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What’s New In Microsoft 365 (Feb 2021)

After skipping our January post, we are back in action…welcome to 2021 all.  It is an exciting and busy holiday season for our team as Interactive Business Systems was acquired by The Planet Group and we are now part of the Planet Technology team.  We are truly looking forward to growing with the Planet Technology team.

Back to the business at hand…In this edition of What’s New we cover a few Teams announcements, a huge SharePoint enhancement (at least in our opinion) and a PowerPoint feature worth checking out.  That is right, we are covering a PowerPoint feature which is likely surprising to anyone that really knows our team as our disdain for PowerPoint is probably very visible.  However, this PowerPoint feature makes a ton of sense as it relates to a topic near and dear to my heart, coaching.

Audience Targeting Capability for Quick Links Web Part Rolling Out

This one was announced in mid-December and we saw it in our Target release tenant in mid-January which usually means you can expect to see it in your tenants within a month or so.  This may seem like a somewhat trivial feature however it is a big win for those of us charged with SharePoint Intranets and Knowledge Centers.

Even in our internal intranet this feature is welcome.  There are only a handful of folks within our group that care about our Opportunities but those that do look at them frequently so there is a link to them in our Quick Links. I have now an audience applied to the link so only those on my team involved in the technical sales process see it.  While this may seem trivial it takes away unnecessary clutter and enables targeted content. In our specific use case, it was just the one link but in some of our customers it can be hundreds, if not thousands.  Please remember that audiences are Microsoft 365 Groups and AD Security Groups…SharePoint Groups do not cut it.

MC230714, Stay informed, Published date: Dec 18, 2020

We are adding the ability to target specific audiences per link within the Quick Links Web Part. With it, you will be able to target specific links to different audiences, helping you provide more personalized experiences on SharePoint pages.

This message is associated with Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID 67115

When this will happen

We plan to begin rolling this feature out in January 2021.  We expect rollout to be complete by February 2021.

How this will affect your organization

An additional capability to the existing Quick Link web part will be added. Content authors can enable audience targeting on the web part, and then target each link to individual groups.

What you need to do to prepare

The feature is disabled on the web part by default, so nothing is required to prepare for its availability. If you intend on using this feature, you may wish to ensure that you have AD groups or Microsoft 365 groups ready to use.

Additional documentation:

Additional information

Introducing Approvals in Microsoft Teams

An integrated Approval process is coming to MS Teams in mid-January 2021.  This will enable Teams users who have a valid license to create and review Approval Requests directly from the MS Teams client.

This is a welcome addition to the growing Microsoft Teams toolkit.  Approval/review requests are a common use case and have previously been managed in other MS 365 tools such as Power Automate.  The integration of the Approval tools into MS Teams makes them available to end users who are less familiar with the entire MS 365 suite.

New Approval requests can be easily created in any chat instance in the Teams client.  Approvals can have attached documents, as well as customized notifications and responses.

While this feature will allow more users to access an approvals functionality, it presents a potential conflict with existing organizational policies and approval flows.  If end users are easily able to create their own approval flows in Teams, existing internal approval processes may be unintentionally subverted.  Organizations with existing approval workflows will need to decide to what degree they wish to leverage the new functionality and modify their internal processes and permissions accordingly.

MC231205, Stay informed, Published date: Dec 22, 2020

Approvals in Microsoft Teams is a way to streamline requests and processes with a team or partners. Users will be able to create new approvals, view pending approvals, and see previous ones in one place.

Users with an F3 license or above are able to take advantage of the Approvals app within Teams (license list below). If you do not have users that meet that requirement, you may safely ignore this message.

Key points

  • Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID 68724
  • Timing: mid-January 2021
  • Roll-out: tenant level
  • Control type: user control and admin control
  • Action: review and assess by January 12, 2021

How this will affect your organization

Approvals is a native Teams application that lets users easily create, manage, and share approvals from a hub for teamwork. These approvals are triggered directly with the Power Automate infrastructure and do not require a flow with an approvals action.

Users can view all their approvals in the hub, including the approvals that have been completed. Approvals show up across all of a user’s Microsoft 365 systems, including Power Automate, SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

What you need to do to prepare

The Approvals app is on by default if your tenant has enabled Power Automate.

Manage the Approvals app in the Teams Admin Center within the app page, including customizing which users are able to access the app via permission policies. Currently, all the approvals are created in your organization’s default environment.

