Microsoft has introduced a free version of Teams that uses the vendor’s online Office suite in providing a no-cost way for people to compare the collaboration app against rivals Slack and Cisco Webex Teams.
The Microsoft Teams free version, launched this week, is designed for small businesses or groups of people within a company that does not have a commercial Office 365 subscription. The web version of Teams works on all major browsers except Apple Safari. Support for the latter is coming “very soon,” Microsoft said.
The introductory offer is meant to sell Office 365 as much as Teams. In announcing the free team collaboration app, Microsoft said users could “discover the value of Office 365 as they grow and scale.” People can create content within Teams using the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, which are all part of the cloud-based Office suite.
Collaboration vendors, such as Slack, Atlassian and Google, have used the freemium product model for years to attract people willing to test the platforms as an alternative to email. In launching its free product, “Microsoft has to learn what other players in the market know — how to convert the free users to paid users,” said Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst at IDC.
Wayne Kurtzmananalyst, IDC
Microsoft’s lure for conversion is its online Office suite, Kurtzman said. “It’s a good differentiator that is perceived by users as valuable.”
Along with integration to the Office apps, Microsoft is providing organizations with the tools for adding third-party app integrations. Teams also has a store for downloading any of 140 business apps, including Cisco’s Webex online meeting software, Evernote, and Trello.
A person using the Microsoft Teams free version can create groups that collectively do not exceed 300 people. Microsoft does not restrict the number of chat messages and offers online audio and video calling.
A Teams group has up to 10 GB of file storage, plus an additional 2 GB per member for personal storage.
Microsoft Teams free version shows vendor wants to win
With the free Teams product, Microsoft is telling it’s largest rivals — Cisco and Slack — that the company is in the market “to win it — or at least significantly disrupt it,” Kurtzman said. However, the competitors have advantages. Slack has more than 1,500 third-party app integrations, and Cisco’s Webex Teams is a video-centric collaboration platform that works well with Cisco’s networking hardware and software.
Microsoft is preparing for battle by simplifying its collaboration portfolio. The company has said it will replace Skype for Business Online with Teams, a move that raised concerns that Teams won’t have the same telephony tools. Microsoft has tried to ease customer anxiety by rolling out Teams calling features, such as call delegation and direct routing.
Call delegation lets a user receive someone else’s call — a necessary feature within enterprises. Direct routing enables companies to use their existing telephony infrastructure with Teams. However, accessing that function requires a company to have Teams and Phone System — formerly called Cloud PBX — as part of an Office 365 subscription.
BOSTON — Enterprise security teams’ zero-trust mindset is often a good thing. But when it comes to cloud services adoption, Microsoft argued it may be doing more harm than good.
During her session this week at the 2018 Identiverse conference, “The Cake is Not a Lie,” Laura Hunter, principal program manager at Microsoft, said security professionals need to change their default reactions when their organizations want to introduce new cloud applications. She said she finds security professionals go through something similar to the five stages of grief when their organization begins the process of cloud services adoption.
“I put a portion of the blame at the feet of the cloud service provider,” Hunter said regarding why the reactions are so intense. “When [cloud service providers] talk to our customers, we maybe, historically, lay it on a little thick” and promise perfectly secured cloud environments.
The bigger problem, she noted, is security professionals are naturally predisposed to be skeptical of anything “new and shiny,” like the perfectly secured cloud environments.
“It’s in our nature, as security professionals, when we hear the stories of happy, shiny, flowers and goodness, to immediately go ‘shields up,'” she said. “In some ways, this is good. But, in some ways, it can actually work to our detriment.”
According to Hunter, security professionals work in a zero-trust mindset, especially when it comes to cloud services adoption. As a result, when another unit in the organization proposes using a cloud application or service, security professionals have an automatic answer of “no,” because it would be bad for security.
However, if the IT department says no to a service that a business department or employee needs to do their job effectively, that business department or employee will most likely go out and procure the service on their own anyway.
Because of this, Hunter questioned the zero-trust mindset of security professionals.
