October 9, 2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020: New Features Coming for Businesses

Every fall, thousands of IT professionals and Microsoft experts from around the world gather for the annual Microsoft Ignite conference. Ignite provides an opportunity for Microsoft to showcase products and services and announce upcoming changes and improvements. This year’s feature enhancements align seamlessly with Anders Technology’s approach to flexible, secure and cost-effective technology.

The major themes of Ignite 2020 were agility and resilience. Modern organizations need the ability to swiftly pivot and respond to new business opportunities, while maintaining business operations in the face of challenges that we could not have imagined a year ago. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders had several of our engineers attend the all-virtual Ignite 2020 conference to better understand Microsoft’s roadmap and help our clients navigate the complex Microsoft environment. Below we dive into Microsoft’s upcoming changes and improvements to look forward to.

Enhancements to Microsoft Teams

With the increased reliance on remote work, businesses now rely on Teams and Teams Calling more than ever. Big changes are coming to Teams that will enable better collaboration and flexibility.

Together Mode

The biggest announcement in the Teams space is called Together Mode.  Together Mode places all video meeting participants together in a virtual onscreen space, like a conference room or a coffee shop, so that everyone in the meeting looks like they’re in the same room together. This new format has a profound impact on group cohesion during a video conference. Together Mode makes it easier for participants to process and understand nonverbal cues like gestures and eye contact while videoconferencing.

Teams Recaps

Microsoft also announced Teams Recaps.  After a meeting, participants can now access meeting recordings, transcripts, chat and shared files directly from their Outlook calendar. If you miss a meeting, forget what was said, or just want to refer back, the entire meeting can be available from your Outlook calendar.

Presenter Mode and Live Reactions

Microsoft is adding Presenter Mode and Live Reactions to meetings. Presenter Mode allows a Teams meeting presenter to superimpose him or herself over a slide deck so that participants can see both the presenter and the slides. Live Reactions already exists in Microsoft Live Events, but previously had not been available in Teams meetings. This functionality allows participants to nonverbally react to a meeting event with an emoji, allowing presenters and participants to maintain a sense of the room.

Breakout Rooms

Another major Teams feature announcement is Breakout Rooms, coming in early Q4 2020.  Meeting hosts will be able to create breakout rooms that participants can use for smaller group discussion, enabling meeting participants to organize and formalize side activities in a more productive format. Once the breakout activity is complete, hosts can then call the participants back to the larger group. Microsoft has placed Breakout Rooms on their roadmap for October 2020 for the standard and web Teams clients, and December 2020 for the Android client.

PowerBI Integration

Microsoft has announced enhancements to the PowerBI Teams app that will integrate almost all of the PowerBI feature set into Teams. Further, they announced a new PowerBI Professional Per-User licensing scheme. Previously, premium PowerBI features were only available at the organizational level, with entry level pricing at several thousand dollars per month. Going forward, organizations will be able to license PowerBI Premium features at the user level, allowing for much smaller engagements at a much lower cost.

Security Announcements

Windows Defender is part of a comprehensive cloud-based security suite called Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). At Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced better medium-sized business licensing schemes for Defender ATP. At Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced that starting in Q4 2020, new Defender Antivirus (AV) capabilities will be added to the Microsoft 365 Business Premium licensing. This means that if your organization is already paying for Business Premium, you will be able to get advanced, automated, cloud-based antivirus for little or no extra licensing cost.

Microsoft HealthCare Cloud

Microsoft’s HealthCare Cloud is its first cloud offering built from the ground up for a specific industry. HealthCare Cloud is designed to integrate Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 for fully native compliance with all healthcare rules and regulations. 

In Private Preview, the Teams Electronic Health Record (EHR) connector allows clinicians to meet with patients and providers in Teams directly from the patient’s EHR. Currently, Microsoft is focusing on Epic EHR support, but other systems will be supported soon.

Azure Enhancements

Azure Communication Services bring communications APIs from the Teams stack into your Azure apps. This allows your organization to utilize Teams voice, video, and telephone features from within your own homegrown applications. 

The significant depth and breadth of new features and services announced at Ignite 2020 are sure to keep IT professionals busy until Ignite 2021. Anders Technology advisors strive to always stay ahead of what’s new in the technology industry so that we can be your trusted advisor, whether your organization wants tried-and-true or cutting-edge solutions. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we have the skills and the knowledge to meet your organization’s unique needs. Contact an Anders advisor below to discuss your situation.

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