Meetings can take up a significant portion of people’s time. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index report, the average number of meetings per week has increased by 153 per cent globally for Microsoft Teams users since the beginning of 2020.
Ilya Bukshteyn, vice president of Teams calling and devices at Microsoft, explains how Microsoft devices and solutions, along with its partners, are driving improvements in meeting productivity.
Please tell us about your career at Microsoft.
My journey at Microsoft started 29 years ago when I joined Microsoft Consulting Services. Since then, I’ve held various roles, including being a developer evangelist focused on .NET and Visual Studio, as well as managing products for Skype for Business. I subsequently transitioned to my current, broader role, leading Teams devices, which encompasses a range of products from desk phones to Microsoft Teams Rooms and calendar wall panels, and our portfolio continues to expand.
Tell me about the growth of Teams over the last few years and how the solution has developed to suit various working scenarios.
In its initial years, Teams experienced rapid growth. We had 30 million active users per month at the start of 2020, following its launch in 2017. Following the pandemic and the need for connectivity while working from home, this number increased to 300 million monthly active users by 2023. We also saw an increase in intensity of usage during this period. Prior to the pandemic, the average meeting had two attendees, but this has now risen to eight. Consequently, the demand to have everyone visible at once has expanded from a maximum of four people to a maximum of 49.
Various video meeting platforms were used throughout the pandemic to connect with friends and family. However, Teams stood out for professional use. Initially, Teams integrated everything required to stay productive while apart, including the ability to chat with colleagues, share information on channels, collaborate on documents and host meetings. Building this platform with access to all the tools in Microsoft 365 turned out to be exactly what the working world needed.
How are devices helping to enhance the Teams experience for customers?
Devices play a pivotal role in providing the best possible Teams experience. For instance, individuals who occasionally join a video meeting may find the quality of their laptop camera and audio sufficient, especially if they’re isolating themselves in a quiet space. On the other hand, those participating in eight to nine hours of daily video meetings will want to look and sound their best. There are numerous devices certified for Teams that can assist them in achieving this by integrating cameras, microphones and speakers into Teams.
For those working from home, the background blurring feature helps Teams users feel confident that any activity behind them won’t distract other meeting participants. Users can also employ acoustic fencing products to prevent meeting participants from hearing background noise.
However, working from the office presents additional challenges. Finding available meeting rooms is often difficult, which is where Teams Rooms comes into play. It allows employees to book and request physical meeting spaces within their offices, allowing them to interact with colleagues attending both in-person and virtually. Additionally, we’re introducing capabilities to our Teams panels that enable users to quickly check into a room using a QR code and to signal when someone’s time in a room is up without disrupting ongoing meetings. We have also added hot desking capabilities into Teams displays so that employees can reserve working spaces for days they are in the office.
How does generative AI and Microsoft Copilot enhance meeting productivity?
Generative AI represents the most significant technological shift in my lifetime in terms of its potential to boost productivity in everything we do. It has a two-fold impact on enhancing productivity through Teams. From a calling perspective, it converts call recordings into transcripts and summarises key discussion points. For instance, if an airline receives a customer call about a flight delay, Copilot can distill that call into data, including the customer’s wait time and expected reimbursement.
AI is also invaluable when it comes to collaboration devices. Microsoft is developing technologies that leverage Copilot capabilities to transcribe meetings for individuals in shared spaces. It’s easy to transcribe meetings for participants joining from their own devices but it’s harder to separate voices when they’re speaking into the same device. Teams users can upload their voice and video recordings to the cloud, enabling Teams to identify individuals in a meeting room and tag their names to transcripts. This will be a timesaver for those taking notes during meetings.
Can you explain the importance of the partner ecosystem and the types of tools it’s helping to develop?
Our partners are critical to us. We receive numerous requests from companies to join the ecosystem each week so we must be discerning in selecting the partners we collaborate with.
We have a range of partners, from Teams Rooms partners like Cisco, Crestron, Logitech, Lenovo, Neat and Poly, enabling people to fully participate from any location, to great peripherals partners like EPOS and Jabra, providing audio and video devices. Our collaboration with partners is strategic, aiming to provide solutions for every scenario and setting.
What should we look out for in the future?
We work with customers seeking advice on how best to use their office space. Going forward, IT insight will be more critical than ever. Businesses will need to understand how all their spaces are utilised. Microsoft can assist customers in tracking the use of rooms for Teams meetings via USB points and then make suggestions to enhance the meeting experience in that space. Expect to see multiple new systems launching soon that will guide customers in making informed decisions based on their data and optimising their spaces.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription