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Top Announcements from Microsoft Ignite Fall 2021

Microsoft’s Ignite Fall 2021 wrapped up last week. The conference was filled with various exciting announcements around key Microsoft workloads. Microsoft announced various features, services, and products that they believe will shape the future of work and enable organizations to adapt to a changing world. Don’t worry if you missed the exciting event, our experts have curated a list of the most impactful announcements. Here it goes.

Connect, Collaborate and Work Better with Microsoft Teams

To foster more inclusive and productive hybrid meetings, Microsoft has announced new innovations to Microsoft Teams that enable users to connect, collaborate and stay in the flow of work with full context.

Mesh for Microsoft Teams

To make the remote meetings productive and effective, Microsoft has introduced Mesh for Microsoft Teams, a virtual environment that offers 2D and 3D meeting experiences. This amazing feature will be available for preview in the first half of the year 2022 as part of Teams on PC, mobile, and through mixed-reality headsets. With Mesh, users can create their personalized avatars, express themselves using live reactions, and make their conversations interactive. The virtual environment can resemble physical spaces, such as conference rooms, design centers, events, etc., to enhance communication, spark creativity and innovation, and foster water-cooler connections. This facility can easily integrate with Microsoft 365 to fetch the documents, presentations, files, to foster more inclusive and productive hybrid meetings.

Next-generation Meeting Experiences

In early 2022, new features will be added to Teams to enhance user experience and foster productivity. Using a scheduling form, reporting officers can assign roles to the team members before the meeting starts. So, they come prepared for the meeting. Users can also mute notifications, pin, or even hide them on a needed basis to avoid getting distracted and stay focused. Teams for mobile will now come with a revamped overflow menu that prioritizes key actions. In addition to this, users can now preview, collapse or clear all the notifications in one tap using a notification drawer for in-meeting system messages.

Enhancements to Microsoft Teams Rooms

New updates are coming to Microsoft Teams Rooms and new Teams devices to improve hybrid meeting experiences.

  • Companion Devices: The update allows a user to use their personal account from a shared space to establish an individual presence in the meeting. Once the users enter the meeting room in companion mode, the video will ‘turn on’ and the audio will ‘turn off’ by default. The users can thereby, chat, use live reactions, and raise hands to engage in the meeting. On the other hand, users who will join in person from a companion device will have their video hidden to avoid distraction. This feature allows the people working remotely to be seen clearly.
  • Direct Guest Join: New partners such as BlueJeans and GoToMeeting will be included in Direct Guest Join by the first half of 2022, allowing users to attend third-party meetings from the Teams Room.
New Webinar and Broadcasting Capabilities
  • Virtual Green Room: It’s a private space where the event organizers and the presenters can interact, chat, Q&A, and share presentations before the event starts. They can even manage attendee settings, and share content as this space is not accessed by the attendees. This will give complete control to the event organizers and the presenters to manage what attendees see and diminish any distractions.
  • New feature to add up to 10 co-organizers for webinars and meetings with an equal set of permissions and rights.
  • New audio feed capabilities will be introduced to Microsoft Teams to enable broadcasters to create a high-quality and clean audio mix.
Shared Channels and Chat with Teams
  • Teams connect has been introduced to make communication with outsiders easier while ensuring security and governance.
  • New enhancements in the private preview will enable users to schedule a meeting, collaborate in real-time, and share channels with up to 50 teams and multiple organizations.

Innovate and Automate Rapidly with Low Code

Microsoft Power Platform Commenting

Now colleagues or subject matter experts can help developers build the app, flow, or chatbot better by leaving useful comments, reviews, formulas, etc. Developers can refer them while they are stuck in automating a flow or building complex Power Virtual Agents bots.

Power Apps pay-as-you-go with an Azure subscription

Pay-as-you-go purchasing is now available in preview for Power Apps. Presently, organizations don’t have to pay any up-front costs to start using Power Apps, and users can easily add Power Apps to Azure solutions. However, customers can now purchase a “Power Apps per-app plan” with an Azure subscription, in addition to the existing Power Apps per user and per-app subscription plans already available across Microsoft’s commerce channels.

Discover inefficiencies in workflows with Process Mining

Process mining is part of the process advisor. As the name suggests, it digs deeper into current business processes and identifies the inefficiencies in the current process using the business data to provide a holistic view into bottlenecks across the business. Process mining with Power Automate enables organizations to:

  • Create new processes based on the data analysis from different systems of record.
  • Users can customize their data to focus on one thing at a time and dig deeper into the insights to identify bottlenecks in their processes.
  • With these insights, users can identify which processes take time more than what’s necessary and work in the line to improve them.
Microsoft Power BI App in Teams

Power BI can be included everywhere collaboration happens. Few Power BI enhancements announced during Microsoft Ignite Fall 2021 include:

  • Notification dashboards
  • Pin a report as a tab to ease its access to the team
  • New scorecard visual to track the project goals and success.
Fasten Development with Fusion Teams

