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Microsoft Teams Tips & Tricks: Maximize Productivity with Essential Features & 2024 Updates

In the era of remote work and geographically dispersed teams, digital collaboration tools have become indispensable for businesses to thrive. Microsoft Teams has emerged as a powerhouse, empowering organizations to streamline communication, enhance teamwork, and boost productivity. As the world embraces new ways of working, Teams has continuously evolved, introducing features that cater to the ever-changing needs of modern workforces. The platform's evolution has been driven by a deep understanding of the challenges teams face today's fast-paced, digital landscape. From seamless integration with Office 365 to advanced video conferencing capabilities, Teams has become a central hub for teamwork, enabling users to easily collaborate, communicate, and manage projects. As we approach 2024, Microsoft Teams continues to push the boundaries, introducing groundbreaking updates that promise to revolutionize how we work. This guide delves into essential tips and the latest updates to help you leverage Microsoft Teams to its full potential. Streamlining Communication Effective communication is the cornerstone of productive teams, and Microsoft Teams offers a wealth of features to ensure seamless interactions. One of the most powerful tools is notification customization. By fine-tuning your notification settings, you can focus on the most critical communications without being overwhelmed by constant alerts. Customizing notifications based on priorities, channels, or specific individuals can significantly reduce distractions, allowing you to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Another game-changing feature is the use of @mentions. By mentioning specific team members in conversations, you can ensure that essential messages are noticed, fostering engagement and timely responses. However, it's essential to strike a balance and use @mentions judiciously to avoid notification overload. Microsoft Teams offers a comprehensive set of keyboard shortcuts for those seeking to maximize efficiency. From navigating between channels and threads to quick access to search and command boxes, these shortcuts can save precious time and streamline your workflow, allowing you to accomplish more in less time. Enhancing Collaboration Microsoft Teams' true power lies in its ability to facilitate seamless collaboration within teams and across organizations. One of the most significant advantages is the platform's deep integration with Office 365. This integration enables real-time co-authoring of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, eliminating the need for constant file sharing and version control headaches. However, collaboration extends beyond document editing. Teams also offers robust file management capabilities through its integration with SharePoint. By leveraging SharePoint within Teams, users can effortlessly organize and access shared files, ensuring crucial information is always at their fingertips. Advanced file management features, such as version control, check-in/check-out functionality, and customizable metadata, empower teams to maintain order and efficiency in their document repositories. Another powerful collaboration tool within Teams is channels, which keep conversations organized by specific topics, projects, or departments. By strategically creating and managing channels, teams can segment conversations and projects, ensuring that relevant information is easily accessible to those who need it. Channel organization can be tailored to specific teams, projects, or workflows, fostering focused collaboration and reducing information overload. Threads in Microsoft Teams allow users to keep conversations organized and focused within a channel. Engage in threads by replying directly to a specific message to maintain topic coherence, distinguishing between when to start a new thread versus continuing an existing one. Utilize mentions judiciously to alert relevant team members without overcrowding their notifications. Manage and monitor important threads by pinning or saving messages, ensuring critical information is readily accessible. Adopting these practices ensures streamlined, focused communication, enhancing teamwork and productivity. Mastering online meetings in Microsoft Teams involves scheduling and joining meetings seamlessly, leveraging features like background blur and live captions for professionalism and accessibility, and engaging participants actively. Maintaining engagement is key, as well as using interactive elements such as polls and Q&A. Post-meeting, sharing recordings, and notes is essential for keeping all participants informed and ensuring continuity of discussions. This comprehensive approach ensures effective, inclusive, and productive online meetings, adapting to the rise of remote work. 2024 Updates and Features As we approach 2024, Microsoft Teams continues to push the boundaries of productivity with many exciting updates and features. One area that has seen significant enhancements is video meeting capabilities. Teams now offers expanded options for background customization, allowing users to project a professional and personalized image during virtual meetings. These features, from virtual backgrounds to blur effects, help maintain a polished appearance, even in less-than-ideal environments. Language barriers have historically been a challenge for global teams. Microsoft Teams is addressing this issue head-on with improved language translation features. With real-time translation capabilities, teams can communicate seamlessly, fostering inclusivity and ensuring that valuable insights are not lost in translation. Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in Teams is the introduction of AI-powered features. Meeting scheduling and summarization are now augmented by AI, streamlining the process of organizing meetings and capturing key insights. Additionally, AI-driven assistance can help teams stay on track during meetings, ensuring that discussions remain focused and productive. Cross-Platform Collaboration NextPlane OpenHub is a game-changing solution that enables seamless cross-platform collaboration for Microsoft Teams users. With OpenHub, teams can effortlessly connect and communicate with users on other collaboration platforms, such as Slack, Cisco Webex Teams, and Zoom. This integration breaks down silos and allows for smooth interoperability, ensuring that no one is left out of the conversation. NextPlane OpenHub's advanced features, such as universal channels, direct messaging, and file sharing, enable Teams users to collaborate with external partners, clients, and colleagues without the need to switch between multiple apps or manage separate accounts. By leveraging NextPlane OpenHub, organizations can maximize the potential of Microsoft Teams, fostering a more connected, efficient, and productive workforce in today's multi-platform collaboration landscape. Optimizing Your Teams Experience While Microsoft Teams offers a wealth of features out of the box, maximizing its potential often requires a proactive approach. Regularly reviewing and updating your Teams setup is crucial to ensure you take advantage of the latest features and optimize your experience. One area that warrants frequent attention is the integration of third-party apps. Teams offers a vast ecosystem of third-party integrations, ranging from project management tools to customer relationship management (CRM) systems. By carefully selecting and integrating the right apps, teams can streamline their workflows, centralize data, and enhance productivity. Additionally, engaging with the Microsoft Teams community can provide invaluable insights and best practices. From user forums to developer communities, these platforms offer a wealth of knowledge, enabling users to learn from experienced professionals, stay informed about upcoming features, and share their own MS Teams hacks. Advanced Tips for File Management and Sharing Effective file management and sharing are critical for maintaining order and productivity within collaborative environments. Microsoft Teams offers a range of advanced features to streamline these processes. Implementing a hierarchical file system is a powerful strategy for organizing files within Teams. By mirroring project or department hierarchies, teams can create an intuitive structure that makes locating and accessing relevant files easy. This approach reduces the time spent searching for information and ensures everyone is on the same page. Metadata and tags are another valuable tool for file management. By assigning descriptive metadata and tags to files, teams can facilitate easier search and retrieval. This is particularly useful when dealing with large repositories of files, as it allows users to quickly find the information they need without sifting through countless folders. Collaboration with external partners often requires secure file sharing. Teams offers robust features for managing external access, including granular permissions, time-bound access, and secure sharing links. By carefully controlling who can access specific files and for how long, teams can maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information while still fostering effective collaboration. Customizing Teams with Apps and Bots Microsoft Teams offers a vast ecosystem of apps and bots that can be customized to suit specific team needs, automate tasks, and streamline workflows. Identifying key apps for integration is the first step in customizing Teams. Popular apps cover a wide range of functions, from project management and customer support to productivity and data visualization. Organizations can significantly enhance efficiency and productivity by carefully selecting apps that align with team goals and workflows. Building and implementing custom bots is another powerful way to tailor Teams to specific needs. Bots can automate common tasks, provide instant access to resources, and even facilitate data collection and analysis. Microsoft offers a range of platforms and resources for bot development, making it accessible to teams with varying levels of technical expertise. Power Automate, a tool deeply integrated with Teams, allows users to create automated workflows that solve common business problems. From data collection and approvals to notifications and reporting, Power Automate can streamline repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more strategic work. Security Practices to Protect Your Teams Environment As teams increasingly rely on digital collaboration tools, ensuring the security of data and communications becomes paramount. Microsoft Teams offers a range of advanced security features and best practices to help organizations safeguard their environments. Configuring advanced security settings is a critical first step. Teams provides options for end-to-end encryption of sensitive communications, ensuring that only intended recipients can access the information. Data loss prevention (DLP) strategies can also be implemented to prevent the inadvertent sharing of confidential data. Educating team members on best practices for security is equally important. Regular training programs can help users identify phishing attempts, secure their personal and team accounts, and adhere to organizational security policies. By fostering a culture of security awareness, teams can minimize the risk of data breaches and protect sensitive information. Regular security audits are also essential for maintaining a secure Teams environment. These audits help identify potential vulnerabilities, ensure compliance with data protection regulations, and provide an opportunity to update security measures as needed. Conclusion Microsoft Teams has become an indispensable tool for businesses seeking to maximize productivity and foster seamless collaboration in the digital age. By leveraging the platform's ever-expanding features and staying abreast of the latest updates, teams can streamline communication, enhance collaboration, and achieve new levels of efficiency. As we look towards 2024 and beyond, Microsoft Teams continues to innovate, offering advanced file management features, customization through apps and bots, and robust security practices. By embracing these tools and best practices, organizations can create a secure, productive, and future-ready environment that empowers teams to work smarter and achieve their goals. Boost productivity with Microsoft Teams is an ongoing journey that requires a proactive approach, continuous learning, and a willingness to adapt to new features and best practices. By committing to this journey, teams can unlock the full potential of digital collaboration and thrive in an increasingly connected world.