“Is this default answer of ‘Trust no one’… really acting in our organization’s best interest?” she asked.
Laura Hunterprincipal program manager, Microsoft
By maintaining a “hard-line no” as the default answer every time cloud services adoption is brought up, “we are removing ourselves from the conversation,” Hunter said. “We are removing ourselves from conversations our businesses are having whether we want them to or not.”
When it comes down to business need versus security, business need is always going to win, she said, and then you end up with shadow cloud IT that the security team has no control over.
“It’s going to happen anyway, and the only thing you’ve done by maintaining that hard-line approach is ensure that it happens without you at the table, ensure that it’s happening without you as part of the conversation” about how to monitor the cloud applications, apply controls and policies, and maintain organizational compliance, she said.
“Maintaining that ‘hard-line no’ is actually making your organization less secure,” Hunter said.
Security professionals should instead remain open-minded and “have a conversation that’s a question,” rather than always saying no. The solution is to embrace the use of cloud applications in the enterprise and work to find ways to make them more secure. Better yet, use the cloud services to improve enterprise security.
“Let’s use the cloud for the good of our organization.”
The NBA season recently ended, and teams are already preparing for next year, with the draft done and free agency about to begin. While most in the league are awaiting the latest decision of superstar LeBron James, all 30 NBA teams are trying to get better for next season.
The same is true for team business departments, which work behind the scenes to better market and sell to NBA fans. Accomplishing that requires a flexible workflow and software that can help departments run smoother and solve problems that arise.
It’s with that in mind that the Detroit Pistons — one of the more successful franchises in NBA history — uses Salesforce and the AppExchange in Salesforce to better run its business.
Angie Hight is CRM director for the Pistons, working with other business departments in the organization to use Salesforce to solve workflow and efficiency problems.
“I started here five-and-a-half years ago, and I was doing outreach to let others know we have this tool that we can help with,” Hight said. “Somewhere along the line, that has shifted to where they are coming to us now.”
‘It was an old-school process’
Professional sports leagues were among the first industries to adopt the use of analytics and intelligent software to look for difference makers on the field or court, and that same mindset is continuing to flood into the business side of sports.
“We use business intelligence tools to do analysis for data that comes into different systems in the organization,” Hight said. “The biggest area that data is coming from is Salesforce. It’s not just the sales team; it’s in finance and community relations and other departments.”
With most departments plugging into Salesforce, Hight said she is often inundated with questions from department heads on how to get more out of Salesforce or solve a processes challenge. That’s when Hight turns to the AppExchange in Salesforce.
“We have no internal developer here,” Hight said. “There are times we’ll get a request to build something out that we can’t do, and that’s when we’ll go to the AppExchange in Salesforce.”
One such problem that Hight and the Pistons solved using the Salesforce AppExchange revolved around group night promotions for ticket sales. Previously, the sales department would print out paper flyers, delivering them to various local businesses to distribute or to companies to allocate to their employees.
“It was an inefficient way to get to the customer, and the customers had to fill out that paper sheet with their name and credit card information and send it back,” Hight said. “It was an old-school process. They knew they could sell more tickets with a more automated process, but they didn’t know how to do it.”
Hight perused the AppExchange in Salesforce and ultimately found a form-creation tool that not only attacked the sales department group ticket problem, but it also found uses in other departments.
A multitude of applications
Angie HightCRM director, Detroit Pistons
While Hight and the Pistons have had good luck finding tools in the Salesforce AppExchange, the experience isn’t seamless — mainly due to the explosion of third-party applications that are built on the exchange.
“The only thing that takes me some time is the sheer quantity of applications out there and available,” Hight said. “It’s growing. Five years ago, I’d type in ‘Forms’ and get three tools back. Now, I get pages.”
The trial and error of finding a specific tool can also be frustrating, but with the capability of using the tool in a sandbox in Salesforce AppExchange before licensing, it eases the concern of costs somewhat.
