Ahead of its worldwide partner conference, Microsoft has unveiled its plans to extend its Microsoft 365 cloud suite with a free version of Teams.
The company is also expanding its collaboration tools with a new whiteboard app, plus a set of analytics and best practices embedded into tools to enable people to communicate across the business more effectively.
The free version of Teams supports 300 users and offers unlimited chat messages and search, as well as built-in audio and video calling for individuals, groups, and full team meetups, Ron Markezich, corporate vice-president for Microsoft wrote on the Microsoft website.
He said the free version also provides 10GB of team file storage – plus, he said Microsoft is offering an additional 2GB per person for personal storage.
Microsoft has set its sights on bridging Microsoft 365 with Office 365. As such, the free version of teams supports integration with with Office Online apps, including built-in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Markezich said more than 200,000 businesses across 181 markets use Teams to collaborate and get work done.
He said Teams now enables anyone in the business to create live and on-demand events in Microsoft 365. Events can be viewed in real time or on demand, with high-definition video and interactive discussion.”
According to Microsoft, the event is augmented with AI-powered services, which give users a speaker timeline, using facial detection to identify who is talking, as well as speech-to-text transcription, timecoding and transcript search,
Microsoft said it used live events, integrated with Microsoft 365, at its Employee Engagement Summit, which connected Microsoft employees worldwide with the leadership team, to foster sustained engagement and dialogue in Yammer.
The company also launched Whiteboard, an interactive whiteboard app for Windows 10. The version for Apple devices and a web browser-based version are still being developed, but from the information Microsoft has provided, there does not appear to be a version running natively on Android.
Analysing the way teams communicate is the final piece of the collaboration line-up at Microsoft. To address this, the company has introduced two products: Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics.
In a blog post, Natalie McCullough, general manager of Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics, and Noelle Beaujon, product manager for MyAnalytics, warned that collaboration habits can make or break teamwork.
“When people run efficient meetings, create time for focused work and respect work/life boundaries, their teams thrive. Putting these habits in place is difficult and takes the support of the entire team.
“Data can create a common language to help members build consensus on important teamwork norms. By shedding light on how work actually gets done, organisations can build more efficient, creative and engaged teams,” the pair wrote in the blog post.
According to Microsoft, Workplace Analytics uses data from everyday work in Office 365 to identify collaboration patterns that impact productivity, workforce effectiveness and employee engagement.
MyAnalytics works as an intelligent collaboration assistant in Outlook, to alert employees of tasks they need to set time aside for, identify tasks agreed in email conversations and provide best practices in email etiquette such as not sending emails to co-workers outside their normal working hours.