Tuesday, 14 March 2017 16:20

Microsoft shows off new collaboration feature in Office 365 Featured


Millions of enterprise and small business users will wake today to find a new feature in Office 365 – it is called Microsoft Teams and is all about harnessing the power of chat and collaboration.

The best part of Teams (US Site) is that it is free – it is an evolution of Office 365 to meet the growing need for collaboration. It brings people, chat and content into a digital workspace not dissimilar to the familiar Outlook layout.

Sharon Schoenborn, director of Microsoft Office Business Group in Australia, and Adam Pollington, Office 365 commercial marketing manager, gave iTWire a first look at the new features.

“Microsoft recognised that there is a major demand for collaboration as work increasingly takes advantage of teams — collaboration — to achieve more than individuals. About 80% of the work we now do requires some form of collaboration," said Schoenborn.

"And then there is the work/life balance driver where we realise that collaboration allows us to share the work and responsibility. Organisations need to offer flexibility but they also need security and control,” 

Pollington said, “MS Teams is now part of the productivity 'toolkit' that is Office 365. If you add an initial 150 or more third-party integrations and a range of intelligent bots and make it available on a computer or mobile device (iOS or Android) you have a universal toolkit.

“Enterprise E1, 3 and 5 users and Small Business Essential and Premium users will find it added to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook for enterprise-grade email, SharePoint for intelligent content management, Yammer for networking across the organisation and Skype for Business as the backbone for enterprise voice and video.”

Teams provides:

  • A hub for teamwork – a place to chat, start a video call, access services like Word, Excel, SharePoint, OneNote and Power BI.
  • Threaded, persistent chat. Team conversations are visible by default to the entire team, but the option of private or 1:1 chats exists. Teams also now supports audio and video calling on mobile.
  • Customisation – teams can customise their workspace with tabs, connectors and bots from third-party partners as well as Microsoft tools like Planner and Visual Studio Team Services.
  • Secure and compliant – Teams is built on the hyper-scale, enterprise-grade Office 365 cloud delivering advanced security compliance capabilities. Teams supports global standards like SOC 1, SOC 2, EU Model Clauses, ISO27001 and HIPAA.

MS Teams home page

More than 50,000 organisations have been using Teams since the preview in November. In the most active organisations, the number of people using Microsoft Teams is claimed to be growing 30% each month while messaging usage is doubling every two months.

Australian enterprises using Teams

Workplace specialist Amicus was an early adopter of Microsoft Teams, Amicus’ chief financial officer and chief technolgoy officer Ghafur Barchia says that while the firm has a built-in bias in favour of communication and collaboration and a highly mobile and flexible workforce, Teams injects extra accountability and rigour into the digital workplace. 

Australia’s leading natural health company, Blackmores, has rolled out Office 365 to six countries in Asia so that the company’s 1000-strong workforce is now on one cloud platform. Blackmores is also using Microsoft Teams within their IT team to manage work across multiple projects, supporting the firm’s technology transformation initiative being led by chief information officer Brett Winn.  Andrew Grech, Blackmores’ head of IT operations, says the tight integration of Office 365 and Microsoft Teams means that when a group is working on a project everyone is assured that the most current artefacts and content are available immediately. “The benefit we’re seeing from the collaboration Office 365 brings are huge. We’re able to work as one team, in real time, helping us reach decisions quicker and driving engagement and connection within the business,” he says

Sydney based, ASX-listed software developer Objective Corporation has been using Teams as a secure ideation platform for one of its key design teams. Led by senior product manager Angus McDonald, the group brings together business analysts and usability experts to map out innovations for Objective’s enterprise content management system. Through Planner, Teams gives the group access to a Kanban board to steer its discussion, along with persistent chat access to all the content needed to support and streamline the design process.

Globally successful applications development and software consulting business Readify, a wholly owned subsidiary of Telstra, is a highly distributed business. Stephen Godbold, marketing director and chief digital officer, says Teams establishes a rich digital workspace where people can hold back-and-forth conversations that are central to a project’s success. It has been used in marketing and Teams is now being applied to share Power BI dashboards that Readify leaders use to measure business performance. 

RSL Queensland is engaged in a digital transformation initiative leveraging Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure. Initially, the transformation will support 200+ staff across Queensland. Ultimately it is intended as a national platform for the RSL. Led by chief information officer Simon Button, a key element of the transformation is a refresh of the National Lotteries system. Button is using Microsoft Teams to create a digital workspace for the team engaged in that project. 

Microsoft has also delivered new accessibility features including support for screen readers, high contrast and keyboard-only navigation.

Schoenborn summarised:

  • Collaboration and chat is a burgeoning market and there is room for a range of players;
  • Microsoft’s position is that it provides an enterprise productivity tool to change the workspace and workplace;
  • Its strength is in the integration with Office 365 and a range of third-party apps;
  • The robust security of Office 365 including multi-factor authentication, data encryption at rest and in-transit; and
  • It is free to Office 365 enterprise and SMB users;

Teams requires (a) the use of a supported version of Microsoft Office 365 and (b) the IT Admin to enable it and at launch it is not available to education or government users. There are some initial limitations on Teams sizes (600 members) and an 80-person call limit in Skype calls. Microsoft says these parameters will be increased in future releases as will increased functionality driven by user feedback.




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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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