Image of a construction worker checking his phone. Image of a construction worker checking his phone.

Empower Firstline Workers and supercharge search—here’s what’s new to Microsoft 365

Since the early days of personal computing, information workers have benefited the most from technology. That makes sense, since these workers tend to spend the bulk of their day at a computer screen. But there are 2 billion workers in the world who don’t work behind the computer. You’ll find them, instead, behind the counter, on the factory floor, in the operating room, and out on the tarmac. First with customers, first with products, and first to represent your brand, these Firstline Workers are the lifeblood of organizations across the planet. And for too long, they’ve been underserved by technology.

With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, we’re changing that. Thanks to new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, we can build experiences across devices to connect organizations from the shop floor to the top floor. So, while we continue to unlock new productivity experiences for information workers, we can help their Firstline colleagues get more done too.

Firstline Workers already use tools like Microsoft Teams and Power Apps to digitize shift schedules, take meetings from anywhere, and simplify workflow. And this month, I’m thrilled to announce some exciting new tools to help Firstline Workers collaborate and complete tasks, along with management tools to make managing them simple and fast.

Starting with this month’s “What’s new to Microsoft 365” blog post, we’re partnering with Modern Workplace on a new podcast that complements both the blog and the Modern Workplace video series. For the first episode, host Alex Bradley and I talked about news coming out of the National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow, this month’s Microsoft 365 updates, and my 2020 productivity New Year’s resolutions. Please have a listen, subscribe if you want to hear more, and feel free to leave a comment with topics you’d like us to cover.

Read on to learn all the important Microsoft 365 updates this month.

Empower your Firstline Workforce

Several new Microsoft Teams updates help you drive higher levels of employee engagement and enhance customer experiences.

Improve collaboration with Walkie Talkie in Teams—Now Firstline Workers can more easily communicate and manage tasks at the touch of a button. The new push-to-talk experience in Teams delivers clear, instant, and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- and/or company-owned smartphones and tablets into walkie talkies. This new feature not only reduces the numbers of devices your employees need to carry but can also lower IT costs. And when integrated with new devices—such as the recently unveiled Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro—your Firstline Workers can communicate with each other instantly. Walkie Talkie will be available in private preview in Teams in the first half of this year.

Image of a phone with an arrow pointing to the button on its side. The UI shows the Walkie Talkie feature.

Streamline user experiences for Firstline Workers—Firstline Workers can now sign in to all their Microsoft 365 and custom apps using one-time SMS codes—streamlining their sign-in experience. And shared device sign-out enables users to sign out of their apps on shared devices with just one tap, helping to protect customer data while improving the user experience. Finally, an updated Tasks feature in Teams delivers new capabilities and reporting to everyone from the C-suite to Firstline Workers.

Image showing a one-time SMS code used to log in to Office on a phone.

Make management easier for your IT pros—Now you can minimize management of employee tasks for IT pros. The new delegated user management feature allows IT managers to approve password resets and enable Firstline Workers to use their phone numbers for SMS sign-in via a single, customizable portal. In addition, Azure Active Directory (AD) user provisioning now integrates with SAP SuccessFactors, making it easy to onboard and manage identities at scale, across any application. And finally, off-shift access controls for the Teams app enables your IT administrators to limit employee access to the Teams app on their personal devices outside of working hours. These updates are rolling out over the next couple of months.

Image showing access turned off in Teams for a worker who's off shift.

Save time and create more impactful content

Deliver more engaging content find what you need quickly and easily.

Connect with your audience during presentations with Live Presentations—Presentations can provide a great opportunity to communicate information and connect with your audience, but language barriers, screen distance, and pacing can all affect audience engagement. With Live Presentations, audience members can turn on live captioning (available in 60 languages), navigate between slides to catch details, or send reactions to the presenter—all in real-time. Live Presentations is coming soon to PowerPoint for the web. Presenters can access it as part of any Office 365 subscription.

Image of Live Presentations being used on a phone. The presentation is about oceans.

See why the new Microsoft Edge is the browser for business—Built on the Chromium open source project, the new Microsoft Edge is simple to manage with world-class performance and compatibility, Microsoft security features, and tools to help your organization be more productive. You can download the new Microsoft Edge today for all supported versions of Windows and macOS in more than 90 languages.

Find what you need quickly with Microsoft Search—Searching through personal files or a company intranet without knowing what you’re looking for (or when you do) can make your search experience difficult and time-consuming. Our new Microsoft Search experience is built with AI technologies and intelligence and insights from the Microsoft Graph. You’ll get contextually relevant results, when you need them, where you’re already working—whether in Microsoft Word, SharePoint, or Bing. To get started, just click in the new Search box and instantly see answers and insights from the applications, people, and information that matter the most.

Image showing Microsoft Search used in SharePoint. Search suggests sites, files, people, and news for the user.

And over the course of the next couple of months, we’ll add new features for businesses. Using Microsoft Graph connectors, available now in preview, you can search over content sources beyond Microsoft 365. Additionally, we’re also announcing capabilities to set up custom verticals, add your own refiners, and use adaptive cards to create your own visualizations in the results page in Office.com and SharePoint. Finally, to help ease the transition, we’ve enabled developers to use the tried and true SharePoint framework to customize the appearance and develop applications on top of Microsoft Search.

Create and share data-driven Visio diagrams directly in Excel—You can now create impactful Visio diagrams (such as flowcharts or organizational diagrams) from your data directly in Excel with the public preview of the Visio Data Visualizer add-in. Each diagram category provides a wide range of layout styles and theme options, making it easy to build a diagram to fit your needs. Visio Data Visualizer is available to Office 365 subscribers. To get started, add the “Visio Data Visualizer” add-in in Excel.

Animated image of Data Visualizer in Excel.

Model systems and processes using Unified Modeling Language (UML) shapes in Visio for the web—We made diagramming simpler and easier for everyone by bringing UML shapes and functionalities to Visio for the web. UML diagrams provide software developers and systems architects the ability to design and visually represent software-based systems, as well as model business processes and workflows. To start diagramming, all Visio Plan 1 and Visio Plan 2 users can visit visio.office.com, select the preferred UML diagram, and start modeling their systems or processes instantly.

Image showing Unified Model Language shapes used in Visio for the web.

Access company branded templates from within Office apps—It can be tricky to find your organization’s templates when creating new presentations and documents. Office now provides easy access to company-branded templates right from within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—saving you time lost to digging through intranet and document stores. To get started, update Office to the latest version, select File > New, then select your organization’s name.

Make IT management easier

New capabilities and resources to help you migrate from Windows 7 and meet data residency requirements.

Migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10—This month marked the end of support for Windows 7. Fortunately, Windows 10 enables you to harness the power of the cloud while making you and your organization more productive and secure than ever before. And when purchasing Windows 10 with a Microsoft 365 license, your users will get a highly productive and secure experience, while IT will find these tools much easier to deploy and manage. Check out our Windows 7 end of support resources to start your migration path today.

Meet data residency needs in Switzerland with new Microsoft datacenters—Now new Microsoft Office 365 customers in Switzerland will have their Office 365 data stored in an in-country datacenter, helping organizations with data residency requirements to meet their obligations.

Also new this month

I am so thrilled to bring powerful tools for Firstline Workers while continuing to bring new productivity experiences to information workers as well. It’s all about helping entire organizations be more productive and connected, from the shop floor to the top floor. As always, every Microsoft 365 update reflects our commitment to improving the experience for you—so if you have feedback or ideas on how we can improve, don’t hesitate to let us know.