Best Microsoft Teams Apps

Best Microsoft Teams Apps In the world of multi-channel productivity software, Microsoft Teams reigns supreme. Built for businesses of all sizes operating in any industry, the platform has proven itself to be much more than your typical group messaging application. Its integration with more than 600 apps makes Microsoft Teams one of the most versatile collaboration platforms on the market, helping you stay connected and engaged. In this guide, we’ll run through some of the best Microsoft Teams apps designed to supercharge your user experience and keep you and your team happy, focused, and productive. Polly First up is Polly—an app that allows you to create surveys directly inside your Microsoft Teams channels, giving members a quick and easy way to vote on specific questions. All you have to do is provide the questions and answers, and Polly will perform the vote-counting analytics in real-time. Despite its unassuming interface, Polly has plenty of advanced offerings, particularly when it comes to running polls. Among an array of other features, Polly lets you schedule polls and ask single, multiple-choice, and agree/disagree questions. There’s also the option to postpone results, display or hide results, and allow your audience to respond anonymously Trello From big picture projects to last-minute details, Trello is a project management software that keeps track of all of it. The Trello board is made up of lists, and within each list are cards that allow you to add comments, upload files, create labels, and add due dates. This is somewhat of a departure from other similar tools as it takes a more visual approach to task management. As one of the best apps for Microsoft Teams, the Trello integration makes it easy to view assignments and facilitate discussions between team members. Its intuitive design also enables users to organize and prioritize projects in a way that works best for their team. MindMeister If you have an idea in need of development, you might want to consider using a mind map. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a mind map is a diagram built for visualizing and organizing information that maps out the relationships between different pieces of content. With MindMeister for Microsoft Teams, you can bring this content to life in a collaborative way, allowing multiple contributors to make additions and edits to the mind map. Additional features include turning mind maps into dynamic presentations, commenting and voting on topics, and adding visual elements to map topics. Salesforce What once started as a SaaS company has grown into the 5th-largest enterprise application software company in the world. Founded in 1999, Salesforce specializes in customer relationship management and is now used by more than 150,000 organizations worldwide. The Microsoft Teams Connector for Salesforce keeps your team up-to-speed by delivering relevant content from services you’re already using directly into a channel. The Salesforce Connector sends regular updates about activities in the Salesforce account you want to track. With teamwork continuing to be a driving force in the workplace, the integration between Salesforce and Microsoft Teams will boost productivity and efficiency. Adobe Creative Cloud Adobe Creative Cloud is a set of 20+ apps and services that give subscribers access to a variety of software used for web development, video editing, graphic design, photography, and more. Instead of purchasing each app one at a time, this option allows users to pay a monthly subscription fee depending on which ones they’re using. Together, Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Teams combine creative work and teamwork. With the Creative Cloud app for Microsoft Teams, graphic designers can easily share their work, receive feedback, and stay in-the-know regarding the latest actions taken on their assets. Google Analytics If you run a website, blog, or any other type of internet property, chances are you’ve already used Google Analytics to monitor traffic, review page views, and look into user demographics. By connecting Google Analytics to Microsoft Teams, you can receive updates directly in Microsoft Teams on your site’s traffic – and then collaborate around them, all within a single application. Aggregating data from different sources and accessing everything you need in one place; this opens up plenty of opportunities to take action and make powerful business decisions. Remember ThisRememberThis is one of the newer apps on this list, one that’s ideal for those who misplace content and have trouble keeping track of conversations. When used in tandem with Microsoft Teams, RememberThis allows you to set custom reminders on your most important chats. Sometimes, we create channel threads only to attempt to refer to them later without being able to find anything. They may have been accidentally deleted or buried underneath newer chat threads.RememberThis helps prevent those discussions from disappearing in the stream of new content. By setting time-based reminders, RememberThis will add a reply to the conversation, so it pops back up into your activity feed. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting again and can therefore, focus your efforts on other aspects of your business. MURAL Launched in 2018, MURAL is a leading visual collaboration tool that utilizes agile and design thinking methods to improve the way people work together. This digital workspace integrates seamlessly into your Microsoft Teams workspace when you add a custom tab, notification bot, and messaging extension. If you receive an invitation to MURAL or someone has @ mentioned you, the bot will inform you via a private message. If the conversation requires additional visual collaboration, just find and share a template right there and then using the MURAL messaging extension.Using any device and any browser, even distributed teams can work together more efficiently by having all their favorite digital whiteboard tools in one place. Givitas It’s no secret that loyalty and engagement contribute to a positive working environment. Givitas is a software solution that operates under the idea that “no question is a bad question” and seeks to make employees comfortable asking for help. The integration with Microsoft Teams ensures that users have access to a wealth of resources, advice, and connections. Not only does it encourage sharing and collaboration across silos, but Givitas also provides analytics and metrics detailing usage and benefits. When knowledge-sharing is made simple, more people are likely to find the correct answer, solve their problems, and better retain everything they learned. Jell Part collaboration app and part project management tool, Jell is essentially a goal-tracking platform where teams can share daily plans, accomplishments, and challenges from one central place. Jell brings structured communication to Microsoft Teams through daily standups, as well as customizable team check-ins and flexible reminders. The daily standups in Jell can be used to keep track of what your teams are working on, without having to spend time in unnecessary meetings. While Jell offers several pre-made templates, you also have the option of completely customizing your check-ins for management updates, one-on-one sessions, and more. You can even set up reminders to reflect your team’s schedule. Jell makes it simple to optimize reminders for teams that may work across multiple time zones too. Bonus Apps While we’ve barely scratched the surface with our list of top paid apps, check out some of the Microsoft Teams best free apps we’ve listed below. Wiki Aside from using main channels, threads, and chats, Wiki offers users an alternative way to communicate in Microsoft Teams. While most immediately think of “Wikipedia” when they hear the term “Wiki,” this software actually allows companies to share and record information online. You have the option to add a Wiki as a tab directly to your channel, add pages to Wikis categorized by topic, and collaborate within Wikis using @ mentions. Use the app as your own dedicated workspace to keep notes or and keep all your information in one place. Wiki definitely comes in handy for FAQs. Cisco Webex The modern business uses more than one messaging app, as they often have trouble finding just one that can fulfill their specific needs. However, with Microsoft Teams, you don’t have to choose between two different apps, especially if you love the functionality of both. The Cisco Webex Meetings bot combines the functionality of Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx Meeting so that you can easily schedule, start, and join meetings without switching from app to app. You can even share content created in Microsoft apps in the Cisco Webex app and send links from Webex into Microsoft Teams. Final Thoughts There you have it—the best Microsoft Teams apps around. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every integration worth looking into. There’s plenty more to explore if you want to maximize your team’s efficiency. Productivity is especially important where collaborating remotely is essential. NextPlane enables Microsoft Teams users to connect with their colleagues that are on different collaboration and messaging tools. They can communicate with them, inside or outside their company, through messages with rich text and emoji reactions, sharing presence status, inviting and participating in channels, and sharing files. Plus, NextPlane connects over 750,000 enterprise users every day from thousands of Global 5000 companies. That means interoperability won’t be an issue.