Fusion Teams enables developers and business owners to build applications at a fast pace. It enables:

  • End-to-end branding: From an icon to a complete app interface
  • Consolidate apps: Combine multiple apps into one.
  • Streamline app delivery
  • Secure mobile applications
Integrate AI easily to low-code solutions
  • AI Builder: Users can utilize any AI model in Microsoft Power Platform via AI Builder.
  • Form Processing improvements: Microsoft’s Document Automation starter kit enables organizations to train form processing models easily and swiftly.
  • Image Classification with Lobe: Domain experts can leverage Lobe to train image classification models on their computers, and export models into AI Builder to be used in Microsoft Power Platform.
  • AI Builder starter capacity: This feature is now available in selected Power Apps and Power Automate license plans.

Strengthen Hybrid, Multicloud, and Edge Strategy with Azure

Microsoft Azure was one of the core focus areas during Ignite Fall conference. The top announcements in Azure include:

Azure AI

Azure Cognitive Search now supports more than 50 languages. Microsoft says, “advanced machine learning techniques help understand user intent and contextually rank the most relevant search results”. Additionally, Azure Cognitive Services now offers a preview of Azure OpenAI Service, allowing customers to access OpenAI’s powerful GPT-3 models and a tool that uses a new model based on GPT-3 called CODEX, along with security, reliability, compliance, data privacy, and other enterprise-grade capabilities that are built into Microsoft Azure.

Azure Data

There were 5 major announcements related to Azure Data at Ignite.

  • New features are included in Azure Cosmos DV that enable developers to build and maintain cost-effective application databases.
  • Azure Synapse is now updated with new database templates and real-time analytics for telemetry.
  • Later this month Flexible Server deployment option for Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL will be generally available.
  • New advancements are made to Azure SQL Managed Instance to enhance performance and ensure security for apps on Azure SQL.
  • SQL Server 2022 is set in preview. This release will enable customers to get deeper insights, predictions, and governance from their data.
Azure Hybrid and Azure Infra

Microsoft introduced new tools for IT pros in Azure Stack HCI to Azure Arc and Azure Virtual Desktop. New updates were also introduced to Windows Server on Azure. Additionally, there were 5 announcements on Azure Infra.

  • New Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets
  • New Azure Virtual Machines for better price-performance
  • Azure Monitor now comes with enhanced support
  • Updates on Azure Disk Storage for general availability
  • Announcement of new Azure Virtual Machines selector
Azure Networking & Azure Resilience

Azure Gateway Load Balancer has been introduced that enables the addition of third-party network virtual appliances into a network path. Additionally, Microsoft announced the general availability of Azure Network Function Manager. The Redmond giants also introduced Azure Chaos Studio to improve application resilience enabling the customers to identify faults and glitches so the end-user users a bug-free app.

Microsoft Loop: A whole new way to work together

Microsoft announced the next big breakthrough in Microsoft 365, Microsoft Loop, a new app for communications in the AI-first world. The application allows users to compose comments, chats, actions, and process live business data together in a new collaborative canvas, reimagining how anyone can contribute to the flow of the work via chat, comment, or document. Microsoft Loop has 3 core elements:

  • Loop Workspace: Allows users and their team to see in the group everything important to the user’s project. Whiteboards, presentations, links, files, notes, documents, etc. can be shared to enhance collaboration.
  • Loop Pages: These are flexible canvases that grow with the size of new ideas. Several tools can be integrated to increase the efficiency of work and enhance productivity.
  • Loop Components: These are atomic units of productivity that allow the team to pull in live business projects, track tasks, and capture progress. This component keeps users and their team in sync. The team members can connect, react to each other ideas, celebrate achievements, etc. Thus, teams can think, plan and create together.

Microsoft Editor is now superpowered with Context IQ

When users attach, insert, or share a file with colleagues, Microsoft Editor suggests relevant files or documents based on the similarity of subjects or because users may have created or worked on similar things before. Powered with Context IQ, Editor will now evaluate the effort and recommend times when scheduling a meeting in an Outlook email. This will save the users time and context switching. Additionally, while tagging colleagues in a file using the @ mention in a comment or email, Editor will suggest a potential list of people to be tagged based on colleagues the user is currently working with or stakeholders for document reviews.

While collaborating on a sales opportunity, and when there is a need to pull Dynamics 365 data, the Editor will suggest related Dynamics 365 information as a Loop component allowing users to update and take an action on it in the flow of their work.

While there were many other announcements made throughout the event, we deem these to be most important. As a Microsoft Global Systems Integrator and Gold Partner, AgreeYa has been helping organizations to embrace Hybrid work, innovate from anywhere and build a hyperconnected business. We are extending special offers which will enable organizations to ‘Automate, Analyze and Transform‘. To speak with AgreeYa Microsoft experts, or to learn more, email at partner.microsoft@agreeya.com.

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