When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, businesses were divided into two groups: those that were unable to maintain operations in the face of the crisis and those that were prepared and willing to implement the technology to make the best of a precarious situation.
Dubai Airports, operator of Dubai International Airport, is one of the latter. The organisation quickly deployed Microsoft Teams to facilitate hybrid working environments for its more than 2,000 employees and carry out major maintenance and improvement works on its train systems, airfield and buildings during the downtime created by travel restrictions.
This story is one that has been told by many businesses recently. The collaboration platform has proved its value in the last two years, with numbers increasing from two million users in 2017 to 145 million in early 2021. Building on this success, Microsoft continues to update and enhance it with new features and tools to improve communication and collaboration among workforces.
In its primary form, Teams is a platform to facilitate virtual meetings. To improve engagement in these interactions and reduce meeting fatigue, Microsoft has added a new feature that enables meeting organisers to see the order of hands raised, allowing them to ensure they include all participants. Also new is the ability to record meetings, enabling users to review and catch up on conversations if they are unable to attend in real time. Within the recording capabilities are other functionalities, such as multi-speed playback, high-quality transcripts and auto-recording.
Users can also now add participating operator dial-in numbers to a Teams audio conferencing bridge through Operator Connect Conferencing. The initial wave of qualified operators includes BT, Deutsche Telekom, Intrado, NTT, Orange Business Services, T-Mobile and Telenor.
Accessibility and inclusivity are increasingly part of the conversation around technology. Hence, Microsoft has added the capability to include descriptions for images shared in chats to help people who use screen readers to understand the full content of a message, even if they can’t see the image.
The Teams collaboration platform provides many further opportunities to improve the remote and hybrid meeting experience for employees through a range of add-on devices. For example, Teams Rooms – a touchscreen piece of hardware placed outside of or within meeting rooms – can now notify in-room participants if the meeting is over capacity by using data from cameras that support people-counting. Hot desking on Teams displays also allows employees to quickly locate and reserve workspaces.
Microsoft partners have also been involved in enhancing the collaboration platform to improve productivity for users worldwide. Jabra’s new PanaCast 20 personal video conferencing device adds to the Teams experience with features such as 4K Ultra HD video quality, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven Intelligent Zoom to keep the speaker centred in the frame, automatic lighting optimisation and Picture-In-Picture functionality to enable participants share a close-up as their main image while continuing to present in a smaller window. Poly’s Studio Room Kits are available for Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows, providing users with auto-camera framing and noise-reducing technologies, and EPOS’s video conferencing system EXPAND SP 30T uses AI to enhance collaboration with high-definition video, audio and noise cancellation.
With Microsoft Teams growing in success primarily through remote and hybrid working scenarios and with cyberattacks becoming increasingly sophisticated, there is a greater need for security protocols. As such, Microsoft has made end-to-end encryption generally available for Teams.
“Hybrid work is here to stay,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, at Ignite 2021. “As big as the changes over the past 20 months have been, it’s just the beginning. The established patterns of work we have relied on for years are undergoing monumental changes that will completely redefine work. To thrive in this new world, every organisation needs a digital fabric that binds the organisation together with secure communication, collaboration and creation. The Microsoft Cloud is the only cloud that can empower everyone in this new era, and at the centre of it all is Teams.”
We asked a selection of Microsoft partners how they are supporting and building on the Teams platform to better equip workforces around the world. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 50 of the digital edition of the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record.
Alex Peras, director of unified communications and corporate development partnerships at Crestron, said: “We’re designing purpose-built solutions that give every attendee an equal seat at the table and are working daily with Microsoft to continuously enhance the solutions we’re providing.”
Ashvini Webster, managing director at 1UC, said: “We offer a complete white-label change management and training support service to Microsoft partners looking to deploy Teams or any of the Microsoft portfolio within their clients’ digital ecosystem.”
Jared Pelo, chief clinical product officer at Nuance Communications, said: “Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience for Teams enables better telehealth visits without tech toggling or manually documenting care during or after visits.”
Nigel Dunn, managing director of EMEA North at Jabra, said: “With Jabra’s Microsoft Teams-certified devices, staff have the flexibility to work effectively in any environment.”
Hellene Garcia, Head of commercials at Neat, said: “Neat’s simple and elegant devices for Teams continuously push the boundaries by providing advanced capabilities that keeps everyone equally seen and heard while allowing users to freely move around to support a more enhanced and focused hybrid working environment.”
Magnus Mjøsund, vice president of product at Decisions, said: “To make virtual and hybrid meetings run more smoothly, we took the great foundation of Teams and extended it with integrated features that enable users to upgrade their meeting process without leaving the Teams environment they already know.”
Margaret Totten, managing director at Akari, said: “From reimagining retail for frontline workers, allowing them to better serve customers, to growing a skills-based network for one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, Teams was the perfect solution due to users’ familiarity with it.”
Gijs Geurts, CEO of Anywhere365, said: “Anywhere365 is able to leverage the voice and text capabilities of Teams through direct routing – not just to contact centre agents, but to anyone in the organisation, allowing them to make and receive calls from Teams.”
Richard McPhee, solutions director at Gamma, said: “Whether it’s a cloud-native solution like operator connect, or a bespoke direct routing solution delivered and managed by our experts, we can help customers deploy effective telephony capabilities for their Microsoft Teams environment.”
Mary Anne Ballouz, marketing communications writer at ICONICS, said: “ICONICS, via its CFSWorX connected field service solution, enables organisations to easily send automated Teams message notifications to the person or group responsible when there is an incident in their plant or building.”
Mike Harvey, product manager at Resonate, said: “Our product portfolio is dedicated to enabling organisations to get the optimum value from Teams in a way that works best for them.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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