NextPlane announced two new offerings- OpenCall and OpenAxys

NextPlane, a leading provider of interoperability and federation services for collaboration solutions, today announced a set of new software offerings – OpenCall and OpenAxys – that enable next-gen AI capabilities into Microsoft Teams PSTN calling with Unified Communications (UCaaS) and call center (CX) platforms while seamlessly empowering a suite of new capabilities leveraging large language models (LLMs). OpenCall seamlessly integrates any Unified Communications (UC) platform, PBX, or SIP Trunk provider with Microsoft Teams, allowing users to effortlessly make calls and display their presence status directly within Teams while utilizing their current SBC, PBX, and SIP Trunk setup.  OpenAxys provides a host of new capabilities by seamlessly integrating UC & contact center (CX) platforms with AI tools and LLMs such as Open AI, Meta Llama 2, Google Bard, and many more. “Our new research on voice platform migration shows almost half of U.S. businesses are still using legacy voice systems, and at the same time, a growing number are embracing cloud-based communications platforms like Teams or Slack for communication and collaboration,” said Matt Davis, analyst at Independent Research an analyst firm focused on the telecom.  “Innovative solutions like NextPlane’s that are designed to allow these presence and messaging technologies to talk to one another will increase in importance as cloud-based collaboration grows.” “OpenCall and OpenAxys enable all service providers the ability to quickly and seamlessly deliver differentiated services to their subscribers,” said Farzin Shahidi, Founder and CEO of NextPlane. “Regardless of their UCaaS or CX platform, the CSPs can quickly offer new functional benefits to their subscribers by seamlessly integrating Teams or other presence and messaging platforms while also leveraging large language models to streamline operational models further and save time and money.” More on OpenCall OpenCall seamlessly integrates any Unified Communications (UC) platform, PBX, or SIP Trunk provider with Microsoft Teams, allowing users to effortlessly make calls and display their status presence directly within Teams while utilizing their current SBC, PBX, and SIP Trunk setup.  NextPlane enables subscribers to upgrade their Microsoft Teams calls with an advanced AI companion that transcribes and analyzes voice and video calls. Powered by sophisticated LLMs, OpenCall transforms transcripts of video and audio calls into detailed summaries, capturing action items, key decisions, and sentiment analysis, all aimed at significantly enhancing your productivity.  NextPlane serves as a dynamic interoperability layer, future-proofing integration with the Microsoft Graph API or SIP Gateway. This ensures effortless communication with any SBC, PBX, or SIP Trunk. Like an adept navigator, this layer skillfully maneuvers through Microsoft’s evolving landscape, ensuring stability and reliability. It provides a robust management interface and API, ideal for both current configurations and future resale opportunities. More on OpenAxys NextPlane’s OpenAxys offers seamless integration of communication platforms with major LMMs and AI tools. NextPlane’s innovative approach elevates real-time teamwork and guarantees full access to the advanced functionalities of a subscriber’s preferred AI tools within UC and CX platforms.  It automates summaries for all customer interactions, voice and digital by leveraging generative AI and integrating industry-specific AI models with LLMs and boosts efficiency, cuts costs, and improves agent performance. This latest feature enhances CX platforms by matching consumers with agents using sentiment analysis for personalized interactions.  NextPlane OpenAxys functions as an abstraction layer, bridging the gap between UC platforms, custom applications, AI tools, and LLMs. This unique setup allows for seamless communication and integration across these different technologies. It simplifies the complexities involved in connecting custom apps and advanced AI capabilities with communication solutions, offering users a streamlined, efficient way to leverage the full potential of both their custom applications and state-of-the-art AI technologies within a unified environment.

No Jitter Roll: Gen AI Dominates News with New Products from Adobe, CallRail Labs, NextPlane and more

