Microsoft Loop: A New Collaborative Tool Designed to Transform How You Work
Microsoft is implementing big changes to the Office suite because of how drastically communication and collaboration have changed in the workplace. Microsoft has unveiled a new collaboration tool known as Microsoft Loop designed to help you create dynamic content to share with others. Integrated into Microsoft 365 and available as its own app, Loop will let you add different content to applications that will automatically be updated based on the source data, easing collaboration among your business teams.
Microsoft Loop is largely a rebranding of Microsoft’s Fluid framework – a framework that centers on blocks of collaborative Office content that can be copied, pasted, and shared with others and can live independently and – and is designed with a specific focus on remote work.
You can organize everything you need for a project into a single workspace and use portable components to complete work in meetings, chat, or documents. The idea is you can use Loop to co-create a project and track progress with highlighted changes, notifications, status labels, task lists, and more. It will integrate into Teams, Outlook, and OneNote, but a dedicated Microsoft Loop app will be available in the coming months.
Microsoft hasn’t decided whether Loop will eventually be included as part of the standard Microsoft 365 subscription package or as one of the higher-tier options when the rest of the product ships.
Microsoft Loop Elements
Microsoft Loop brings everything together, keeping you and your team more productive, on track, and connected than ever before. It’s geared toward letting you incorporate text, images, graphs, tables, tasks, and other live content into Microsoft 365 apps. Microsoft Loop consists of three elements: Loop workspaces, Loop components, and Loop pages, through which you can add collaborative items to your documents and projects.
Loop workspaces is a place for your project in the Loop app where you can keep all the information related to the project in a single place. Much like how channels and teams are organized in Teams, Loop pages and other elements in the Workspace are organized in the Loop app. It’s almost like a project board, where you can see a list of all Loop components and Loop pages and who is currently working on them.
Workspaces make it extremely easy to collaborate asynchronously or synchronously, keep track of all project aspects, get an idea of where everyone is on the project, react to other people’s ideas, and track progress toward shared goals. With a Loop workspace, you can collaborate as a group simultaneously or individually as needed.
Like the Fluid Framework, one of the core parts of the new app is Loop Components, which Microsoft calls “atomic units of productivity.” You can use these components in chat, meetings, emails, documents, or the Loop page in the Loop app. They can include anything from simple lists, tasks, tables, and notes to a complex customer record drawn from the Dynamics 365 cloud service for tracking sales opportunities, all of which will automatically and rapidly sync, ensuring that you and your team always work with the latest information regardless of where the component is located.
In platforms like Teams, Loop components — which can be copied and pasted throughout different Teams chats — can allow chat users to send a message with a table, action items, or lists that can be co-authored and edited by everyone in line, for example, or add notes to calendar invites collaborating on the agenda with invitees ahead of the meeting.
Microsoft is also adding new Loop components to facilitate your business workflows, starting with Dynamics 365 records. Other Microsoft Loop components for collaboration include a dynamic voting table where you and your team can all pitch ideas, reach a consensus, and finally vote to make a decision together.
There’s also a status tracker through which you and the other members can view the progress being made on a specific project or task and always maintain an up-to-date status across your team. For example, if a team leader needs to know the status of the current assignment, they can add a Status Checker box in the middle of the chat where other team members can update on what’s been accomplished.
Beyond the components built by Microsoft itself, third-party developers will be able to create their own Loop components by extending their existing message extensions applications and Microsoft Graph connectors integrations with minimal investment. However, this capability won’t arrive at least until the next developer conference, likely in the spring of 2022.
Similar to Microsoft Word online, Loop pages is a text document on the cloud that multiple people can edit. But now, they can comment on the text elements, react to them, find related Loop components, and pull in other useful elements like files, links, or data to help teams ideate, connect, and collaborate. The user interface shows other users’ cursors to give a real-time sense of what people are doing in the document, similar to the redesigned Whiteboard digital brainstorming app in Office.
Not everyone even needs to be part of the entire Loop page, as the individual components could be edited in real-time from other apps. Now that we’re all working across multiple documents online, it makes sense to have a way to synchronize elements within those files. Pages are optimized for collaboration and scalability – they can start small and continue to grow to match the size of your ideas and projects.
AI-powered Context IQ
Microsoft is also releasing a feature called Context IQ that uses AI to turn insights into actions that predict, seek, and suggest information people might need, right in the flow of their work. Context IQ is being implemented across all Microsoft 365 applications, including Microsoft Loop. This new feature supercharges Microsoft Editor with suggestions for relevant files or documents and can find available calendar times for multiple people.
It’s undeniable that Microsoft Loop will have value for any organization that wants to improve collaboration, connectivity, and productivity and enhance employee experience and engagement.
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