“Evaluating the tools to find the best one is challenging, but it’s easier and more accessible to find,” Hight said. “But it’s a longer shopping excursion than it was. They’ve done a good job sorting it — if you’re looking for help within HR or finance, it’s easy to get that. But sometimes what you’re looking for doesn’t fit into a bubble like that.”
The AppExchange in Salesforce is integral to the idea of a Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce and its partners will generate $859 billion in revenue by 2022.
Research shows that diverse teams are more productive teams. Diversity, particularly in the area of computing research, means including unique perspectives that otherwise might not have a voice, fueling innovation. These are some of the key reasons that Microsoft is committed to diversity. One aspect of demonstrating that commitment is that, for the second year in a row, we are awarding Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants to talented PhD candidates from groups that are under-represented in computing. The goal of these awards (up to $25,000 each) are to widen the narrow pipeline of women, African-Americans, American Indians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and those with disabilities who earn PhDs in computer science or related fields. These awards are given to students in the “last mile” of their PhDs, where a little money can push them over the finish line by helping them to complete their dissertation research.
I am pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants:
Cynthia Bennett, University of Washington, “Toward Disability-Informed Human-Centered Design”
Eric Corbett, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Trust, Technology and Community Engagement”
Ryan M. Corey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Array Signal Processing for Augmented Listening”
Maria De-Arteaga, Carnegie Mellon University, “Quantifying and Mitigating Risks of Algorithmic Decision Support”
Jane E, Stanford University, “Artistic Vision: Providing Context for Capture-Time Decisions”
Sahar Hashemgeloogerdi, University of Rochester, “Computationally Efficient Modeling and Audio Enhancement Algorithms for Reverberant Acoustic Systems Using Orthonormal Basis Functions”
Francesco Pittaluga, University of Florida, “Privacy Preserving Computational Cameras”
Ramya Ramakrishnan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Human-Guided Reinforcement Learning in Real-World Environments”
João Sedoc, University of Pennsylvania, “Hierarchical Approaches to Improve the Flow, Style, and Coherence of Conversational Agents”
Mina Tahmasbi Arashloo, Princeton University, “Programmable Network Monitoring and Control”
Sarah Tan, Cornell University, “Methods in Interpretability and Causal Inference for Better Understanding of Machine Learning Models”
From the almost 200 research projects submitted, these PhD candidates were selected as grant recipients based on review by scientists at Microsoft Research of the quality of the students’ dissertation research, the potential impact of their research, and the uses toward which they would put the grant monies awarded.
For example, Ryan Corey’s grant proposal included funds for purchasing high-quality recording equipment to capture and separate sources of audio to prototype products that augment people’s ability to hear, and also to fund outreach efforts for him to go into community schools to demonstrate his research. Ramya Ramakrishnan will use her grant to hire undergraduate women as research assistants, so she can further amplify the mentoring she receives from this award. Cynthia Bennett, who has a visual disability, is using her grant to increase the ability of people with disabilities to design products that other people with disabilities will use.
There were interesting themes running across this year’s set of awardees, including the ethics and sociological impact of their research. Eric Corbett’s research on using technology to increase public trust and Maria De-Arteaga’s research on mitigating risks of algorithmic decision support in the criminal justice system are two such examples.
In addition to monetary grants, each award comes with an all-expense paid trip to a two-day Microsoft Research workshop in Redmond, Washington, in the autumn of 2018. There, the awardees will present their research, meet with researchers in their field, and receive career coaching.
Microsoft has been building out the capabilities of the Microsoft Teams mobile app in recent months, adding features more advanced than those traditionally supported by unified communications mobility clients. Nevertheless, the vendor has more work to do to catch up with rival Cisco and to provide a seamless mobile experience to businesses.
Microsoft is on par with the meeting features in Cisco Webex Teams mobile, but Cisco can give users a more seamless experience for scheduling and joining meetings from their mobile phones. That’s because Cisco Webex Teams and Cisco Webex rely on the same back-end cloud infrastructure, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.
“Cisco has been very, very mobile-centric for a long time, so I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to have the same maturity in the mobile client,” Kerravala said. Nevertheless, recent improvements to the Microsoft Teams mobile app are “a good start.”
