Microsoft Inspire 2022: Enterprise Collaboration Upgrades on Display — Redmond Channel Partner


Microsoft Inspire 2022: Enterprise Collaboration Upgrades on Display

Microsoft kicked off Inspire on Tuesday with a laundry list of improvements aimed at enhancing how users collaborate across the company’s software and services offerings.

The collaboration improvements touched on Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels capability, Excel Live for content editing by groups of people, a Video Clip sharing application and a Collaborative Annotations feature that was added to the Microsoft Whiteboard app.

Microsoft also described a new “Viva Engage” addition that will be coming to its Microsoft Viva “employee experience platform.” It also announced coming enhancements to its Windows 365 desktop-as-a-service offering.

The announcements were general news items, rather than being specific to the Microsoft Inspire partner audience.

Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels GA
One important item for organizations was the “general availability” (GA) announcement of Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels. This capability, which is now at the commercial-release stage for use by organizations, gives Microsoft Teams users an easier way to collaborate across organizations.

In essence, Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels adds a new “shared channel” option in Microsoft Teams, in addition to the existing “standard” and “private” channels. Shared-channel use avoids the clunky “tenant switching” effect that currently exists for Teams guest users. Moreover, guests on the shared channel only get the privileges of the team on which they are made members, which can avoid potential data oversharing issues.

While sharing is easier and more controlled for organizations with the Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels capability, it’s explicitly an opt-in choice, both for the organization doing the sharing and organization of which the guest is a member. The IT departments of both organizations have to opt into the sharing for it to work.

Earlier descriptions of Microsoft Teams Connect Shared Channels at the preview stage suggested that both organizations can only use custom settings with the shared channels if they have Azure Active Directory Premium licensing. Possibly, using shared channels also depends on having set up Azure AD accounts for end users.

Shared channels is just one of the features of Microsoft Teams Connect, which is a broader capability that was described during last year’s Microsoft Ignite conference. At press time, Microsoft Teams Connect was listed as being at the private preview stage.

Microsoft Teams User Perks
Teams users will be seeing some new tools for collaborations at some point, including Excel Live, Video Clip sharing and a Microsoft Whiteboard Collaborative Annotations feature.

Excel Live is one of those enhancements that will be coming. It lets various Teams meetings participants collaborate using Excel spreadsheets in “real time.” Microsoft just introduced Excel Live in the announcement and didn’t indicate when it would be available to Teams users, nor was its release status characterized.

Excel Live is part of the Live Share in Teams capability that was announced at Microsoft’s Build conference for developers back in May. Live Share uses the Microsoft Fluid Framework to synchronize meetings, which is done entirely “client-side, with just a few lines of code.” The Teams SDK includes extensions that developers can tap to build various apps for Live Share.

Microsoft also described the Video Clip feature in Microsoft Teams. It’s a new chat feature that lets Teams users record and share short videos. Availability wasn’t described.

The Collaborative Annotations feature is another addition, this time for the Microsoft Whiteboard app. Teams participants can “draw, type and react” using the content that’s displayed in the Whiteboard app. The Collaborative Annotations feature in Microsoft Whiteboard is “now generally available,” the announcement indicated.

Microsoft Viva Engage
Microsoft announced a new Viva Engage addition to its Viva suite. Viva Engage is said to be based on Microsoft’s Yammer app, adding “consumer-like social networking” capabilities for the workplace.

Viva Engage has “Storyline” and “Stories” features for sharing “news and insights.” Viva Engage can also be used to answer questions and prompt discussions. It’s designed to “help employees feel heard and included,” the announcement explained.

While Viva Engage might seem like it does what the coming LinkedIn Glint addition to the Viva suite will do, the two modules aren’t doing the same thing. Here’s how a Microsoft spokesperson explained the difference between the two modules:

Glint — now part of the Microsoft Viva EXP — is an employee engagement measurement solution that provides employee feedback surveys to help drive insight and action to improve the employee experience. Viva Engage is a new Viva app that builds off of community and conversation experiences powered by Yammer to provide a social platform for employees to connect with each other, share what they know, join in conversations, and express themselves at scale. By late 2023, both will be available in the Viva suite, with Viva Engage becoming available in late 2022.

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