12 features I would like to see land in Microsoft Teams in 2021

Back when I attended Microsoft Inspire in 2019 I remember going to the pre-day at the Mandalay and being absolutely blown away by the numbers. Teams had hit 13 million daily active users (DAU), surpassing Slack for the first time. There was this nice chart which was unveiled to a lot of applause and fanfare – and that was before Gio Mezgec and the team rolled out the numbers they aimed for in fiscal 2020. Back then, they wanted to top 50 million Monthly Active Users (MAU) which constituted 275% growth over the following 12 months. Ambitious. Needless to say there was a lot of Teams sessions at Inspire 2019

Then 2020 and Covid came along

Today, Microsoft Teams has over 115 million daily active users. That’s roughly 50% of Office 365 DAU. Back in July when Ignite 2020 occurred virtually it was already north of 75. But whilst these numbers strengthen and give credence to the narrative of Teams being the fastest growing app in Microsoft history, it doesn’t wholly give justice to how hard everyone behind the scenes has worked and just how much innovation there has been as Teams has become a conduit for business continuity during unprecedented times. Think of all the features which have been added throughout 2020: large gallery, together mode, hard mute, spotlight, skype consumer interop, breakout rooms, pop out chat, pop out meetings, pop out calling and apps, dataverse, app studio enhancements, tasks for Teams, the Yammer communities app, the Lists app, the introduction of Teams displays, customer key, apps for meetings…it’s been one wild ride for the pros let alone for your average day to day user

Whether Teams will continue this breakneck cadence throughout 2021 remains to be seen. I truly hope so. Why? Because more than seeing it dominate it’s competition, I love how it is making the Microsoft 365 stack more accessible and more valuable to all, how it is facilitating hybrid working, how it is now starting to consider health and mental well being of those who use it. But more than all of these things I love how Teams is helping organisations become more resilient. This is really important as we consider our future beyond Covid and limiting shocks which will no doubt continue to occur. Let’s keep businesses going, and people in work. Let’s help people continue to earn to provide a living for their children. Let’s help our children continue to have the education they deserve. A dreamer I may be, but I know first hand that Microsoft is really listening to its users and the people there want to develop things for the good

So like last year, here is 12 things I would like to see land in 2021. To note I have intentionally left out major things on the roadmap that we know are 100% coming in 2021 including collaborative calling, the approvals app and the insights app/headspace which will all be fantastic adds. All the links to Uservoices have been provided so please feel free to vote for them! – and if you have anything you want to see in Teams which hasn’t been asked for – go ahead and raise it there as well!

Number 1: Collaborate with multiple tenants without switchingand multiple profiles


Uservoice (Lessen Switching): here
Uservoice (Multiple Profiles): here
Both of these asks pertain to moving around in teams and interacting with organisations outside of your own. Frequent tenant switching and having to use the old browser profile workaround are experiences in Teams which bring friction and make Teams feel more clunky and confusing than it needs to be. If you could access external Teams or channels within your own tenant, and switch profiles via the avatar, this would not only be a lot cleaner, it would be simpler and more intuitive which would make users more productive. Whilst multiple profiles are confirmed on Uservoice as being worked on – so desktop and web come in-line with mobile, there is nothing yet on switching. These adds would be welcomed as much as popular asks such as private channels and breakout rooms

Number 2: Replace Wiki and Meeting Notes with OneNote


Uservoice: Here
How many of you delete the wiki as the first action when you create a Team? Yeah, I do too. This is what happens when you lack the ability to perform a full text search, to implement full formatting outside of the body, an inability to import and export, an inability to restore deleted pages, have no templates and have an inability to print. The list goes on – but I am sure you know the limitations well. Since their wasn’t much maturation of the wiki in 2020 let’s just bin this together with meetings notes and use the great app Microsoft already has for all note taking throughout Teams and indeed the whole of Microsoft 365. OneNote. Much loved. Lists are to Lists as Notes are to OneNote

