Many years ago when I did my teacher training here in the UK one of the things I was taught is the concept of 'in loco parentis' - latin for 'in the place of the parent'. Legally, whilst not bound by parental responsibility, teachers are expected to behave as any reasonable parent would in promoting the welfare and safety of children in their care. The term dates back to the 19th century when courts were first identifying and constituting teachers' responsibilities. It was during this period where case law established that a teacher should act "as a prudent father" - language which may not be so fit today, yet the idea of safeguarding transcends this vernacular typical of it's time. Supervised chat - a feature I didn't know even existed in Teams until a few days ago, is predicated on this idea of safeguarding. As outlined in the notes 'Supervised chat allows designated educators to initiate chats with students and blocks students from starting new chats unless an appropriate educator is present. When chat supervision is enabled, supervisors aren't allowed to leave chats and other participants aren't allowed to remove them, ensuring that chats involving students are properly supervised'. In other words, it's removes the conundrum of having private chat on or off in an education environment. On? Many teachers, parents and stakeholders would consider it dangerous in that it opens up a number of risks including harassment, bullying and non-educational content. Off? This blocks teachers, or learning support from reaching out to students privately for personalized learning, or for pastoral matters. Now, whilst you may think this blog concerns a Teams for Education functionality, supervised chat is also in business tenants. That is where I found it. Whilst education is no doubt the de facto use case and probably was the reason why it was developed it may also be useful in business environments too to limit private chats being between specific individuals. It is a functionality which could be used very well alongside communications compliance and DLP. Let's go set it up
If you haven't already, you'll hear a lot about Viva in the coming months. Viva - from the Latin vivere 'to live' is a set of apps designed to enhance employee experience. In layman's terms, they're made to make your day to day work life better, easier and richer so that you are (in theory) happier, more productive and (in theory) more loyal to the organisation. The idea is that you feel invested in. The organisation thinks about you and how best to support you in your role. Now, there are four apps or 'modules' which constitute Viva with more expected in the future. The first is Viva Topics, an AI powered app which organizes content and expertise into related 'topics' surfaced across existing apps such as Yammer and Microsoft Teams. You want to know what that specific acronym means? Or what that project is all about? Topics will show you a description of that, who is working on it and assets related to it. The idea being that knowledge is to hand without breaking the course of your workflow. You then have Viva Insights, an app which brings together MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics providing data-driven insights and recommendations to improve productivity and wellbeing. In other words it'll show you things like how much focus time you have and how long you have been working out of hours. It'll show managers how their team members are working together. It's also expected to include Headspace demoed to much fanfare back at Ignite last October. Third, you have Viva Learning, 'a hub for Learning' within Teams aggregating on demand assets from Learn, LinkedIn Learning, third party providers like EDX and a company's own content. This is currently in preview and won't be in GA until later this year. Finally - and what the discussion concerns today, is Viva Connections. Connections is described as being 'the gateway to a modern employee experience' and 'a curated, company-branded experience that brings together relevant news, conversations, and other resources'. It is, more or less, a SharePoint home site surfaced into Teams pinned on the app rail and which will have a mobile experience later in the summer. Unlike the other apps, Connections is completely free and GA making it ideal as the first Viva app for any organisation to get to grips with without having to invest more into licencing - and it is important insofar it fuses SharePoint and Teams even closer together. To many who haven't tried this previously through App Studio, it's exciting stuff.
I remember Ignite 2020 well. Uber long days and an obscene amount of awesome content that between speaking and moderating it was an all-you-can-eat buffet both live and on demand. Day 1 was frontloaded with so many big sessions on Teams. After Nadella, it was Spataro. After Spataro, it was Teper. Then after Teper, Herskowitz. Then it was Torok and so on and so forth. After taking a 'break' moderating a 90 minute Learn session with worldwide learning on Teams which washed up about 10pm it was back into the fray. Sec. Power Platform. Yet the way my schedule had panned out I ended that first day watching a double header on Teams calling. The first was with Paul Cannon which was the live session and the second was the advanced calling session on demand. Whilst the second session was valuable simply for the announcement of dynamic CLID's which I'd been getting asked for a lot, it was the first - the one with Cannon which really had the goods. First, Collaborative Calling. Second, a refresh of the Calling UX. Now, the refresh was clever - shifting the dial pad and basing the app around call history because not only was it streamlining a number of unnecessary pages it was rooting calling in calls as opposed to people. But the real gold was collaborative calling. This is the ability to connect a call queue to a teams channel where users can collaborate and share information in the channel while taking calls in the queue. Many admins I knew had wanted it and wanted it bad. For a long long time. Yes, it wasn't comms credits in CSP, nor was it smaller domestic SKU's - I think there will be celebrations when these occur, but oversight of a call queue where every member assigned to that call queue can work together: this is a big gap that Microsoft committed to plugging. I thought personally it was one of the best announcements of Ignite 2020. It's a real quality add and it's awesome that it's finally here.
Having just got back from 3 days at the MCT Connect and MCT RL conference, I am looking forward to the conference season. Sounds weird to say it like that. But I guess what I am trying to articulate is that after having had good fun at Ignite, MVP Summit and MCT - all large multi day events, I am looking forward to getting back to speaking at singular day events and user groups where you can kind of rock up, do a nice session, and exit stage left, maybe catching one or two other sessions in the process. Transactional. Light. I am sure many circuit speakers understand where I am coming from. Now, for me, the 2021 conference season kicks off with a trip back to the Reactor where I'll be speaking with Vesa Nopanen on approvals. We've got a lot of demo lined up and we need to try it out for Marathon the week after. But when I was stitching the session together I thought of an idea that I wanted to explore a few months back when I was doing blogs on approvals but never got around to, which was parallel approvals. You see, if you are like me who operates across departments or support multiple business units within a group, parallel approvals are important because approval needs to come from multiple independent stakeholders. Imagine this scenario, I used to be Head of Professional Services where I worked, and when I was designing and developing new Professional Services items I used to need technical, financial and commercial sign off. They wouldn't make the decision together because they are all independent, and so before an item could be released all the stakeholders would need to evaluate it based on their respective reviews before it could go to market. I know, I know, I still have that blog on Viva Connections to do and that's probably more relevant and in vogue, but hey I have an approvals session on Tuesday and the completionist in me hates leaving things I meant to cover previously
On the speaker circuit I occasionally talk about Policy Management in Microsoft Teams. It's something I enjoy talking about too. Why? Because when it comes to Teams I believe having a good grasp of policy is necessary for shaping a good user experience. It's important too from a security, compliance and governance perspective. Now like any talk this one's evolved to account for a number of incremental adds. We've seen the introduction of update policies where you can add users into private preview to test out functionality in advance. We've seen template policies. We've seen the ability to use the TAC to manage meeting backgrounds within the meeting policy. And during all of these talks one of the things which has featured has been policy packages. Policy packages are defined as 'a collection of predefined policies and policy settings that you can assign to users who have similar roles in your organization'. In other words, we assign a policy package to a teacher, or a student or a nurse or to a firstline worker - and that policy package contains a messaging policy, and a meeting policy, and a live events policy and so on and so forth. The benefit of the policy package - a container as it were similar to an access package in Azure AD - is that it makes it easy for administrators to standardise what users can do and how users can experience Teams based upon role. It can make it easier to assign multiple policies without getting too granular. An awesome functionality is that you can also use group policy with dynamic groups and assign the correct packages as users transition roles. Yet for all the virtues of packages, the big limitation has always been we couldn't create custom policy packages. We've had a number of preconfigured ones by Microsoft - and that's all well and good except we've needed to create packages for our own roles, our own organisations. Well now we can