Microsoft users must juggle multiple UC mobile apps
Microsoft still has separate mobile apps for Teams and Skype for Business that require users to toggle between apps. Users can generally only access Teams meetings from within the Microsoft Teams mobile app, rather than from the mobile apps for Outlook or Skype for Business.
“The ability to schedule and join calls or meetings needs to be a lot more consistent,” Kerravala said. “So, if I’m in Outlook mobile and I can start a Skype for Business meeting, I should be able to start a Teams meeting.”
Microsoft is encouraging customers that use the cloud version of Skype for Business to begin using Teams simultaneously. The vendor recently gave users the ability to transfer contacts and groups from Skype for Business to Teams and made instant messaging exchanges between the two clients persistent for Teams users.
Recent features added to the Microsoft Teams mobile app included the ability to join audio and video meetings in Teams or request a meeting to call them on their mobile devices. Once in a meeting, the Microsoft Teams mobile app lets users upload files, share their screens and control presentations.
Team collaboration elevates mobile clients
Team collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and Slack are growing in popularity because they provide a single platform for communicating synchronously and asynchronously and for getting work done through third-party integrations.
That model for unified communications (UC) has made mobile clients even more significant, as vendors compete to deliver products that help users stay connected to colleagues and data whether they are in the office or working remotely, analysts said.
“The lines between communication, collaboration and conferencing are blurring,” said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. “One of the biggest challenges for vendors is to create consistent experiences across various device types.”
Traditional UC mobile apps were built primarily around calling and messaging, but mobile phones already provide those same capabilities over cellular networks. The mobile apps for Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams now give users access to nearly all of the files and collaboration tools available to them on the desktop.
“For all the manufacturers in this space, their singular goal should be [the following]: Can the user eradicate the term, ‘I’ll take care of that when I’m back in the office?'” Kerravala said.
June marks the one-year anniversary of Microsoft Teams in Office 365 Education. In this first year, educators around the world have been using Teams to further classroom engagement, strengthen professional learning communities, and streamline staff communication.
We’d like to thank everybody who has provided feedback on the Teams experience. Your input has been instrumental as we build Teams to reflect collaboration needs in the classroom and the diversity of the teaching experience.
Now let’s hear some of the stories that made Teams what it is today.
Hear it from our educators
The power of the Teams for Education experience is best told by educators themselves. Their stories illuminate how Teams is helping to transform the learning experience at schools, universities, and learning institutions around the world.
University of New South Wales (UNSW) uses Teams to increase student engagement
Dr. David Kellermann, a lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, teaches a class with hundreds of students, including several who participate via webcast. With the intention of creating an inclusive learning experience that would encourage students to collaborate with each other across the class, he sought a solution to this communication hurdle.
Dr. Kellermann’s class made the move￼ to adopt Microsoft Teams. Beyond simply improving the communication experience for web students, the fluid, interactive nature of Teams also created an inclusive and engaging learning environment. After a year of using Teams, Dr. Kellermann found that 100 percent of his students, “felt part of the learning community.”
Jim Yanuzzelli – teacher from Old Bridge, New Jersey
After starting a pilot program with Teams in his social studies classroom, Mr. Yanuzzelli has witnessed his entire classroom shift from a “teacher-centered focus” to a “student-centered focus” — giving him more time to devote to teaching (with less time spent organizing lessons).
“Teams Assignments is a great starting point to develop a digital classroom with Microsoft. Curation of material in a single place for teaching and learning will also allow for a smooth transition into learning the other features of Office 365 Education.”
With content, conversations, and assignments all in one hub, students sign into Teams, respond to the “do now,” and begin collaborating and connecting with each other right away.
Mr. Yanuzzelli further leverages Teams by using popular education apps like Quizlet directly in Teams to create social studies reviews. He can then place them directly in the class team chat, making it easy for students to access and use.
