Microsoft boosts hybrid workforces with new additions to

Microsoft Corp. took the opportunity at its Inspire 2022 event today to announce a raft of new features for Microsoft 365 offerings, including Teams, Windows 365 and Viva, its new employee experience platform.

In a blog post, Colette Stallbaumer, Microsoft’s general manager of Microsoft 365 and Future of Work, said the motivation for many of today’s updates is to provide solutions to new challenges emerging from the world of hybrid work.

Stallbaumer explained that one of the major issues arising from hybrid work is the need to balance employee demands for flexibility with businesses’ needs. At the same time, she said, the shifting macroeconomic environment means organizations are looking to maximize productivity while reducing costs.

Microsoft is looking to solve these challenges in part with the addition of more flexible collaborative tools. There’s no better tool for collaboration in Microsoft’s armory than the Teams platform, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn there are plenty of updates there.

One of the most important new capabilities in Teams is Excel Live, which enables users to collaborate on workbooks in real-time from within Teams meetings. Meanwhile, Video Clip is a fun new feature that allows users to record, send and view short videos from within Teams. There’s also Collaborative Annotations, where all meeting participants can take advantage of Microsoft Whiteboard’s rich toolset to draw, type and react on top of shared content.

The collaborative enhancements should prove to be welcome additions for Teams users, but businesses themselves may be more interested in the latest updates to Windows 365, which aims to enhance productivity by bringing the company’s iconic operating systems to any kind of device.

Windows 365 is a virtual machine service launched last year that provides access to a “Cloud PC” running Windows from any web browser, on any kind of device, be it a MacBook, iPad, Linux computer or Android smartphone. The idea is that users can sign into their Windows account anywhere and instantly pick up from where they left off, with full access to all of their data and applications.

Microsoft hasn’t been all that open on how many enterprises are actually adopting Windows 365, but the idea certainly has merit, and the new updates announced today should only add to its appeal.

For instance, the addition of Citrix HDX Plus for Windows 365 is designed to provide a superior, high-definition user experience, the company said, with more robust security policy controls and integrations with a wide range of industry solutions. At the same time, Microsoft is enhancing the Windows 365 Business edition to make it easier for users to sign up and seamlessly login to any Cloud PC using a Microsoft account.

Other features include the ability to restore a Cloud PC to an earlier point in time, using the Point-In-Time Restore feature, similar to the old System Restore feature in traditional Windows. Also coming soon is a new feature that will allow information technology administrators to automatically enroll Cloud PCs in Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

Meanwhile, government agencies may be interested in checking out the expanded Windows 365 Government editions — Government Community Cloud and Government Community Cloud High, which are designed for government contractors as well as local, state and federal agencies.

Another Microsoft offering that’s proving its worth in the world of hybrid work is Microsoft Viva, an employee experience platform that was also introduced last year. With Viva, enterprises can provide their workers with access to company news and updates, educational resources and other content. It’s similar to the old corporate intranet platforms run by many enterprises, but it has the added benefit of integrating with Teams, so employees can stay up to date with all of the latest happenings as they work.

Adding to existing modules such as Viva Connections, Viva Learning and Viva Topics, Microsoft announced two more. These include the previously announced Viva Goals, which will launch on Aug. 1, is a “goal setting and management solution” aimed at aligning individual teams with the organization’s strategic priorities.

Newly announced today, meanwhile, is Viva Engage, an application in Teams that’s meant to help foster community connection. Microsoft said Viva Engage brings “consumer-like social networking” to the workplace in order to spark more engagement and grow personal networks within organizations.

Photo: tirachardz/Freepik

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