As I mentioned in the introduction SMS-based authentication, lets users sign in without needing to provide, or even know, their username and password. After their account is created by an identity administrator, they can enter their phone number at the sign-in prompt, and provide an authentication code that’s sent to them via text message. This authentication method simplifies access to applications and services, especially for front line workers.

Whilst this will work for any Office 365, it’s primary aim is to help front line workers use and login to Team in mobile device as the illustration below shows

Each user enabled for SMS-sign in must have one of the following Azure AD or Microsoft 365 licenses:
– Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 or
– Microsoft 365 F1 or F3

Current limitations

Microsoft have clearly detailed a number of limitations which will apply during the public preview including.

  • SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • With the exception of Teams, SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with native Office applications.
  • SMS-based authentication isn’t recommended for B2B accounts.
  • Federated users won’t authenticate in the home tenant. They only authenticate in the cloud.

To learn more and for instructions in how to active and configure SMS sign in, see the Microsoft supporting information here.

Other Azure AD Passwordless options.

For additional ways to sign in to Azure AD without a password, such as the Microsoft Authenticator App or FIDO2 security keys, you can review the Passwordless authentication options for Azure AD.

“Pop out” chat support starts rolling out in Microsoft Teams

Multi-Window Chat is a new Microsoft Teams feature which enables users to multitask more efficiently by popping out their chat conversations into separate Windows much like was possible in Skype for Business and Lync before.

Microsoft announced this was rolling out this month (April) as part of a wave of updates announced on their 3rd “birthday”.

Why we need it (and we so do)!

Pop out chat (video and others are coming soon too) has been one of the most requested features in Teams since when enaged in multiple chats, is can be a little cumbersome (especially now with us all working from home) to effectively to monitor and manage chats across multiple teams or groups since you can’t currently have these chats in separate Windows.

This new pop-out feature helps you overcome this challenge, allowing you to “pop out” chats your Teams’ chat in a separate window meaning you can keep important conversations and chats going while you are in a meeting or working elsewhere in Teams without loosing context.

How it works.

As with most things in #MicrosoftTeams there’s a couple of ways users can pop-out their conversations:

  1. The simplest – double click on the display picture (avatar) of the person whose chat you want to pop-out
  2. Click “Pop out chat” from the context menu for a chat that is listed in the chat list
  3. Click the ‘pop out’ button in the top-right corner of the chat header.
  4. For those that prefer the command prompt, use the slash command /pop
Pop out chat in Microsoft Teams

Available now..?

Almost.. At the time of writing, I’ve seen tweets that some of my customers and friends are seeing this already as of today (Friday 24th April) mine hasn’t updated yet…

Keep hitting the “check for updates”!

4 to 9 is not 49 but its’ a leap in the right direction for #MicrosoftTeams

There’s no doubt Microsoft haven’t been busy this past few months with some may say, it’s own rapid #MicrosoftTeams feature response took to #covid_19.

Whilst in preview for many at Microsoft for a while, Microsoft posted to twitter and the uservoice feedback site this afternoon (Monday 13th April) to announce that it will very shortly (we beleive this month) be increasing the number of participants viewed simultaneously on the meeting view from the current 4 to 9.

Teams 3×3 display (Image (C) Microsoft.)

Zoom however, lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen

Microsoft have also said though publicly, that they are “continuing work to increase this limit even further.”

User voice update

Is this all just to compete with Zoom?

In parts I think… Yes

But… Microsoft have been working on this for a couple of years but was obviously never really seen as a huge priority (despite the number of user requests).

Bear in mind Teams isn’t Zoom, but we often compare aspects of a product with a different solution. Zoom is purely a video conferencing service (whereas Teams is far more than that… Chat, channels, co-authoring, secure collaboration and integrated into Microsoft 365).

Of late though with everyone working from home, due to #covid19, Zooms features have been priased both in both the enterprise (security noise aside) and personal space…

I think this is mainly because Zoom lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen and whilst this is probably not practice to required for most Enterprises (but great maybe for schools and gym classes) the user community seems to think that the changes don’t go far enough to help with orgs with large team sizes….so the pressure on Microsoft to increase this further is by far from over!

Zoom can show up to 49 live video windows

Summary

Given the focus on enterprise and quality however it is likely Microsoft will put security and quality ahead of just features in this “turf war” and they have said they are continuing work to increase the limit even further “soon”.

