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From breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams to AI in To Do—here’s what’s new to Microsoft 365 in January

If this year has taught business leaders anything, it’s that people make all the difference. And from experiences that make it easier for everyone to engage in large meetings to partnerships that enable frontline workers, my team and I are committed to helping our customers use technology to unleash the power of their people.

Before I get to this month’s product news, I want to point out some new resources that support this effort. Recently, we published a webpage called Resilience at work to help demonstrate how Microsoft solutions can help you strengthen resilience in people, teams, and your broader organization. We also published a Remote teamwork guide to share how you can enable your people to be productive and secure from anywhere with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. And earlier this week, we launched WorkLab, a digital publication devoted to illuminating the future of work, grounded in research and the lessons of the pandemic a year in. Be sure to check all three resources out and let us know what you think.

Okay, on to the news!

Breakout rooms, Tasks publishing, Approvals, and more in Microsoft Teams

New announcements in Microsoft Teams make it easy for everyone to engage in large meetings, help connect organizations, empower frontline retail workers, and more.

Help people to connect meaningfully in large virtual meetings—We’re excited to announce that one of our most requested Microsoft Teams features is now generally available! Breakout rooms make it easy to divide your meetings into smaller groups to facilitate discussions, brainstorming sessions, and learning groups. Organizers can easily jump in between breakout rooms, deliver announcements to all breakout rooms at once, and bring everyone back to the main meeting at any time. All meeting assets, including meeting files, whiteboards, recordings, and transcripts are available for the organizer to review and use.

Connect your organization from the corporate office to the frontlines with Tasks publishing—With the new publishing feature for Tasks in Teams, customers can now drive consistent execution of tasks at scale across all of an organization’s locations. Corporate and regional leadership can create and send tasks to configurable relevant locations—including specific retail stores—and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and frontline workers have a simple prioritized list showing them exactly what to do next. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reporting are now generally available. To set Tasks up in your organization, visit our documentation page for setting up your team targeting hierarchy.

Unify workforce management in Microsoft Teams through our new partnerships—We are excited to announce new workforce management capabilities with our partners, Blue Yonder and Reflexis. With this new integration, Microsoft Teams can now provide a richer, more unified workforce management experience, enabling employees to see and swap shifts, review their schedules, make changes, and more, without ever having to leave Teams.

Track and manage approvals right within Microsoft Teams to get faster results—Now generally available, Approvals lets you easily create, manage, and share approvals right in Teams. Quickly start an approval flow from the same place you send a chat, in a channel conversation, or from the Approvals app itself. Just select an approval type, add details, attach files, and choose approvers. Once submitted, approvals can be reviewed and responded to as needed. Install the Approvals app today to get started.

Simplify tasks, lists, and functions

New capabilities help make it easier to prioritize and organize tasks, access lists on the go, and use custom functions in Microsoft Excel workbooks.

Take your lists anywhere with the Lists mobile app for iOS—A new Lists mobile app for iOS now provides you access to your lists with full functionality from your iPhone. This new experience makes it easier than ever to open an existing list for quick reference, add or edit list items as you think of them, or create a new list from scratch or a ready-made template. Download the app now from the Apple App Store.

Lists for Mobile App IOS

Manage your tasks more easily with intelligence—Available to To Do web English users, Microsoft To Do will use AI to help you plan your day better and focus on tasks that matter to you. AI in To Do will help identify tasks that seem important based on keywords and deadlines and suggest them in My Day to ensure that you stay on top of your key tasks and get more done each day. Get started with Microsoft To Do today. 

Microsoft To Do

Turn Excel formulas into custom functions: Our new LAMBDA function makes it easy to convert your formulas into re-usable functions. Turn formulas into custom functions with unique names that can be easily re-used throughout your spreadsheet. Join the Office Insider Program and choose the Beta Channel to get early access to LAMBDA in Excel.

LAMBDA in Excel

Create beautiful diagrams

Visio capabilities bring new and familiar icons to your diagrams.

Insert icons into your Visio files and more—This month, we’re announcing a couple of updates you’ve been asking for! First, you can now access a rich content library of icons and images that you can easily insert directly into your Visio diagrams. Rotate, recolor, and resize the selected content with no loss of image quality. This feature is available in both Visio for the web and the Visio desktop app. Second, you can now easily adjust the size of a page to fit your Visio drawing. The Fit to Drawing feature is now available in Visio for the web.

Visually represent your Azure architectural diagram using the latest shapes in Visio—Representing your infrastructure architecture through a diagram can be invaluable to your team during redesigns, implementations, documentation, and more. Two years ago, we added Azure shapes in Visio, making it easy to build diagrams for network topologies, virtual machine configurations, operations, and more. We are excited to announce that we have now released more than 250 of the latest Azure shapes. These refreshed icons are better aligned with the Microsoft Fluent design and let you create IT diagrams that accurately represent modern cloud services, tools, and frameworks from Azure. To get started, go to the Visio web app homepage and select your preferred diagram template to quickly start visualizing your Azure infrastructure. In the desktop app, select File > New > Templates > Network > Azure Diagrams.

New Azure Shapes

Also new this month

Application Guard, which helps desktop users stay safer and more productive by opening Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files in a virtualized container, is now generally available for everyone with Microsoft E5 or E5 Security subscriptions.

From helping everyone engage in larger virtual Teams meetings with breakout rooms to enabling a more unified workforce management experience with a new partnership to helping you stay focused and in the flow with AI in To Do, all of these experiences were designed to help empower your people for the new world of work. And stay tuned—we’ve got all sorts of exciting announcements coming your way in the next few weeks.

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