Users with these licenses are able to take advantage of the Approvals App within Teams:

  • Microsoft 365 A1, Office 365 A1
  • Microsoft 365 A3, Office 365 A3
  • Microsoft 365 A5, Office 365 A5
  • Microsoft 365 E3, Office 365 E3
  • Microsoft 365 E5, Office 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365 F3, Office 365 F3
  • Office 365 E1
  • Office 365 E2
  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Learn more

New Teams Meeting Lobby Setting (Only Invited Users Join Directly)

After an expected rollout in February 2021, Teams meeting organizers will have more control over who is able to bypass the lobby in Microsoft Teams meetings.  Once enabled, users who are invited via the calendar will be able to join meeting calls directly, without having to wait for admittance to the lobby.

Meeting organizers who use the admittance and lobby functionality for meetings often will be able to streamline their management processes, but most end users will not be aware of this change.

MC233466, Stay informed, Published date: Jan 9, 2021

Teams meeting organizers can have greater control over their meetings by enabling a new lobby setting where only Calendar meeting invited users will be able to join directly.

This message is associated with Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID 68730.

When this will happen

  • For Production and GCC environments: roll out will start in early February and will be complete by mid-February.

How this will affect your organization

Meeting organizers will be able to ensure that only Calendar meeting invited users can bypass the lobby after they schedule a new meeting. They do this by changing the meeting option Who can bypass the lobby to People I invite. Anyone else with the meeting invitation will be sent to the lobby.

What you need to do to prepare

You might consider updating your user documentation and training materials.

Microsoft Teams Connector Apps Webhook URL Security Improvement

To enhance security, the Teams webhook URL format is changing on January 11, 2021.

With the changes to the connectors and webhooks you may notice that the name of the tenant now appears in the URL.  This allows developers and site administrators, who may switch contexts often, another way to verify connector webhooks are synced to the correct endpoint.

As stated in Microsoft’s admin center message below, old URLs will continue to work for up to 3 months (starting from 1/11/2021).  Organizations which leverage webhooks and connectors will be prompted to update their URLs in the Teams connectors app.

Whenever endpoints, like URLs, require update, there is the possibility that some connections are overlooked.  If your organization uses URL connectors, be sure to update them accordingly.

MC234048, Stay informed, Published date: Jan 12, 2021

Connectors support in Microsoft Teams is transitioning to a new webhook URL format to enhance security. In the future, connector webhook URLs will contain the name of the tenant in them.

Old URLs continue to work for now, but users will be prompted to re-create connectors.

When this will happen

We will begin transitioning to the new webhook URLs on Monday January 11, 2021; however, existing webhooks URLs will continue to work for three (3) months to allow for migration time.

What this means for your organization

We’re transitioning to a new webhook URL format where is friendly short name for the tenant. Your organization can use to filter egress traffic”.

Users with a Teams connector app will see a prompt to migrate to the new webhook URL configuration on the Connectors configuration page.

Users who have configured connectors will need to undertake one of the following actions, depending on the type of connector:

  • Recreate the connection by removing and then re-configuring the connector
  • For incoming webhooks, first tap the Update URL button. Then copy-paste the new URL to the third party source that is consuming the URL.
  • After the new URL is generated, the “Update URL” button will disappear, and user will see a message stating that the URL is up-to-date.

What you need to do to prepare

You might want to notify your users about this update and update your training and documentation as appropriate.

Rehearse Your Slide Show with Presenter Coach

PowerPoint for the web, along with its associated iOS and Android companion apps, is adding an automated rehearsal coach for slideshow presentations.  As of January 28, 2021, the ‘Research with Coach’ tool is fully implemented in the Slide Show menu tab of PowerPoint for web.

The Presenter Coach will offer the presenter real time feedback on their presentation style by various measures.  According to Microsoft’s official release documentation:

“Presenter Coach helps you prepare in private to give more effective presentations.

Presenter Coach evaluates your pacing, pitch, your use of filler words, informal speech, euphemisms, and culturally sensitive terms, and it detects when you’re being overly wordy or are simply reading the text on a slide.

After each rehearsal, you get a report that includes statistics and suggestions for improvements”

The Presenter Coach is easily accessible and offers interesting and well displayed feedback that could be very helpful for presenters and speakers.  However, public speech and presentation are complex and dynamic social engagements, so the Presenter Coach may be more or less useful to you based upon your cultural context and personal prestation style. You can read more about the Presenter Coach and the Rehearse with Coach functionality in PowerPoint for the web in Microsoft’s official documentation.

As always, there are a lot of things happening in Microsoft 365, so be sure to check out the Tech Community Blogs and the Microsoft 365 Roadmap for more of what’s new.