“Teams is the 21st century classroom tool that is transforming my classroom. It allows for student centered lessons that engage and empower students. It gives students the ability to have choices in their learning and a voice in delivery.”
Read moreabout how Mr. Yanuzzelli transformed his classroom using Teams
Today, due in no small part to feedback like this, we’re excited to announce new experiences in Teams to help you further collaborative learning in the classroom.
Introducing rubric grading in Teams
Many of you have shared that you want the ability to create, store, and apply rubrics to assignments to make it easier for your students to get feedback. These feedback mechanisms not only help students learn and improve their work, but they’re also a consistent and transparent way for teachers to grade. So now, inside of Teams, we’re enabling rubric criteria and skills-based grading of your assignments.
Students will also be able to see how they’ll be assessed upfront, before they start working on the assignment.
Teachers can save a lot of time with a grading tool that’s easily applied to multiple assignments at once.
In February, we announced that Chalkup joined Microsoft. The new rubric grading features are a first step in our efforts to bring the best of Chalkup to Teams, and we’re excited to welcome Chalkup teachers and students to Microsoft Education.
Microsoft Forms and Assignments in Teams: better together
Teams now makes it easy for educators to distribute a quiz or survey powered by Microsoft Forms. In Assignments, you will soon be able to add a Form to a new assignment for your students to fill out and return. Additionally, you’ll be able to see and leverage features of Forms reporting functionality, like auto-grading, feedback, and scores, directly in the Assignments grade book. From here, you can also keep track of scores across many Forms-powered quizzes through Assignments in Teams.
Additional new features in Teams:
Page locking in OneNote assignments – For teachers creating OneNote assignments, the pages of the student will now automatically “lock” as read only when the due date/time passes. The teacher can still edit and annotate these OneNote assignment pages with feedback.
Mute all students: There’s a time for conversation, and there’s a time for focus. You can now pause students from posting in the conversation tab.
Join codes: Create a simple code for members to join your Class, PLC, or Staff team. This makes it easy for many people to join your team all at once. Display the code in ‘projector mode’ so that everyone in the classroom can see it and join the team.
Reusing a team as a template: Teachers can reuse an existing team as a template when creating a new team, then customize what they want to copy over: channels, team setting, apps, and even users.
Archive teams: Safely store your Class, PLC, or Staff team content in read-only mode. Easily reference archived teams while you are setting up your Teams experience for the next school year.
Available now: Mute all students and reusing a team as a template are available worldwide today.
Coming soon: Rubrics grading, Forms in Assignments, archive teams, join codes, and page locking in OneNote assignments will begin rolling out to worldwide production in the coming weeks.
Get the most out of Teams with free teacher training materials
With a dedicated group of teachers to lead us, we created teacher- and classroom-ready training packages for Teams. Aiming to support the hard work that educators already bring to the classroom, we designed our Teams training to fill in the gaps: providing both comprehensive teacher training and real classroom applications.
Microsoft Education will be atISTEJune 24th-27 in Chicago, and we’re incredibly excited to showcase these new experiences and more! If you’re attending ISTE, come to our sessions on mastering the basics, rubrics grading, and designing teacher PD with Teams. Also, come find us at Hack the Classroom and get hands on experience with Teams.
Did you know that you can use Teams for free? Teachers and students with an education e-mail address can get a free online version of Office 365 Education, which includes Teams!
This July, Microsoft will host bright student developer teams from across the world for the 16th annual Imagine Cup. Teams will travel to Redmond, Washington to showcase their technical innovations and compete for up to $100,000 USD, as well as a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. We are excited to announce the dates for the 2018 Imagine Cup World Finals!
Follow the action to learn more about the competing teams and tune in to see which teams will be announced as World Finalists!
July 23, 2018
The Imagine Cup World Finals kick-off at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington! The day starts with a Tech Showcase, where teams will pitch to multiple judges and the top-rated teams will move on to the next round. Imagine Cup Awards finalists in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Mixed Reality are chosen to vie for $15,000 USD.
