585 – Heading to Viva

clip_image002Back in the mid/late 20th century, the mainstream car market in developed countries was quite localized, where certain brands were seen as the default. Italians drove Fiats and Lancias; even until fairly recently, pretty much all you’d see in French towns were Citroëns and Renaults. The biggest blue-collar rivalry for Brits, Aussies and many Americans was undoubtedly… are you a Ford family, or a GM family?

In the UK’s 1970s, Ford had the Fiesta (small), Escort (mid), Cortina (large), Capri (sporty) and Granada (executive). GM operated in mainland Europe as Opel (Kadett/Rekord/Monza/Senator etc) and in the UK, as Vauxhall (Chevette/Cavalier/Carlton etc). Brits of a certain age may fondly? remember the Escort-sized, everyman family car: the Vauxhall Viva. The announcement of the employee wellbeing platform, Microsoft Viva thus brought a misty-eyed moment of reflection for some…

clip_image004Since the unveiling in February 2021, Viva functionality has been gradually added to a variety of Office 365 experiences from Topics (based on what was called Project Cortex), Learning (highlighting online learning materials from a selection of company-curated sources, including stuff from LinkedIn Learning), Connections (a modern take on the company intranet) and the first module which was available, Insights, which is accessed via an app in Teams.

The Insights-defined “Virtual Commute” and calendar-blocking Focus Time has been mentioned previously in ToW #577, but it’s had a new shot in the arm as well as announcements about forthcoming improvements, such as the ability for Teams to quieten notifications when you’re in a focus period, and quiet time when Teams and Outlook will shush pinging you outside of working hours.

Now rolling out to Viva Insights is a set of mindfulness and meditation exercises curated from Headspace, who produce a load of online video as well as Netflix series and in-flight channels. See more about Headspace in Viva Insights, here.

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577 – Wir Fahren auf der Autobahn (virtuell)

clip_image002Fans of the fathers of elektronische music will get the reference to the seminal track Autobahn, written to mimic the repetitive noises of driving along the motorway. Since most of us have not being doing much of that for a while (and nobody misses being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 on a Friday evening), a new addition to Microsoft Teams from the previously announced Microsoft Viva could be a welcome distraction.

clip_image004Start by looking for the “…” menu on the left-side icons bar in the Teams client, and you’ll see additional apps that can be added to the menu (and once there, you can right-click on them to pin in place); a previous update to Teams lets you drag the icons’ placement to your own preference too.

You can jump between the apps in Teams by pressing CTRL+n, where n is the corresponding location on the bar (ie CTRL+1 for the top app, CTRL+2 for next down etc).

Open the Insights app to see the first-released Viva application, which has also been recently updated.

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Viva Insights lets you send praise to colleagues, do some quick & mindful breathing exercises, check on actions you may have mentioned in email (eg “I’ll get back to you on Monday…”) and block out time that’s currently free in your schedule to give you a chance to focus on work you’re supposed to do, rather than meeting with people to talk about it.

Newly added, is the Virtual Commute – go to the Protect Time tab, or look in the top-right settings menu “…”, to set up the time to finish your work day.

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You can now have Teams remind you that it’s time to go home, even if you’re home already.

Jared Spataro wrote recently about the need to give yourself breaks between meetings and to transition from “work” to “home” modes.

If you’d like to jazz up your Teams background image rather than showing your real backdrop, check out the Viva backgrounds now available in the custom backgrounds gallery for Microsoft Teams.

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576 – Presenter guidance

clip_image002Remember when presenting to a room full of people was a thing? At some point, we may get back to needing to do that, but in the meantime we’re probably presenting to smaller groups of people using Teams or some other form of video meeting.

It’s still worth tailoring your presentation style, especially so when you can’t necessarily see the audience – that guy who’d be dozing off in the front row of the presentation room? He’s now doing that on mute and with camera switched off. Creating compelling content is another huge topic which is even more important than the means by which you present it.

clip_image004Firstly, when it’s time to present your slides in a Team meeting, please don’t just share your screen. Most of the time, the PowerPoint sharing experience that is built into Teams is good enough.

If you have a specific reason to share the screen or app then please at least “Present” in PowerPoint, since simply showing a PPT window is a massive waste of screen real estate and your attendees won’t be able to read it.

clip_image006If you’re wary of presenting in a multiple-monitor setup (in case your slides end up on the screen you’re not sharing, and the non-existent speaker notes gets displayed to the meeting attendees), then go into Set Up Show on the Slide Show tab in PowerPoint and choose which monitor you want the slide presentation to appear on (and share that one in Teams). Worst case, just disable Presenter View in that same dialog, and then PowerPoint will only use one monitor.