Welcome to this week’s No Jitter Roll, our regular roundup of product news in the communication and collaboration spaces. This week, we highlight: Adobe's leap into the AI Assistant market, Menlo Security's Secure Enterprise Browser product, NextPlane's LLM interoperability solution for UCaaS and CCaaS platforms and the availability of Tableau Pulse. Finally, a Sennheiser and Q-SYS joint solution was certified for use with Cisco’s Collaboration Devices. ADOBE LAUNCHES AI ASSISTANT IN READER AND ACROBAT Adobe introduced AI Assistant in beta, a new generative AI-powered conversational engine in Reader and Acrobat. AI Assistant, integrated into Reader and Acrobat workflows, will generate summaries and insights from long documents, answer questions, and format information for emails, reports, and presentations. Some of the additional capabilities include the ability to generate citations (to verify sources for the assistant’s answers) and clickable links to information within documents.  Source: Adobe Adobe stated that it takes an LLM-agnostic approach to using machine learning models and that it “prohibits third parties from manually reviewing or training their LLMs on Adobe customer data.” (For more, read Adobe’s AI Ethics.) AI Assistant is available now in beta for Acrobat Standard and Pro Individual and Teams subscription plans on desktop and web in English, with features coming to Reader desktop customers in English over the next few weeks at no additional cost. Reader and Acrobat customers will have access to the full range of AI Assistant capabilities through a new add-on subscription plan when AI Assistant is out of beta (no timeframe on that was provided). MENLO SECURITY LAUNCHES ITS SECURE ENTERPRISE BROWSER The cloud-browser security platform provider announced its Secure Enterprise Browser solution which is powered by Menlo Security’s Menlo Secure Cloud Browser. The Secure Enterprise Browser provides several new capabilities which allow it to manage local browser security policies within Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. These capabilities are delivered via the Menlo Security Browser Posture Manager (for browser configuration assessment and attack surface analysis), the Menlo Browser Extension and Menlo Security Client (these extend zero-trust to more users, devices, and applications), and the Menlo Security Last-Mile Data Protection. This latter product extends copy-paste control, user-input limits, watermarking and data masking to the local browser endpoint. NEXTPLANE’S NEW OPENCALL AND OPENAXYS INTERCONNECT LLMS, UCAAS, AND CCAAS The provider of interoperability and federation services for collaboration solutions launched two software offerings – OpenCall and OpenAxys. OpenCall integrates a unified communications (UC) platform, PBX, or SIP Trunk provider with Microsoft Teams so that users can make calls and display their presence status in Teams while using their current SBC, PBX, and SIP Trunk setup. OpenAxys integrates UC and contact center platforms with LLMs from companies such as such as OpenAI, Meta, Google and others. CALLRAIL LABS UNVEILS AI-POWERED SELF-REPORTED ATTRIBUTION The lead intelligence platform provider launched its self-reported attribution product which uses conversational AI to listen, understand, and report on when customers share information about the factors that prompted their engagement or purchase decisions. For example, the CallRail Labs product uses AI to analyze call transcripts using AI to find phrases, related terms, and context clues that indicate whether a sale was made on the call or not. It also uses context clues to identify qualified leads, automate follow-up messages, and analyze calls to provide coaching.  Source: CallRail AI-POWERED ANALYTICS PLATFORM TABLEAU PULSE NOW AVAILABLE Data analytics platform Tableau (owned by Salesforce) announced the general availability and pricing for Tableau Pulse, as well as some new features. Available today, Tableau Pulse is free with all Tableau Cloud editions and Embedded Analytics solutions. Its AI capabilities run through the Einstein Trust Layer, which is a secure AI architecture natively built into the Salesforce Platform.  Source: Tableau New features included in the latest release of Tableau Pulse include: Tableau Pulse Insights Platform: Automatically detects drivers, trends, contributors, and outliers for the metrics users specify.Tableau Pulse on Mobile: Provides users with data insights in natural language on their mobile device, including Tableau Mobile, Slack, and email.Tableau Pulse Slack Digest: Shares AI-generated summaries and contextual insights in a Slack channel using the Tableau for Slack app.Tableau Pulse Metrics Layer: Helps users create their own metrics definitions (i.e., sets of metadata that establish the meaning and business context of a metric). SENNHEISER AND Q-SYS CERTIFIED FOR CISCO’S COLLABORATION DEVICES Sennheiser, an audio technology provider, and Q-SYS, an audio, video, and control platform provider, announced that their combined solution is now certified for use with Cisco’s Collaboration Devices. The joint solution includes Sennheiser’s TeamConnect Ceiling 2 mic and the Q-SYS Core Nano processor. Both are pictured below.  

ITEXPO Exhibitor NextPlane Connects UCaaS, CX with Microsoft Teams and Generative AI for Frictionless Interactions

Gone are the days of isolated teams and clunky communication channels because seamless communication across platforms have become the lifeblood of collaboration, innovation and success. But why is this so critical? The answer lies in the fabric of how we work today. Businesses are dynamic ecosystems teeming with diverse teams, often scattered across different time zones and continents. Global partnerships, remote workforces and the often-changing tech landscapes demand agility and adaptability. Information needs to flow freely, regardless of the platform it's housed on. Of course, achieving this communication promised land isn't magic. It requires a strategic approach, often involving adopting unified communication platforms, like NextPlane, a prominent figure when it comes to interoperability solutions for businesses that need to connect users on different collaboration platforms. NextPlane bridges the gap between popular options like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom, which allows for effortless communication and streamlined workflows regardless of chosen software. In another step to break down communication silos, NextPlane announced an expansion that broadens its offerings to seamlessly integrate UCaaS and CX platforms, particularly with Microsoft Teams. The expansion also marks a foray into generative AI LLM services. Through this integration, UCaaS and CX platforms can effortlessly connect to Teams, which extends their PBX functionalities and provides customers with AI-powered features for an enhanced user experience. These new capabilities allow users to leverage features like AI-powered transcriptions, smart summaries and automated follow-up action items. Highlights of the new features include intelligent meeting summaries, which facilitate asynchronous information sharing and action-oriented follow-ups by suggesting next steps and summarizing key points. Then, there are enhanced meeting transcriptions that distinguish between speakers and suggest actionable insights, reducing the need for redundant and time-consuming tasks like manual note-taking as well as improved tracking that lets users directly link meeting artifacts to CRMs like Salesforce for centralized access, tracking and reporting. “The recent AI enhancements to the NextPlane platform and services epitomize our goal of delivering superior experiences for both employees and customers,” said Melissa Abramson, chief revenue officer at NextPlane. “We are dedicated to developing and introducing features that bring significant value to our customers, demonstrating our deep commitment to their success and satisfaction.” The expansion follows previous moves NextPlane made to start 2024. For example, NextPlane introduced key innovations to bridge communication gaps in January. The flagship release, the NextPlane Phone App for Microsoft Teams, enables PSTN calling directly within Teams, eliminating the need for additional licenses or software. NextPlane also launched OpenCall, which integrates existing UCaaS platforms with Teams. This feature allows users to make and receive calls in Teams while utilizing their UCaaS features. As for providers can map Teams users to SIP extensions, offering full control and automation. The built-in Teams app unlocks seamless integrations with other Microsoft 365 applications. Then, NextPlane's OpenAxys integrates UCaaS/CX platforms with advanced LLMs like ChatGPT and Bard. This simplifies access to AI capabilities, which opens the door for service differentiation and potential revenue growth for providers. “Our ongoing commitment to AI-driven advancements is fueled by our dedication to equipping organizations with the technology and solutions that enhance customer engagement, communication and collaboration,” said Abramson. Offering innovative solutions like OpenCall and OpenAxys allows NextPlane to not just bridge the gap between different communication platforms but also elevate the user experience with advanced AI capabilities. This recent expansion further solidifies that bridge. Source: Author: Greg TavarezGreg is a writer for TMC's family of digital properties, covering a broad range of business technologies. He brings more than 8 years of content writing and editing experience to TMC, having spent time as content producer and editor with USA Today Network and GateHouse Media. Greg earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