Ensuring the best online meeting experience when working from home during COVID-19

With COVID-19 now dominating our lives and forcing most of us to work from home with lock-downs now in place across most major metropolitan cities around the globe, we (through Cisilion where I work), have been helping our customers either get started with, or rapidly increase their use and adoption of Microsoft Teams to ensure they can stay connected, work collaborately, co-author documents and most importantly get face-time with the people they work with

The focus of this blog is around meetings since I’m sure like me online meetings is something you are doing lot of now we are confined to our homes..

So whether you are brand new to Teams or an experienced Teams Champion, this blog shares my own experiences and tips on how to have the best online meetings in Teams.


1. Use Teams to stay connected with anyone, not just those in your organisation

As the “Hub for Teamwork”, you can use Microsoft Teams to host online meetings with up to 250 people, just like you would a normal in-person meeting.  For external guests, just invite them in the same way you would normally in Outlook or Teams.  It doesn’t matter if your external attendees don’t have Teams either – they can simply click on the link (no need to download a plugin or install Teams) enter their name, and join the meeting from their web-browser or mobile phone.

Teams Guest Join Browser


Note: Teams also features Teams Live events which allow for broadcast style town-hall type presentations with Q&A, Sentiment analysis and on-demand play back for up to 10,000 (which has today been extended to 100,000 participants).

2. Built in dial-in conferencing keeps everyone connected

For users that cant get on-line or have poor internet for example, or those that just “prefer” to “dial” into a meeting, the Teams meeting invite (assuming the meeting organiser has a Audio conferencing License assigned) also includes audio-only dial-in instructions. Users can simply click on the dial-in number from their mobile phone and their phone should automatically launch the dial-pad, dial the number, and even enter the conference bridge ID. 

Teams Dial-in Conferencing

Of course, for the best experience I’d suggest everyone joins the full Teams experience – especially if you are planning to share content. 

 

3. Video,  Video, Video :  This makes a real difference when we can’t do physical face-to-face.

Since you can’t meet people in person anymore due to COVID-19 lock-downs or when just working from home / remotely anyway, meeting online with video makes a a huge difference and I strongly advise to make all calls video by default.  Encourage everyone in your Teams meeting to turn on their video. If your device supports it, I also suggest turning on background blur to keep the focus on you instead of what’s behind you (especially if your home office is a “make shift” space). 

4. Share Share Share – screen, apps or presentation.

When in a Teams call or meeting, you can share/present content in Teams. You are in control at all times as to what others can see. You can decide whether you wish to share

  • Your entire desktop (or screen)
  • A specific window/application
  • Upload a PowerPoint presentation directly into Teams – so attendees can review/mark-up and event advance slides
  • Start / Open a digital whiteboard for real-time collaboration like you would on a normal pen and ink board in a meeting room – more this next.
Sharing in Teams

If you or someone else is sharing their desktop or an application, any one else can “request” that the presenter gives control – you can also take it back at any time!

If you are sharing content that has audio/video within it, you can also choose to have the system audio shared/included.

5. Whiteboard the hell out of your meetings

I love a whiteboard me! When I’m in a face-to-face meeting, I cant help but draw and scribble on a whiteboard and usually find other meeting attendees love to draw and annotate on a board when planning a project or approach to something.

This is where Office 365 and Teams come to life – Microsoft Whiteboard, as well as being available on the web and via a App on Windows and iOS, is also integrated and available in every Teams meeting, enabling meeting attendees to join in with their pen and touch (our mouse and keyboard) and collaborate / contribute in real time with digital ink.

These Whiteboard sessions are saved as part of every meeting and available for future use and reference and can even be opened outside of the meeting directly in the Whiteboard app – which provides a host of additional features too.

6. Make the meeting on demand too – Record it live!

Teams can also (if enabled by your admins) record your meetings for you. Instead of relying on a summary email only or “I’ll update you later” conversation – you can simply record your Teams meeting.

The recording captures everything, video, screen share, presentations, whiteboard, everything and unlike Skype for Business (RIP), the meeting is stored in Office 365 Cloud with a link provided within the meeting chat / or Teams space.

What’s more, attendees of the meeting can also search the meeting (yes it transcribes the audio to text) and jump to the point in time of the meeting where a particular phrase or topic was talked about.

7. Live Captions helps with Accessibility

While today only available in English, every call and meeting in Teams support real-time live captioning allowing participants to read subtitles. 

This is a game changing feature for any attendees who may be hard of hearing,  or have different levels of language proficiency. More languages are rolling out shortly we are told.

8. Finally – Secure and Control your meetings

Making sure only the people you intend to join your meeting can join, participate and see content is key – after all you wouldn’t let a random person into your office and into your in-person meetings unless they were invited.