The simplest way to present slides on Teams is to use the clip_image008PowerPoint Live feature from within the Share icon – it will show you a list of recently opened PowerPoint decks, or let you browse your machine for one if it’s not visible.

This view will let you share content in a more efficient manner, and also gives the option of letting other presenters easily manage the transition from slide-to-slide, rather than having to rely on trying to take control of the presenter’s PC in order to advance them, and avoiding the “Next Slide Please” request. Attendees can privately move around your deck if you allow it.

You can also start the sharing from within PowerPoint, as long as the source slide deck is saved to OneDrive or Sharepoint, as the content is rendered as a web view. Go to the Slide Show tab clip_image010and you’ll see a Present in Teams icon; click on that when you’re in a meeting, and it will automate the whole sharing process to start presenting your current slide deck.

Assuming you’ve managed to create slides which are not a mess and are comfortable about how you’re going to present them, the next step might be to polish your own performance.

You could use Rehearse Timings to do a dry run of your presentation, and it will record the time it takes to cover each slide (and will also save that timing so clip_image012you could auto-matically advance the slides during a future presentation).

If you’d like an unbiased assessment of your presentation style, try out the new Rehearse with Coach feature – as well as getting some real-time tips during the rehearsal, you’ll get a report when completed, praising for a job well done or admonishing you for speaking too fast, just reading the slides out loud, using, errm, non-inclusive language etc – all of which might be used to help improve your delivery for the next time.

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Have a play with the Presenter Coach – presuming it’s an automated service rather than a real human listening in, it’s fun to try and see how the recommendations given – see how many profanities you can get it to recognise?

574 – Teams Times Countdown

As many of us have spent the last year meeting people through Teams instead of in person, our methods and behaviours may have altered. Most people stopped getting dressed up as if they were going to work, though some found that after months of wearing jogging pants and hoodies, actually getting smartened up helped them get into “Work Mode”. There’s even the idea of having a virtual commute to separate work life from home life.

clip_image002To avoid back-to-back meetings all the time, some organizations mandate that meetings start at 5 or 10 minutes past the hour. A quick way to achieve this goal is to use the option in Outlook to either start late or finish early, maybe adopting the idea of a 22-minute meeting in place of a default half hour.

clip_image004One of the many small but neat features that has been added to Teams during its unprecedented rise in use over the last year, is the 5-minute warning. Maybe the next improvement could be a countdown timer for the last 2 minutes, and the meeting organizer have the option to boot everyone out at the allotted end time, so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind about when to shut up and close the meeting down.

clip_image006If you’re running a meeting, you could manually start a countdown – rather than using the iconic sequence from the popular British tea-time quiz or the puppetry launch, try showing a timer from the built-in Windows Alarms & Clock application, as featured previously.

clip_image008When you create a Timer, give it a name and the starting point of the countdown, and when you set the timer running, it will show the time left, the end time, and it will also display a moving indicator to illustrate the remaining duration.

Clicking the double-arrow on the top right will make the timer fill the whole Alarms & Clock app, and you could even make that app full screen if need be.

It’s possible to have multiple timers running simultaneously – you could set one for the duration of the meeting, then line up timers for each point on the agenda, though you do need to start them manually.

clip_image010If you wanted to be particularly passive aggressive, you could share the application within the Teams meeting (rather than sharing your whole desktop, just share that single window), then every attendee would see it in place of any other shared content – which could be useful in helping to close things down.

A more gentle use of this technique would be if you’re going to allow attendees a couple of minutes to join before getting started – so you’d start and share the timer and then people will know that it’ll get underway at 2 minutes past the hour. If you’re hosting a long meeting with breaks scheduled, the same could be used to indicate when proceedings are going to resume.

567 – Power Teams Apps

clip_image002The Power Platform – an umbrella term that encompasses a load of technology most often associated with business applications like Microsoft Dynamics – has some capabilities that are being increasingly surfaced to more end users, and which could see new ways of interacting with data and functionality that have traditionally been siloed in monolithic back-end applications.

The artist formerly known as Common Data Service was given a jazzy new name at Inspire 2020, before a sudden realisation that somebody else already owned that trademark, whereupon it was swiftly rebranded Dataverse. In essence, this makes it easy to provide access to a centralised, well-managed, secure data store for pretty much any kind of data, accessible to pretty much any type of app.