ITEXPO Exhibitors NextPlane and TeamMate Technology Address Microsoft Teams Interoperability Challenges

Microsoft Teams is a staple when it comes to collaboration platforms. It enables efficient remote work, while robust security features ensure data protection. Customizable interface and third-party app integrations enhance workflow efficiency, making it an ideal solution for businesses to boost productivity. Despite the widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams as a communication and collaboration platform in many workplaces, interoperability remains a challenge. Teams users often find themselves restricted when attempting to communicate with users on other UCaaS and collaboration platforms. This lack of communication interoperability can hinder productivity and collaboration efforts, particularly in environments where multiple platforms are utilized or when collaborating with external partners or clients who may use different tools. One of the primary reasons for this limitation is the proprietary nature of Microsoft Teams and its closed ecosystem. While Teams offers integration with various Microsoft services and applications, it can be challenging to establish direct communication channels with users on competing platforms such as Slack, Zoom or Cisco (News - Alert) Webex. Interoperability issues also arise due to differences in protocols, security measures and feature sets between different UCaaS and collaboration platforms. Achieving communication between these platforms requires extensive technical integration efforts and standardization, which can be complex and time-consuming. Additionally, concerns about data privacy, security, and compliance further complicate efforts to establish interoperability between disparate systems. So how are these interoperability challenges addressed? There isn’t exactly the most clear-cut answer to that, but two organizations are keen on addressing them head-on: NextPlane, a provider of AI-enabled connectivity services, and Teammate Technology, a pioneer in advanced voice calling systems. “By partnering with NextPlane we intend to bridge this divide and set a new standard for Teams interoperability services,” said Eric Hernaez (News - Alert), CEO of TeamMate Technology. Hernaez will be among the panelists in an ITEXPO session titled “Attention UCaaS Providers: What's Your Teams Strategy?” TeamMate Technology, an ITEXPO exhibitor, helps organizations unlock the full potential of their existing communication platforms by getting the most out of Microsoft Teams. Their solution lets service providers craft custom, branded Teams applications that integrate call control, user portals, PBX (News - Alert) notifications and soft keys. This approach allows organizations to utilize both familiar communication tools and the modern features of Microsoft Teams. NextPlane, also an ITEXPO exhibitor, recently expanded its capabilities to intelligent interoperability between UCaaS and CX platforms with Microsoft Teams. The expansion also included integration with major generative AI large language model services to enable various UCaaS and CX platforms to offer GenAI features to their customers, The two, in collaboration, combined their strengths to improve user experience and productivity for Teams users. NextPlane and its interoperable collaboration solutions are set to be integrated with Teammate Technology's interoperability platform that enables UCaaS providers to easily integrate Microsoft Teams with their UCaaS service. NextPlane's robust presence technology combined with Teammate Technology's voice solutions means users can enjoy a seamless experience between Microsoft Teams and their existing UCaaS platforms. The partnership also allows UCaaS users to share presence and status, and exchange messages – which does include rich text and emoji reactions – with Microsoft Teams users and other collaboration services user, as if they were on the same platform. “This partnership is about bringing the best of both worlds to UCaaS providers,” said Farzin Shahidi, CEO of NextPlane, who is also set to be among the panelists in the same session with Hernaez. “With improved communication, businesses can expect a significant boost in productivity and collaboration, fostering a more dynamic and responsive work environment.” The long-story-short? The two companies plan to completely change how businesses communicate – it doesn't matter if internally or with their clients. Learn more from them at ITEXPO.

NextPlane’s Affordable Microsoft Teams PSTN Calling Solution for UCaaS and Service Providers

