What's next for Teams, Microsoft's 'fastest growing business app' in company history

Microsoft is building more industry-specific and role-based features into Teams, as well as adding more meeting capabilities and AI-powered options to the anchor of its Office 365 suite.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft Teams, Microsoft's group-chat competitor to Slack and poster-app for Office 365, is getting its time in the sun at the Ignite IT pro conference this week. Microsoft officials said Teams is the fastest growing business app in Microsoft history. Officials said that after less than two years in market, Teams is now used by more than 329,000 organizations worldwide -- up from 200,000 in May 2018.

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According to Microsoft, 87 of the Fortune 100 are now using Teams in some way and 54 customers currently have more than 10,000 users of Teams inside their companies.

To keep Teams growing, in addition to recently announcing a free edition of Teams, Microsoft has been adding new capabilities and first- and third-party integrations at a rapid rate. At Ignite today, September 24, Microsoft officials talked up some of the coming industry-specific and/or role-based workflows which will be coming to Teams.

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One example is the availability of schedule-management features for firstline workers. This functionality is currently supplied via Microsoft's StaffHub application, which officials told me will be retired as of October 1, 2019, paving the way for inclusion of these same capabilities directly in Teams. Schedule management in Teams will enable managers to create and share staff schedules, and employees to swap shifts, request time off and more.

Credit: Microsoft

"New experiences for Firstline workers will roll out to Teams over time. With this expanded feature set, Teams is the hub for teamwork for all workers," a spokesperson said.

In another example of industry-specific functionality coming to Teams, Microsoft is making available a patient-care coordination offering which integrates with electronic health records and provides secure messaging, image annotation and more. Microsoft is rolling this out to all Teams users, even though it is mostly relevant in healthcare, where healthcare professionals face risks in terms of staying HIPAA-compliant when they use consumer chat apps. This healthcare solution is now in private preview.

In other Office 365 news Microsoft is announcing this week at Ignite, background blur and meeting recording, two previously announced Teams features, are generally available as of this week. Background blur uses facial detection to blur backgrounds during video meetings. Meeting recording lets users play back recorded meeting content at any times with captions and a searchable, time-coded transcript.

Microsoft is also touting what officials are calling a new feature of Office called "Ideas." Ideas is a collection of features across the Office client apps which will offer proactive suggestions. Some existing features, like Designer and Morph in PowerPoint; formatting and grammar suggestions in Word; and searching for insights and outliers in Excel will become part of Ideas.

MORE FROM IGNITE: Microsoft tries again to win developers with new Cortana Enterprise Skills Kit | Microsoft staggers rollout of Surface Hub 2 | Microsoft to unify search across Windows 10, Office 365 and Bing with Microsoft Search | Microsoft readies previews of Azure Digital Twins, Azure Sphere secure-edge service

The goal of Ideas is to help users find these suggestive features quicker and more easily by providing them with a common UI and method of discovery. More features under the Ideas heading are in the works, officials said.

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Microsoft is also making available in public preview this week for Mac Office Insiders the OneDrive Files on Demand feature for the Mac. (Files on Demand is the replacement for the old Placeholders feature.) For Mac users, OneDrive Files On-Demand will display all their OneDrive files in Finder but only download them once a user needs them.

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