If you used Power Apps and Dataverse to build line-of-business applications, accessible via browser or mobile clients, there are licensing requirements you’d need to fulfil – but if you want to make a more simplified application that uses Teams as its front-end, then you could use Dataverse for Teams (briefly known as Project Oakdale, using Power Apps under the covers). Licensing for Dataverse for Teams is included in many Microsoft 365 subscriptions – for more details on licensing and what some of the limitations of its use are compared to a full-blown Dataverse environment, see here.

clip_image004As discussed in last week’s ToW, there is already a Viva Insights Teams app available and there will be more coming soon – in fact, there’s a dogfood Viva Connections app already, which shows the MSW homepage within Teams, under the app name “Microsoft”. If you’re in the “Microsoft” app and click again on its logo, a shortcut menu of supposedly commonly-accessed information services appears.

Thankfully, when you need to perform your weekly check on which policies have been updated – or which ones you may have breached this time – they’re only a couple of clicks away.

clip_image006There are hundreds of apps written for Teams – you can browse and search within the Teams client, or take a look on AppSource from a browser.

clip_image008It’s also possible to pin your favourite apps to the Teams sidebar, either by opening from the Apps function and then right-click the icon when it shows underneath the others on your side bar, or by simply dragging the icon to be higher on the bar – the assumption being that if you want to move that icon up the list, you’re probably looking to Pin it for the future.

clip_image010There are a couple of new “template” apps that have been released by Microsoft, using Dataverse for Teams, and customisable using the simplified Power Apps editor within.

The Bulletin and Milestones apps are available now.

566 – Who’s Better, Who’s Best?

clip_image002A little over 10 years ago, a then-Microsoftie called Philip Su rolled up his sleeves and wrote a website that helped him – and others – to traverse the corporate organisational structure; over time, other people and teams added functionality and even depended on the service, to the extent that it was eventually picked up by the IT function and supported as a corporate tool.

“Dr Whom (sic) showed profile pictures of people along with reporting hierarchy and other contact info gleaned from the corporate directory, alongside self-provided stuff like what projects you were working on or what interests you.

There are plenty of other ways to look at corporate structure and profile information, assuming they’re correctly defined in the directory – there’s the /who app in Teams, for example, as featured in ToW #487, and there’s also a quick way of looking at someone’s Org chart by entering /org in the search bar on Teams – the quick way being to press CTRL+E to jump to the Search bar, then type /org [TAB] name (or enough of the name to have your target showing at the top of the list) then [ENTER] to jump straight to the Organisation tab of their contact.

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You can find the same information in desktop Outlook by opening someone’s contact or profile card, or in the Microsoft 365 “People” web app. Outlook & People bring together both a corporate directory and your own personal contacts list. Did you know, incidentally, that the silhouette shown in Outlook 2010 for a new contact (if you didn’t provide a photo) was based on an infamous photo of a well-known business leader?

But inside MS now, Dr Whom has been succeeded by Who+ (accessible to FTEs), which brings much tighter connections with LinkedIn, giving more of an emphasis to discoverability for networking internally, finding new career options and the like.

One question not listed in the Who+ FAQ is, “Will Who+ be available to customers?” – and the answer is: no, not yet – it’s just a Microsoft internal tool for now.

One reason may be the recent announcement of Microsoft Viva – an employee experience platform, which appears to be an amalgam of existing Microsoft 365 services (Teams, SharePoint, Yammer…) with LinkedIn, and a load of forthcoming new functionality plus 3rd-party services and tools.

Back in September, it was announced that Microsoft was working to try to help employee burnout during the pandemic, and partnering with mindfulness experts Headspace was one example bringing in external content. Satya talked with Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe during the Ignite 2020 keynote.

Most of the Viva platform is still in development, but some applications – like Insights – are being repackaged as part of the initiative.

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Check out the Viva Insights app which should already be visible in Teams – click the Apps icon in the clip_image010Teams bar on the lower left, and search for Insights to add it. Insights helps to surface things from your email, and also identifies time that you could protect as Focus Time – so you don’t get interrupted.

Thinking about naming, make sure you don’t confuse Viva with the 1970s saloon from Luton (as El Reg pointed out) or its revived but short-lived modern snooze-box cousin. Or with paper Mexican donkeys. Or that song by the well-known crooner. Just visit http://aka.ms/viva to find out more.

564 – Do Mention It

clip_image001One of the features in Office apps that has come to the fore in recent years is the concept of @mentions – something that started in the early days of Twitter. The use of the @ before someone’s name lets you quickly tag them to a piece of content, and in some cases gives them a proactive notification that you’re trying to reach them.

clip_image002Exactly how the notification occurs differs slightly depending on the medium – in Yammer, for example, starting to type someone’s name after an @ sign will give you a picker to choose which person you might want to tag; pressing TAB will accept the name at the top of the list, and cc: that person to the specific post you’re making, so they’ll be notified in Yammer and possibly by email too. If you know someone’s alias then you can quickly type @aliasTAB to tag and accept them. You can also use mentions in comments within Office documents.

The same behaviour is commonly available in Teams as well, though it may be more limited as to who you can mention – in the chat for a meeting or in a Teams channel, you’ll typically only be able to @mention the people who are taking part or who are already members of the team. Like other uses of the @mention idiom, tagging someone will insert their full Display Name, as defined in the Microsoft 365 environment (or the address book if you like) – which can make mentioning people in a chat feel a little directorial or formal, especially if the format of their display name is something like FamilyName, GivenName (DEPARTMENT).

In most uses of the mention, you can edit the full name of the person, though it’s not quite consistent how to do it – in Teams, for example, merely pressing backspace (after the display name has been resolved) will remove the last word … so if you want to tag a colleague and their display name is Jane Doh, then a quick tap will reduce that to simply Jane. If they were Doh, Jane (IT) then it’s a little more complex to lose the formality – holding CTRL+SHIFT while pressing the left arrow will select a word at a time, so you could ditch the last part of the name then simply CTRL+Left arrow would skip the middle part, then CTRL+SHIFT+Left arrow/Delete will remove the first part again.

Lesser platforms might allow a user to set a nickname that is used in place of their display name; that’s not (yet) an option in Teams etc, though in Outlook when you mention someone, you could insert a nickname in-between other names then remove the original ones, leaving only the short name you’ve added, but still hot-linked to their contact card etc. It’s a bit clumsy but might be preferable to calling them by their more formal name.

clip_image003Entering a mention in Outlook also invokes the person by adding them to the To: line of the message and will show up in their default inbox view, indicating mails which mention them specifically.

clip_image004You can’t sort by that special field, but you can filter the inbox to only show you the mails where you are being called out. Handy when people have a habit of assigning you tasks in an email, assuming that you’ll read it…

Just click the sort/filter option found to the top right of your Inbox or other folder, and choose Mentioned Mail to show only messages where you are mentioned.

As with all such features, it works for some people and work cultures/environments better than others. For some external best practice guidance, see here or here.

559 – Teams steams ahead

clip_image002In the same week that Salesforce announced its intent to splurge a load of cash on buying Slack, Microsoft’s Teams team put out a lengthy  blog post outlining a load of new and updated features that are clip_image003shortly coming to the Teams user experience. Some have been talked about before and are now already available or will roll out soon (you can always prod Teams to check for updates by clicking on your profile icon in the top right and choosing Check for updates – any available updates should be downloaded and installed in the background).

clip_image005One new feature is a supposedly AI-powered (isn’t everything that’s vaguely smart these days?) noise suppression feature – useful if you’re on Teams calls and have to share your environment with noisy people/animals etc. Configure your own noise suppression settings within the Devices options, by clicking on Settings under your profile at the top right.

There are numerous new calling features coming, which will help in managing real (PSTN) phone calls and VoIP calls, as well as a clip_image007load of new partner devices that can be plugged into your PC to give you a phone on your desk, if you like that sort of thing.

Read more about the new devices here.

There are also some useful updates to bring other applications into Teams meetings, like allowing you to set up Polls in advance (using Microsoft Forms, configured within the Teams app with an easy-to-use wizard), and using Power Apps and other elements of the Power Platform, it’s never been easier to roll your own apps for including in Teams.

There’s a $45K prize fund available for the best apps that are built and submitted by February 2021, so if you have ideas, better get cracking…

548 – A-List listings

clip_image002Updates flow to Microsoft 365 on a regular basis – there’s a published list of all the minor and major changes that are launched and on their way. As well as improving the current user experience and adding new features, occasionally whole new offerings are added – such as Microsoft Lists, which first made an appearance in July.

Lists gives an easy way of creating, sharing and managing lists of custom clip_image004information within a team – tracking issues, recording assets, anything in fact, that might have used a shared spreadsheet to do it in a low-tech way. Lists was announced to provide a modern-looking, consistent way of managing lists through a variety of front-ends – including mobile apps, to come later this year.

You should be able to see Lists from the menu on Office 365 web apps – start clip_image006at www.office.com and sign in with a business Office/Microsoft 365 login and the new icon will give you access to Lists – get started here.

Just like sharing forms or doing task management, there are often numerous ways to do the same thing – and in days of yore, that would have meant several competing and incompatible technologies, encouraged to fight it out with each other to try to ensure that the best one wins. Nowadays, with a more collegiate mindset, consistent ways of doing things show up in different user experiences – like To-Do and Outlook, StickyNotes and more. Expect deeper integration across other apps in due course

The new Lists experience is essentially just a great UI built on top of a mature back-end; SharePoint Lists, which have evolved over the last 10+ years, allowing the definition of custom columns and rules to validate data entry.