In the wake of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has emerged as one of the fastest-growing enterprise applications, facilitating seamless collaboration and communication among teams. However, the cost of integrating telephony into Teams plans has posed a significant challenge for many businesses. "Most Microsoft Teams users do not have access to integrated calling capabilities, which means they can't use Microsoft Teams to place calls outside the organization or to customers," said Irwin Lazar, President, and Principal Analyst at Metrigy. Recognizing the need for affordable calling capabilities within Microsoft Teams, RingCentral has recently unveiled RingCentral for Teams 2.0. This Next Generation Integrated Calling Experience empowers Teams users to make calls outside their organizations and connect with customers seamlessly. Also addressing this concern, NextPlane, a leading provider of federation services for collaboration platforms such as Slack and MS Teams , has stepped forward to provide an innovative solution that enables PSTN calling for Microsoft Teams without requiring customers to purchase a calling plan or a Teams Phone license at additional cost. NextPlane ConverseCloud sits between Microsoft Teams, PBX and SIP trunks and serves as the centralized hub for handling all SIP and media traffic across multiple Teams tenants and PSTN providers. NextPlane utilizes TLS encryption to deliver end-to-end security for all calls and communication, ensuring the privacy and integrity of Teams users’ conversations. In addition, the NextPlane management portal simplifies the provisioning and user-phone number management workflows. Moreover, with NextPlane’s advanced analytics, organizations can gain valuable insights to optimize their communication strategies and drive enhanced productivity. “With the majority of Teams customers on Microsoft 365 E1 or E3 licenses, which do not include telephony”, Farzin Shahidi, NextPlane CEO, said, “We are working with our UCaaS partners to offer affordable PSTN calling to their Teams customers that optimize their workflows, and increase employee productivity.” Leveraging its Instant messaging and presence connectivity across Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Slack platforms, NextPlane plans to also offer PSTN calling for Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Slack. NextPlane's game-changing technology allows UCaaS and Service Providers to enable their customers to seamlessly unlock the full potential of their investments in Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex and Slack.

Simplify Communication Costs with NextPlane’s Microsoft Teams PSTN Calling Solution

Businesses worldwide are adopting UCaaS platforms to get the most out of video and audio conferencing, messaging and other collaboration tools. Because of that, the UCaaS market is expected to grow from $32.01 billion in 2023 to $85.77 billion by 2030, according to a Fortune Business Insights report. One of the platforms at the heart of the UCaaS market is Microsoft Teams, which has been named a leader in UCaaS and meeting solutions by Gartner in the past. As most know, Teams is a comprehensive suite of collaboration and communication tools that seamlessly integrate with other Microsoft Office applications. Teams streamlines workflow, fosters real-time collaboration and enhances productivity. Its user-friendly interface, cross-platform compatibility and integration with popular business apps have made it a go-to solution for organizations looking to enhance team collaboration and communication, driving its rapid adoption in the corporate world – increasing from 145 million active users in 2021 to 270 million active users in 2022, according to a Statista report. However, the cost of integrating telephony into Teams plans has posed a significant challenge for many businesses. The reason usually circles around financial challenges. To enable telephony features, companies often need to invest in additional hardware, such as IP phones or conference room devices, which are costly. Integrating telephony into Teams also requires acquiring separate licenses or add-ons, which further increase the overall expenses. For organizations already using existing telephony systems, the transition to Microsoft Teams may involve complex migration processes, training costs and potential disruptions to communication workflows. The financial burden just piles up. Companies such as RingCentral have taken action to relieve some of that burden with its recently introduced RingCentral for Teams 2.0, a next-generation integrated calling experience designed to provide affordable calling capabilities within Microsoft Teams. Joining RingCentral, among others, in that stand is NextPlane, a provider of federation services for collaboration platforms like Slack and Teams. Their innovative approach enables PSTN calling for Microsoft Teams without the need for customers to purchase an additional calling plan or Teams Phone license. NextPlane ConverseCloud, for example, serves as a centralized hub situated between Microsoft Teams, PBX and SIP trunks. It enables PSTN calling for Microsoft Teams without the need for additional calling plans or licenses, extending external calling capabilities to Teams users. The platform ensures secure communication with TLS encryption and simplifies administrative tasks through its management portal. In addition, advanced analytics offer valuable insights for optimizing communication strategies and enhancing productivity. The long story short? ConverseCloud unifies communication across UCaaS platforms, enabling efficient collaboration while providing secure calling capabilities within Microsoft Teams. “With the majority of Teams customers on Microsoft 365 E1 or E3 licenses, which do not include telephony,” said Farzin Shahidi, NextPlane CEO. “We are working with our UCaaS partners to offer affordable PSTN calling to their Teams customers that optimize their workflows and increase employee productivity.” Solutions such as RingCentral's RingCentral for Teams 2.0 and NextPlane's innovative are a step in the right direction to provide affordable calling capabilities within Teams without the need for additional licenses or plans. The ideal result? Unlocking the full potential of investments in Teams as well as Zoom and Slack.

A backdoor into your network: how to mitigate the risks of team collaboration guest accounts

