Microsoft Teams Updates Add ‘Sorely Missing’ Features: Partners

Updates such as enhanced webinar functionality and moderator controls, along with a number of integrations with other Microsoft products, should increase the usefulness of Teams for customers--ultimately helping to fuel services opportunities, solution providers told CRN.


Solution providers applauded the latest updates announced for the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, saying that new features and integrations should make the widely used app even more relevant to users.

Microsoft announced an array of updates for Teams during the company’s recent Ignite 2021 conference for IT professionals, which was held online.

[Related: Microsoft’s 7 Biggest Product Announcements At Ignite 2021]

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Some of the newly announced Teams updates include “sorely missing” webinar functionality and moderator controls, said Matt Scherocman, president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a Microsoft Gold partner based in Mason, Ohio.

In one example, an update to Dynamic View allows the participant gallery to automatically adjust when the meeting window is resized, giving presenters the ability to move participants to the top of the meeting window. This is especially key to meetings that involve hosting large numbers of people, Scherocman said.

The updates help make Teams a more powerful, all-encompassing tool for business operations, he said. But it still falls to channel partners to educate end users on what Teams can do.

While “there’s no money to be made in individual new features” for the collaboration app, “customers need a strategy around Teams,” Scherocman said. “We’re still teaching how to use the tools.”

The upgrades to Teams and new integrations between the app and other Microsoft products--from PowerPoint to the new employee experience platform Viva--furthers the tech giant’s goal of making Teams the one business application that businesses can’t do without, said Reed Wiedower, global alliances leader and CTO for the Cognizant Microsoft Business Group.

“One of the most striking sets of announcements was how other platforms, such as Dynamics 365, were going to be surfacing critical information of all sorts, from sales and marketing, to customer service, to even HR components, through the Teams interface,” Wiedower said.

In terms of generating revenue from Teams, working with customers that were among the first to move to the app is a good strategy--because they tend to be the most cloud-friendly and the most willing to dig into their business to find areas that can be automated, he said.

Microsoft Teams has seen stunning growth since the shift to widespread remote work a year ago, with Microsoft disclosing in late October that the app had reached 115 million daily active users--compared to 20 million roughly a year earlier.

Other recent Teams updates have included the ability for users to export the data of Teams webinar attendees into Dynamics 365 Marketing, along with making PowerPoint Live in Teams generally available. Those updates all make Teams more engaging and valuable, said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a CRN Security 100 managed service provider based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The ability to export webinar attendee data saves users time--while PowerPoint Live in Teams means presenters have a single view of notes, slides, the meeting chat and participants, according to Microsoft.

“The new PowerPoint options make every Teams presenter a rock star,” Goldstein said.

For LAN Infotech, Teams adoption among customers has grown by 150 percent over the past year--leading to a 30-percent increase in Office 365 service revenue, along with additional recurring revenue for backup and security services.

“Microsoft has done a great job of promoting what could be with Teams--and giving clients the opportunity to move out of the ‘just chat’ mentality for Teams,” Goldstein said. “We have also seen a very big increase in Voice for Business, giving Teams an advantage over other platforms.”

The Teams update announcements show Microsoft will continue to invest in user experience around remote work, said Chris Vain, chief information officer for Blue Bell, Pa.-based Anexinet, No. 212 on CRN’s Solution Provider 500 for 2020.

The new features reflect changes asked for by users, and the new integrations help keep customers within the Microsoft product ecosystem instead of seeking separate communications tools, Vain said.

Looking ahead, Vain hopes to see more customization options become available for Teams, so that users can replicate the features they like with third-party tools. “Little nitpicky things can still create hurdles to adoption,” Vain said.