Towards the back end of May 2021, Microsoft announced some more exciting updates for Teams. In this article, we run you through some of the key updates including updates to the ‘Me’ tab, more connectivity with external users, annotations in Live, changes to the ‘Hands’ feature and finally, security changes to the admin centre. The changes are expected to be implemented between early June and finished by late July.

Changes to the ‘Me’ section. 

The first change announced is a change to exactly what will be found in the ‘Me Menu’. This section will now become much more streamlined. Removed from this section will be settings for zoom controls, keyboard shortcuts, ‘About’ and check for updates. These will now be allocated to the title bar, which especially for ‘About’ and check for updates, makes a lot of sense. The ‘Me Menu’, will now be about ‘You’ and is completely centred around account management. Enabling those with more than one account to easily switch and choose which accounts’ content to view. Much more streamlined, right?  

We expect this features rollout to be completed by early June.

Expanding the capabilities of connecting with External Users

Following on from the early May addition of allowing external users to present content to your organisation, Microsoft has continued to expand the connectivity between external users and your organisation. This is being done by implementing a group chat functionality with external users. External users can currently be invited to participate in 1:1 chats whilst also being able to be called and invited to a meeting. As mentioned, early May also saw the introduction of allowing one external live presenter to present to a live event within your organisation. Microsoft has taken this and multiplied it by 250X, quite literally! They now allow for external group chats that can host up to 250 participants across multiple organisations in a SINGLE chat!  

This will be rolling out across Teams’ desktop, web and mobile. However, there are two things to note about this great feature. Firstly, the external group chat is only a part of Microsoft Teams Connect. This, therefore, means that Azure Active Directory (AAD) will be required to make use of this feature. Additionally, due to security, organisations will be required to use either the open federation policy or be on each other’s allow list. In preparation, we would like to point out that open federation is the default setting in teams. If you do wish to have more control over this feature AND increase security, you can limit which organisations can be contacted or make contact. You can additionally manage which users and groups can participate. All this can be configured within the users’ list section of the Teams Admin Centre. 

We expect this feature to be fully rolled out by late July. 

Annotations in PowerPoint Live in Teams

Next, we look at a very useful tool for engagement within your Teams live meetings: the addition of annotations in PowerPoint live! Now with this update, the ‘in control’ presenter will be able to use new annotations tools. Enabling the presenter to be more expressive and add content, making it much more engaging for your listeners who may otherwise feel like they have been spending too much time looking at a static screen. 

As usual, there are some pros and cons to this new feature. To begin with, the positives! Firstly, annotations will remain for the whole duration of the live. Meaning that at any point your listeners can go back and make note of something. You knew it was important and pointed it out at the time but maybe your listener thought they knew better? Well, now they can go back and take note of that great stat your highlighted for them earlier. Secondly, and following on from that great stat you highlighted earlier, late attendees will also have all annotations available to them – even the ones they missed. Again, no more of that great stat going to waste!

Now the cons. Firstly, and while this is not wholly negative, depending on the situation, only the ‘in control’ presenter will be allowed to make annotations. Whilst this will be okay for most meetings, the fact that a tool for engagement has no option to allow for re-engagement to us seems like it could do with some rethinking. Secondly, and this now is a total negative, no annotations will be saved in the PowerPoint file. Whilst most annotations would likely be removed anyway, it seems strange that Microsoft doesn’t at least allow you to save a duplicate! This would be useful maybe for future referencing or just to make it easier the next time you have to give that same presentation!  

We expect this feature to be rolled out by early June.

Changes to how ‘Hands’ Work

Now then, to look at a very HANDY (see what we did there) change, off to the ‘Hands’ feature.  

Whether using it to assign who’s next to speak in an orderly fashion or maybe using it for a ‘traditional’ show of hands, Microsoft has now enabled the meeting organisers and presenters to lower raised hands. This can be done by clicking the three dots next to participants in the right-hand tab.  

We expect this feature to be fully rolled out by mid-June.

Improvements to security analysis with the M365 Certified App Security and Compliance Feature.

Lastly but not least, we see an improvement and streamlining of the ability to gather data around apps and their level of security. Before now, admins had to either locate the Microsoft Cloud App Security portal and find the Microsoft 365 App Compliance Program Doc pages or use other independent websites to gather information and data on an app. They would then have to cross-reference all this data to evaluate its security and compliance profile. Now Microsoft aims to do this for you, knowing the importance of such data! The introduction of the ‘App Security and Compliance feature’ will be available to use with all Microsoft 365 Certified apps. It can be found within the Teams Admin Centre (TAC) helping you to conveniently review security, compliance and other information about third-party apps.  

