Microsoft’s Spring Ignite 2021 digital event concluded just a few hours ago. During the event, the Redmond giants talked about various technology innovations which would enable a resilient and reimagined future. The tone for the event was set by a powerful vision keynote by the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, wherein he outlined the key attributes that will “drive the next generation of innovation in the cloud.” His vision was reflected in all the exciting announcements made through the event. Like always it was an enthralling three days for us at AgreeYa, wherein we envisioned the future of digital workplaces through Microsoft’s lenses.
The conference was marked by many big announcements of features, services, and products that would shape the future of work and enable organizations to adapt to a changing world. Our experts have curated a list of the most impactful announcements. Here it goes.
Microsoft Teams: Embrace the Future of Meetings
Meetings of the future will be “fluid, dynamic and cloud-powered,” said Jared Spataro, CVP of Microsoft during a session at Microsoft Ignite. With remote work being the new norm and limited scope for quick chats down the hallway, powerful collaboration tools have never been more important than they are now. At Ignite this year, Microsoft announced some notable enhancements to their collaboration, communication, and teamworking platform – Microsoft Teams.
- Microsoft Teams Connect: Enables organizations to collaborate seamlessly with customers, partners, suppliers, or other external parties through shared channels. The feature leverages the most commonly used functions in Teams, such as chat, meetings, and document collaboration. Users can also easily invite individuals and teams and create a shared workspace where you can collaborate across organizational boundaries, leveraging all the rich capabilities that only Teams bring together.
- PowerPoint Live in Teams: Allows a presenter to deliver richer, more inclusive experiences and lead meetings more confidently. Presenters can see their content, meeting participants, chat, as well as their personal notes and slides all on a single screen. More importantly, it would also allow users to navigate the presentation privately at their own pace, while the presenter can proceed.
- 1,000-person interactive webinars: Microsoft Teams now supports interactive meetings and webinars for up to 1,000 participants. Additionally, Teams’ end-to-end webinar support includes rich presentation options, custom registration, host controls (such as the ability to disable attendee chat and video), and post-event reporting.
- Presenter mode: Empowers presenters to tailor how their video feed and content would appear to the audience. The Standout mode would show the speaker’s video feed in front of the shared content. Then there is the Reporter mode which places content as a visual aid above the presenter’s shoulder just like a news story. While Side-by-side mode displays the presenter’s video next to their content while presenting.
- Dynamic view: Intelligently arranges various elements of a meeting for an optimal viewing experience and helps the presenter maintain more natural eye contact with the audience. With this feature, presenters can place the gallery on top ensuring that participants appear at the top of the meeting window.
- New Gallery Views: Together Mode and large gallery views are now generally available. These new views allow everyone in a meeting to see meeting content irrespective of whether the room has one screen or two.
- Disable video: Enables presenter or organizer to limit potential disruptions, along with other capabilities such as Invite-only meetings and recently announced chat moderation controls.
- Viva Connections in Teams: Viva Connections module which delivers curated, company-branded experience in the form of news, conversations, and other resources for employees, will become generally available this month. With this integration, employees will receive personalized information delivered in Microsoft Teams.
- End-to-end encryption of 1:1 Teams Calls: Microsoft Teams will now support end-to-end encryption to help organizations meet their security and compliance requirements by providing an additional option for conducting sensitive online conversations.
Power Platform: Empower Everyone to Build Apps, Automations, and Reports Faster
Satya Nadella describes Power Platform as “the bridge between professional developers and citizen developers.” He believes Power Platform is essential for building “Tech Intensity” and “Digital Resilience for Future”. Towards this, there were multiple major announcements related to the Power Platform, from security improvements to enhancements in reporting and governance.
- Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Democratizes RPA and empowers organizations to easily automate time-consuming manual work. Microsoft Power Automate Desktop features a user-friendly web and desktop recorder that captures steps involved in automation and a visual drag-and-drop designer organizes flows logically.
- Power BI Premium: Drives a data culture and empowers every business user and business analyst to get amazing insights with AI-infused experiences and create power-packed reports. Through this solution, business analysts can not only analyze and visualize their data but also build an end-to-end data platform through drag and drop experiences.
- Power Fx: Microsoft envisions a future where programming is open-source and meant for everyone. Towards this vision, Microsoft has announced their new open-source low code language – Power Fx. The language brings the familiarity of Microsoft Excel functions—used by hundreds of millions of information workers—to low-code app development and workflow automation. Power Fx enables anyone with Excel skills to express advanced logic and work with data in a broad range of low-code tools.
