Microsoft Ignite 2021 Recap

Another year is ending, and this means that Microsoft Ignite has taken place yet again. Microsoft Ignite is Microsoft’s 3-5days annual conference where you can attend presentations, whiteboard sessions, and hands-on labs around Microsoft technologies.  

Networking is also a large element of this conference, where individuals can meet with Microsoft experts, MVPs, and community members. However, one of the most important aspects of this conference is the information shared. Attendees get to learn about the latest technologies while getting a sneak peek at the new products and services that will be coming in the giant’s near future. Here, we’ll be covering some important news that was shared at this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference related to Process Automation, Hybrid Office, and Secure Cloud.  

We have organized Microsoft’s major product updates to reflect our 3 different pillar offerings. The Power Platform, including Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Power Virtual Agents, as well as Business Central and Dynamics 365, we include in our process automation pillar. Modern Workplace, Microsoft Viva, SharePoint and Microsoft 365? You’ll find our offerings in our Hybrid office pillar. Finally, what they call security, compliance, and identity, device management and infrastructure – namely Azure, Active Directory, Intune – constitutes our Secure cloud pillar. Find Microsoft’s unveil in their respective pillar below!  

Process automation news from Microsoft Ignite 2021 

This was a big year for process automation, with many updates across both the Power Platform and Dynamics 365. Let’s cover a few of those updates. 

Application access 

Microsoft announced that they will be providing a more flexible way to pay with the pay-as-you-go method for Power Apps. Instead of having to configure your licensing in advance, you can now simply pay for what you use and scale your investments over time based on your usage patterns. You can use an Azure subscription to pay for Powers Apps based on the active usage of your apps.  

Microsoft has also recently been focused on delivering a seamless app experience by giving you the capability to create mobile apps for Power Apps. Makers can easily package Canvas apps as Android and iOS mobile apps for corporate end-users. These mobile apps can be distributed natively through tools such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager or similar 3rd party MDM solutions, and private enterprise app stores like Microsoft App Center, Apple Volume Purchase Program, and Managed Google Play.  

Improved productivity and collaboration 

To be productive in any work environment, having accurate data is crucial. With their current updates, Microsoft is providing the capability to access data more easily. Users will now be able to find data as part of their Microsoft 365 search results with Microsoft Search Integration. Search results will also include data from Dataverse. By having more access to more data, greater productivity is bound to occur.  

To further encourage collaboration, Microsoft has been working on some upcoming releases to recognize the value of your teammates and ensure that collaboration is always possible within their products. Co-presence on Dataverse records (November ’21) and Embedded Teams chat (Spring ’22) will allow teams to collaborate directly in the apps they are using.  

Innovation across the organization 

The core mission of Power Apps is to enable everyone across the organization to innovate. To do this Microsoft is simplifying the authoring experience, accelerating development with AI, and empowering teams to collaborate. A recent update now allows you to write code using examples so that you can provide the output you’d like over your real data, and the Power Fx formula will be generated for you.  

Microsoft has made many updates to AI Builder to make it more flexible and consumable. AI capacity is now included in Power Apps’ Per App and Per User plans. 250 credits for Power Apps per App license and 500 credits for Power Apps User license have been added. In AI builder, users have the option to use pre-built AI models or use AI models created outside of the Power Platform – whichever works best for them! Microsoft has also announced support to use Lobe with AI Builder. Lobe is a free, easy-to-use app from Microsoft that helps you build image classification models on your own computer. With this new update, you can upload your model from Lobe directly into AI Builder to use in Power Apps and Power Automate as well. 