We expect this feature to finish its rollout by the end of June.

Microsoft has continued to improve Teams. This update features security, user engagement and outwards connectivity improvements.

Which one will help improve your organisation the most? 

Images kindly provided by https://tminus365.com/microsoft-may-2021-updates.

Introduction

Did you know UK businesses are more likely to have both internal and outsourced support in comparison to France, Netherlands, and Germany? But what does outsourced IT involve?

IT Service Providers deliver the technical expertise that businesses need at a much lower cost than hiring dedicated IT staff. They can recommend, install, and manage technology according to business objectives and core competencies, as well as ensure that critical data is safe and secure. That’s why according to a study conducted by Strategy Analytics, 1 in 3 European small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) currently outsource some or all of their IT support. Rather than waiting for something to break or shut down, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) take a proactive approach to IT by ensuring a customers’ IT can avoid most tech issues in the first place. We understand there are many considerations for companies thinking about moving their IT to another company.

In this article, Datto and IQ in IT summed up the key factors to help you decide what’s best for your company. Let’s get started!

What’s an MSP?

A Managed Service Provider is an IT service professional that companies outsource their technology needs to.

“MSPs are technology partners who put people and processes first and allow companies of all sizes to maximise their technology investment.”

They can deliver ongoing monitoring and management of client applications (email, website, security, etc.) and IT infrastructure remotely. This is typically accomplished through remote monitoring services, which allows them to keep tabs on the health of their clients’ IT environments, change and update systems and troubleshoot problems. MSPs closely monitor a wide variety of IT solutions that businesses have implemented such as:

  • Application monitoring & management
  • Helpdesk
  • E-mail
  • Security
  • Storage
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery

MSPs work with a variety of technology vendors to deliver these services. However, it’s not just about technology. Ultimately the expertise of the service provider holds the most value for all sorts of companies because IT-related downtime can have a devastating impact on revenue and reputation – especially for businesses trying to grow.

Why SMB’s Adopt Managed Services
One Size Does Not Fit All

We understand each company is different. Therefore the specific reasons SMBs adopt managed services depend on the unique needs of the organisation. For example, the IT needs of a five-person company with no in-house IT will be quite different from those of a 100 person company with a dedicated IT team. Therefore MSPs can provide different levels of support to meet the technical requirements of various businesses.

“Moving all or some IT tasks to a managed service allows businesses to focus on their core competencies instead of day-to-day IT management.”

According to SMB IT Usage and Perceptions 2019 Report, the top reason UK SMBs adopt managed services today is “down to the increasing complexity of IT”. But, context is essential because the size of the business will determine the complexity of the IT infrastructure for the evaluating company. A larger business may face more challenges in implementing its IT strategy across its organisation and may use an MSP to manage the process. The 2019 report also states larger SMBs believe IT helps their business to succeed; therefore, they are likely to contract with MSPs for strategic reasons. At the other end of the spectrum, it might mean outsourcing some routine tasks so in-house IT experts can focus on higher-level technical challenges. This concept is called co-managed IT.

Many businesses also choose to work with IT service providers because they have expertise in a specific area of IT. For example, 28% of respondents from the SMB IT Usage and Perceptions 2019 Report said they adopted managed services for “enhanced security/compliance”. This is likely due to the roll-out of GDPR across Europe in 2018, in addition to ransomware attacks frequently appearing in the news. On average, 2 in 5 SMBs from Datto’s 2019 European State of the Channel Ransomware Report, reported that they had fallen victim to a ransomware attack. In particular, SMBs who don’t outsource their IT services were more at risk. MSPs can work to keep software patched and up to date to protect against security breaches, as well as to ensure the company’s data is fully protected from malicious or careless actions.

Save Time and Money

MSPs can also initiate new projects and implement new technologies quickly. They have the resources and flexibility to get projects off the ground, which might take weeks or months in-house. Implementing new technology with your existing environment can be complicated and time-consuming. Because MSPs work with a wide variety of clients with different IT needs, they are uniquely equipped to take on complex IT projects. They also have vast experience troubleshooting the products they use – allowing them to resolve problems quickly.

