Microsoft’s Ignite event had a bit of a different feel this year, with the traditional physical exhibition giving way to a completely virtual experience.
However, despite the adjusted format, one thing that didn’t change was the volume of expert insights and analysis, product updates and new capabilities on show.
As you might expect, there was a heavy focus on home working and the emergence of a work-from-anywhere culture, with new product releases and updates to popular platforms such as Microsoft Teams a common theme.
That said, away from the remote workplace there was also some interesting discussion around some of Microsoft’s more innovative products focused around AV and VR.
Here are our top 4 takeaways from the event:
One of the key product releases from the event centred around Microsoft Viva, a new employee experience platform that has been developed to create a more engaging and supportive user environment.
Due for release later this year, Viva fits perfectly into the developing work from anywhere culture and is intended to build on what is already available with Microsoft Teams, as well as the other features currently available with Office and Microsoft 365.
Viva is comprised of 4 key modules – Connections, Topics, Insights, and Learning.
Designed as an extension to Teams, Microsoft sees Connections as the new place for your users to check in with colleagues, share and access information, and create a personalised digital hub where they can engage with a wider community.
Think of Connections as something akin to a traditional company intranet. It’s a centralised, company-branded information point where the organisation can share relevant news, important updates, and open up dialogue with individuals and groups of employees.
Crucially, this sits a level above the channels available within Microsoft Teams, which avoids the creation of unwanted silos.
Already available as an add-on to some existing Microsoft 365 plans, the Topics module of Viva is an internal reference point that makes it easier for your team to access important company details and information inside the apps they use every day.
Powerful AI runs through your data to curate important information, before reformatting in a way that makes it more easily digestible for your users. This information is then stored in a single location, easily accessible from wherever your team are working. It’s like having your own internal Wikipedia site.
The new analytics module builds on the existing capabilities available with MyAnalytics to help users better understand how they are using their time and what steps they could take to improve their wellbeing.
Additionally, business leaders can gain important perspective into how their team is operating, with aggregated trends and shared working practices collated and shared to deliver an overall view of productivity and employee habits.
If for example several of your employees are logging back on late in the evening to keep up with their workload as their day is blocked out with multiple meetings, this information will be collated and flagged so that the business leaders can take appropriate steps to assist where needed.
Designed to support employee development and skill-building, the Learning module makes it easier for your team to access both internal and external training resources.
Whether it’s a simple PDF, an online guide, or a snazzy demo video, all of your learning materials are aggregated into a central hub where they can be easily accessed.
There’s also the option to include 3rd party resources, including content from sources such as LinkedIn Learning.
Microsoft has seen the popularity of its Teams collaboration platform go through the roof thanks to the widespread switch to remote working.
It’s been continually finding ways to improve the platform and enhance the user experience ever since, and a number of new features were revealed at Microsoft Ignite.
One of the most significant developments is a new webinar mode, something that has long been available with rival platforms such as Zoom.
This now allows users to host calls as a webinar style event, with a large audience capacity, detailed event reports and the option to run mid-seminar polls.
New PowerPoint live and presenter modes also allow you to deliver more engaging presentations. You can now super impose your slides over the top of your visual to create a TV news style experience where the presenter and the presentation material are viewed in a single pane. There’s also an increased number of reactions for your audience to use while watching your seminars.
Away from new Teams features, Microsoft is also expecting an increased uptake in Teams Rooms technology as businesses look to migrate back into the office in the coming months. To improve the experience, it’s working on further developments to its device connectivity and cast to screen capabilities to make it easier for users to take advantage of Teams Rooms tech.
Security is never too far from the top of the agenda, and in the face of an expanding attack surface Microsoft has its own plans to help businesses keep their end users protected and their important data secure.
One of its major objectives is a move towards a world without passwords. Identity is increasingly becoming the first line of defence, and conventional passwords can be easily infiltrated. However, with Windows Hello and two-factor authentication using fingerprint scans and FIDO keys, Microsoft hopes to remove the traditional password vulnerability and replace this with a more secure access method.
Additionally, it has also introduced new temporary passwords as part of the conditional access features within Azure, so that new starters can still access their PC before setting up password-less entry.
While this is still somewhat of a niche technology for now, Microsoft continues to enhance the capabilities of its Hololens augmented reality headsets and highlighted a number of innovative use cases across several industries.
This included a global car manufacturer using the technology to assist with inspections during regular maintenance and services, with engineers using headsets to show the layout of electrical wiring throughout the vehicle.
There was even a reference to the popular Pokémon Go mobile game, where Hololens augmented reality was used to display creatures from the virtual wild in real-life as users moved through the physical world.
If you’d like to learn any more about the innovations revealed at Microsoft Ignite including Microsoft Viva, and explore how these capabilities could benefit your business, get in touch with a member of the team.