Seeing as Microsoft has been adding all these new updates to AI Builder, they want to ensure that they can be shared across a team. The new updates will make it easier to collaborate with others while building apps to leverage the skills of those around them. They have introduced the ability to comment in the modern app designer. You can add notes, feedback, and discuss with others directly while building apps, flows, or chatbots, just as you would in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. In addition to commenting, multiple users can now work on the same app at the same time with co-authoring 

Safe digital transformation 

Microsoft wants to ensure that organizations can launch applications with the right governance, visibility, and support. To do so, they have released Power Platform Adoption guidance that includes a set of documentation and tools to help organizations deploy and adopt the Power Platform across the entire organization.  

New updates also provide app administrators more control over app compliance and access to help ensure that safety is your primary focus. Admins can now apply policies to block guest access or require multi-factor authentication for a specific app. 

 

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Hybrid office 

When it comes to the hybrid office, Microsoft has been working to improve some of its existing applications and revealed the change this part November at Microsoft Ignite 2021.  

Outlook 

Within Outlook, Microsoft is introducing multiple time management updates to help individuals manage their calendars and schedule tasks. The Outlook calendar board is a customizable visual tool for users to help organize and manage their calendars all in one place.  

Outlook mobile is also starting to incorporate ‘suggested times’ for meetings into the application. Suggested times uses AI to suggest times where all participants are available for a meeting. Outlook mobile will use AI to understand the meeting owner’s commitments, priorities and preferences and to suggest times to meet when attendees are free, even if the meeting owner isn’t. 

Microsoft Teams 

Collaboration

Microsoft Teams Connect will be available later this year. It helps organizations collaborate seamlessly with customers, partners, and suppliers by leveraging the deep collaboration capabilities that Microsoft Teams brings together.  

Channels within Teams are also evolving with the new update of shared channels. Individual users will be able to be added to a single channel rather than an entire Team. Each shared channel will appear within a user’s primary Teams tenant alongside existing teams and channels 

Microsoft Teams meeting

If you’re looking to deliver content more professionally and keep audiences engaged, this next update is perfect for you. A new feature called PowerPoint Live in Teams has been created where presenters can deliver richer, more inclusive experiences and lead meetings more confidently with notes, slides, meeting chat and participants all in a single view. Attendees can also personalize their experience by privately navigating the content at their own pace. Presenter mode is currently available and has more options coming soon. It empowers presenters to customize how their video feed and content appear for the audience. The options include Standout, Reporter, and Side-by-Side. Dynamic view is a new feature that intelligently arranges meeting elements for an optimal presentation. For example, presenters can now place the gallery on the top of the screen, so participants appear at the top of the meeting window, helping maintain more natural eye contact with the audience. 

Microsoft Teams rooms

With more and more people working remotely, Microsoft has updated Teams Meeting rooms to better the user experience. New gallery views are currently available which include together mode and a large gallery. Microsoft also now certifies hardware with audio and video optimized for Microsoft Teams. Certified monitors include the Dell Video Conferencing Monitor and the Poly Studio P21.  

In an effort to advance the Teams meeting experience, Intelligent Speakers have been created. Intelligent Speakers use advanced speech recognition to identify the people talking in a Microsoft Teams Room. Artificial Intelligence is then used to differentiate the voices in a meeting and will record which participant said what on the meeting transcript. 

Security, privacy, and compliance

When it comes to security, privacy, and compliance, Microsoft is equipped and prepared to tackle any online threats with these new features. Invite-only meeting controls have been added to ensure that only participants who are invited can join a meeting. Disabled video and chat moderation are key features that can be used to limit disruptions during meetings. In terms of security and compliance, end-to-end encryption for 1:1 Teams calls will be available to help organizations remain secure. Finally, Teams Multi-Geo support will be available to give multinational organizations greater control over the location of specific data centers where their Teams data is stored, down to the team and user level. 

Microsoft Viva 

Microsoft Viva was a big topic of conversation this year at Microsoft Ignite. Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform designed to help organizations work remotely more effectively. It consists of four different modules, all of which provide different resources. While some of these modules are currently available, Microsoft is still expanding their features.  