“Because MSPs work with a wide variety of clients with different IT needs, they are uniquely equipped to take on complex IT projects.”

Depending on the company, cost savings may also be a factor – especially among smaller companies with straightforward IT needs. Monthly fees for managed services will vary depending on the services delivered. But managed services are generally more cost-effective than hiring in-house IT staff for smaller businesses. According to Kaseya’s 2019 MSP Benchmark Survey Results, 26% of MSPs said their average monthly managed contract is £750 – £1900. Therefore, SMBs are paying a fraction of a yearly salary for an IT professional in Europe.

Conclusion

There are a variety of reasons that SMBs need help from MSPs. Very small companies look to reduce IT costs while getting the IT expertise they need by partnering with an IT service provider. Larger businesses typically work with IT service providers to offload many difficult or time-consuming tasks, allowing their internal IT staff to focus on mission-critical activities. If you’ve never considered an IT managed service offering and are trying to manage your own IT, it’s worth being aware of this cost-effective way to have your IT burden lifted.

If you’ve never considered an IT managed service offering and are trying to manage your own IT, it’s worth being aware of this cost-effective way to have your IT burden lifted. If you are working with an IT service provider on a project basis, it is worth investigating whether they offer managed services as well. Or, if your current IT team is running ragged, perhaps you can offload some difficult IT tasks. MSPs can help keep you focused and keep you safe!

Let’s have a look at one of the many tools that come with the Microsoft SaaS Package.

In a world that turned into one big Teams meeting over 4 different devices and infinite time zones, it’s worth asking why productivity is not necessarily increasing. Is a meeting always adding value or do we have them for the sake of having a meeting? It certainly sounds important, very important even.

“I just had a very important project meeting about flame powered food processing with my lifelong mentor and friend, where I learned about his preferences.”

… just asked my dad how he wants his steak – although I should know that by now.

From experience, everybody knows that it takes a bit more than just sending an invite and hang around for half an hour to call it a productive meeting. Microsoft happens to offer a solution to help with this thought process. MyAnalytics provides insights into two of the key factors in personal productivity.

How do you spend your time and who do you spend it with?

It can be hard to go deep on your most challenging work when you are distracted by back-to-back meetings and endless notifications.

Want focus time every day? Plan your week!

By blocking just 2 hours of time for focused work into your calendar every day, you can get more done in less time, master your task list, and unleash your creativity. Block some time out to finish the report for your director, write that blog post about productivity, get that proposal out before your competitor swoops in…

MyAnalytics helps with automation. It reserves time automatically, reduces distractions by muting Teams chats and provides weekly reports that show focus trends that allow you to plan ahead.

Your time in meetings should matter.

In case you can’t escape an invite to a meeting, make sure to make the most of it. Set expectations, clarify goals ahead of time, have an agenda – it sounds so obvious but enforcing it will lead to a more efficient team.

Network

When was the last time you solved a massive problem all by yourself? Meeting new people and communicating with them helps with new ideas, different angles to problem-solving and quicker results. The key is healthy, productive communication – internally and externally.

Are you growing your network?

The MyAnalytics Network page shows how many people you actively connect with in the last month and gives you suggestions on how to improve connections with your most important contacts, such as your manager or your direct reports.

It also shows your top collaborators in either a map or list view, enables you to view details about the important people in your network and suggests people to add to your important list of people and grow your network.

Have a look here for more information.

Wellbeing

Working from home (I know…it’s probably the first time that someone picked this topic…) came with a bunch of challenges. People work whenever their phone rings, inevitably more than their contractual hours. This leads to a disconnect from friends, partners, family and leaves individuals even more isolated than the lockdown already did.

“People who disconnect daily from work, report lower levels of stress and anxiety.”

While more and more restrictions are being lifted, “old habits” take some time to exit the new work culture. So, in reality, we need to find a consensus that keeps friends, colleagues and customers sane and mentally healthy.

Summary

Be smarter with your time and other resources. Not every meeting needs the whole team to be involved, especially not when nobody planned it.

Not every Teams chat message needs to have top priority. Switching between tasks costs time and leads to worse results – literally a lose/lose scenario.

Make sure to take the breaks that you need to make your working hours matter. Your family and friends will thank you for it, so will your mental health.

Your network is your biggest asset. There is nothing wrong with collaboration if done right.

Use Microsoft MyAnalytics to improve your working habits.