Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace now globally available

Microsoft Teams is significant for the channel because it deepens Office 365’s functionality further, and gives partners another arrow in their quiver to pitch this already hot product.

Today, in a global webcast, Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Teams, their chat-based workspace in Office 365, is now generally available in 181 markets. It went into preview at the beginning of November,

“Microsoft Teams is a universal toolkit for collaboration,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Office. I’ve been at Microsoft for a long time, and seen a lot of product launches and I feel we’ve really got something here.”

Koenigsbauer stressed that collaboration and teamwork are core to Microsoft’s mission.

“We view Office 365 as an engine of collaboration which empowers teams and organizations,” he said. “People are now spending twice as much time in Skype meetings as they did a year ago. Now, since launching the Teams preview, we’ve been incredibly pleased with the customer reception. More than 50,000 customers are now using Team. We have seen a 300 per cent increase in use month over month. In addition, more than 100 new features have shipped since the preview began.”

Koenigsbauer said that Microsoft Teams delivers on four big promises to create a chat based workspace.

“The first is a modern conversation experience,” he indicated. That can include emojis and stickers. It now also includes audio calling from mobile devices and video calling, which is now available on Android, and is coming soon to iOS and Windows Phone. There is also a video channel.” New capabilities include the ability to email a channel, including attachments, send messages with markdown-based formatting, and receive notifications about all posts in a channel.

“The second is to be a true hub for teamwork,” Konigsbauer said. This includes all Microsoft apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI being built in. It also now includes an enhanced meeting experience with scheduling capabilities, support for open public teams, and making it easier to transition from chat to high quality voice and video. Since the preview began, mobile management with Microsoft Intune has been added to the apps available. In addition, Team is now automatically provisioned with Office 365.

The third promise is broad customization capabilities.

“You can customize your workspace with Tabs, Connectors and Bots,” Konigsbauer stated. “Since the preview began , there are new bots available, and they can now be used across channels. The more than 150 existing or pending integrations include Bots from hipmunk, Growbot and ModuleQ.

“These more than 150 partners with whom we are working include new ones with SAP and Trello,” Konigsbauer said. SAP SuccessFactors will help employees and managers track goals and performance as part of the way they work in Microsoft Teams every day. Trello will empower teams to easily get projects done with boards, lists and cards right within Microsoft Teams.

“These partnerships let users integrate key apps and services to make their own customized hub for teamwork,” Konigsbauer said.

The final promise is trusted security. Konigsbauer emphasized that Microsoft Teams is built on the Office 365 hyper-scale, enterprise-grade cloud, with its advanced security and compliance capabilities. Microsoft Teams also supports global standards, including SOC 1, SOC 2, EU Model Clauses, ISO27001 and HIPAA, and has support for audit log search, eDiscovery and legal hold for channels, chats and files.

Konigsbauer also indicated future scheduled enhancements. In June, Office 365 guest capabilities are being added to Teams. Deeper Outlook integration is on the roadmap for beyond that.

“We believe that if you enjoy interactions you have with your team members, you are more likely to do good work together,” said Mira Lane, Partner UX Architect, at Microsoft Teams. “It’s easy to be in multiple teams and interact with them without having to jump out of my UI.” These teams can now be public as well as private, and the chat experience is threaded for better organization.

The webcast emphasized multiple example of customer use cases for Teams. Konigsbauer discussed how Arkansas-based transport services J.B. Hunt’s developers rely on the threaded chats in Teams for their communications between people in India and the U.S. Marketing agency J. Walter Thompson uses Teams to support free-flowing ideation, to enable brainstorming across their workforce.

Devin Vermuelen, creative director at shared office spaces provider WeWork, discussed why they have added Microsoft Teams into their workflow.

“Microsoft Teams creates a casual yet organized way to work together across space and time,” he said. “Teams allows you to move across projects quickly. It’s the digital equivalent of bumping into people in line for coffee.”

Trek Bicycle, which has embraced high technology as part of their design cycle, was a featured reference customer for Teams.

“We see Microsoft Teams as the project hub of Office 365 where everybody knows where to find the latest documents, notes and tasks, all in-line with team conversations for complete context,” said Laurie Koch, vice president of Global Customer Service at Trek Bicycle. “Teams is quickly becoming a key part of Trek’s get-things-done-fast culture.”

For the channel, Microsoft Teams is significant because it deepens Office 365’s functionality further, and gives partners another arrow in their quiver to pitch this already hot product.