Covid-19 Collaboration Update: Collaboration Skyrockets As More Workers Work From Home and Microsoft Teams Hits 32-Million Users
Covid-19 Collaboration Update: I asked Microsoft a week ago for some numbers on the uptake on teams. I received the following:
How do you move tens of thousands of employees to remote work overnight? With the COVID-19 outbreak spreading around the world, that was the big question on our minds at Microsoft last week. Then, last Wednesday, we just did it—
sending out an email that asked approximately 50,000 Microsoft employees in the Seattle area to work from home if they could. We were already heavy Teams users, but in our first fully remote days usage among Microsoft employees in the U.S. went up significantly. By the end of the day Thursday, chat was up 50 percent week over week and meetings were up 37 percent.
(For more info: Staying productive while working remotely with Microsoft Teams)
Between January 31 and March 11 (the day I received this information) China saw a 500-percent increase in Microsoft Teams meetings, calling and conferences, and a 200-percent increase in Teams on mobile devices.
Microsoft is rolling out updates that will lift user limit restrictions in the free version of Teams, and the company is also offering a six-month free trial of Office 365 E1 to support businesses not currently licensed for Teams. This blog post outlines how individuals, businesses and schools can get set up with Teams. Additionally, Microsoft has also pointed customers to this blog for tips on staying productive while working remotely as well as a more visual Sway with information to help users collaborate better on Teams.
I found this wasn’t as smooth an experience as I expected, as Microsoft’s sign-in looped with the GoDaddy login (where I purchased my Microsoft Office 365 Essentials account). I was able yesterday to get Teams up and running on the Essentials account through GoDaddy but was told this was a limited license with an expiration. It isn’t clear how the new rules are going to change these types of Teams accounts.
Slack did not report updated numbers about the 12 million active they stated in October. Hopefully, they will release some numbers shortly.
On the gaming front, SteamDB reported that the March 14 weekend represented an all-time peak of concurrent users. They hit 20.3 million on March 15. A look at the March 19 dashboard shows a 24-hour player peak at nearly 20.7 million players.
Microsoft Teams 3rd Anniversary Edition
Microsoft also released its 3rd Anniversary Edition with the following new features either available now or soon:
- Improved audio quality in low-bandwidth situations, and the Satin codec to make it smoother everywhere.
- Blurred video conferencing backgrounds in iOS.
- The Bookings App for managing external participant meetings.
- A raise the hand feature (that was available in PlaceWare, which Microsoft acquired in 2003).
- Reduced background noise with noise suppression.
- New Team Devices like the RealWear headset that brings teams into the augmented reality space for chat. Also the Bose headset for Teams (Bose Noise Cancellation 700 UC (NC700) available in the Spring. Team Collaboration bars will bring audio and video combinations to workspaces from multiple vendors.
- Frontline worker features with workforce management integration, improved shifts, recall of shared schedules, and group chat forwarding.
- Pop-out Team chats into multiple windows.
- Teams Offline Mode.
- Raised the individual Teams team limit to 10,000 users.
- Group chat can no include 250 people.
- Interoperability between Teams and the Consumer version of Skype.
(For more on Teams 3rd Anniversary features click here.)
These changes demonstrate how aggressive Microsoft is about owning the collaboration space. With the shift to cloud-based services, enhancements to Teams role out regularly rather than over some arbitrary accumulation period. The ability to scale Teams, its recognition of the rapid pace with which users expect change, its multi-platform parity and inclusion in most business accounts makes Microsoft Teams a tough competitor. The platform has reached a stage, like its primary rival Slack, where it would be difficult for new entrants to reach feature parity in any reasonable amount of time, let alone match on scale and interoperability.
Covid-19 Collaboration Update: The Bottomline
People are staying at home. They are working. They are playing games. They are arranging their lives to fit the new reality of quarantine in-place and other measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19. In many ways, this is proof that collaboration technology, even though often haphazardly adopted, can scale to massive amounts of remote work. In better times, that would mean working in a third-place with a nice cup of coffee and a croissant. Today it means working from home, but the technology remains the same.
The most important rule for staying productive remains to refrain from adopting too many different collaboration environments. Jumping between platforms is only the tip of the iceberg. Trying to keep those environments synchronized becomes very human, especially for competitive platforms that don’t integrate well (and just because they integrated, doesn’t mean they integrate well—a Trello board, for instance, does not share its view of the world with a Microsoft Planner board).
It is also important to take the time to master the collaboration environment. Take some online courses, or just watch a few features videos, and you might come up with some nice ways to save time and enhance innovation.
For more Covid-19 research and advisories from Serious Insights click here.
Featured image on this post courtesy of Microsoft via their Teams 3rd Year Anniversary Edition post.