Team collaboration tools are taking the world by storm. Platforms including Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx Teams, and Slack offer a breadth of functionality and user-friendly experiences that have hooked corporate workers. Employers also love them because the staff is happy and productive, driving a host of business benefits. According to Nemertes Research, nearly 70% of organizations are now using a team collaboration application. Currently, 44.2% of organizations rely on guest accounts to enable external access to their team collaboration instances or allow their employees to use external team collaboration apps to connect with partner organizations. Team collaboration guest accounts can be a ticking security time bomb: an unwitting vector for in-bound cyber-threats and outbound data loss. According to a recent New York Times article, cybersecurity experts say companies can track phishing attacks and malware all they want, but as long as they are blindly trusting vendors and cloud services like Microsoft, Salesforce, Google’s G-Suite, Zoom, Slack, SolarWinds, and others — and giving them broad access to employees and corporate networks — they will never be secure. “These cloud services create a web of interconnections and opportunity for the attacker,” said Glenn Chisholm, a founder of Obsidian, a cybersecurity firm, “What we are witnessing now is a new wave of modern attacks against these modern cloud platforms, and we need 2021 defenses.” As organizations end the year under a heightened state of cyber alert, they would do well in 2021 with a plan to tackle guest accounts as an under-reported risk to corporate assets. The answer is eliminating guest accounts from your team collaboration platforms without compromising your users’ need to collaborate with external partners, customers, and clients. Threats are everywhere The recently revealed state-sponsored attack campaign reminds organizations of the need for a comprehensive and continually evolving approach to risk mitigation. Russians targeted countless US government agencies and technology companies, NGOs, contractors, and other companies in the recent espionage raid. Many more victims are coming to light. What does this tell us? Well, only part of the story. While state-backed operatives are getting increasingly bold and wide-ranging in selecting victims, there are even more threats facing CISOs from cybercrime groups, hackers-for-hire, and others. One security vendor alone blocked over 27.8 billion cyber-threats in just the first half of 2020. That’s not counting the risk of human error, which can cause employees to accidentally send sensitive data outside of the organization or misconfigure IT systems to expose them to compromise or data leaks. According to Verizon, “misdelivery” and misconfiguration were in the top five types of data breaches in 2020, and “errors” were linked to nearly a quarter (2 Insider threats are taking their toll One 2020 report claims that the cost of insider breaches has risen 30% since 2018, to stand today at over $11.4 million. It calculates that such incidents take over two months on average to contain. For these and third-party attacks designed to steal sensitive data and/or deploy ransomware, there are many potentially negative consequences, including: Non-compliance fines (e.g., CCPA, GDPR)Brand damageLost customersA falling share priceIT productivity losses and costs (e.g., clean-up, remediation, and incident response)Staff productivity hitLegal costs Guest accounts are a ticking time bomb The challenge for CISOs is that guest accounts could present a previously unnoticed vector for cyber risk. Guest accounts allow users to invite ANY external users with a business or consumer email account, such as Gmail, to participate as a guest with full access to team chats, meetings, and files. A recent survey of IT professionals reveals nearly half (49%) of companies use guest accounts. Security vendor McAfee analyzed its customer data and found that a typical organization added about 3000 guest accounts on Microsoft Teams between January-April 2020. It’s the digital equivalent of letting an unvetted user walk straight past front-desk security and into your main building. There are several risks here, including: Authentication problems: Compared to enterprise account password policies, guest accounts’ password policy in most cases only requires letters and numbers and does not include Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). It is also nearly impossible to control whether guests have robust security measures like password complexity check and password expiration. User error: could lead to employees accidentally sharing sensitive material with guests they should not. Malicious users: will find it easier to share sensitive documents with unvetted guests. Offboarding: becomes a significant security issue. If third parties move on but retain access to your Slack platform, it could create considerable extra cyber risk. Access from Unmanaged Devices or Untrusted Locations: Guest accounts can be used on unmanaged devices, potentially resulting in data loss. Malware Uploaded via Guest accounts: File uploads from guests or unmanaged devices may contain malware. Data Loss Via Teams Chat and File Shares: File shares can lose confidential data. Slow Security is Worse Than No Security: Security actions need to be near real-time, or the data is already gone. Inconsistent Control Across Applications: Policies should be consistent with data controls for other cloud apps and non-cloud controls such as file transfer via email, USB stick, and more. Missing Risky Behavior Patterns: User behavior can indicate lost credential and rouge users, but these patterns are rarely reviewed Simple Controls for a Complex World: Comprehensive and flexible controls are needed to ensure security without losing functionality. There are also risks associated with allowing your employees to take on guest accounts from external third parties to collaborate with them. In so doing, they may be unwittingly exposed to malware or even carry malware into third-party environments. With no means for IT to track usage of this type of guest account, there’s also a risk of unintended or deliberate data disclosure. How to eliminate guest accounts as a threat vector There are several steps IT security bosses can take to help mitigate the threats outlined above. These include: Blocking domains and setting allow lists so that users only collaborate with authorized usersSetting policies for unmanaged devicesScanning content for malware when uploaded from third partiesImplementing robust data loss prevention (DLP) on team collaboration chat and file sharesReviewing and blocking access to any risky third-party apps However, this all takes time and considerable IT staff effort. For instance, as risks evolve, you need to review and adjust guest account policies. Plus, there’s no getting around the fact that IT can not regularly monitor the usage of guest accounts granted by external partners. In other words, you have to be right 100% of the time. But hackers have to right only one time. A more straightforward solution would be to enable your users to communicate from within their preferred collaboration platforms in a secure and compliant manner without requiring them to invite outside colleagues by guest accounts. This is what NextPlane offers. NextPlane—Collaborate Without Boundaries—Connect. Any Team. Anywhere. NextPlane enables users on different team collaboration platforms to connect with their colleagues, clients, and partners inside or outside the enterprise. Users can chat and DM each other with rich text, GIF, and emoji reactions, share presence status, participate in channels, and share files; without leaving their preferred platforms. That means: There’s no need to buy expensive guest accounts for external collaborationYour internal users can stay on corporate-controlled collaboration platforms, boosting security and complianceEmployee productivity is enhanced because your users and their external colleagues can stay on their preferred platformsIT administrators are freed from making time-consuming decisions around guest account privileges and adjusting security policies Using NextPlane, companies such as IBM, Western Digital, Amgen, Novo Nordisk, Ericsson, and Emerson, have eliminated guest accounts. Please visit NextPlane to Learn more about eliminating the potential risks of guest accounts without negatively impacting your users’ need to collaborate with external colleagues, or book a free 30-minute call with a NextPlane expert.