July 24, 2018
The top 15 teams are announced and will move forward as Imagine Cup semifinalists. There is good news for all other teams – they will get a second shot in the wildcard round! The students vote which wildcard teams will be saved and have the opportunity to join the semifinals. Semifinalists present their projects to the judges, and the final 3 teams are chosen to compete in the World Championships.
July 25, 2018
Imagine Cup World Championships – Streamed Live! Tune in at 9:00am PST to watch the top 3 teams pitch to the judges, coming to you live from the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. Who will win it all?
Save the date for the Imagine Cup World Finals to see who will win $100,000 and the glory of being the Imagine Cup champions!
As analytics teams look to make it easier for business users to analyze and visualize data on their own, more BI vendors are adding visual data analysis capabilities designed to meet those needs — and new software releases from GoodData and Periscope Data provide fresh evidence.
A week earlier, Periscope Data also rolled out new features that let business users analyze curated data sets in its data modeling and analytics platform. Instead of looking at static charts and dashboards, users can now tap a visual query editor with a drag-and-drop interface to create their own data visualizations without having to do any SQL coding.
Visual data analysis has been a trending topic for years, with self-service BI tools like Tableau, Qlik Sense and Microsoft’s Power BI setting the pace. Gartner again listed interactive visual exploration as one of the core capabilities of modern BI and analytics platforms in its 2018 Magic Quadrant report on them, published in February. However, making the use of BI software in business operations more pervasive — and more user-driven — remains a challenge in many organizations.
Room to grow on visual data exploration
For example, Fivestars, which runs a customer loyalty program for local businesses, has 10 Tableau users — but they’re data analysts who do “heavy-lifting analytics” with the software, said Matt Curl, the San Francisco company’s vice president of business operations. Periscope Data’s platform offered less of a learning curve for business users as a data visualization and dashboard tool, Curl said. On the other hand, end-user data exploration in it has largely been limited to people with SQL skills, he added.
Curl, who manages data infrastructure and analytics at Fivestars, said he sees “a lot of upside potential” for using Periscope’s new capabilities to expand visual data discovery and analysis by end users. As a trial, he built a table that holds data on the use of the Fivestars program by ZIP code; business managers can drag and drop the different data elements they want to examine into a chart template.
That gives the end users more control over the analytics process than they get in a set of dashboards Curl’s team built to track key business metrics and company initiatives. “It lets them look at what they want to look at when they want to look at it,” without having to call the data analysts for help or deal with “a wall of text in SQL,” he said.
Fivestars runs the Periscope Data platform on top of a repository from Treasure Data that pulls together data from 20 or so source systems for analysis. Curl is still assessing the new visual data analysis technology, but he expects to use it in real applications at the company, which is formally known as Five Stars Loyalty Inc. “The early signals are that people like it,” he said.
Periscope Data CEO Harry Glaser said the new features are meant to give business users “a sort of mini-Tableau” to explore data sets curated for them by data management and analytics teams. From a competitive standpoint, he added, they’re aimed at putting the San Francisco-based vendor on an equal footing for end-user analysis and visualization with Looker Data Sciences, its closest rival.
Not just a job for data scientists
GoodData, also based in San Francisco, hopes Spectrum’s UI design features will grease the skids for broader use of its software by business managers and workers who aren’t particularly data savvy. “Not everyone is cut out to be a data scientist, or even a citizen data scientist,” CEO Roman Stanek said.
Those are precisely the kinds of users Zalando SE wants to reach with an analytics service that the Berlin-based online retailer is testing with about 185 product companies. Zalando, which sells shoes, clothing and beauty products in 15 European countries, has embedded GoodData’s software into the Consumer Insights service’s web portal to visualize data on sales and customer buying behavior for brand managers, marketers and other outside users.
“We want to represent data in a way that isn’t complicated and seems a little fun,” Alton said. For example, that might mean “calling out one number they’re interested in, instead of listing 150,” he added. Doing so could also help Zalando justify the cost of the analytics service, which will be offered in two versions: a free one that tracks a few basic KPIs, and a paid one with a much broader set of metrics.