One new frontier is to integrate the new Lists UI into Teams; if you have ability to administer a Team, clip_image008you will see an “add a tab” function alongside the Posts / Files etc tabs that are typically presented.

clip_image010Adding a List tab will then walk you through a process to either choose an existing List (by entering the URL of the SharePoint site that hosts it) or by creating one by importing a spreadsheet, starting from a number of templates or by defining it from scratch

Have a play with Lists and think about how your team could use them in place of spreadsheets.

Microsofties: There’s an internal story about how Lists came about, and looking forward to where it’s likely to go in the future.

Check out Paul Thurrott’s excellent introduction to Lists. And there’s even a Lists Look Book.

547 – I Stream a stream

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Popular subscriptions services which deliver on-demand content, rather than recording or otherwise acquiring it in advance, are killing off CD and DVD sales. Every generation sees a new technology upset the old – the 1980s MTV video vs the 1970s “taping from the radio” for example.

Streaming technology has risen with the availability of high-speed, low-latency internet access, allowing users to play on-demand – rather than watch or listen at the time a broadcaster decides – and is wiping out the need to record live TV to watch later, maybe even obsoleting the concept of broadcast TV.

Perhaps the next vanguard is the gaming industry – as Microsoft and Sony get ready to launch next-generation consoles, buying a disc-based game to install and play will soon feel as old-hat as going to Blockbuster to rent a VHS for the night. Streaming games on-demand as part of a subscription service may be norm, rather than buying and owning a title outright. The console isn’t the only destination, though – streaming to mobiles is on the way.

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Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will soon be able to start using “Project xCloud(the code name, now simply known as “cloud gaming”) services, which basically run Xbox games in Azure, and stream the video & audio down to a mobile device, initially an Android phone or tablet, but also supporting Windows PCs in time. There was a plan to allow cloud gaming to work on iOS too, but that has been scuttled – Apple says no. Maybe something to do with the App Store revenue stream, though the company made some blah-blah about the store being all about a curated quality of applications. Of course it is.

Back in the workplace, streaming takes a different form, from virtualizing and delivering applications on-demand to running whole desktops somewhere else and displaying the output on a remote screen, not unlike the old mainframe/terminal model. And of course, there’s streaming of other types of media besides applications.

clip_image006Many users will first encounter Microsoft Stream, the secure enterprise video service, if they’re using Teams and see a meeting has been recorded – usually, when the organizer hits the button, a link to the recorded video will be dropped into the chat window of the meeting.

If you miss that, or weren’t at the meetinclip_image008g in the first place but want to catch up, try going to microsoftstream.com and search, either by the name of the meeting, or by looking under People for the  name of the organizer where you’ll see all of their content. If you’re recording a load of meetings yourself (like a training series, or a monthly team call) then it might be worth creating a channel and adding those recordings to make it easier for people to see related content.

Unfortunately, you won’t get paid millions of dollars and given tons of free stuff but you might get some sort of corporate kudos and recognition.

clip_image010Stream is ultimately replacing the earlier Office 365 Video service, though isn’t yet fully feature compatible: see a comparison of the two, here.

It’s not just for storing recordings of meetings in the hope that people who couldn’t be bothered to turn up the first time will somehow tune in to watch the re-run; you can create new content and upload that for your colleagues to view, too.

You could use the Record a Slide Show feature in PowerPoint, to make an (editable) recording of you giving a presentation and publishing it, or if you’re just looking to do something quick and easy (up to 15 minutes in duration), you can even kick off a screen-recording (with audio and video) from the Stream site directly.

clip_image012clip_image014When you publish your video to Stream, it’s worth making sure you’re making it visible – depending on how you’re set up, it may be limited. Go into My Content and look for the coloured icon showing the permissions. Click on the pencil icon to the left, to edit the video properties, including setting the permissions or adding it to a channel. For more about managing permissions on Stream, see here.

clip_image016One thing to note, is that if you have remote participants in a Teams meeting – customers, partners etc – then they won’t be able to see the recording you make; the Stream service is limited to your own organization, as defined by the Azure Active Directory that’s used to authenticate you. If you need to be able to share the video with others (making sure you’re not breaking any rules, obvs), then you may be able to download just an MP4 video file – none of the other metadata, captions, transcriptions etc that you get with Stream, it’ll just be the main video – and at least make that available separately.

Maybe record it to a VHS tape and post it to them?