- AI capabilities in Power Virtual Agents: Microsoft has added a set of new AI capabilities that allow bots to learn and improve automatically over time without any human intervention and investments. Improvements such as AI-driven NL learning capability allow a Chatbot to automatically learn from user conversations and improve its natural language understanding. While AI-driven personalization capabilities enable the bots to seamlessly use details already available in the system to automatically personalize a conversation.
- Enhanced manageability and governance for IT pros: Enables IT pros to implement enhanced governance and security for all low-code tools and automation. The features include a new Power Platform admin center and capabilities, security improvements, and reporting enhancements. New governance capabilities enable robust Data Loss Prevention, including tenant isolation, the ability to control data access at the connector action level, custom connector enhancements, and data exfiltration controls.
Microsoft Azure: Improve Agility, Performance, and Resilience
Simplifying migration to Microsoft’s Azure products and services was a big theme during this year’s Microsoft Ignite. Microsoft announced new tools and capabilities to help build AI, ML, apps, and infrastructure for the future. Some of the major Azure products that were either launched or received updates include Azure Purview, Azure Synapse, Azure Migrate, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Arc, and the new Azure Percept edge AI solution.
- Azure Percept: It is a comprehensive, easy-to-use, and secure Microsoft platform specifically designed to enable organizations to build, apply, and operate AI models in lower-powered edge cameras and audio devices. Azure Percept simplifies real-time insights at the edge through hardware accelerators that have been built to integrate seamlessly with Azure AI and Azure internet of things (IoT) services.
- Azure Synapse Pathway: Simplifies and accelerates migrations from a legacy or cloud data warehouse to Azure Synapse Analytics by providing an automated translation of existing business logic. Azure Synapse Pathway scans the source systems and automatically translates existing scripts into TSQL. It can also automatically translate more than 100,000 lines of SQL code in minutes and help customers migrate from Teradata, Snowflake, Netezza, AWS Redshift, SQL Server, and Google BigQuery.
- Azure Purview: Microsoft announced multiple new capabilities for Azure Purview. The capabilities include automatic scanning and classification of data in Amazon AWS Simple Storage Services (AWS S3) SAP ECC, SAP S4/HANA, and Oracle Database — enabling users to scan and classify data in various on-premises data stores with the Azure Purview Data Map.
- Azure Cosmos DB: Four new updates for Azure Cosmos DB were announced during the event that will empower organizations to build or modernize scalable, high-performance apps. These updates enable cloud-native and real-time analytics through the generally available integration with Azure Synapse Link.
Microsoft Mesh: Step into New Reality
During a first-of-its-kind immersive keynote, Alex Kipman introduced the spellbound virtual audiences to Microsoft Mesh. This new mixed reality platform enables users to interact holographically with others, with true presence, and in a natural way. Satya describes Mesh as the “business collaboration version of the Xbox Live gaming service“. People can interact with 3D content or engage with one another through Mesh-enabled apps across any platform or device – including Microsoft HoloLens, virtual reality (VR) headsets, smartphones, tablets, or PCs.
Microsoft Viva: A New Kind of Employee Experience
Workplaces of the future will “help employees feel connected to their goals and feel connected to their organizations; it will help support employees in their careers while helping them find balance,” said Chuck Friedman CVP of Employee Experience Platform during a session at Microsoft Ignite. Microsoft’s first employee experience platform, Viva, was launched with the goal of helping organizations deliver great employee experiences and cope with the challenges of hybrid workplaces. Microsoft Viva comprises of four powerful modules that alleviate employee experience in their own varied ways. The modules include Viva Topics, Viva Connections, Viva Insights, and Viva Learning.
Microsoft Industry Cloud: Launchpad for Future Industry-specific Innovations
During his Ignite 2021 keynote, Satya said that “cloud computing has been at the forefront of human resilience against the pandemic”. It has ensured business continuity across a range of industries. In response to this heightened demand for cloud computing, Microsoft announced three new industry-specific cloud offerings: Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing, and Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit. These new cloud offerings will join the already available Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Microsoft Cloud for Retail. Microsoft industry clouds are tailored to meet unique industry needs and decrease time to value from years to months. These industry clouds will bring together common data models, cross-cloud connectors, workflows, APIs, and industry-specific components and standards, with the breadth of Microsoft’s cloud services, including Microsoft 365 and Teams, Azure, Microsoft Power Platform, Dynamics 365 and security solutions.
While there were dozens of other announcements made throughout the event, we deem these to be most important from business continuity and innovation perspectives.
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