  • Viva Connections: Provides employees access to a personalized destination to discover relevant news, conversations, and the tools they need to succeed 
  • Viva Learning: Learning hub that collects learning resources from a variety of different sources including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and popular third-party providers 
  • Viva Insights: Helps people and businesses thrive with data-driven, privacy-protected insights and recommendations to improve productivity and wellbeing 
  • Viva Topics: Knowledge discovery platform that helps to connect people with knowledge, build on ideas, find solutions faster, and stay connected as a team 

Management 

With all these new updates coming, it can be challenging for managers to stay up to date. To keep up with all this change, there have been updates within the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center to assist administrators in managing all their Office apps. There are a variety of new features currently available including: 

  • Inventory and Security update status 
  • Reliability and performance trends by app and channel 
  • Reliability advisories 
  • Diagnostic coverage 
  • Integration with Service Health Dashboard 
  • The ability for IT admins to allow users to update their channel 
  • Skip and Rollback 

In addition to these great features, here are some updates that are coming soon: 

  • Start Small (Support for Azure AD Groups) 
  • Performance advisories 
  • App health scores 
  • Device-level reliability 
  • Add-in health – app level 
  • Reliability in Productivity Score 

Universal Print is a new cloud-based print solution available to customers through a Windows or Microsoft 365 subscription. Universal Print eliminates the need for print servers or installing printer drivers and provides simple and secure printing in zero-trust environments. Supported by Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Toshiba, Ricoh and Xerox, Universal Print is a flexible service to add to your inventory.  

Secure Cloud 

Security, compliance, and identity make up what we call the secure cloud. This year at Microsoft Ignite some great announcements were made surrounding Microsoft Defender that we want to share with you today. 

Microsoft 365 Defender 

Microsoft Defender is antivirus software that protects your organization from threats across devices, identities, apps, email, data, and cloud workloads. Unfortunately, the threat landscape is more complex now than ever, AI and machine learning are required to be able to safely protect you from these attacks. With the goal of creating the most integrated extended detection and response solution, updates have been made to Microsoft 365 Defender so that customers can investigate and remediate threats from the single, integrated Microsoft 365 Defender portal. As explained by Microsoft, here are some new capabilities and features available: 

  • Unified alerts, user and investigation pages for deep, automated analysis and simple visualization. 
  • Extended email alert capabilities in a new email entity page. This provides a 360-degree view of email alerts, with relevant context. 
  • A new Learning Hub where customers can leverage instructional resources with best practices and how-tos. 

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint  

The existing Microsoft Defender for Endpoint will be renamed Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 2 (P2), and delivers these core capabilities: 

  • Cloud-powered solution with nearly infinite scale to meet your needs – no additional IT costs, no compatibility issues, no waiting for updates. 
  • Unparalleled breadth and depth of built-in threat and human intelligence powered by machine learning models and AI. 
  • A unified solution offering unmatched threat visibility, incident correlation and insight, and a world-class SecOps experience as part of Microsoft 365 Defender – our XDR solution. 

A new solution has been announced by Microsoft called the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 (P1). In addition to the capabilities already present in the previous version, here are the new capabilities present with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1: 

  • Industry-leading antimalware that is cloud-based with built-in AI that helps to stop ransomware, known and unknown malware, and other threats in their tracks. 
  • Attack surface reduction capabilities that harden the device, prevent zero-days and offer granular control over access and behaviors on the endpoint. 
  • Device-based conditional access offers an additional layer of data protection and breach prevention and enables a Zero Trust approach. 

For more information, check out these articles that dive deeper into plan 1 and plan 2 

In this article, we have only scratched the surface of all the incredible information that was shared this year at Microsoft Ignite. Process automation, the hybrid office, and the secure cloud are better than ever with these new updates and enhancements.  

If business transformation and new technologies are on your mind, don’t venture alone. Learn some new ways your team can leverage the Microsoft products you already have to improve productivity and behave securely online. Download our Transform Ebook today:

 

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