Microsoft Ignite Nov 2021 Keynote | What you need to know for your digital workspace

We don’t know about you, but we’re feeling a bit ‘Loop’y after the information overload that was the Microsoft Ignite November 2021 edition opening keynotes. In particular, Satya Nadella and Jared Spataro’s keynotes were filled with exciting demonstrations and visionary language, but what does it all mean for your digital workspace? Here’s what we think you need to know from what was announced and unveiled during today’s event.  
 
If you’re looking for an overview of all of the major announcements at this Ignite, we suggest checking out the Book of News.

Microsoft Loop

What is it? 

Microsoft Loop is a new app and components that appears to include a rebranding and reimagining of the Microsoft Fluid Components. Loop features include Components, Pages, and Workspaces.  

  • Loop components are stand-alone productivity widgets that are added within the direct flow of your digital workspace, for example, pulled into Teams, or SharePoint, or Word. Think lists, notes, Dynamics data, 3rd party app data, etc., directly within your general digital life. 
  • Loop pages are canvases that allow you to pull components, content, files, links, and data for projects together. These flexible units can start as small as you might need, yet can grow as large as necessary. 
  • Loop workspaces bring it all together in a shared space where people can collaborate and track progress together.
     

Microsoft Loop is an intriguing addition to our digital workspaces. I look forward to watching Loop mature out of its infancy into a productivity canvas over the coming months, with deep integrations into Teams and the rest of M365.” – Eric Overfield, PixelMill President & Co-Founder  

What’s hot: 
We’re encouraged by the promise of integrations and cohesiveness that Microsoft Loop promises to enable. The flexibility that the Loop components may provide could greatly help eliminate frustrating context switching.  

What’s not so hot: 
While many of us here at PixelMill were impressed with the slick UI they showcased, we’re not keen on the idea of yet another app. Our main concern with a new application is the potential for content silos and tool duplication. For example, Microsoft Loop appears to have capabilities for voting (don’t we already have polls in Teams?) and Status Trackers (Isn’t this what Planner is for?). Users are already dealing with analysis paralysis, and we fear that this further complicates the question of ‘what tool to use when.’ Our request to Microsoft is to integrate Loop directly into Teams, allowing for one continued primary window pane to our digital workspace. 

Context IQ

One of Loop’s pillars, Loop Components, uses Microsoft’s new Context IQ to help predict and suggest personalized, relevant information to you in the flow of work. For example, I’m writing an email in Outlook, it will recommend attaching a document based on the context of the message, or the recipient. And for those content authors out there, Microsoft declares Microsoft Editor superpowered with Context IQ by predicting and suggesting related links and documents in the flow of work.


Microsoft Viva

All four modules presented back in February 2021 are now officially generally available! Further, Microsoft announced their acquisition of Ally.io—an OKR (objectives and key results) company—to power a new fifth module that will become generally available in the second half of 2022. This is, by far, one of the most exciting announcements that practically relates to the digital workspace.  


Microsoft is adding 
Ally.io as the 5th leg in the Viva ensemble to manage objectives and key results (OKR) at scale. In recognizing that this requires sophisticated processes that go beyond manual spreadsheet tracking, Microsoft is deploying a critical piece in the Viva offerings.  

We all know that goals should be a top priority and integrated with our daily work. OKR software like Ally.io makes it easy to accomplish by providing a focused environment where goals and results are structured and documented. 

Managing company hierarchy and supporting dependencies in team structures is key. Coordinating the alignment and multi-alignment of company goals and results with an integrated OKR tool is one of the best ways to build company culture, cut costs, and grow the bottom line.” – Greg Snow, PixelMill Business Development  

While we didn’t see many announcements around Viva Connections, Topics, or Learning,  Viva Insights improvements look promising! With new meeting effectiveness data, you can see how well you’re using your meeting time. With stats like starting meetings on time and creating agendas, you can better understand how you’re spending your meeting time to evaluate how that aligns with your goals. All of this data is still private, just like all your personal Viva Insights data. So you can rest assured only you see this information.  


Metaverse

Last Ignite we were introduced to Microsoft Mesh, and got the first glimpse of their vision for VR. Today, we got to see Mesh applied to a more practical business application in an attempt to facilitate hybrid work, Mesh in Teams. In our opinion—and that of much of the peanut gallery—it missed the mark. The demo did not feel professional enough for us to consider this as a practical tool for business organizations at this time. The avatars as gamey, and with what we were shown, legless. It felt odd. 

As someone who does spend time in virtual spaces outside of work hours, I do see legitimate business applications for Mesh but I’m not sure if floating avatars in virtual offices inside Teams is there yet. There is so much potential for VR, AR, Mixed Reality and it will transform how we interact, but I’m having a hard time understanding how an avatar without legs will bring me closer together when collaborating with others.” – Carolyn Gjerde, PixelMill Business Analyst  

Microsoft described metaverse as a way to imbed computing into the real world and the real world into computing. We can see some exciting applications of mixed reality in industries like manufacturing, but the floating cartoon avatars sitting at a legless desk was underwhelming to say the least.  


Teams Connect

What is it?  
We’ve been clamoring for this one!  

Teams Connect enables collaboration across organizational boundaries within Teams. We often want to work beyond our organization’s ‘borders’, and now with shared channels, you can connect to teams across multiple organizations all within your tenant.  

What’s hot: 

No need to switch between different organizations in Teams. You can now easily collaborate from your own organizations Teams with other organizations.  

 

I can see how this can greatly enhance our client communications. This can help reduce the amount of teams created for the sake of collaborating with external guests. Now, we can condense this into one team and create a shared channel to work together.” – Kunaal Sharma, PixelMill Senior UI/UX Designer  

 

What’s not so hot:  

Both organizations must opt in to make this work, and we can see some security issues preventing organizations from fully leveraging this new capability. It also creates a new SharePoint site for each shared channel to control permissions which could get messy from admin standpoint.   

Ignite was filled with Buzzwords you’re going to be hearing for some time. And while much of this is exciting, we know much of this won’t hit GA soon. The good news? We only see all of this as further validation of your investment in a digital workspace powered by Microsoft 365. Microsoft continues to innovate and integrate their toolsets and they are clearly invested in bettering the employee experience.  


While there was a lot to unpack, we suggest focusing on what’s available to you today, as much of this will not come to fruition for quite some time. If you’re ready to start your digital transformation today, join us next Thursday, November 11
th, for our free webinar, where our President will break down everything available in Microsoft Viva right now and help you realize digital workspace success with the tools at hand. Register today!  

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