Number 3: Set the Download Location


Uservoice: Here
Files which are downloaded from Teams downloads to the Download folder on the local machine. This includes the Meeting Participant report which was introduced last year. If I personally had a choice then, obviously, I would want to set it to a folder in OneDrive for Business. It would cover me in the event of hardware failure but also in the event if the device were ever stolen. Admin’s may want to set this, say, via GPO to a network share. Now, per the uservoice Microsoft has recognised this and does have this on the agenda, however it’s currently on the backlog. Have a quick scroll down the comments on the uservoice and you will see a few users – no doubt admins – becoming somewhat restless. It could have been a nice win last year, but of course there were higher priorities ala meetings. It would be good to finally see this one closed out in 2021

Number 4: Removing the Posts Tab and Setting a Landing Tab

Uservoice (Removing Posts): here
Uservoice (Landing Tab): here
The more you use Teams, the more you realise that every Team and every channel doesn’t need to have an associated conversation. A channel could just be about Lists, or it could just be about files. I don’t want to have to go and apply channel moderation to every channel in that particular team and on the other hand I want every tab in every channel to be meaningful. We are now going into that area of crafting the team experience to the actual team. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will suddenly run out and have users land on my SharePoint page in my intranet channel, or confine discussion to posts in the general channel as soon as the functionality ships: but the option to do this will go down well with users, get rid of filler and optimise the team experience. Removal of Posts is under review and landing tab is on the backlog. Let’s all get onboard and vote these up to push them up the agenda

Number 5: Allow reposition of the meeting rail in Teams meetings

Uservoice: Here
Have you ever noticed when cams are on in a Teams meeting there are certain people looking down all the time? This is typically because they have inbuilt cameras or have their external cam on top of the device and are looking down at either a presentation midscreen, or other people who have their camera on in the meeting rail which is located at the bottom of the stage. Ah but Zoom has it at the top right? Incoming custom layouts which we’ll see in the new year may cover and resolve this – but if is doesn’t the option to move the meeting rail would be a nice add to help people focus and look at each other more squarely into the camera. Let’s see some more eyeball to eyeball action in 2021 – we are not all shoegazers after all

Number 6: The ability to hide presence externally on a user by user basis

Uservoice: Here
I wrote a blog recently on the fact that although most are not aware of it, you can hide presence externally as in users outside your org cannot see your status. However, at the moment you can only hide it for the whole org not on a user by user basis and you do not have the ability to set exceptions (I.e. people on your contacts list or by domain). Now, I am sure that some people are totally happy with others outside their organisation who use Teams or Skype for Business knowing when they are available. However, in my experience some are not – and for a few they really do see it as a serious breach of both their privacy and their security. Last year I asked for custom statuses in presence and maybe that is on the list somewhere, but for me personally the ability to restrict presence sharing externally on a per user basis and with exceptions is number #1 followed closely by the ability to write – not just read presence, via the presence API. If Microsoft did both of these plus allow custom presence status and the ability to turn presence off for the whole org making it an optional feature – well that would probably satisfy pretty much everyone I know of who has presence needs currently

Number 7: Correction of channel post pinning

Uservoice: Here
Like many I was looking forward to the ability to pin a post in a channel. I thought I could go ahead and pin it and it was going to appear right at the top of the channel conversation in full view to everyone who went to the channel. It would be there, bold, brazen and giving the team what I needed them to know. Except this wasn’t the case. When you pin a post, the pinned post is only visible in the information pane of the channel which you cannot see unless you open the information pane which is a small icon in the top right of the screen. This isn’t automatically understood – just read the reactions on the uservoice. To be fair, maybe we all had misaligned expectations on this. However, considering the pinning of files or of lists in Microsoft 365 means pinning at the top of the screen in full view for easy access you can probably see what people expected prior to release. Hopefully this is a quick one to fix – and after that pinning files or video would be a great next step, not just limiting them to the files tab

Number 8: Transfer music in Teams calls

See the source image

Uservoice: Here
It’s a generalisation but a calling party generally doesn’t like dead air on a call. Is this a fault? Am I about to be dropped? Or is someone there listening but simply not responding? Hold music exists today; so does the ability to have transfer music if you utilise direct routing since session border controllers such as Oracle can fill that gap. Yet if you have calling plans then transfer music doesn’t exist today. This is one of those things that get pointed out harshly as being a fundamental gap in the service. It really isn’t – and calling has made huge strides this past year. But customers complain to users, who complain to admins and you know the score it percolates upwards. As we have seen with those small but vital things like busy on busy, secondary ringer, longest idle and call merge – those small but vital telephony features that feed in to the quality of the user experience need to be there