Teams provides meeting organisers with options to allow them to define the roles and permissions for attendees of their meetings. These can also be set and controlled in part by IT admins at a organisation level if needed.

Meeting organisers can choose to (or not to):

  • Enable the meeting lobby feature (its on by default), which lets the organiser define when and who is admitted into the meeting  – this can include automatically people from your organisation but not guests, allowing or not allowing PSTN dial-in users to automatically join etc.
  • Designating who can present, mute attendees, and start/stop recordings.

Privacy is a right within Teams and is always secure

Teams does not disclose things like IP addresses or computer names or any other information that could identify the machine or user to anyone not specifically invited and all recorded content is under the control and access by the organiser / presenters.

Finally – if your organisation uses technology like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to protect sensitive or GDRP type data, then these polices also flow into Teams, meaning confidential or sensitive data not allowed to be shared outside your business still cant – even in Teams! – this is not covered in depth here by the way!

Stay safe, stay in doors and work smart!

Thats it from me – hope you find this useful. Look forward to hearing how you are getting on during COVID-19 lock down.

Thanks

Rob

Host of new features announced as Microsoft Teams Turns 3

I talked yesterday about about the tremedous growth of Teams (partly due to the impact covid-19 is having with increased working from home) but today as Teams Turns 3 a wealth of new features have been announced to the public which focus on two key themes.

  1. Building the very best online meeting experience; and
  2. Bringing technological solutions to traditionally underserved professionals, including firstline and healthcare workers

Here are all the new features coming soon to Microsoft Teams that have been announced today:

  1. Real-time noise suppression during calls, which should help you better understand what your others are saying especially when people are out and about or have poor signal
  2. Raising your hand… When you are in large meetings, a new raise hand feature will let others know you have something to say.
  3. Pop out chats: a features missed by many from Skype for Business, the ability to pop out chats into a separate window is also coming soon after being in private preview for a few months
  4. Offline use :Microsoft Teams is finally getting offline and low-bandwidth support, making the app still useful without an Internet connection
  5. First-line workers using RealWear head-mounted devices will soon be able to get information and communicate hands-free due to new Teams integration.
  6. New collaboration bar devices certified with Teams, such as the Yealink VC210 collaboration bar for meetings.

Covid19: The way people work IS changing as Teams daily usage passes 44 million

Microsoft has announced that the daily users of Teams now sits as 44 million (up some 37‰ since last week and have also highlighted a number of global businesses with over 100,000 users on Teams including Accenture, Continental AG, Ernst & Young, Pfizer and SAP which demonstrates the true global scale of Office 365 and Teams.

Microsoft has said that the user count last Wednesday was 32 million, but 12 million have since been added due mainly of course to the impact of travel restrictions brought about globally by COVID-19.

In a statement, reported by CNBC, Microsoft VP Jared Spataro said that the COVID-19 outbreak will be “a turning point for the way people will work and learn, Our customers have certainly turned to Teams during this challenging time, and we’ve seen usage spikes in markets most impacted by COVID-19,”.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO has that “As organisations around the world are changing the way they work in response to this situation, we’re going to learn a tremendous amount to transform how we work together”

We are seeing this ourselves at Cisilion where I work as many of our customers are acceleraring their Teams deployment and migrations away from traditional voice solutions, enabling voice in Teams to achieve a truly Unified and integrated experience across Office 365.

When the world finally emerges from the grips of COVID-19, I truly beleive there is going to be fundamental change in how organisations work and transcend some of these geographic boundaries and how they truly empower people to work anywhere.

Anyway., hope you are staying healthy and well.

Thank for reading as always..

Microsoft has made Teams free for the entire NHS

As part of a huge tech aid programme in response to COVID-19, Microsoft has made Microsoft Team available to the entire 1.5m NHS workers for free which was announced in a tweet by Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care.

Teams free for NHS

NHSX is a UK Government body that has responsibility for setting national policy and developing best practice for the National Health Service (NHS) IT and technology services.

This will allow all NHS organisations that use run NHSmail (a customised and hosted Exchange email service run by Accenture) will now have access to Microsoft Teams, (they will need to configure it or work with a partner or Microsoft Fast Track local administration and configuration). NHS Digital have also said that they will support the implementation of Microsoft Teams locally via its NHSmail support site.

Those NHS organisations that don’t run NHSmail will need to contact Microsoft directly to get access to Microsoft Teams but this will be a simple process.

More infornation on this can be found below.

Microsoft Teams to be rolled out across NHS in response to coronavirus