Number 9: Casting meetings into Public Video Platforms

See the source image

Uservoice: Here
NDI is really cool. OBS is really cool. However, what would be even cooler is the ability to stream and cast a Microsoft Teams meeting to public video platforms such as YouTube and Workplace by Facebook, introduce chroma key green screen, pre packaged video, transitions and keep up with apps such as Streamyard that give users really cool production capability without needing to be advanced technically in order to execute. As much as there is a big opportunity with Stream v2.0 and producing/editing content, so there is an opportunity here to broadcast really slick content and make it widely available. Teams is the perfect vehicle to do that.

Number 10: Countdown/In Meeting Clock

See the source image

Uservoice: Here
Time is our most precious commodity, and many of us spend a lot of time in meetings. However in Teams meetings time management isn’t explicit or always easy to track and manage. Sure, there is the new five minute warning that has recently shipped and helps you drive to a close out, and you may have seen workarounds using the SharePoint countdown web part timer. However with the new meeting extensibility this really should be the time to start thinking about an app and native tools to actively manage time in meetings. This could be a countdown which is shown in the side panel. This could be surfaced in the gallery or embedded in the control bar. This could work with an agenda. One idea I specifically like is next to the username showing the local time of the meeting attendees in their time zone: being mindful of others when it is late in the day their end or very early in the morning. I also like the idea of tracking how much time you have saved if a meeting is finished early or if a meeting overruns. That is the kind of metric that would fit in well into MyAnalytics right? There’s a whole lot of scope here

Number 11: End meeting means end meeting

See the source image

Uservoice: Here
I raised this uservoice. I have experienced it a lot. The meeting ends and then later the Teams chat continues and you’ll have to take my word that some can go on for days. Most people don’t know you have to actually leave the associated chat conversation to end it. Then if a participant hasn’t left the conversation or at least muted the conversation they get pop up notifications and potential ongoing interruptions in the flow of their work. Chances are you’ve experienced this: so when the meeting ends having the option to completely close down the meeting is ideal. No one gets back in. No more chat. We’re done. This will give meeting organisers ultimate ownership to the end of the meeting lifecycle. By all means if you want to keep the chat going do. However, sometimes a good thing needs to come to an end as the old saying goes

Number 12: Replying to a specific message in the desktop

Uservoice: Here
The great eye and voice of the public falls down upon a functionality and can fixate from time to time. After private channels we had custom backgrounds. After custom backgrounds we had seeing all people in a teams meeting. After seeing all people in a Teams meeting we had breakout rooms. Now after breakout rooms we have replying to a specific message. In the age of instant messaging – what with WhatsApp and Slack and whatever else people use the people don’t simply want this functionality they expect it – and the absence of such fundamental functionality like this, at the centre of the very core workload of Teams (chat), there is a real danger of it becoming held up and representative of what people feel the product lacks all up. It becomes a figurehead as you will. Take the latest colourful comment on the uservoice – ‘Jesus Christ, this is a must-have, essential to asynchronous communication’. The comment makes me laugh out loud but it’s true – the fact that it is available on mobile and even appears in the desktop will perplex many especially those who are used to functionality hitting the desktop first. Saying use the mobile if you want to use this functionality is cool but you’ll have to trust me from tech community conversations it doesn’t always go down well. Now both you and I know this is all ridiculous and it will certainly come, and we’ll be adults and patient a bit longer as Microsoft has loads on even with huge amounts of resource. However, uservoices which make No1 make No1 for a reason – and whilst I don’t think it’s half as urgent as others on this list, it’ll be good to see this closed off before the noise boils over into the superlative. Rest assured that once this is done the public will no doubt elevate something else from the collective voice in it’s place

Honourable mentions

I will also be very happy to see the following features in Teams in 2021 and will surely be celebrating on social media if they are added onto the roadmap